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The Lost Book of Bielski

The Lost Book of Bielski

Posthumous books are all the rage these days, but here’s one that’s bound to make waves soon. An unpublished memoir by Tuvia Bielski, the leader of the Bieslki partisans, which saved 1,200 Jews in the Polish woods during the Holocaust, and was the subject of last year’s film Defiance, has just been found. According to a story published in The Jerusalem Post, the 394-page manuscript was languishing in the YIVO archives until the center began digitizing their collection and a researcher found it.

While there have been two well-researched books on the Bielski brothers–the scholar Nechama Tec’s 1993 book, "Defiance," upon which the movie was based, and former New York Times reporter Peter Duffy’s "The Bielski Brothers"–neither author said they new of the manuscript. There’s one big caveat though: Duffy did in fact know, and use, a 333-page memoir of Tuvia’s, which was is different from the one recently found. YIVO director and scholar Jonathan Brent told the Post that the recently found manuscript was probably an earlier draft of the 333-page one Duffy used. Nonetheless, Brent said that he and the Bielski heirs, who have intellectual copyright over Tuvia’s papers, plan to publish a translated English version of the longer version sometime soon. It’s written in Yiddish.

Some discolure, too: Tuvia, and all the Bielskis, are close relatives of mine. My grandmother, Estelle Bielski, was Tuvia’s sister. Like everyone else, though, this is news to me. But I do hope this memoir gets published. Though Tuvia died when I was just a young boy, in 1987, he is the sustance of much family lore. I’m usually loathe to dole out titles like hero and villain, if only because it detracts from our appreciatiation of their utter humanness. But Tuvia was both entirely human, and a hero, too.

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