Almost 60 years after leaving Israel and fighting in the War of Independence, Aron Bielski returns and meets with soldiers serving in the same unit he did
Date: 19/04/2012, 5:56 PM Author: Matan Galin
During the Holocaust, The Bielski partisan family led a group of resistance fighters who fought in the forests of the Soviet Union against Nazi occupation, saving the lives of 1,236 Jews. In his 80s today, Aron Bielski is the youngest of 12 children in the Bielski family and the only survivor.
In honor of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, IDF (Zahal) Website interviewed the Partisan, Aron Bielski, who immigrated to Israel after World War II and fought in the Givati Infantry Brigade during the Israeli War of Independence. He then traveled to Europe to search for surviving siblings – successfully finding some – before settling in the United States. “After I saw the soldiers I was proud to see someone is defending the Jewish people,” he said.
Bielski recently arrived in Israel for the purpose of visiting the brigade he served in many years ago. He visited the brigade during a training exercise in northern Israel and spoke to soldiers of both the Givati Brigade and Armored Corps who listened intently to his stories from the time he spent serving in the IDF (Zahal). He then toured the northern border, watching a short brigade exercise along with the deputy regional commander.
“No other army in the world is run in such an ethical and moral manner,” said Bielski to the soldiers, “The struggle that goes on here and the price that is paid for a single soldier is incomprehensible. During the Second World War the Nazis held Stalin’s son as a prisoner of war. Stalin refused to release a single Nazi officer in exchange for his son.”
Although it had been 60 years since Aaron Bielski left Israel, the memories had not faded, and neither had his recollections of life in Europe.
On October 21, 1942, the Nazis reached the village where Aron and his family lived. Already known to the Nazis as the primary instigators of disruptions in the area, his brothers then went into hiding. “I was a kid. I would go to bring food to my brothers’ hiding place. I did not wear a yellow star, but I remember that my mother did. Those who wore yellow stars were not allowed to walk on the sidewalk, so I would walk several meters behind her. One day a Nazi officer recognized me as the Bielskis’ brother. He took me to the police station and interrogated me, trying to find out where they were hiding. When I refused to talk, the Nazi took me to the courtyard. He put a shovel in my hand and told me to dig a hole, while other officers stood around me with their rifles drawn,” he recounted.
“I dug for maybe an hour or two; I don’t remember exactly. In the end, when the hole was deep enough for me, they told me to lie face down, with their guns still aimed at me,” said Bielski, his voice trembling. He explained that the entire incident was a ruse, the Nazis’ way of extracting information in that period – perhaps one of their gentlest ways. He left the police station that day without revealing his brothers’ location.
Life in the forests was different from what was said about the ghettos and the camps. That’s why Bielski feels that his childhood and adolescence were different from those of most children in that period. Food was rarely lacking, and he was far from the abuse of the Nazis. ” I didn’t suffer like most of the Jewish children in the Holocaust,” he explained. Still, it is clear that this period left its mark on him. “I think that I grew up very quickly. At age 11 I saw the Nazis catch my father in the street and beat him until he nearly died. That’s an event that hardens you,” he said. That winter, the Nazis raided Aron’s village, killing his parents and three of his brothers. It was then that his brothers escaped to the forest, where they ultimately saved over 1,200 lives.