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Defiance

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  1,052 ratings  ·  183 reviews
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 Wor ...more
Kindle Edition, 407 pages
Published (first published 1993)
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Richard
'Defiance' just made it to the NY Times paperback best seller list even tho it came out more than 15 years ago. The reason for its popularity now, of course, is that the film has been released and has created interest in the story and in Nechama Tec's book.

That's why I read it. After seeing the film, I wanted to know more about the Bielski brothers/partisans and what really happened in the forest. As I suspected, the film does not do justice to the book, or, even more important, to what actuall
...more
Becky
I was excited to read this book because the introduction said it wasn't a book based on the movie. The movie was based on this book. But after four chapters I finally had to stop - it was so dry. This isn't a novel at all. I thought it was going to be a novel because on the back it says "based on the extraordinary true story..." It was like reading a documentary. The style of the book was really choppy - with stories and then quotes.
I was really disappointed because a novel based on these event
...more
Emma Kelleway
I decided to read Defiance because last year I saw the film version of it and I enjoyed the film (even though it was sad) and found the film very interesting. So I finally brought a copy of the book and read it.
I have decided to put this book into the ‘A book based on a true story category’ on the bingo board, as this book is based on a true story. This book wasn’t quite what I had expected it to be. I expected it to be more of a story about what had happened in The Bielski otraid and the exper
...more
Daniel L.
A Critically Important Chronicle of True Heroes

The passivity of the Jews during the Holocaust is a hotly debated topic - why are the Jews of World War II Europe so often portrayed as being passive, even being accessories to their own extermination. Much of this argument can be put to rest in reading the about underground dairies of Emmanuel Ringelblum (the Onyeg Shabbat), the lively intellectual and artistic achievements at Terezin and elsewhere, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, and the partisans, fr
...more
Meaghan
There are two books about the Bielski partisan group that I know of; the other is Peter Duffy's The Bielski Brothers. Both books were good but I found Tec's to be the better of the two. Her writing gave a better sense of what daily life was like in the Bielski camp, possibly because she herself was a "hidden child" Holocaust survivor. Tec was also able to interview Zus and Tuvia Bielski before their deaths, whereas Duffy didn't start writing his book until the brothers (excepting Aron, the young ...more
Emily
Impressive work by Nechama Tec-I learned a lot. The extensive research the author did on Jewish resistance during World War 2 and the insights she gained from interviewing surviving members of the Bielski otriad made for a fascinating read. I was impressed by the fact that she gave her interview subjects a choice of four different languages to speak during their interviews-I'm assuming this means she speaks all four herself-Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish and English.
The focus of the book is on the lea
...more
Grace
Mar 08, 2009 Grace rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Grace by: Mandy Morrell
Fascinating. Approximately 1200 Jews survive World War II by living in the forests of Poland.I admit my ignorance of such partisan groups performing guerrilla warfare and subsistence living in order to survive and of the Bielski Partisans in particular for trying to save as many Jews as possible, even if they came dressed in rags, with no food, money, or weapons. It saddens me that this glimmer of hope during one of the darkest times in the world's history was not covered in any of my history cl ...more
Gloria Piper
Defiance tells the story about Jews during WWII, not as meek victims but as fighters for survival. Tuvia Bielski, a Belorussian peasant, has the necessary charisma to lead an independently minded people--not an easy task but vital. Tec puts a human face on history as she relates the struggles and resourcefulness of individuals who must adapt or die. Unlike many partisans, Tuvia values life so highly that he welcomes all Jews, into his protection, regardless of whether others consider them useful ...more
Lady Knight
This was an amazing story. I've read plenty of WWII and Holocaust literature (fiction and non) and I have to say that this was extraordinary. It was a look that I'd never seen before. Before this I'd only read from the viewpoint of soldiers on the front line, germans fighting inside of Hitler's Third Reich, and from the viewpoint of Jews destined for the concentration camps. While all of those are worthy tales, "Defiance" tells the true story of Jews, led by Tuvia Bielski, who refused to become ...more
Jessie Blackwood
Amazing and poignant story of people who set out to save their Jewish countrymen from Nazi Germany by living in the forests of the Belarus. The bunkers they lived in are still there, testament to their tenacity and courage. I would love to have met Tuvia, and god knows how many people rode in his taxi and never knew or even gave him the time of day. Never, ever judge a book by its cover. Never disrespect a man for following a menial job. Who knows what lies beneath the surface of a seemingly ave ...more
Phil
This author taught a couple of my classes at UCONN. She was a cool lady and a Holocaust survivor. She's written a few other books, but this was the only one I read all the way through.

