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Courage and Compassion Resource Guide

Module by: Brendon Rennert. E-mail the author

Summary: Create a eLearning Study guide collaboration online for the Courage and Compassion Exhibit at the FL Holocaust Museum.

Study Guide

        Courage and Compassion & The Legacy of the Bielski Brothers

                                                                 

Introduction:

  

During World War II, the three Bielski brothers, Tuvia, Asael and Zus, ran a Jewish partisan unit in Western Belorussia that saved close to 1,200 Jews from the ghettos of Novogrudok and Lida and the surrounding countryside.  Their unit or otriad, as known in Russian, was unique.  While the great majority of partisan groups in World War II sought to fight the Germans in their midst,  the Bielski brothers cared more about preserving the lives of as many Jews as possible than they did about attacking the German forces that occupied Western Belorussia.  For more than two years the brothers commanded their partisan unit in the Belorussian forests.  Their acts of rescue during extremely dangerous times stands as a monument to courage and compassion.  The Bielski brothers may be called Upstanders, individuals willing to put their own lives in danger on behalf of others.

 

This study guide is designed to accompany the exhibition entitled Courage and Compassion:   The Legacy of the Bielski Brothers, created by the Florida Holocaust Museum.   It can also be used in conjunction with the feature film on the same subject, entitled Defiance.

 

The guide follows the major themes of the exhibition:

 

Part 1:  Historical Background to Belorussia and the Bielski Family origins

 

Part 2.  The Interwar years in Western Belorussia

 

Part 3.   The Opening War Years, 1939 to June 1941, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact divided Poland between Germany and the Soviet Union and Belorussia came under the auspices of the Soviet Union.       

        

Part 4:  Operation Barbarossa—the German invasion of the Soviet Union and the ending of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.  This led to the German occupation of Belorussia and the creation of ghettoes for Jews.   By early 1942, thousands of Jews in Western were subjected to massacres and life-threatening conditions in ghettos.

 

Part 5:     The creation of the Bielski unit, otriad, in the summer of 1942 and its first year of rescuing Jews from ghettoes and fighting the threats of German invasion and collaborators.

 

Part 6:      The final year of the Bielski otriad, July 1943-liberation in July 1944 and the creation of an entire village in the Naliboki Forest.

                                    

Part 7:       The Bielski Legacy       

 

 

Part 1

 

     

Belorussia is a geographical area that lies between Poland, Russia, Lithuania and the Ukraine.  For thousands of years it has been occupied by its stronger neighbors.  Since the area has been occupied by different countries, there is diversity among the population. Poles, Lithuanians, Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians, and many of the inhabitants have learned the languages of the occupying countries.

 

From the time that the Germans marched into the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, partisans played a crucial role in the struggle against the Nazi occupation.  Joseph Stalin called for Russian partisan units to engage in the struggle against the Germans.  There were also some Jews who were accepted in Russian partisan units but this was not a typical occurrence since there were antisemetic attitudes among these partisans.  Jewish partisans, the Bielski unit in particular, had to be careful in dealing with both the Germans and the Russian partisans because of their hostility towards Jews. 

 

Understanding the unique geographical situation of Belorussia and the constant changes in nations controlling the area is critical to following the story of the Bielski Jewish partisan unit during World War II. 

 

 

In the late nineteenth century, the Elisheva and Zusya Bielski settled in the small village of Stankevich, while western Belorussia was still part of the Russian Empire.  Stankevich had only twelve families and the Bielskis were the only Jewish family.  They had a two room hut with a thatched roof and clay floor.  One room was the parents’ bedroom and the other room served as the childrens’ bedroom, kitchen and living area.  They operated a water-powered mill where they ground flour for cereal.  Their son David married Beyle Mendelavich at the turn of the century.

