Book resurrects family name for Holocaust survivor – S.F. man recounts escaping Nazis and fighting back
Every Holocaust story is unique, but Joe Pell’s is so extraordinary it transcends the genre.
Pell’s book, “Taking Risks,” is part World War II saga, part adventure tale, part memoir. It encompasses the tragedy of the war and the triumph of the survivors. It goes from Pell’s days sleeping on leaves and digging for potatoes in the Ukrainian woods to his life among the Bay Area’s most successful businessmen.
It’s also a great read…
… The Nazi tanks were soon rolling through Manievich, and most of the Jews there were shot by Nazi soldiers going door to door or rounding them up into ghettos. Pell’s entire family — three brothers, a sister and his parents — were killed over a period of months. Pell was spared because he hid in a barn when the Nazis came to his family’s home.
With no place to go, he fled into the thick forest behind the town, and soon found others who had also escaped. They foraged for food and faced the sure death of oncoming winter, until they met a larger band of people living in the woods who had set up a camp. The group included escaped Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Soviets and others who either had no place to go or wanted to fight the Nazis.
This group of renegades, called partisans, subsisted in the woods throughout the war, mostly safe from the Germans because the Nazi tanks couldn’t traverse the forests. At first they stole food and guns from neighboring farms at night, but later the Soviets supplied them with weapons and supplies.
The partisans, including Pell, who joined them at 18, embarked on dozens of missions to disrupt the Nazis by blowing up train tracks, bombing bridges, cutting telephone lines and damaging highways. Pell had the opportunity to take revenge upon those who had informed on his and other Jewish families.
They also fed and housed a group of about 500 refugees in the woods …
And that’s my dad.