Suzanne Weiss begins her recent memoir with these words by W B Yeats: “There are no strangers here, only friends you have not yet met.”
More than just an epigram, they describe a practice of solidarity that saved Weiss from the Holocaust and later shaped her more than six decades of activity as a life-long socialist.
It is this critical link, between the courageous acts that spared thousands of Jewish children during WW2 and a life committed to the struggle for human liberation, which forms the central message of Weiss’s text: solidarity inspires solidarity.
Breathtaking in its sweep of history, Holocaust to Resistance: My Journey follows Weiss from her childhood in Nazi-occupied France during World Was II to some of the most momentous struggles of the past 60 years: the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the rise of Black Power in the United States in the 1960s and ’70s, the anti-imperialist movements in Latin America in the 1980s and 90s, the Palestine solidarity movement in the 2000s, and today’s fight for climate justice and Indigenous sovereignty — among many others.
As she recalls each of these events, Weiss is not only an eyewitness to history, but also an active participant in it. And despite her immeasurable contribution to countless fights for justice, which punctuate her entire life, Weiss amplifies and celebrates the role that ordinary people have played in their own struggles for liberation.
In particular, Weiss draws attention to the critical, but often invisible work performed by women, especially in activist and socialist organisations. By elevating these underrepresented perspectives, Weiss’s memoir makes a significant — and feminist — contribution to the documented history of the left in the US and Canada.