Escaping Into the Night

escaping cover



Association of Jewish Libraries Notable Book for Older Readers

New York Public Library, Best Books for the Teen Age

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults Nominee

Children’s Book Council/National Council of
Social Studies (CBC/NCSS) Trade Book

VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) Top Shelf Fiction

Summary | Inspiration | Praise | Reviews
Discussion/Essay Questions | Teaching Resources | Glossary | Order


Halina Rudowski is on the run. When the Polish ghetto where she lives is liquidated, she narrowly escapes, but her mother is not as lucky. Along with her friend, Batya, Halina makes her way to a secret encampment in the woods where Jews survive by living underground. As the group struggles for food, handles infighting, and attempts to protect themselves from the advancing German army, Halina must face the reality of life without her mother.

Based on historical events, this gripping tale sheds light on a little-known aspect of the holocaust, the underground forest encampments that saved several thousand Jews from the Nazis.

Inspiration for Escaping Into The Night

I was first inspired to write this story when reading about Tuvia Bielski at the National Museum of the Holocaust in Washington, DC in January 2001. With his brothers, Bielski organized a network of encampments in the forests of western Belorussia that offered protection to over 1200 Jewish men, women and children who were able to escape from the ghettos. While most partisan units were solely concerned with guerrilla fighting and only accepted men, Bielski’s primary mission was not to recruit fighters, but to save as many Jews as possible. Any Jew, regardless of age, gender or state of health was welcome into the Bielski encampment.

Though there was only a paragraph at the museum mentioning Bielski among the many unsung heroes of the Holocaust, the story intrigued me. What would it be like to live in the forests for months or years under the threat of attack? I began to find out what I could. Many sources were helpful, but all were scanty. However Nechama Tec’s excellent book, Defiance: The Story of the Bielski Partisans gave a detailed account of the history of the Bielski encampment and the trials and tribulations of daily life.

I tried to be as true as possible to settings and daily activities, and to incorporate historical events I read about, though not necessarily in the context in which they happened. For example, there was an escape tunnel constructed in the Norwogrodek ghetto. The German army did engage in a direct attack on the partisans and the camp was forced to move across the swamp deeper into the Belorussian forests, but the story itself and the characters are all fictional. My goal was not to relate history as much as to explore the timeless issues of love, faith and loss as they relate to Halina’s story.

For More Information, Check Out:

The story of Esia Shor, member of the Bielski partisans

Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation

Simon Weisenthal Multimedia Learning Center Online

The Ghetto Fighters’ House: Holocaust and Resistance Heritage Museum, Israel

Nechama Tec, Defiance: The Bielski Partisans

Peter Duffy, The Bielski Brothers : The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews

Praise for Escaping Into The Night

“This riveting story told in compelling simplicity has something for everyone, young and old alike. Dina Friedman tells it as if she had been there.”
–Laura Hillman, Schindler’s List survivor; author of I Will Plant You a Lilac Tree
“The fast-moving story of a young girl’s getting of courage in the crucible of the Holocaust. Touching, human, and full of heart.”
–Aaron Lansky, Founder and President, National Yiddish Book Center
“An absorbing and moving page-turner.”
–Uri Shulevitz, Caldecott winning author/illustrator
“This book is an important contribution to the Holocaust narrative: It deals with a hitherto unexplored aspect of the collective experience. Having survived several death camps, I always wondered about the daily dread of those who were free but living in constant trepidation of discovery. Dina Friedman’s vivid, masterful portrayal has provided the perfect answer.”
–Livia Bitton-Jackson, author of I Have Lived a Thousand Years
“I have read hundreds of books about the Holocaust so I am a tough reader for new material on this subject, and this is exceptional. Not only does it introduce us to a form of survival that few knew about, but we can really get into the skin of this girl and the enormously difficult life she had to lead to survive.

