This is a still from the new film Defiance recently out and starring Daniel Craig as a Jewish partisan leader in Nazi-occupied Belarus.
The Bielski family were farmers in Nowogrodek, Belarus. After Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Nowogrodek became a Jewish ghetto, as the Nazis took over.
The three Bielski brothers, Tuvia, Alexander Zisel "Zus", and Asael, managed to flee to the nearby forest after their parents and other family members were killed in the ghetto in December 1941. Together with 13 neighbours from the ghetto, they formed the nucleus of a an independent fighting force.
The group's commander was the older brother, Tuvia Bielski (1906–1987), a Polish Army veteran. He recruited over a thousand to join the group in the Naliboki Forest.
They lived in underground dugouts but built a kitchen, a mill, a bakery, a bathhouse, a medical clinic for sick and wounded and a quarantine hut for those who suffered from infectious diseases such as typhus. Herds of cows supplied milk. They ran small factories and even made weapons. The camp's many children went to dugout school. The camp even had its own jail and a court of law.
Religion even flourished in the camp and many of the group were Hasids or fully Orthodox Jews. These authentic Jews believe the Old Testament fully. They are identifiable today by their dress - ringlets, beards, long coats, shawls, broad-brimmed hats and so on.
Today many of them are even anti-Zionist because they believe that there can be no State of Israel until the Moshiach (the Messiah) comes.
Catholics believe the same, the only difference being that we believe the Moshiach ("the anointed") has already come and His name is Y'shua (Jesus or Joshua) meaning "Saviour" and the current "Kingdom of Israel" is the Church. Catholics are the spiritual Jews.
Jews call this "replacement theology" and disparage it but that is only to be expected and - from their point of view - quite right and proper. If they did not think so then they would cease being Jews and become Catholics. So we ought not be unduly offended by the disparagement.
The past record of the Holy See should be our guide. The popes of the past - even at periods of persecution of Jews - have always taken the Jews under their special protection. No historian dare gainsay this truth because he or she will never find any evidence to the contrary, however much they may find evidence against bad Christian kings. The Jews was never expelled from the City of Rome - ever.
No-one - Catholic or non-Catholic - can have anything but the greatest anger and indignation at the disgraceful attempt to destroy defenceless men, women and children as this film again reminds happened even in once-civilised Europe. The twin evils of Nazism and Stalinism combined to make of the 20th century the bloodiest, dirtiest and most destructive of centruies in the history of mankind. How could man behave so unless he were first possessed of a legion of devils? What an appalling legacy it has left us!
The activities of the Bielski partisans were aimed at the Nazis and collaborators in the area. They also undertook sabotage. The Nazis sent out whole formations to track them down but they fled safely to a more remote part of the forest, still offering protection to the non-combatants among their band.
Several attempts by Soviet partisan commanders to absorb Bielski fighters into their units were resisted, so that the Jewish partisan group retained its integrity and remained under Tuvia Bielski's command. This allowed him to continue to protect Jewish lives whilst fighting.
In the summer of 1944, when the Soviet counter-offensive began in Belarus and the Germans withdrew, the Bielski partisans, numbering 1,230 men, women and children, emerged from the forest and marched into Nowogrodek.
Asael Bielski served in the Soviet Red Army but was killed at Königsberg in 1945.
Tuvia Bielski returned to Poland, then emigrated to Palestine in 1945 but he and his brother eventually settled in the United States.
Some of the acts of vengeance they undertook, and shown in the film are plainly immoral but they come to regret them and the effect of the whole is one of the triumph of courage and dignity over evil.
It is a powerful story - as is the film - of defiance, courage, horrifying, bloody murders and eventual escape from a most hellish episode in human history.