Reading guide for The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy

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The Bielski Brothers

The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Saved 1,200 Jews, and Built a Village in the Forest

by Peter Duffy

The Bielski Brothers
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2003, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2004, 336 pages

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Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Book Description

In 1941 after witnessing the execution of their parents and two siblings, Tuvia, Asael, and Zus Bielski fled into the forest and sent out the word that any Jews who made it to the woods would find a safe haven there. Over time, they gathered more than 1200 Jews, who lived hidden in the Belo-Russian forest. For two and a half years, at the height of World War II, the Bielski Jews courageously fought against the Nazis and built a thriving community that included a temple, a bathhouse, and a theater. The historical role of the Bielski brothers in saving Jewish lives from the Holocaust is at least equal to that of Oskar Schindler, but their story has never been told -- until now.


Topics for Discussion
  1. Members of the Bielski community had to do things they would have considered morally reprehensible outside of the forest -- lying, stealing, and even killing. Do you feel their choices were justifiable under the circumstances?

  2. What activities did members of the group develop to create a sense of community and maintain their religious and cultural traditions?

  3. Do you believe that the cultural and religious activities that the Jews implemented into their daily lives helped them make it through the war?

  4. One amazing fact about the story is that, although many gentile neighbors knew about the Jews hidden in the forest, their experience was never revealed. Why did the townspeople help keep the Bielski's secret?

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harper Perennial. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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