 

David and Beyle stayed in the home of David’s parents and continued to operate the mill.  The couple had eleven living children, nine sons and two daughters.   Although the family were practicing Jews, they lived in isolation from other Jews except for the Dziencielski family that lived in a nearby village. The Bielskis and Dziencielskis celebrated Sabbath and Jewish holidays together.  A much larger concentration of several thousand Jews lived fifteen kilometers away in Novogrudok, so it was difficult to attend synagogue on any regular basis. 

 

The three sons of David and Beyle who would become most active in partisan activity were Tuvia, born in 1906, Asael born in 1908, and Zus born in 1912. 

 

The Bielski mill business exposed the Bielski children to people of different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds:  Poles, Belorussians, and Russians.  During World War I when the Germans occupied the area near Stankevich, young Tuvia was very curious about these outsiders and visited German soldiers staying near the Bielski home.  Through these visits, Tuvia became familiar with the German language.

 

Tuvia and his siblings had varying degrees of education.  At times, David would hire a teacher to come to the family hut.  At other times, Bielskis were sent to school in nearby cities and boarded with relatives while attending school.  For a few years, Tuvia attended a religious school (a Cheder) in Novogrudok, but his formal education ended at age 13. 

 

As teenagers, Tuvia, Asael, and Zus gained a reputation in their area for being aggressive and protective of their family.  One incident occurred when some neighboring farmers stole hay from the Bielskis’ property.  Tuvia, Asael and Zus confronted the neighbors with scythes in hand and threatened to settle the score with the “robbers.”  Their tactics worked and the frightened farmers ran away. 

    

Connections:

 

Following the model of an ID chart, make Identity Charts for Tuvia, Asael and Zus.

 

(Their photos will be in the center and around their photos place all the things that best identify who they are.)

 

Add to these charts as you go through the exhibition and learn more about each of the brothers.

 

Locate Belorussia on the map.  What is significant about the location?  Why would it be hard to define Belorussia as a nation state (after studying the natural terrain)?

 

Nechama Tec, an author and scholar of the Bielski partisans, interviewed Zus about his boyhood and Zus replied:

 

     We knew how to fight.  My father was quite, gentle.  My mother was also a friendly person. . .Father used to say that with fine people we have to be good and proper  but with bad people we have to be bad. . .We would not let others push us around.  We were never afraid, that was the kind of family we were.

   

Discuss what Zus’s remarks tell you about the brothers.  Could you add anything from this quote to your identity charts of the three brothers?   What do you think the father meant when he referred to “fine” people and “bad” people?

 

The Bielski’s operated a mill.  How did this business give them experience with people of different backgrounds, languages and life styles?   What are the kinds of skills that would be needed in operating a small flour mill?     

 

 

        

 

                                                      Part 2:  The Interwar Years

                                                         In Western Belorussia

 

While the Bielskis’ children were growing up, World War I took place between 1914 and 1918.  In September 1915, the German army marched eastward, forcing Russian forces to withdraw from Poland.  Much of Western Belorussia came under German domination.

 

At the end of World War I, Belorussia was restored to Polish domination.  The Poles were typically the wealthy landowning class, while Belorussians made up most of the working class.  Jews lived in the cities or large towns, including those near Stanekevich, Novogrudok and Lida. 

 

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s,  Jews enjoyed a vibrant cultural and religious life in the Jewish communities of Lida and Novogrudok.   American relief organizations helped these cities establish a variety of social aid institutions and committees to supervise cultural, educational, and religious activities.  

 

In Lida and Novogrudok Jewish families valued secular and religious education.  Jewish students had an opportunity to attend Jewish schoolsand had the opportunity for secular education attending Polish elementary and secondary schools.   Adult educational opportunities also abounded with extensive libraries in Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and German.

 

Lida became an economic hub since two railroads connected Warsaw and Vilna going through Lida.  In many cases Jews operated the factories in Lida. 

 

In Novogrudok, the majority of Jewish professionals lived in the marketplace, close to their businesses and shops.  On market days, Monday and Thursday, Jews and non-Jews alike came to Novogrudok from all parts of the region to sell a wide variety of goods.

