Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Bielski Brothers

The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy

The true story of three Jewish brothers who stood up to Hitler, built a village in the forest, waged guerrilla warfare, and saved the lives of 1,200 Jews.

I saw the movie Defiance, which was based on the lives of Tuvia, Aseal, and  Zus Bielski. I really liked the movie and since then have been trying to find the book. It took me a while, but I finally succeeded.

The Bielski's came from a large family in Russia. There were mostly brothers, only two sisters. They grew up on a farm and almost everyone around them knew who they were because the brothers had bad tempers and would sometimes go out of their way to get revenge when they were wronged.

At the start of the war, like many Jews in their area, the brothers suffered great losses. Two brothers were killed, as were their parents. The surviving brothers, four of them counting the youngest Aron, fled into the forest. There they fought back against the Germans, freed Jews from ghettos, and pieced together a living when everyone around them felt Jews had no right to live.

The brothers suffered opposition from all sides, not just the Germans. Even their own countrymen - those who weren't Jews - didn't trust them and often turned Jews in to the Germans. After a year or two, Tuvia managed to set up an alliance with a Russian commander, but it stood on shaky ground through the rest of the war.

Never having lost their tempers, the brothers weren't perfect, but what they did and accomplished was amazing. Sometimes I couldn't believe some of the things they managed as I read the book. How they managed to stay alive so long, and not only stay alive but still able to carry on their lives, I was in awe of them.

Their story is well worth reading, especially since it is about a part of the war we rarely hear about. The things the Germans, and the Russians, did to the Jews at times felt almost worse than what Hitler did. This is a part of history we should never forget.

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