A new motion picture in which James Bond fights Nazis and saves Jews during the Holocaust is scheduled for release this Chanukah season. Well, not exactly. Daniel Craig is the British actor who stars in the new blockbuster James Bond movie Quantum of Solace. Craig will play another character in 2008 and unlike Bond, this character is based on a real life hero. Craig plays Tuvia Bielski in the movie Defiance. Bielski and his brothers, Zus and Asael, led the Jewish effort that rescued 1,200 fellow Jews from the Nazis and started a partisan brigade that battled the German Wehrmacht. Zus Bielski is portrayed by Liev Schreiber.
The movie is based Nechama Tec’s 1993 book, Defiance: The Bielski Partisans. An additional work, 2003’s The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews was written by Peter Duffy. Duffy’s book did much to bring the heroism of the Bielski brothers to the wider audience that they so rightly deserve.
Tuvia Bielski (1906-1987) was the leader of the partisan group known as the Bielski Partisans. The group was situated in the Naliboki forest in the border area between Belarus and Poland. The Bielski group rescued Jews from the ghettos and brought them to a forest sanctuary where they created a society based on surviving the war, fighting the Nazis and preserving the Jewish way of life. And they succeeded. There was simply no other similar group during the Holocaust that had such success.
The Bielski Brothers’ story is worth telling—they fought back, saved other Jews, survived and sought revenge. Their story should become one of the stories that people think of when they recall the Holocaust.
Defiance offers an opportunity to correct the history of the Holocaust by remembering the contributions made by the Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky and his Betar student movement. Jabotinsky molded and commanded Betar from its inception in 1923 through his death in 1940. The political enemies of Jabotinsky and his movement have worked since the 1930s to delegitimize them. First lies and slander were hurled at them. Later the Leftists made every effort to write them out of history, so their views, and the views of their ideological heirs, would seem less valid. The Jabotinsky Zionists introduced an authentically Jewish worldview to Zionism. Many of the fighting heroes of the Holocaust embraced the new ideology. Peter Duffy writes that Zus Bielski attended Betar meetings before the war. The man the Bielskis entrusted with the role of chief of staff of their partisan group was a former Polish army officer and Betar veteran named Layzer Malbin. Malbin and Zus commanded the fighting units while Tuvia ran the camp and made political decisions. In Defiance, Malbin is played by Mark Feuerstein who is perhaps best known for the NBC sitcom Good Morning, Miami.
There are other well-known Betar trained men who fought the Nazis and led underground fighters during the war, and these heroes must be remembered too.
The most famous Jewish leader of armed resistance was Mordechai Anielwicz, commander of the ZOB (Jewish Fighting Organization) during the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Anielwicz received paramilitary training in Betar as a young teenager and left Betar before the war. The ZOB had a socialist orientation and Betar as an organization did not participate in it.
The Jewish Military Organization, (ZZW) was the other armed resistance group in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. The ZZW was led and manned by Betar members and their allies. Betar’s fighters in the Warsaw ghetto uprising were largely written out of history by the Left. Moshe Arens, Israel’s former defense minister and a Betar alum, recently wrote a yet to be published book on Betar’s heroic battle against the S.S. in the ghetto. Articles by Arens about the ZZW were published in Yad Vashem Studies, Haaretz, and The Jerusalem Post and have helped to create a far more accurate account of the ZZW’s participation in the uprising.
In the Vilna Ghetto, Betar leader Joseph Glazman was deputy commander of the United Partisan Organization, the only armed Jewish resistance group in that ghetto.
Professor Daniel J. Elazar (1934-1999) was a scholar of the Jewish political tradition. In the May 15, 1981 edition of the journal Sh’ma, Elazar remarked about Jabotinsky’s legacy, writing:
“Would there be serious public commemoration of the 100th birthday of Zev Jabotinsky had it not been for the fact that the Likud won the election in Israel in 1977? Not likely. For thirty years and more, Jabotinsky was one of those non-persons in Israel and the Jewish world… The ruling Labour Party made him a non-person for the same reasons that it portrayed Menachem Begin and his supporters as uncivilized fascists—it is easier to beat the opposition by painting it as irrelevant, intolerable and non-existent, until it is too strong to be dismissed.”
Defiance offers an opportunity to remind today’s Jews about Jabotinsky’s vital contribution to Jewish thought. His words and ideas animated a generation to resist the Nazis and fight for the freedom of Israel. The Islamofascists and Iranians are focused on destroying Israel and the Jewish People in a future Holocaust more intense than the original. Jabotinsky needs to be remembered.
Moshe Phillips is a member of the Executive Committee of the Philadelphia Chapter of Americans For a Safe Israel, AFSI (www.phillyafsi.com). Moshe’s blog can be found at http://phillyafsi.blogtownhall.com.
By Moshe Phillips – Published on 04/12/2008