 

Novogrudok also had several synagogues that were mainly located in Synagogue Square by the marketplace.  Each trade had its own synagogue.  The Old or Great Synagogue could seat several hundred people.  Lida also had its twelve synagogues in the market area. 

The Bielski brothers had greater exposure to people of education and city life and some degree of wealth in the post World War I era.  Tuvia, after serving two years in the Polish army (1927-9), returned to his home town and began looking for a suitable wife.  With a matchmaker he located Rifka, the daughter of a shop owner in Subotniki, and married her.  He served as the manager of Rifka’s general store and enjoyed cultural and educational activities of a more affluent gentleman.  His brother Asael took over as manager of the family mill and arranged for his sister’s marriage to the son of the Dziencielski family in Big Izvah.  Asael received bookkeeping lessons from his sister in law’s sister, Chaya.  Meanwhile, Zus, an outgoing man who was very popular with women, met and married Cila Borowksi from Novogrudok in 1939.  Thus, each of the brothers was broadening his horizons and finding women who had education and social connections.  


The central point of looking at Western Belorussia in the interwar years, is that Jews and non-Jews lived as neighbors.  They did not always socialize together or attend the same religious and cultural activities, but Jews and non-Jews coexisted. 

 

Connections:

 

Using your identity charts of Tuvia, Asael and Zus, add what you have learned about experiences and activities in their lives that would have influenced their decision making in the 1920s and 1930s. 

 

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3:  The Opening Years of World War II

September 1939-June 1941

 

World War II began on September 1, 1939, when the German army invaded Poland and conquered the country within weeks.  Just prior to the war, Germany had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the Soviet Union, agreeing that the two countries would divide Poland in the event of war.  In accord with this pact, Western Belorussia came within the area occupied by the Soviet Union and for the first part of the war the Bielskis and their relatives and friends came under Soviet domination rather than the Germans.

 

While Jews living in German occupied Poland adjusted to the intense humiliation and ghettoization process,  Jews in the area of the Soviet Union had to make adjustments but were spared the intense barbarity and wanton killing that took place in the west of Poland.  Among these adjustments were scaling down expression of Jewish culture, language and community activities:  Speaking Hebrew was banned, Jewish schools were closed, and Zionist organizations were disbanded.  Businessmen, including Jews, were compelled to close their businesses.  In many cases these “capitalists” were subjected to harassment and looting.

 

This had an immediate impact on the marriage between Tuvia and Rifka.  Tuvia left his management of the general store in Subokniki and relocated in Lida:  Rifka would not leave her family preferring to stay in Subotniki.  Meanwhile in Lida, Tuvia found work as a bookkeeper and met the Ticktin family.  Alter Ticktin, recently widowed, met and married Regina Meitis, the mother of a teenage son and daughter, Lilka.  Regina’s sister Sonia Warshavsky met Tuvia and the two fell in love.  Tuvia soon received a divorce from Rifka and began life with Sonia as his “wife.”    It was through this connection with the Ticktin family that Tuvia also got to know the teenager Lilka. 

 

By early 1941,  Asael and Zus were recruited into the Red Army.  Zus was stationed close to his home town of Stankevich while Asael was north of his home town.

 

    

Connections:

 

Why was it dangerous people to conduct businesses under Communist control?

 

Why did Communists prohibit expressions of Jewish culture and religion?  Remember in discussing this that there were a number of Jews who were part of founding the original Bolshevik regime and was there a change 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 4:

 

 

Operation Barbarossa and the Formation of Jewish Ghettoes

In Western Belorussia

       

 

Operation Barbarossa marked a turning point in World War II that had an immediate impact on those living in Eastern Europe.  The German army broke with its Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and on June 22, 1941 launched an all-out invasion of the Soviet Union.  Now Poland was no longer divided between Germany and the Soviet Union:  it came under German control.  Belorussia was immediately affected by the German intrusion, and Jews like the Bielski family were prime targets in all areas occupied by the Germans.

