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Case Number 16593: Small Claims Court

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The Bielski Brothers

History Channel // 2006 // 47 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Steve Power (Retired) // June 12th, 2009

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All Rise...

Judge Steve Power once had a little cabin in the woods that liberated five or six kids from the oppression of schoolwork.

The Charge

During the early days of World War II, Hitler's Nazi regime launched a surprise attack on the Soviet Union. In Belorussia, three Jewish brothers led a legion of their countrymen into the forests. They would defy the Germans by simply surviving. These Brothers were Tuvia, Asael, and Zus Bielski. Their efforts would save over a thousand Jews from Nazi persecution and death.

The Case

In the summer of 1941, Germany made their true intentions against the Soviet Union known. The Nazis pushed into the Belarus region, and in the cities of Lida and Novogrudek, thousands of Jews were rounded up and forced into ghettos. Very shortly thereafter, the Germans would begin executing ghetto residents. Much of the early footage in The Bielski Brothers establishes the world that these people lived in at the time. The grainy, black and white video, whether it is real or not, is difficult to watch. The testimony of the survivors who were there, who witnessed these atrocities first hand, is even harder to listen to. Into the chaos stepped three brothers, Tuvia, Zus, and Asael Bielski, and through their actions, they would be looked upon as heroes to the Jewish populace.

The Bielski's, starting with a few dozen survivors, began building a camp in the woods surrounding the region. Using the aide of the local Russian partisans, the Bielski's would carry out a guerrilla campaign against the German occupation, raiding supply convoys for rations, weapons, and supplies. Under Tuvia Bielski's capable leadership, the group would make their chief purpose to be the liberation of Jewish prisoners from German oppression. They would contact the Ghettos, inviting Jews to join them in the forest. Tuvia was quoted as saying, "I would rather save one old Jewish Woman than kill ten Germans." In spite of such humanitarian thoughts, people did indeed die at the hands of the Bielski's, including German soldiers killed after being taken prisoner, and anyone in the region accused of collaborating with the Nazis. Their judgment was swift and merciless, and the message was clear: Collaborators will not be tolerated. The Nazi is the enemy.

Survivor testimony tells us of the hardships faced by the Bielski camp, including one attack which forced a march to a new, more remote location, referred to as "Jerusalem in the Woods." Through harsh winters and conditions, the group would eventually have a small city, complete with communal baths, a kitchen, and doctors. Sadly, the only voices heard in the documentary are the survivors and relatives, and we don't get much of an "outsider's view" into the actions of the Bielski's. There is no doubt that they were responsible for some noble deeds, but recent history has stirred up some controversy with regards to the brothers as well. While it would have been nice to hear some more non-biased opinions, the truth is the good these men have done outweighs the possibility that they themselves (or men under their command) were little more than "Jewish Communist bandits" or were responsible for war crimes under the command of the Russian Partisans. In the end, over one thousand survivors walked out of the woods with the Bielski's, and thanks to their efforts, tens of thousands of people are alive today.

Technically, The Bielski Brothers is a weak effort. The full frame transfer is pixilated and soft, and the audio is competent stereo, nothing fancy. In truth it probably looks and sounds about on par with the original television broadcast. Extras are also non-existent.

The Bielski Brothers delves into the history behind one of the most dramatic stories to come out of World War II, a story which is, amazingly, one that precious few have heard. Originally aired on The History Channel in 2006, this documentary comes timed with the Hollywood take on the same story, Edward Zwick's war drama, Defiance, and it makes a great companion to that excellent film.

The Verdict

Not Guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile

Studio: History Channel
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 47 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary
• Historical
• War

Distinguishing Marks

• None


• IMDb

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