Into the Forest
A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love
A 2021 National Jewish Book Award Finalist
One of Smithsonian Magazine's Best History Books of 2021
"An uplifting tale, suffused with a karmic righteousness that is, at times, exhilarating." —Wall Street Journal
"A gripping narrative that reads like a page turning thriller novel." —NPR
In the summer of 1942, the Rabinowitz family narrowly escaped the Nazi ghetto in their Polish town by fleeing to the forbidding Bialowieza Forest. They miraculously survived two years in the woods—through brutal winters, Typhus outbreaks, and merciless Nazi raids—until they were liberated by the Red Army in 1944. After the war they trekked across the Alps into Italy where they settled as refugees before eventually immigrating to the United States.
During the first ghetto massacre, Miriam Rabinowitz rescued a young boy named Philip by pretending he was her son. Nearly a decade later, a chance encounter at a wedding in Brooklyn would lead Philip to find the woman who saved him. And to discover her daughter Ruth was the love of his life.
From a little-known chapter of Holocaust history, one family’s inspiring true story.
Journalist Frankel (War Dogs) recounts in this gut-wrenching yet inspirational history how a Polish Jewish family survived the Holocaust by hiding in the Bialowieza Forest in eastern Poland for almost two years. The story is framed by college student Philip Lazowski's chance reconnection, in the U.S. in 1953, with Miriam Rabinowitz, the woman who had saved his life in April 1942 by claiming him as her own child during the first "selection" of Jews in the Zhetel ghetto. Drawing on extensive interviews with the Rabinowitz family and other survivors, Frankel recreates their desperate struggle to stay alive during the liquidation of the ghetto in August 1942. Amid the grim details, including adults suffocating infants in order to prevent their cries from revealing hiding spots, Frankel weaves in moments of remarkable resilience and good fortune. In particular, she describes how lumber dealer Morris Rabinowitz used his familiarity with the forest and relationships with local Christian farmers to help keep his family and other Jewish refugees alive until the Soviets took control of the area in 1944. The stroke of luck that led to Lazowski's reunion with Miriam Rabinowitz and his marriage to her daughter Ruth in 1955 mirrors the random twists of fate that enabled the family to survive, while so many others didn't. Readers will be on the edge of their seats.