Leah's Reviews > Defiance: The Bielski Partisans

Defiance by Nechama Tec
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Nov 29, 2016

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bookshelves: history
Recommended for: Mature readers interested in Holocaust History

I should begin by saying I read this book because I recently rewatched the movie Defiance about the Bielskis and the Jews who hid in the forest.

This was a book I went into expecting to love it and rave about it afterward. I ended up being both fascinated, disappointed, and ultimately let down. The fascination came from wanting to learn more about the formation, the every day struggle for survival, and the ins and outs of the "Forest Jews" and how they survived the war, evading their enemies. The structure of the Bielski Otriad was quite interesting, from the movie it appeared to be a bit more socialistic in structure, and while there were elements of such, ultimately there was a social structure that was not all men are equal, although all were equal to join the group and none were ever turned away. How they bartered with other Otriads, produced various workshops, and made a lot of their own resources was of particular interest to me. Who Tuvia, Zus, and Asael were in the book gave, predictably, much more information on who they were, where they came from, how they conducted themselves during the war, and a small peak at who they were after the war.

Disappoints and let downs were as following: the breakdown of the moral culture. Here is this book about people who valued life enough to risk all to save it, and yet there was a normalcy of murdering unborn babies because of fear of having a baby during the war and living in the forest. To say they valued life the most out of any around, to me this was depressing. They didn't even value the littlest lives among them. The promiscuity and lack of marital fidelity was much much more pronounced in the real account, and surprisingly the hollywood rendition of this story painted a much MORE moral picture of Tuvia especially, but of the life in the forest. The man with the most integrity in this book was Asael, who absolutely adored and loved his wife, and in order to spare her from pregnancy didn't even consummate his marriage with her (Chaja), he slept with other women outside of the otriad. How mortifying. And of course, the trickiest thing of all is discerning what is legitimate war fare, and what was outright theft, taking food from peasants in order to survive.

Over all, it was an enlightening read upon the travesties that the Nazi's inflicted upon the Jews in Belorussia, the human will to survive at all costs, the development of a community, and the courage these men had to stand against all odds and protect their people.

I wish I could like it more, but too many things were disappointing from a moral standpoint. Very interesting to compare to others who stood up to the Nazi's, such as Sophie Scholl, Corrie Ten Boom, etc who didn't compromise their morals.
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Reading Progress

November 13, 2016 – Shelved
November 13, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
November 17, 2016 – Finished Reading
November 29, 2016 – Shelved as: history

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