From a small village in the country now called Belarus, Tuvia and his brothers Asael, Zus, and Aron escaped from invading Germans into a nearby forest and then created a refuge for other local Jews there. Jewish partisans blew up thousands of German supply trains, convoys, and bridges, making it harder for the Germans to fight the war. Zus left the partisans for the Red Army for a few months. “A kind of gay abandon filled the air; biting frank talk spiced with juicy curses; galloping horses and the laughter of children. The brothers sought refuge in the woods where they had spent time as children. List of ranks in the fire, police, jail, and corrections services of the Philippines, People of the American Civil War by state, Articles incorporating text from Wikipedia, "Alexander Z. Bielski, 83, a Guerrilla Fighter Who Harried Nazis and Saved Jews, Is Dead", https://www.nytimes.com/1995/08/23/obituaries/alexander-z-bielski-83-guerrilla-fighter-who-harried-nazis-saved-jews-dead.html?scp=1&sq=Bielski&st=cse, https://military.wikia.org/wiki/Alexander_Zeisal_Bielski?oldid=4866813. Their reputation was fearsome: it was rumored among … Owing to so much chaos the units disbanded and they returned to Stankiewicze, where their parents lived. Source: © Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. Bielski was in reality the man who many consider among the greatest heroes of anti-German resistance in World War II—a man who master-minded and led one of the most significant Jewish rescue and resistance operations of the Holocaust. Still, he helped gather intelligence. Members of the partisan group remember him as super-human, riding atop a white horse in their forest enclave. The group grew again in the spring of 1943. The questions of revenge and “an eye for an eye” made for long conversations within the group. “He wasn’t a man, he was an angel,” said Isaac Mendelson. A key factor in their success was that Tuvia, Zus, and Asael all had military experience prior to the German invasion; important training that only a small percentage of Jewish partisans had. Sometimes they fought alongside non-Jewish partisan units. Asael was the most reticent of the three older brothers. After the Operation Barbarossa, Asael and two of his brothers, Tuvia and Zus went into hiding in nearby forests. In October 1942, a squad of Bielski and Soviet fighters raided a German convoy loaded with supplies, killing at least one German soldier. “He was sent by God to save Jews,” said Rabbi Beryl Chafetz, who as a rabbinical student took refuge in the Bielski camp. In July 1941, a German army unit arrived in Stankiewicze, and Jewish residents were moved to the Nowogródek ghetto. They also sought out and executed Nazi collaborators, including one man who lived in the Bielskis’ boyhood village and was once close to the family. He had reason to worry. They organized the construction of large wooden living quarters, known as zemlyankas in Russian. He would throw punches first, ask questions later. The four brothers had four different personalities, but one common purpose. Many partisan units were so antisemetic that fighters of the same unit could not openly reveal that they were Jews. Suddenly I saw myself as an extra in a Wild West movie.”, “Compared to the ghettos, it felt like heaven,” said Charles Bedzow. They escaped by retreating to an island in the middle of a swamp, and although the fighting lasted more than a week, only one partisan was lost. The brothers also sought to obtain weapons for the group’s protection. The brothers were soon watching over nearly 800 Jews, constantly moving the ragged band to new locations, to keep one step ahead of the Nazis. “Asael and Zus would never have had the old people and women,” Aron recalled. Asael was one of 12 children—10 boys and two girls.He was quieter and more reserved than his brothers, and was conten… “In the woods, we were free. Or, were they going to be different? The only Jews in a small community, they quickly learned how to look after themselves. They took in hundreds of the elderly, ill, women, and children. Today, the descendants of those who were saved number over 10,000. The Nazis detained millions of Jews and forced them into camps, promising them safety in exchange for their work. Tuvia, Asael, Zus, and Aron Bielski were four of 12 children born to a miller and his wife in the rural village of Stankevich, near Novogrudek. This time, 10 Jews lost their lives. Not the Bielskis, however. Asael and Zus initially opposed the plan, thinking that it was best to keep the unit small and manageable. After an exhausting march to the forest, which was home to many Soviet partisan units, the group suffered the biggest attack yet from the Nazis. “I would rather save one old Jewish woman than kill 10 Nazi soldiers,” he said. The younger people always gathered around the campfires, talking and singing. Alexander Zeisal "Zus" Bielski (19 October 1912 – 18 August 1995) was a leader of the Bielski partisans who rescued approximately 1,200 Jews from Nazi execution in Belarus during World War II. But Tuvia insisted. By the autumn of 1942, the Bielski group included nearly 100 members. Download our mobile app for on-the-go access to the Jewish Virtual Library, © 1998 - 2020 American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. It is a profound irony that he would be forced to wonder when he would get full credit for his achievements. Tuvia, Asael, Zus, and Aron Bielski were four of 12 children born to a miller and his wife in the rural village of Stankevich, near Novogrudek. Zus' first wife, Cyrl Borowski, and infant daughter were murdered by the Nazis. Zus, along with his brothers Tuvia, Asael, and Aron, managed to flee to the nearby forest after their parents and other family members were killed in the ghetto in August 1941. Another addition to the group … The Bielski partisans’ achievement is on par with more famous acts of wartime courage such as those performed by Oskar Schindler and the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Ultimately, the Bielski brothers saved the lives of 1,200 Jews and killed more than 300 enemy soldiers. But he was above all passionate and utterly determined, possessing a connection to the sufferings of the Jewish people that bordered on the mystical. When the Germans arrived in western Belarus, then part of the Soviet Union, in June 1941, the four brothers were 35, 33, 29, and 12. Tuvia was more refined than his younger brothers. By the spring of 1942, Tuvia, Zus, and Asael decided it was time to relocate all the relatives into a single location in the woods. Most partisan units wanted young men who could fight to join their ranks, and many were hostile to Jews. “It was satisfying in a larger sense,” Tuvia wrote of the first attack on Nazis in his 1955 Yiddish language memoir, “A real spiritual high point, that the world should know that there were still Jews alive, and especially Jewish partisans.” The strength and reputation of the brothers’ unit—formed as a military outfit with Tuvia as commander, Asael as deputy commander, and Zus as chief of reconnaissance—grew throughout late 1942. A tall, dark-haired man known by neighbors as the “Clark Gable of the Bielskis,” he was an avid reader who loved to recount religious stories to illustrate current dilemmas. In a forest about a mile from the nearest road, they made an encampment where everyone slept under blankets propped up by tree branches.
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