A powerful recounting of a little-known story.



Holocaust-related history, more uplifting than most.

Freelance writer Duffy stumbled upon a stray reference to “Forest Jews” while performing a random online search. His curiosity about this mysterious term led to a New York Times story in 2000, now this book. The eponymous brothers are Tuvia, Asael, and Zus Bielski, all born before WWI to the only Jewish family in Stankevich, western Belarus. Once a dominion of czarist Russia, the village became part of Poland after 1918, but the Soviet Union governed following the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939. The intense drama of Duffy's narrative begins with Nazi German troops over-running the village in 1941. The Bielskis’ parents were killed, as were numerous other relatives; survivors were placed in a ghetto to serve as slave labor for the Nazis. Tuvia, Asael, and Zus broke out and helped others to follow. They built a rugged but survivable life in a nearby dense forest, obtaining weapons however possible to protect the nascent Jewish settlement and to conduct guerilla raids against Nazi forces. The day-in, day-out account of the next four years is an often unbearably intense chronicle of horror and courage. A novel telling a similar story would almost certainly be dismissed as outlandish, but Duffy's copious endnotes convincingly document the saga’s reality. All three brothers survived the forest years, as did and many of those they helped. Asael, conscripted into the Soviet army, died fighting German troops in February 1945. Tuvia and Zus made it to Israel with their wives, later settling in the US. Tuvia died in 1987, Zus in 1996, but Duffy had access to their widows and other relatives and uses those recollections wisely. Only the vast array of names, dates, and battles are sometimes difficult to assimilate.

A powerful recounting of a little-known story.

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-621074-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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