On the site of the historic Bielski Family Camp, located in the Naliboki Forest near Novogrudok, Belarus, a new commemoration project is underway that hopes to preserve the historic location.

The Jewish Bielski partisan detachment – one of the first partisan groups in the Baranovichi region, Belarus, and the largest Jewish partisan unit (numbering over 1000 people – comparable to a partisan brigade) in Nazi-occupied Europe – was the most extensive and successful rescue operation of Jews by Jews during World War II. According to Jack Kagan, a former prisoner of the Novogrudok Ghetto and a member of the Bielski detachment, a tenacious struggle for survival and the success of the Bielski effort, “was possible only in Belarus and in no other country”.

The Hollywood movie “Defiance” starring the celebrated actor Daniel Craig, gave this little known story of the legendary Bielski Jewish detachment world renown, and the time has come to preserve the original site for future generations.

To read the history of the Bielski Partisans’ Camp in the Naliboki Forest – known as Jerusalem in the Woods – click the button below.

There has been little attempt to document the daily life or the activities of the family partisan detachment in Belarus or elsewhere, until now. One of the essential aims of the project is to preserve the camp, but a broader goal remains – to present the Jewish history of Belarus and the thousands of Jewish men and women who called this land ‘home’.

By presenting the towns and cities from where the Bielski partisans came, like Novogrudok, Lida, Ivye, Dytalovo, Voronovo, Mir, Oshmiany, etc. and sharing their stories, Jewish history comes alive to local students and all inhabitants of Belarus alike, thus helping to understand that the history of the Jews is part of the history of Belarus.   

Aside from educational tours of the Memorial, the site will offer a location for seminars, events, and regular reunions of Bielski partisans’ descendants.

Resistance, in general, and the Bielski detachment in particular, occupy a special place in the history of the Holocaust for two reasons: 

  1. The primary aim of Tuvia Bielski, the detachment commander, was to save Jews rather than kill Germans. All Jews were accepted into the detachment regardless of gender, age, or the ability to fight, which distinguished the Bielski partisans from other partisan detachments.  
  2. It was a family detachment, which made it far more difficult to protect and maintain than a fighting one.

Bielski partisans in the Naliboki Forest. May, 1944

Archaeological research

Using non-invasive equipment (geo-scanners) this research will enable us:

  1. to clarify the layout of the camp;
  2. to determine location of the most important buildings (dugouts) and a burial place of those killed on July 9, 1944 in the battle with the retreating German soldiers;
  3. to create walking paths for future visitors; the perimeter of campsite must be fenced for protection from wild animals.

Implementation

In order to create this Memorial, it is necessary to:

  • establish an international group of experts and specialists; 
  • fundraise for its construction;
  • collect bids for contractors to execute the work;
  • perform artistic and construction work;
  • find and train guides from among local residents, young people, and school teachers in nearby towns and villages.

Fundraising events

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Help us make this project possible