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Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Bielski Brothers

The Bielski Brothers, by Peter Duffy.

This fascinating nonfiction book tells the story of the Bielski brothers from Belarus, proud, Jewish, and willing to do whatever it takes to survive the Nazi obliteration of the Jews.  We start with the history of the family in Belorus, and quickly move forward to the Nazi period, the brothers' decision to live by their wits in the woods rather than to allow their fate to be determined by the Nazis.  We see how they orchestrated the escape and ultimate survival of hundreds of other Jews, the large group's desperate flight through the thick forests to a place of somewhat greater safety, the decisions they made that allowed them to survive, and the miracle that was their dignified, civilized life and survival.  The book is not without tragedy, but it is a book of hope and determination and the triumph of the human spirit in the face of all odds.

The book does bog down in a couple of spots, primarily when the author delves into the hierarchy and interworkings of the various partisan groups, as well as at the beginning when the history of the "ownership" of Belorus is explored.  Overall, however, this was a marvelous, interesting book that kept me turning the pages much faster than is usual with a nonfiction history book.  I enjoyed virtually every minute of my discovery of this long-forgotten example of courage and brightness in the dark night of the Nazi period, and would highly recommend this book.  4.5 out of 5.

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