I learned of On Both Sides Of The Wall via a BBC radio program where Vladka Meed's story was being told. She was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during Hitler's occupation of Poland. This book is her telling of life in the Ghetto, the hardships the Jews faced, the struggle for survival, and the eventual resistance and battle that destroyed the Ghetto. It's an incredible story of perseverance in the face of constant death, and it's a story that should never be forgotten.
For those unfamiliar with the story... During World War II, Hitler started moving the Polish Jewish population into a number of large and overcrowded ghettos throughout the country. One of the largest was the Warsaw Ghetto, which housed between 300,000 to 400,000 Jews. From there, a program was started to "relocate" the Jews to what they were told were labor camps. In reality, they were sent to the Treblinka death camp where they were gassed. Between 250,000 to 300,000 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto met their deaths there. As the truth of what was happening filtered back to the Ghetto, an active group of resisters formed. In April of 1943, they took the offensive against their Nazi captors, using what few weapons they were able to smuggle into the Ghetto. Against incredible odds, they were able to inflict numerous casualties against the Nazis during the month-long battle. The Nazis ended up leveling the Ghetto with heavy artillery to end the rebellion and eliminate the remaining population before the advancing Allied troops.
Originally published in 1948, Meed provides a eyewitness account of the daily horrors inflicted on the inhabitants of the Ghetto. Death was something that could (and did) happen at any moment, either via a bullet on the street or a notice to report for deportation to Treblinka. But even in the face of all this, she captures the spirit of people who are willing to fight back to survive. She also gives vivid accounts of the risks she took as part of the underground resistance, smuggling papers, money, and weapons in and out of the Ghetto. Her stories of living outside the Ghetto under a forged non-Jewish identity were an on-going lesson on how people can ignore atrocities occurring right in front of them, and how easy it is to label and treat a group of people as less than human.
This is one of those books that should be more widely read, both for the history of the event, and as a lesson to current and future generations.