Throughout the War the Bielski brothers carried out a continuous guerrilla war against the Nazis. They often used captured German weapons gained from ambushed German patrols. They also derailed troop trains and blew up bridges and electricity stations.
Who were these remarkable resisters to the Nazis?
The Bielski family were millers and grocers living and working in and around a town called Novogrudek, in the Soviet Union. In 1941, the Nazis established a ghetto in the town. In December 1941, after their parents were killed in the ghetto the brothers fled to the nearby Naliboki forest.
In the spring of 1942, some 40 people had formed a partisan group deep in the forest. The oldest brother, Tuvia, was their leader. They formed a camp that was more like a small village in the forest. Eventually the partisan group had 1,236 members, 70% of whom were women, children and the elderly. Within the camp they built kitchens, a mill, a bakery, a bathhouse, a medical clinic and a metal workshop to repair damaged weapons. There was also a school and a synagogue.
About 150 from the group were involved in armed resistance against the Nazis. They attacked the Nazis and their collaborators, often carrying out sabotage missions. Under Tuvia’s leadership the Bielski group remained independent from other resistance groups and worked to protect Jews and attack Nazis. At one point the Nazis had to allocate a large amount of vital resources to try to defeat the partisans.
The Bielski group was eventually divided into two groups. One led by Tuvia became the Soviet Army’s Kalinin Unit. It eventually returned victoriously to Novogrudek as the War ended. Three of the four brothers survived the War and as their story became widely known, they became regarded as leading resistance fighters against the Nazis.
Would you like to see and hear first hand the remarkable story of the one of the Bielski fighters who lives today in Britain? Click on the next page to hear the story of Jack and learn about his life in the forest.