The Book Smugglers is the nearly unbelievable story of ghetto residents who rescued thousands of rare books and manuscripts - first from the Nazis and then from the Soviets - by hiding them on their bodies, burying them in bunkers, and smuggling them across borders. It is a tale of heroism and resistance, of friendship and romance, and of unwavering devotion-including the readiness to risk one's life - to literature and art.
And it is entirely true. Based on Jewish, German, and Soviet documents, including diaries, letters, memoirs, and the author's interviews with several of the story's participants, The Book Smugglers chronicles the daring activities of a group of poets turned partisans and scholars turned smugglers in Vilna, "The Jerusalem of Lithuania".
The Jews of the Vilna ghetto (now Vilnius, Lithuania) during the Nazi occupation had their own group of characters who served as a form of Monuments Men endeavoring to save their culture contained in manuscripts, various documents, religious items, and more from removal to Germany or destruction. The author masterfully tells about the poets and their friends who smuggled items to safe places to be found later only to find that the items had to be smuggled again from the grasp of the Soviet Union. Some of the poetry and lyrics for songs are incorporated into the story of the community. The holdings in the community were among 43 of the top libraries that Germany wanted to include in their master library. The character development and the personal stories make this an excellent book.
This book sheds light on a type of Jewish resistance and optimism during the Nazi occupation. Most people would not think of how important the books and other documents were during the WWII and later timeframe.
The Book Smugglers adds more depth to the story of the books and libraries looted by adding the characters. Anders Rydell told part of the story of the stolen libraries in The Book Thieves...
Read or listen to The Book Smugglers soon, maybe even read it again.