Defiance: The Bielski Partisans


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A holocaust survivor tells of the largest armed rescue of Jews by Jews during World War II. Tec describes an extraordinary hidden forest community of 1,200 Jews who were led by peasant-turned-partisan Tuvia Bielski.

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Oct 29, 2009


I have read a number of books recording details of the Holocaust - some factual accounts, some fictional stories: but none has moved me as much as Nechama Tec's portrayal of the group who moved for safety into the forests of Belorussia - one by one, as they managed to flee the murderous assaults of the Nazis - under the main guidance of Tuvia Bielski and his brothers.

Because Tec is an academic, her book is as factually accurate as is possible for a process which has had to be recalled after the event. It was not possible to keep daily records under the conditions in which they were living. The one academic who did make a full survey of the survivors had all his papers confiscated and destroyed by the Russians after the end of the war. Tec has collected details from individual interviews with all those of the participants of the Bielski group she could meet, after the end of the war.

Her bare factual account of the building up of the group, and its gradual growth - including eventually the creation of organised working areas in the camp, for cooking, leatherwork, woodwork and so on - would seem to be incredible if we did not know that this actually happened.

You may have seen and approved the film, Defiance: but to get the precise details of this brave stand against the Nazis, and their Belorussian followers, you must read the book.

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