Aron Bielski (born July 21, 1927), later changed to Aron Bell, is a Polish-American Jew and former member of the Bielski partisans, the largest group of Jewish armed rescuers of Jews during World War II. He was also known as Arczyk Bielski. The youngest of the four Bielski brothers, he is the only one still living (Asael died in 1945, Tuvia in 1987, and Alexander ["Zus"] in 1995).[1]

Aharon Bielski
Bielski c. 1950
Born (1927-07-21) July 21, 1927 (age 96)
Other namesAaron Bielski
Aharon Bielski
Aron Bell
Arczyk Bielski
SpouseHenryka
RelativesTuvia Bielski, brother
Asael Bielski, brother
Alexander Zeisal Bielski, brother

Life with the Bielski partisans

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The Bielski family were farmers in Stankiewicze near Navahrudak in present-day Belarus, an area that at the beginning of the Second World War belonged to the Second Polish Republic. In September 1939, it was seized by the Soviet Union, which was then allied with Nazi Germany. After the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, Aron's brothers created a notable resistance organization, the Bielski partisans group, of which Aron became a member.

Nechama Tec, who wrote a book about them, had the following to say about Aron: "Occasionally in the forest he acted as a guide. Those I spoke to agree that his participation and impact on the life of the Bielski otriad [a partisan detachment] was minimal, almost nonexistent."[2] While Nechama was not able to interview Aron, he was interviewed by Peter Duffy in Duffy's book.[3] That author, in the second authoritative book about the Bielski partisans, mentions Aron about 30 times and lists him as one of the important sources for the book. Duffy also interviewed Bell for the article "Heroes Among Us" (2000), published in The New York Times.[4]

Later life

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After the war, Bielski returned to communist-dominated Poland but soon afterward emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine. In 1954, he settled in the United States, where he joined his surviving brothers and their families.[5]

In 2007, Bielski and his wife Henryka were charged with exploitation of the elderly, theft, and scheming to defraud after they convinced a Polish Catholic neighbor in Florida, Janina Zaniewska, to give them power of attorney before taking her to Poland and depositing her in a nursing home. A bank manager alerted police after becoming alarmed that the Bielskis were withdrawing Zaniewska's money. Police in Poland were able to locate Zaniewska at the nursing home and allow her to return to her home in America.[6]

In 2008, charges were dropped after the Bielskis agreed to repay Zaniewska over $260,000 that they had been charged for swindling from her.[7]

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English actor George MacKay portrayed Aron in the film Defiance (2008). MacKay was then sixteen years old, approximately the same age as was Aron during the period depicted in the film.[citation needed]

References

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  1. ^ Duffy, Peter (28 May 2000). "Heroes Among Us". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 May 2021.
  2. ^ Nechama Tec, Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, Oxford University Press US, 2008, ISBN 0-19-537685-4, Google Print, p.304
  3. ^ Peter Duffy, The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews, HarperCollins, 2004, ISBN 0-06-093553-7, Google Print, p.286
  4. ^ "Heroes Among Us". The New York Times. May 28, 2000.
  5. ^ "Bielski, Tuvia" (PDF). yadvashem.org.
  6. ^ "Holocaust hero accused of conning 93-year-old". NBC News. 2007-11-20. Archived from the original on 2024-03-27.
  7. ^ "Holocaust hero to repay victim". News24. 2008-02-07. Archived from the original on 2024-03-27.
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