 

As the German army advanced East, killing units, known as Einsatzgruppen, followed behind and conducted mass shootings of Jews and other perceived enemies of Germany.  Ghettoes were established in cities such as Novogrudok and Lida.  The Soviet Union became a belligerent against the Germans.

 

The timeline used in the Exhibition tells the story of the rapidity with which the Germans rounded up and prepared for killing Jews while at the same time plan their advance into the Soviet Union.   It is important to note that by the early winter of 1941 not only were their plans for ghettoization of Jews in Eastern Europe but also the establishment of killing centers both in Majdanek and Chelmno.

 

     June 24, 1941:  Germans bomb Novogrudek as the Russian forces withdraw.  Local Poles and Belorussians already begin harassing local Jews.

 

     June 27, 1941:  The Nazis enter Lida.  Einsatzgruppen follow and kill between 80 and 200 Jews by July 5.

 

     July 3, 1941:  Joseph Stalin calls for partisan units to conduct guerilla war against Germans.

 

     July 4, 1941:  The Nazis enter Novogrudok and immediately institute decrees for restricting Jews freedoms and ordering the wearing of the Yellow Star.

 

     July 21, 1941:  Majdanek is a labor camp formed outside the Polish city of Lublin;  by the winter it begins systematic murder of Jews using Zyklon B gas.

 

     September 9, 1941: Nazis begin their siege of Leningrad that will last 880 days.

 

     September 19, 1941:  The Nazis take Kiev in the Ukraine and on the 29th launch the largest single mass killing of the Holocaust:  Einsatzgruppen kill 33,000 Jews in Babi Yar ravine.

 

     November 1941:  The Germans replace the military government in Novogrudok with a civil governments headed by the Regional Commissariat Wilhelm Traub.

 

     December 7, 1941:  The Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor.  The United States and Great Britain declare war on Japan and four days later the United States declares war on Germany.

 

      December 8, 1941:  The Chelmno killing center near the Lodge Ghetto is put into operation:  Jews are sealed in large vans and the exhaust from carbon monoxide is fed inside.  The bodies of murdered Jews are transported to mass graves.

 

      The Bielski brothers found themselves caught up in the events of barbarity and death all around them.  They sought to find places of safety for themselves and their loved ones, but found it harder and harder to establish safety.

 

     By early July 1941, the three brothers had found their way to their home in Stankevich.  Tuvia and Sonia were forced to leave Lida after the Germans had left it in flames.  Zus and Asael had found their way from the Red army back to the family home.  The family mill, however, was no longer a safe haven.  Germans had taken over the building and the three brothers scrambled between Novogrudok and Lida and nearby villages.   By the fall, the Germans have taken two younger Bielski brothers, Abraham and Yakov, into custody in Novogrudok.  Shortly thereafter Abraham and Yakov are murdered when the try to escape during a prison transfer.

 

     December 1941:  Thousands of Jews from Novogrudok were marched to the edge of town and murdered in large pits that had been dug ahead of time.  Among the victims of this Action were David and Beyle Bielski, Tuvia’s first wife Rifka, Zus’s wife Cila and their baby girl only recently born. 

 

     The surviving Bielski brothers felt the same anger at what had happened to their families and friends.  They did all they could to secure safe places for their relatives and the baby, Lola, who had recently been born to his sister Taibe.  As Peter Duffy describes in his book, The Bielski Brothers:

 

     These tough and resilient men [the Bielski brothers  Zus and Asael] were loath to admit any weakness to those they were protecting, and they succeeded in keeping their sufferings private.  The one emotion they expressed without qualm was anger.  Throughout their lives, they had responded to any attack by attacking back with greater force.  Their initial instinct was to launch a counteraction against the killers and their helpers.  But both knew that their pitols were little use against an enemy of this magnitude.  They could ‘t jeopardize the safety of the people whom they were committed to watch over.   Any action would have to wait.

