Summary (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
If Not Now, When? chronicles the exploits, sufferings, fears, and hopes of a band of Jewish partisans behind enemy lines in Russia and Poland. Its twelve chapters run in chronological sequences, the first covering July, 1943, and the last July and August, 1945.
The wife, home, and village of Mendel, the principal character, have been wiped out by the Nazis, and Mendel himself has become separated from his frontline Red Army regiment in German-occupied territory. He is joined by Leonid, a Red Army soldier not yet twenty years old, who has escaped from a concentration camp. The two men tramp across country, cold, hungry, and continually on the alert. Mendel is determined to join a partisan group, and Leonid, whose experiences have enclosed him in a wall of silent bitterness, reluctantly follows. After being rejected by the first partisan group they contact because they are Jews, the two finally join a Jewish partisan unit in a ruined abbey surrounded by marshland, and Leonid finds new strength and hope, thanks to a young woman and fighter named Emmeline, known to everyone as “Line.” To impress her, Leonid unexpectedly takes the lead in a sabotage mission, but he is disappointed when it is not completely successful.
At this point, the legendary violin-playing Jewish partisan leader, Gedaleh, who is temporarily working with a crack Russian group under the leadership of Ulyubin, invites the small Jewish group to join an ambush on a...
(The entire section is 895 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Mendel, a village watchmaker, is one of the hundreds of thousands of stragglers missing from the Red Army. He meets Leonid, another Russian Jew, behind the German lines. Together, they hide from the Germans and the peasants. From another straggler, Mendel and Leonid learn of the bands of partisans hidden in the woods. Mendel, tired of being a missing person living like a wolf, decides to join a band. The pair make their way to Novoselki, a village of armed Jews in the midst of the Polessia marshes.
Despite its members’ being weak and poorly armed, the hidden settlement is the safest place for Jews who have escaped from ghettos and German labor camps. The camp leader, Dov, an older man, does his best to keep the camp fed and guarded while carrying out acts of sabotage. In Novoselki, Mendel meets a passionate Zionist woman named Line and a clever and strong former actor named Pavel.
During the harsh winter, Dov, who by now considers Mendel his lieutenant, receives a message from the legendary Jewish partisan leader Gedaleh, who belongs to a strong and well-organized band. He invites Dov’s participation in a mission, and, feeling it is important to show the Russians that the Jews will fight the Germans, Dov agrees. The engagement is not a success, and German reprisal with machine guns and tanks wipes out most of the Novoselki band.
Dov, Mendel, Leonid, Line, and Pavel set off to locate Ulybin, the chief of Gedaleh’s band, to...
(The entire section is 899 words.)