Defiance by Nechama Tec

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The prevailing image of European Jews during the Holocaust is one of helpless victims, but in fact many Jews struggled against the terrors of the Third Reich. In Defiance, Nechama Tec offers a riveting history of one such group, a forest community in western Belorussia that would number more than 1,200 Jews by 1944--the largest armed rescue operation of Jews by Jews in World War II.
Tec reveals that this extraordinary community included both men and women, some with weapons, but mostly unarmed, ranging from infants to the elderly. She reconstructs for the first time the amazing details of how these partisans and their families--hungry, exposed to the harsh winter weather--managed not only to survive, but to offer protection to all Jewish fugitives who could find their way to them. Arguing that this success would have been unthinkable without the vision of one man, Tec offers penetrating insight into the group's commander, Tuvia Bielski. Tec brings to light the untold story of Bielski's struggle as a partisan who lost his parents, wife, and two brothers to the Nazis, yet never wavered in his conviction that it was more important to save one Jew than to kill twenty Germans. She shows how, under Bielski's guidance, the partisans smuggled Jews out of heavily guarded ghettos, scouted the roads for fugitives, and led retaliatory raids against Belorussian peasants who collaborated with the Nazis.
Herself a Holocaust survivor, Nechama Tec here draws on wide-ranging research and never before published interviews with surviving partisans--including Tuvia Bielski himself--to reconstruct here the poignant and unforgettable story of those who chose to fight.

About Nechama Tec

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Nechama Tec is Professor of Sociology at the University of Connecticut, Stamford. She is the author of six books, including Dry Tears: The Story of a Lost Childhood, a memoir of her experiences during the years of the Nazi occupation of Poland, In the Lion's Den: The Life of Oswald Rufeisen, the winner of the 1990 Christopher Award, and When Light Pierced the Darkness.
Published November 25, 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA. 407 pages
Genres: History, Travel, War, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Seeking to counteract the widespread conception of European Jews as victims who went meekly to their deaths, Tec researched the extraordinary story of the three Bielski brothers and their partisan group, using interviews with group survivors in Israel, the US, and elsewhere.

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Publishers Weekly

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Tec ( When Light Pierced the Darkness ) relates the suspenseful and inspiring story of Jewish partisans who fought the Germans from their base in the Nalibocka Forest in Belorussia.

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Los Angeles Times

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Though one of the standard clichés of the Holocaust is that Europe's Jews were exterminated without offering any resistance, historians have gradually uncovered evidence to the contrary, with the Bielskis being the prime case in point.

Dec 31 2008 | Read Full Review of Defiance

Los Angeles Times

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"We may be killed while we try to live," said a remarkable man named Tuvia Bielski to a band of Jewish refugees at the very darkest moment of the Holocaust, "but if we die, we die like human beings."

Sep 22 1993 | Read Full Review of Defiance

Christian Science Monitor

Despite the glut of Holocaust movies this season, including "Valkyrie," "The Reader," and "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas," no one can accuse them of being thematically alike.

Jan 17 2009 | Read Full Review of Defiance

The Bookbag

Summary: A detailed and painstaking history of the activities of the Bielski brothers, headed by Tuvia Bielski, Jews who succeeded in saving the lives of 1,200 others in the forests of Belorussia during WW2.

Oct 24 2009 | Read Full Review of Defiance

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Mysteries of the Mind: Researchers take aim at schizophrenia's thinking problems Restoration envisioned for Allegheny County courthouse High levels of stress at Carnegie Mellon decried Progress made on preserving blast furnaces, historic farmh...

Jan 16 2009 | Read Full Review of Defiance

Chicago Tribune

No historically grounded film is obliged to stick to the facts, and having made "Glory," "The Last Samurai" and "Blood Diamond," in order of decreasing effectiveness, director Edward Zwick knows firsthand the difficulty of forging potentially uncommercial subject matter into satisfying popular en...

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Grasping For The Wind

Zwick also highlights the differences between Jews, showing that the racial picture of Jews as wealthy that the Germans clung to is wrong, but so too Jews were not all peasants like Tuvia.

Jun 09 2009 | Read Full Review of Defiance

Socialist Review

But the film helped reveal this extraordinary story of a group of Jewish partisans who defied the Nazis and survived deep in the forest of Western Belorussia during the Second World War.

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World War II Database

Narrator Stefan Rudnicki did a good job reading the book, giving the characters just a hint of various Eastern European accents to give me the distinction that Tec was quoting different people, while at the same time not over-doing it like some of the audio book narrators I had observed.

Feb 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Defiance


A potentially exceptional story is told in a flatly unexceptional manner in “Defiance.” True-life yarn of a band of Jewish brothers who led a small but resilient resistance movement against the Nazis in Belorussia during World War II seems like such a natural for the bigscreen that it’s surprisin...

Nov 10 2008 | Read Full Review of Defiance

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