 

  Peter Duffy, The Bielski Brothers, p,  54.

 

        Tuvia, who was farther north near Lida, was plagued by the fact he could do nothing to save his parents and agonized over what more he could have done.  Meanwhile, he sought to get his “wife” Sonia and the Tiktin family to leave Lida, where he feared mass slaughter would occur as had happened in Novogrudok.  Hard as he tried he could not convince Alter Tiktin to leave with his family.  Sonia went with his a short distance until Tuvia found a weathy Pole, Vilmont, who was willing to take Sonia in to work as a seamstress.  Vilmont gave Tuvia a pistol and he left to pursue his efforts to help where he could.

 

     During the spring the situation for Jews in Lida was increasingly precarious.  On May 8th, mass killings of Jews occurred in the Lida Ghetto.  The Tiktin family survived and it was then that Alter Tiktin decided to remove his family from the ghetto to join the Bielski brothers now living in the forest near Stankevich. 

 

    

Connections: Part 4

 

Consider the poem, “Hatred” by Wislawa Szymborska, who won the Nobel  Prize for Literature in 1996:

 

See how efficient it still is,

how it keeps itself in shape—

our country’s hatred.

How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles.

How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

 

It is not like other feelings.

At once both older and younger.

It gives  birth itself to the reasons that give it life.

When it sleeps, it’s never eternal rest.

And sleeplessness won’t sap its strength; it feeds it.

 

One religion or another—

whatever gets it ready, in position.

One fatherland or another—

whatever helps it get a running start.

Just also works well at the outset

Until hate gets its own momentum going.

Hatred, Hatred.

Its face twisted in a grimace

of  erotic ecstasy.

 

Oh these other feelings, listless weaklings.

Since when does brotherhood draw crowds?

Has compassion ever finished first?

Does doubt ever really rouse the rabble?

Only hatred has just what it takes.

 

Gifted, diligent, hard-working.

Need we mention all the songs it has composed?

All the pages it has added to our history books?

All the human carpets it has spread

over countless city square and football fields?

 

Let’s face it:

it knows how to make beauty.

The splendid fire-glow in midnight skies.

Magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns.

You can’t deny the inspiring pathos of ruins

and a certain bawdy humor to be found

in the sturdy column jutting from their midst.

 

Hatred is a master of contrasts—between explosions and dead quiet,

red blood and white snow.

Above all, it never tires

of its leitmotif—the impeccable executioner

towering over its soiled victim.

 

It’s always ready for new challenges.

It is has to wait awhile, it will.

They say it’s blind. Blind?

It has a sniper’s keen sight

and gazes unflinchingly at the future

as only it can.

 

As you read the poem:  study the following description of the mass slaughter in Lida in early May 1942 and consider whether it was hatred that propelled the perpetrators to do the killing:

 

Discuss why Jews like Alter Tiktin might have been reluctant to leave the ghetto despite the increasing violence and threats of mass slaughter.

 

  

 

 

 

Part 5

The Creation of the Bielski Otriad and

Its First Year, Summer 1942-Summer 1943

 

 

 

The devastating assaults on Jews in May and June 1942 made it increasingly evident that the Germans intended to eliminate Jews of Western Belorussia.  By the summer of 1942, the Bielskis had decided to move into the forests with surviving relatives and form a partisan unit.  Tuvia was chosen as the commander for his charisma and natural leadership skills; Asael was chosen second in command and was in charge of day to day activities of the unit and the armed men.  Zus was placed in charge of reconnaissance:  he collected information affecting the safety of the group.  This position was well suited to his skills since he was very familiar with the area and local population.   Lazar Malbin, a former member of the Polish army and well educated, became the Chief of Staff.