“Now that I have been introduced to this truth through fiction, the journalist in me longs to meet an adult who survived in the woods — a Halina. But if I never do, she lives in my mind through this wonderfully
crafted story.”
–Carolyn Toll Oppenheim
“I know that your book is intended for a young adult audience and I am a senior citizen, but I really enjoyed the story and the beautiful picture that you paint. The strength of the human spirit is infinite. I especially like that Halina could still make beautiful music at such a horrific time. Your work is especially important because we need to remind our children of our history so that we are not forced to repeat it.”
–Audrey Williams Myers


“In Halina, Friedman has created a reluctant heroine who is also a believable adolescent. Readers will be pulled into this story that combines adventure, mystery, and the resilience of human nature…”
–Renee Steinberg, School Library Journal
“Based on historical events, this eloquent first novel captures {Halina’s} exciting escape and survival adventure … Friedman never idealizes the refugees or their rescuers, who fight among themselves in the struggle to survive as her first-person account brings teens close to a part of Holocaust history seldom told.”
–Hazel Rochman, Booklist, American Library Association
“This compelling book, intended for ages 10-14, is simply fantastic. It is impossible to not be drawn into the life Halina is forced to live and hold one’s breath as the choices she makes place her in harm’s way. Not only is her story fascinating, the exploration of the underground camps that allowed Jews to escape the Nazis is intriguing and one rarely-if ever-heard.”
–Dana Cohlmeyer,
“Friedman mines a little known aspect of the WWII resistance movement…[she] realistically captures the terror of the situation, but, refreshingly also depicts Halina experiencing her first kiss from a guard who falls for her lovely singing voice.”
–Publishers Weekly
“The normal teen concerns of mother/daughter conflicts and coming-of-age questions about the opposite sex are altered as Halina speaks of her survival experience in a visually descriptive and relatively suspenseful first-person voice …Based on true accounts of various forest underground communities that succeeded in saving numerous Jewish refugees during the Nazi occupation of western Belorussia, this is a pithy story of a girl’s difficult transition from a civilized lifestyle to one of primitive and crude endurance filled with constant danger and death.”
“This compelling, fact-based tale of resistance moves quickly without sacrificing character; Halina is believable in both her insecurities and her slowly growing courage… The strong characters and riveting story line will keep readers engaged, and the book may stimulate further interest in lesser-known tales of resistance to the Holocaust.”
–The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“The historical information and the philosophical questions make this a worthwhile book for readers of all ages.”
–Laurel Gardner, Daily Hampshire Gazette
“For her first young adult book, Friedman has done impressive research into this inspiring and little known aspect of the Jewish resistance … in Halina, the author has created a believable, imperfect heroine attempting to live a normal existence despite being trapped in the most horrific of circumstances.”
–Time Out/New York
“Friedman vividly portrays the characters’ adventures, their strong deterination to survive, their momentous personal loss, and the frustration of the never-ending obstacles.”
–Eileen Kuhl, VOYA
“Teenage Halina will be instantly recognizable to teen readers through the literary devices of dialogue, suspense, romance, and mother/daughter tiffs; it also rings true as a danger-filled Holocaust account of one girl’s strength in the face of destruction.”
–Marcia Posner, Jewish Book World Magazine
“… so absorbing and moving that I couldn’t go to sleep without learning what had happened.”
–Rabbi Rachel Esserman, The Reporter
“This profound novel addresses many historically significant themes that can be incorporated in social studies discussions.”
–Elizabeth D. Schafer, Children’s Literature
“Friedman skillfully deals with serious issues and makes them accessible to young readers in ways not often seen. She achieves this through brisk, fast-paced story-telling, vivid dialogue, and by including compelling subplots that are relevant to young adult readers … In contrast to the unspeakable devastation of the Shoah, “Escaping Into the Night” leaves the reader moved and inspired.”
–Emily Wolper, Jewish News Weekly of Northern California
Here’s what readers are saying on Goodreads.

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