On Wednesday January 6, Zvi Bielski spoke to a captivated audience at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tampa. Zvi Bielski is a friendly man with a great sense of humor, and down to Earth personality. However, there is an amazing story connected to this otherwise ordinary, unassuming person. It is one of courage, hope, and defiance.
Zvi is the son of the famous World War II hero Zus Bielski. Zus, along with his three brothers, led the largest armed resistance group in World War II by Jews, in order to save Jews. The brothers rescued about 1,250 men, woman and children. The descendants from this group number at about 20,000 people. The Bielskis accepted everyone including woman, children, and the elderly. They lived a hard life the forest of Belorussia, but built a town there. Jews were being slaughtered by the thousands in Belorussia, and the Bielskis provided them their only chance of escape. The Bielskis killed both Nazis and Nazi informers (civilians that would help the Nazis kill Jews). The recent film Defiance, starring Daniel Craig, tells the story of the Bielski brothers. Zvi Bielski is fond of the film, and stated Wednesday that “I’m very glad the way they [his family] were portrayed; I wanted them portrayed that way.”
At the lecture Wednesday, Zvi Bielski shared war stories about his father, and showed two DVDs. His niece is currently producing a documentary about their family. Mr. Bielski has a few favorite stories about his father. When he was a child, his father took him to the beach to go swimming. Zus took off his shirt, and there was a huge scar on his chest. Zvi asked him how he got it, and Zus responded “the Nazis tried to kill me.” Zvi was also in the Israeli army for a time. When Zus visited him, he asked to see his gun. Zus held it and said “why does it have to be on safety; it never has to be on safety.”
Mr. Bielski currently lives in New York, and lectures on the Bielski brothers heroic actions when he can. Zvi Bielski is a charismatic public speaker, with a strong passion for the topic. He stated on Wednesday that “this was a story that needed to be told; Jews did fight back, and people need to know that.”
When one considers the military force that the Bielskis faced, Nazi Germany, what they did becomes even more impressive. In the audience that evening, an elderly man who sat towards the front row raised his hand during the question and answer session. He began to speak, and stated that his family had lived in Lithuania at the time, and they had tried to save Jews as well….” He then nodded his head, and paused. No tears came, but he could not continue. As he shed his silent tears, a woman next to him responded that his family had been killed trying to save Jews at the time.
The film Defiance is now available on DVD, and highly recommended by Zvi Bielski. The event was sponsored by Chabad Lubavitch of South Tampa. You can reach them at www.chabadofsouthtampa.com.