My local synagogue’s commemoration featured a talk by Peter Duffy, the author of “The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1200 Jews.” (The book’s subtitle encapsulates the story.)
This event was planned by the shul’s vice president, whose mother was one of those saved by the Bielskis. A son of one of the Bielski bothers also spoke and a young person in the audience identified herself as one of the “28,000” people — survivors and their descendants — who Peter Duffy indicated are living today because of the Bielskis.
The story is described in a little more detail in this description from the Web:
In 1941, three brothers witnessed their parents and two other siblings being led away to their eventual murders. It was a grim scene that would, of course, be repeated endlessly throughout the war. Instead of running or giving in to despair, these brothers – Tuvia, Zus, and Asael Bielski – fought back, waging a guerrilla war of wits against the Nazis. By using their intimate knowledge of the dense forests surrounding the Belarusan towns of Novogrudek and Lida, the Bielskis evaded the Nazis and established a hidden base camp, then set about convincing other Jews to join their ranks. As more and more Jews arrived each day, a robust community began to emerge, a “Jerusalem in the woods.” After two and a half years in the woods, in July 1944, the Bielskis learned that the Germans, overrun by the Red Army, were retreating back toward Berlin. More than one thousand Bielski Jews emerged – alive – on that final, triumphant exit from the woods.
We were informed that the story will be told in a motion picture, “Defiance,” to be released in December. It is directed by Edward Zwick and stars Daniel Craig (the latest incarnation of James Bond) and Liev Schreiber. There’s a preview available online. I hope it will do this story justice.
For a completely different kind of reflection on the Holocaust, one might call it anti-heroic, check out Larry Bush’s thoughtful blog posting, “Never Say Never Again.” This Bush (absolutely no relation) is the editor of Jewish Currents magazine, which was “wedded” to the Workmen’s Circle about two years ago (they called it a wedding and actually staged a ceremony).