The true story behind Edward Zwick's Defiance
is laid out in this brisk, straight-to-the-point account of the Bielski brothers, the leaders of a large, organized Jewish resistance effort during World War II. Escaped Jews from the ghettoes of Eastern Europe joined together in the woods under the leadership of Tuvia, Zus, and Asael Bielski, and for over two years they created their own hidden society of approximately 1200 people. This History Channel installment gathers together survivors of the partisan movement to tell stories, some of which are incredibly moving, such as the escape of Mike Stoll and his sister Bella from a train headed to a concentration camp. Another survivor recalls escaping the horror of the ghetto and coming upon the Bielskis in their forest enclave, where Jews were no longer under the heel of the enemy: "The whole camp was… something of a dream." The documentary's brevity means we don't get much depth on how the Bielski partisans actually survived from day to day, although a couple of the interviewees are frank about what they had to do to keep going. But this is balanced by the value of actually hearing the voices and seeing the faces of those who were there; when one woman sings a song of the camp, the decades suddenly collapse. As a companion piece to Defiance
, it suggests the Zwick film was faithful to the facts, and to this story of heroism under terrible circumstances. --Robert Horton
Living in the Soviet Republic of Belorussia during World War II, Tuvia, Asael and Zus Bielski saved more than twelve-hundred of their fellow Jews from perishing in the Holocaust, yet their story has largely gone untold. The Bielski's built an elaborate village in the woods, from which they rescued Jews and mounted guerilla attacks against the Nazis. Their forest haven included a gun workshop, a bakery, a synagogue, a communal bath and even a theater company. Containing interviews with Bielski Brigade survivors in the United States, Israel and Great Britain, we proudly pay tribute to three of the greatest unsung heroes of the Holocaust.