Tough Jews

Edward Zwick’s new feature film “Defiance,” which opens in the U.S. in September, is also a family film about the Bielski clan, writes Adam Gopnick in The New Yorker:

The film is still a family film, though, since it tells the largely unknown and entirely true story of the Bielski brothers’ brigade: of how Tuvia, Zus, and Asael Bielski fled from Poland into the Belarusian forest in 1941—after the Einsatzgruppen had begun the mass slaughter of Jews that marked the first phase of the Holocaust—and managed not only to hold off the German Army, in grudging compact with Russian partisans, but to recruit Jewish civilians and keep them concealed for three years in the forest. By the end, almost twelve hundred Jews were living in the Belarusian woods, in a series of encampments that included libraries, nurseries, and clinics. The story, very well played by Daniel Craig (everyone’s favorite non-Jewish Jew), as Tuvia, and Liev Schreiber, as his angrier younger brother Zus, is stirring.

Here’s one story about the latter-day Zvi Bielski from his son Zus:

My dad came to visit me in Israel when I was in the Army. First he told me not to go—but when he came to visit he was so proud. He took the gun out of my hands, handled it like a pair of sneakers. ‘Never have your gun on safety,’ he told me. He was a great father, but he was hard to impress. I used to skydive, and once I had a videotape made—a cameraman jumped out with me. I couldn’t wait to get to Brooklyn to show it to Dad! So I showed him the tape. Nothing, no expression. So, finally, I say, ‘Pop, did you see that shit!’ He looked at me: ‘So? You had a parachute, didn’t you?’

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