Made famous by Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, and Jamie Bell in Edward Zwick's movie Defiance, the Bielski brothers saved some 1200 Jews in the forests of Belarus during the Holocaust.
This true and remarkable story is featured in the International School for Holocaust Studies' e-newsletter. The article looks at the various challenges and dilemmas faced by Tuvia, Asael, Zusya and Aharon Bielski, who, as Tuvia declared, believed, “Don’t rush to fight and die. So few of us are left, we need to save lives. It is more important to save Jews than to kill Germans."
After their parents and other relatives were murdered in a massacre of around 5,000 Jews on December 8, 1941, the Bielski brothers fled to the Belarusian forest and set up a partisan unit with Tuvia Bielski as the commander. However, unlike other partisan groups, fighting the enemy was not their highest goal. Their primary objective was to rescue Jews and to offer them shelter and protection in the forest. The brothers did not only admit those who were able to fight, but every Jewish woman or man, no matter whether the person was young or old, healthy or sick, a fighter or a noncombatant. Tuvia Bielski explained that he “… would rather save one old Jewish woman, than kill ten German soldiers.”