The Bielski Brothers (book)

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The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews is a non-fiction book by Peter Duffy, which was published in 2003. It tells the story of Tuvia Bielski, Alexander Zeisal Bielski(Zus), Aharon Bielski, and Asael Bielski, four Jewish brothers who established a large partisan camp in the forests of Belarus during World War II, and so saved 1,200 Jews from the Nazis. The book describes how, in 1941, three brothers witnessed their parents and two other siblings being led away to their eventual murders. The brothers fought back against Germans and collaborators, waging guerrilla warfare in the forests of Belarus. By using their intimate knowledge of the dense forests surrounding the towns of Lida and Novogrudek, the Bielskis evaded the Nazis and established a hidden base camp, then set about convincing other Jews to join their ranks. The Germans came upon them once but were unable to get rid of them. As more Jews arrived each day, a robust community began to emerge; a "Jerusalem in the woods". In July 1944, after some 30 months in the woods, the Bielskis learned that the Germans, overrun by the Red Army, were retreating back toward Berlin.[1]

At the end of the war, with Soviet control of Belarus becoming increasingly oppressive, the surviving Bielskis fled to Romania, traveling on to the British Mandate of Palestine and eventually to the United States. Asael was drafted into the Soviet Red Army and was killed in action at Marlbork in 1944.[citation needed]

Critical reaction[edit]

Publishers Weekly wrote: "This is a story about heroes, and Duffy does a masterful job of telling it." The publication noted that, after the war when Tuvia Bielski was living in Brooklyn, "no one knew that the local immigrant truck driver had once commanded the feared Bielski brigade. It is time the three brothers received their due."[2]

The Library Journal critic wrote that the book "relates in vivid detail the World War II saga of the Bielski partisans", adding "[a]lthough clearly impressed with the Bielskis' accomplishments, as well as with the men themselves, Duffy does not let that detract from recounting the less noble aspects of partisan life."[2]

The critic for the Kirkus Reviews called it a "powerful recounting of a little-known story" and that the book was "more uplifting than most" Holocaust books, adding that the "day-in, day-out account of the next four years is an often unbearably intense chronicle of horror and courage. A novel telling a similar story would almost certainly be dismissed as outlandish, but Duffy's copious endnotes convincingly document the saga's reality."[citation needed]

The book was criticized in the Polish press. Some critics alleged that the book repeated "myths" about a supposed Bór-Komorowski order that allegedly mandated the Polish underground to kill off Jewish partisans (this allegation is probably based on Order nr. 116, which called for the extermination of criminal groups and protection of local population).[3] The hardcover edition of the book removed this error.

Duffy was criticized for not referencing the Naliboki massacre, in which the Bielski partisans allegedly participated.[4] This alleged involvement has been a subject of investigation by IPN, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance that investigates historical crimes in Poland. As of January 2009, the institute has not released its own report, however several researchers of the IPN have stated in their own publications that the Bielskis were not involved in the massacre.[5]

Polish critics contended the book did not sufficiently concentrate on the question of securing food from local population.[6] The book was also criticized for accusing the Armia Krajowa of allying with German occupiers.[7]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews, Harper Perennial: 2004; ISBN 0-06-093553-7
  2. ^ a b "Barnes & Noble: Bielski Brothers; Editorial Reviews". Bn.com. Barnes & Noble. Retrieved 28 January 2009. 
  3. ^ (English) Mark Paul (2006). "Tangled Web: Polish-Jewish relation in Wartime Northeastern Poland and the Aftermath" (PDF). Canadian Polish Congress. pp. 12, 96. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 June 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  4. ^ (English) Mark Paul (2006). "Tangled Web: Polish-Jewish relation in Wartime Northeastern Poland and the Aftermath" (PDF). Canadian Polish Congress. p. 97. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-20. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  5. ^ Institute of National Remembrance controversy (in Polish)
  6. ^ (English) Mark Paul (2006). "Tangled Web: Polish-Jewish relation in Wartime Northeastern Poland and the Aftermath" (PDF). Canadian Polish Congress. pp. 33–34. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 June 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 
  7. ^ (English) Mark Paul (2006). "Tangled Web: Polish-Jewish relation in Wartime Northeastern Poland and the Aftermath" (PDF). Canadian Polish Congress. p. 6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 June 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2007. 

References[edit]

  • 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, Harper Perennial, 2004, ISBN 0-06-093553-7

Further reading[edit]