It's a great story about the Bielski brothers--European Jews during WWII that led a band of armed partisans who hid in the forests and actually allowed women and children to stay with them despite the insane danger involved. They actually had a whole Jewish mini city in a thick swampy forest in Eastern Europe (I th
...more
Chris
Defiance paints a very good picture of what life as a partisan was like. Tec presents the life warts and all, even presenting detail about how the locals felt about the partisans. At one level the book fails. Tec seems to be trying to paint a picture of partisan life and write a biography of Tuvia Bielski, as a biography the book fails. The reader never really gets a sense of knowing any of the Bielski brothers. The only person that readers seems to know is Chaja Bielski, possibly because of the ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Defiance: the Bielski Partisans,by Nechama Tec,Narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, produced by blackstone Audio, downloaded from audible.com.

The publisher’s note describes this amazing and inspiring book as well as I could.
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. This is the riveting history of one such group: a forest community numbering more than 1,200 that carried out the largest arm
...more
Joel Kleehammer
I simply did not enjoy this book. The story is great, and the movie (which I shouldn't have watched first) was impressive. Unfortunately, the book is a dry retelling of history. I have a Master's Degree in Eastern European Jewish Studies, so I have literally read dozens of similar books (many just for personal edification). This reads like a text from a course more than a novel. It just doesn't grab me and make me want to read it.
Vicky
Awkwardly written, but the subject matter transcends style. Mind-boggling account of a Jewish partisan unit in Belorussia during World War II. The group not only survived (amazing enough) and participated in the resistance but built a mobile town, a civilization, in the forest. Incredible.
Sabrina
Nov 02, 2014 Sabrina rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sabrina by: Amy
I want to read this AGAIN!!
Louis
Another book I read after reading the movie. This book was very dry and somewhat hindered by a cast of supporting characters who became very difficult to recall when reading about them tens of pages apart in the text. A glossary of characters would have been helpful. The book seems to be an academic exercise, as it is heavily footnoted and consists of multiple personal interviews with survivors of the Bielski partisans. The work that Tec put into this book was astounding and Tec is to be complim ...more
Caitlin
I ended up reading this book after really liking Beyond Courage  The Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappaport which had a small chapter on the Bielski brothers. The book covers the story of these brothers, Tuvia, Zus and Asael Bielski who from 1942-1944 created a community of Jewish refugees in the forests of Belorussia who escaped from the Germans and created a haven for themselves and fellow Jews. Tuvia was commander of the group, which was linked to Soviet partisan groups and struggled for existence from both Soviet and Nazi threats. It was fascinati ...more
Katie
this is an amazing book. not just because it held my interest from chapter to chapter, but because the story is true and incredible.

My husband rented the movie and when he told me it was a true story i got the book from the library the next day.

the book is written as a non-fiction history not as a narrative. the author really did her research by conducting personal interviews with those involved and from other archived information.

Tuvia and his brothers were not going to become captured by th
...more
Jocelyn
The Bielski partisans lived in the Belorussian woods from 1942-1944. While most other partisan groups focused on sabotaging Germans, the Bielskis' main objective was saving Jews. At one point its membership numbered more than 1,200.

I was especially interested in the social and political dynamics of the group. This is how human beings organize for survival, it seems, in the absence of a standing army whose commander-in-chief is sworn to uphold a constitution and hedged by a democratically-elected
...more
Rebecca
I'll admit it, I had never heard of this until I saw the movie, and was immediately attracted by "based on a true story." How based? What story? This set me off on a hunt for the book it was based on, which took so long I'd begun to think I'd made it up. I finally found it at a library book sale, where I almost had to fight someone for it.

