Defiance: The Bielski Partisans
Tec, Nechama (directed by Edward Zwick)
1993, Oxford University Press (2008, Paramount Vantage)
ISBN 0 195075951
History is a bitch. So is memory. And when you get down to it, memory often has to serve as our personal history, and the way that we relate that personal history to others (if we ever do) can reflect in interesting ways on the actions we took during the course of our life. Tuvia Bielski and his brothers led an otriad comprised of Jews who had escaped the cities of occupied Belorussia during World War II, and managed to keep so many of them safe while also contributing to the undermining of the German forces. This wasn’t such a weird thing – there are other examples of Jewish otriads and resistances during the Second World War, but the main difference in the Bielski otriad was that Tuvia’s stated aim was to keep people safe, no matter if they could fight or not.
I had read this book before, but not before I’d seen the movie of the same name. The movie is pretty damn fancy, Daniel Craig plays Tuvia Bielski, which is pretty cool. The recollections of Tuvia that the survivors of the Bielski otriad made this a pretty good casting choice, at least in my opinion (not in the looks department though – Daniel Craig is, as ever, sans moustache). There are a few instances in the book where the survivors recollect how inspiring Tuvia was, which seemed to give Daniel Craig a lot of opportunity to do some manly horse riding and gun shooting and frowning. Plus he seemed to be pretty good with the ladies too – slightly heartless sometimes, but you know, treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen, I guess. Tuvia was the undisputed leader of the group, but the movie makes quite a bit of the relationships between him and his brothers, Asael (played by Jaime Bell) and Zus (played by Lieb Schrieber – I must have watched too many X-Men movies though, because in my head he’s always going to be Sabretooth). Particularly the relationship with Zus, who was a bit of a hot-head, and eventually left the group to join up with a different Russian partisan group.