 

From the outset the dominant philosophy was that the Bielski partisans intended to save Jews and fighting the Germans was not their primary purpose.  Also clear from the outset was the Bielskis intolerance for Nazi collaborators.  

 

Often part of the ethics in the Bielski otriad was obedience to Tuvia’s authority.  On several occasions he ordered those who defied his orders to leave, and on a few occasions he ordered the execution of dissidents who stirred up trouble among the brigade. 

 

Tuvia was particularly insistent that his unit would accept all Jews: armed, unarmed, women, children, elderly.  No one was to be turned away.  And, at times his insistence on such a broad acceptance led to tensions with his brothers and other armed young men who felt the women and children burdened the unit.  As the author Nechama Tec has noted in her book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans:

 

     Indeed, as the difficulties of securing supplies increased, the tendency and desire to divide the camp into separate closed groups grew.  Some wanted to take advantage of the superiority that stemmed from their possession of arms, or their experience, or their good relations with the local population, and leave behind the “useless” people.  Tuvia Bielski took no uncertain stand against these trends.  His attitude carried the stamp of national responsibility and the understanding of the needs of the moment.  He insisted in every case on the integration of all Jews reaching the camp, whether or not they possessed rms or were able to fight.  He repeatedly said: ‘Would that there were thousands of Jews who could reach our camp, we would take all of them in.’”

  Nechama Tec, Defiance,  p.  45.

 

    

Once the Bielski unit was formed, there was a concerted effort to send scouts to the ghettoes and encourage remaining Jews to join the Bielskis in the forest.  These recruiting efforts were not always welcomed by the older inhabitants of the ghettos who refused to leave what they thought was a semblance of safety.  The ghetto leadership, the Judenrat, also discouraged inhabitants from running away, fearing this would bring more reprisals against the remaining residents.

 

Nevertheless, the Bielski partisans were always willing to take the risks necessary to save Jews.  In January of 1943, there were threats of massacres in the Iwje Ghetto,and the Bielskis sent escorts to lead Jews from the ghetto to the forest.  While conducting this operation, Tuvia’s “wife” Sonia and her sister Regina fell ill and wanted to stay in the homes of sympathetic peasants rather than engage in the rescue work.  Tuvia left them behind.  On January 5th, Germans attacked the very homes where Sonia and Regina were staying.  They were murdered with other Jews and the homes of the peasants were burned to the ground. 

Tuvia was devastated by the loss of his “wife” and other Jews and took a couple of weeks to regain his composure and desire to lead.  Nevertheless, he did return to his duties and was more determined than ever to carry out his mission of rescuing Jews.  Regina’s teenage daughter Lilka who had always adored Tuvia provided solace.  Eventually the two would marry in the forest (and remained married for four decades). 

 

From January 1943 on, the Bielskis were always ready to move and prepared to attack when necessary.  By April, over 400 had joined the unit and settled for a few months in the area of Stara Huta.  By the summer, the Bielskis had joined other partisan units in the Naliboki forest.  The Germans wanted to end the sabotage efforts of the partisans that slowed down their overall military objectives and set out to purge the area of partisans in Operation Hermann.   For the Bielskis and other partisan units the Germans advancing on the forest posed a major threat.

 

Faced with Germans coming ever closer to the Bielski unit, the Bielskis embarked on one of their most dangerous actions.  The brothers led over 700 members of their unit through the swamps of the Naliboki Forest to the island of Krasnaya Gorda.  They were seeking to escape the German surveillance by air by hiding in the tall grasses of the swamps, and the swamps also deterred the advance of heavy German military equipment into the Naliboki forest.   The young, strong men literally carried those unable to make it through the swamps where water sometimes reached one’s waist.  The days of marching through the cold and damp with little food and the constant din of German firing left the group in a constant state of fear.  Once they reached the island, they were far enough away from the Germans but they nearly starved until a group of 80 went in search of food and a new location near Stankevich once the Germans had retreated. 

