Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuvia Bielski - Partisan Leader
Born: May 8, 1906, Stankiewicze, Belarus
Died: December 6, 1986, New York, NY
Tuvia Bielski Polish Army
Tuvia Bielski Polish Army Uniform
Tuvia Bielski was born in 1906 in Stankiewicze, Belarus, an area which had alternately been a part of Poland, Russia and Lithuania. He was one of 12 other siblings. He was drafted into the Polish Army in 1927, where he eventually became a corporal in the 30th Infantry Battalion. He fought in Warsaw and also became an accomplished trainer.
After he left the army he married two times, and when World War II broke out he was called up by the army to fight the invading Nazis. Owing to so much chaos the units disbanded and Bielski fled back to Stankiewicze, which the Nazis now occupied. Eventually, his parents, two brothers and other members of his family were murdered by the Nazis. Determined to fight back, he, along with brothers Asael and Zus, went to the Nalibok�w forest to fight Nazis as partisans.
Soon Bielski and his band had waged many successful attacks against the Nazis and their collaborators. He also rescued many Jews from ghettos. They soon joined with other partisan groups in their operations disabling German infrastructure and killing German soldiers and collaborators.
Tuvia Bielski saw his principal mission as saving the lives of his fellow Jews. The Bielskis encouraged Jews in nearby Lida, Nowogrodek, Minsk, Iwie, Mir, Baranowicze, and other ghettos to escape and join them in the forest. Bielski frequently sent guides into the ghettos to escort people to the forest. In late 1942, a special mission saved over a hundred Jews from the Iwie ghetto just as the Germans planned to liquidate it. Bielski scouts constantly searched the roads for Jewish escapees in need of protection.
Bielski's band built a functioning village in the forest. His workshops employed up to 200 people including cobblers, tailors, carpenters, leather workers, and blacksmiths. "In addition, the group established a mill, a bakery, and a laundry. The leadership managed a primitive infirmary, a school for the children, a synagogue, and even a courthouse/jail. Work groups supplied the camp with food and cleared the land where possible for the cultivation of wheat and barley."
Because they were hunted by SS and police officials numbering up to 20,000, they were constantly on the move. In 1944, Bielski married his wife Lilka in the forest, to whom he remained married for the rest of their lives. In July of 1944, Bielski, along with 1200 others, was rescued by the Red Army.
After the war, he immigrated to Israel, where he volunteered for service in the War of Independence in 1948. In 1955 he came to America to receive medical treatment for health problems and ended up settling in Brooklyn, NY, where he ran a small trucking firm with his brother Zus.
* Re-buried in Jerusalem one year after his death, where he was given an Israeli military honor guard.
* The 2008 movie Defiance told the story of the Bielski partisans. Tuvia was played by actor Daniel Craig.