The foreword by the producer explains that he had to reorganize and rearrange some of the events in the book to make them make more sense for a movie. That is
...more
Christopher
Once again, I'm back with the Polish partisans in WWII. I swear, I have no ulterior motive, I've just been getting pulled back to these same people and lands for the past few years, I'm not sure why.

Then again, maybe this book doesn't count. It depends on who you ask if the land is eastern Poland or western Belorussian (now Belarus, in between part of the Soviet Union). It depends on who you ask what the nationality of the Bielskis was - Polish Jews, Belorussian Jews, Russian partisans, Soviet g
...more
Bryan
A fascinating examination of a story that deserves more awareness. The journey unfolded exactly as I'd hoped: we learn of the events in the lives of the Bielski brothers leading up to the creation of their fighting/surviving/rescuing ostriad. It traces the war years, using various stages of their evolution to dive deeper into specific aspects (organization, role of women, etc). In this, it never loses its timeline narrative, while allowing for very deep exploration of several key components.

I en
...more
Megan
I give this 4 stars not so much because of the writing style of the book (although it was fine) but because of how amazing this true story is. It's the story of a group of Jewish Belorussians who avoided the Nazi's by fleeing into the nearby (very extensive) woods. There were many different partisan groups (Russian, Polish, Jewish) that did the same thing but this Bielski group (led by 3 Bielski brothers) was different. Instead of focusing on retaliation & fighting the Germans Tuvia Bielski ...more
Lisse
Like many, I became interested in learning more about the Beilski brothers and their Otriad after seeing Defiance - the movie based on the book. The book is not exactly what I would have expected - if you're looking for more of a novel, this is not it. Instead what you get is a lot of history - often in a disheveled way...I felt that many of the stories delt more with how people ended up in the Beilski Otriad than how life in the Otriad itself. I think the book does a good job at giving an overv ...more
Mike
This is an encouraging story about the largest armed rescue of Jews during WWII. In Belorussia Tuvia Bielski and his brothers started a group that would not submit to the Nazi invaders of Poland. Creating a Jewish community in the forests, escapees from ghettos had a place to flee before they were slaughtered in mass executions. At the end of the war the community had grown to over 1200 men women and Children.

The subject material itself was great. I longed to here about Jews who resisted the Naz
...more
Christy
Synopsis:
Defiance, also known as Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, describes how the leadership of Tuvia Bielski and his brothers helped save 1200 Jews in Nazi-occupied Belorussia. Unwilling to be taken to the ghetto by the Germans, the Jewish brothers escaped to the forest, which they knew well. They were joined by family and friends there, though they also lost some of their loved ones. Their partisan community – the Bielski Otriad – continued to grow in numbers as others escaped to the forest
...more
Barry Bridges
I got this book shortly after seeing the film but have waited a few years to finally read it. The fact that this body of Jews survived the war is testament to the labours of Tuvia Bielski and his brothers. Nechama Tec shows, through her presentation of eye witness accounts, the hardships, the bravery, the faith and the determination of these people. An account of the heights humanity can reach when the world around is plunged to the depths by lesser mortals.
Ellis Katz
Defiance is a social sciencey, but none the less fascinating history and analysis of the Bielski Otriad [group] of Jews who escaped the Nazis by hiding out in the woods in Poland. It was led by the remakable Tuvia Bielski. The book tells of the formation and growth of the otriad to almost 1200 men, women and a few children, its relations with other otriads in the same area - especially those of Russian and Polish partisans, and with the local Polish peasantry. The book is also the story of the i ...more
Doreen
Jan 05, 2011 Doreen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nick and Matt
Recommended to Doreen by: read it after seeing the movie
The author, Nechama Tec, tells the story of the Bielski partisans, a group that lived in the Nalibocki forest, hiding from the Germans. This group went beyond surviving the German invaders. The Bielski partisans sole mission was to save Jews, like themselves. Contrary to other partisan groups who rejected women, the elderly and the sick, the Bielski Otriad turned no one away. Through keen and fair leadership, a strong forest community was formed.

Tec's writing is tiring at times. She has done a
...more
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