The Bielski brothers – the real Jewish Schindler’s List

On the eve of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War 2 on May 9, a new documentary recalls the Bielski brothers – the real Jewish Schindler’s List.

British film makers director Mike Saunders and producer David Herman have spent ten years trying to get this film made about Jewish resistance to Nazi suppression and murder during the German occupation of Belorussia.

That struggle has finally paid off and ‘The Bielski Brothers’ is set for imminent release. It tells the tale of thousands of Russian Jews who escaped into the woods to avoid being murdered by the Nazi occurs and remained there under terrible conditions until the eventual end of the war in 1945.

The same story was successfully made into a feature film staring Daniel Craig called Defiance and followed the inspiration of the Spielberg film Schindler’s List about a German non-Jew and supposed Nazi sympathiser who in fact saved thousands of Jews from the gas chambers.

There were many in Hollywood that told Spielberg that Schindler was actually a paid-up Nazi who exploited Jews and it was eventually his conscience that got the better of him. They also apparently said not to make the film as the Holocaust ‘wasn’t box office’. They were alleged to have said to Spielberg that it would be better to make a film about Jews who saved Jews rather than the usual portayal as Jews as victims. Of course Spielberg went on to prove them all wrong and Schinder’s List won 7 oscars.

In 1941, the Bielski brothers managed to flee the towns where Jews were being rounded up by the Nazis, and escaped to the forest. They vowed to welcome any Jew who could make their way to them, and by 1943, 1500 partisans were living in an underground village in a forest in Belorussia. Everyone in the unit had to either work, or fight to defend defending the camp, killing Nazis and collaborators and carrying out acts of sabotage. They were also involved in the only successful mass escape from a Nazi concentration camp.

Incorporating testimony from survivors of the Second World War, this film perfectly portrays the harsh realities of partisan life as well as the terror of the concentration camps. It is a remarkable story of optimism and bravery, and shows painfully how the partisans struggled to retain their dignity and humanity and survive against the odds.

The new documentary trailer for The Bielski Brothers can be viewed here.

Simon Ludgate
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