      

 

Connections:

 

How do you explain Tuvia’s insistence on a broadbased partisan brigade which made securing supplies, movement and armed encounters more difficult and dangerous?  Tuvia saw only benefit in the diverse openended partisan unit.

 

 As he explained in the early formation of the otriad:  “What is our main aim here?  To save ourselves only?  If it is possible to tear one more Jew out of the hands of the Nazis we’ll do so!  Would that we had ten thousand Jews, we’d get food for everyone.”  Quoted in Yehudi Yaar (Forest Jews).    

 

     Study the panels of the exhibition dealing with the expansion of the Bielski’s partisan brigade in 1942 and early 1943.  What is seen in the photographs that indicates the composition of the brigade?

 

 

List all the supplies and skills needed for a Jewish partisan group to succeed in the forest.  Use photos and artifacts from the exhibition to develop your list.

 

     Tuvia understood the importance of working with some of the Russian partisan leaders such as Victor Panchenko and agreed to have his armed young men help in sabotage efforts against the German forces.  What was risky about working with Russian partisans?  What kinds of diplomatic skills did Tuvia need to make his relation ship work? 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 6

 

The Final Year of the Bielski Otriad

July 1943-Liberation in July 1944

 

 

After the Germans began retreating from their attack on the partisans and peasants in surrounding villages, the partisan network in Belorussia came under the leadership of the Soviet Major Vasily Chernyshev, known as “General Platon.” He consolidated and reorganized the detachments, integrating the Jewish Bielski brigade into the overall partisan network.

 

Under General Platon’s design, the network was divided into two groups:  the Ordzhonikidze, which stayed in the region of Stankevich; and the Kalinin family camp located in the Naliboki forest.  The Ordzhonikidze comprised 180-200 fighters under a Soviet Commander and Zus Bielski as the chief of reconnaissance.  The Kalinin family unit was under the charge of Tuvia and Asael.  Although Tuvia strongly objected to the division, he realized that the integration of his unit in the larger partisan network enabled the Bielskis to accomplish more in rescuing Jews.

 

The fighting unit distinguished itself in carrying out sabotage on German supply lines and interfering with military objectives.  The Germans acknowledged how disruptive the partisan fighters were.

 

The family camp under Tuvia and Asael flourished in the Naliboki forest.  Before liberation by the Red Army on July 3, 1944, almost 1,200 Jews had joined the family camp.  And, the area became a village with all the shops, professional services and government necessary to organize 1,200 people.   The exhibition has a blueprint of the layout of the shops and services in the family camp as well as the ziemlankas that each housed about fifty people.   Several factors contributed to the growth of this unit.  One was the escape of approximately 150 Jews from the Novogrudok Ghetto.  In September 1943 the remaining residents built a tunnel out of the ghetto—150 or 240 made it to safety with the Bielskis.    Also, there were Jewish partisans in Russian partisan units that moved to the Bielskis because of the antisemitic attitudes among the Russian units.  There were also Jews who managed to escape the deportation from the Lida Ghetto to the death camp at Maidanek 

 

The Red Army liberated the partisans in Western Belorussia early in July 1944. 

 

Connections for Part 6:

 

     From reading the notes on the fighting partisans, what various forms of sabotage were used?  Why were these as disruptive to the German military as it sought to advance into the Soviet Union?

 

     Study the blueprint of the family camp with its main street, shops, ziemlankas etc.  How did Tuvia and Asael seek to give a sense of normalcy to the inhabitants in such dangerous and abnormal times?

 

How does the community in Naliboki attest Tuvia’s ingenuity of having a broadbased partisan unit that included men, women and children and did not remain exclusive to fighters?

 

Studying the photographs in the exhibition, what roles did women play?  Why do you think there were so many forest marriages?  Was there equality between the sexes in terms of roles or did the basic attributes of a partriachal society prevail?

 

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