- Associated Press - Sunday, May 7, 2017

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) - Holocaust survivor Aron Bielski - who helped to save 1,230 other Jews in World War II - credits a positive attitude and “good Christians” with preserving his life.

Bielski, 91, and his wife, Henryka, who now reside in West Palm Beach, Fla., spoke to an audience of 308 people at the Ohio County Public Library on April 27.

Despite the hardships he endured, he said, “There were no bad days in my life. All my days were very good because I was positive. I wasn’t afraid of anyone.”

He said, “A normal person should stay positive. If you give up, your life is finished. If you stay positive, tomorrow you might have a better day.”

The youngest of 12 children, he is the last surviving Bielski brother of the famous Partisan Brigade in eastern Poland. The four brothers played a pivotal role as partisans fighting the Nazi regime while also rescuing Jews and organizing a community known as Jerusalem in the Woods, in what is now western Belarus.

When the group emerged from the woods after liberation, they had 1,230 survivors, making it the largest partisan group in German-occupied territory. Describing the group’s survival in the forest, Aron Bielski said, “Gentile people were also very good. Without Christian people, I would never be here. They are just as good as we are and, at times, even better. They gave us food. They gave us information about what goes on. Without them, we would not have survived.”

Once, a Christian family hid him in their house and denied harboring any Jews when police came.

“Without good Christian people, many, many more Jews would (have been) killed. I certainly would not be alive, I’m sure,” Aron Bielski said.

When the Germans occupied the region in 1941, the brothers went into hiding in the forest surrounding the family’s farm. As the group continued to grow, they undertook dangerous ambush missions and stockpiled weapons.

Aron Bielski, who was 15 when the invasion began, had the job of going into the village at night to collect food and get news. To cook, he said, “You made a fire. When you’re hungry, you’ll do anything.”

Smoke from a campfire might attract attention, but he said, “Sometimes the smoke would work in our favor. They (Nazis) would come. We were waiting for them. . That would be their end. . Whoever started against the Bielskis had a bad end.”

He said, “In some places, there were endless miles of woods. The woods became dangerous for them (Nazis), but the woods for us was life.” Henryka Bielski said the Germans were afraid to go in dense woods.

When the group moved to another part of the forest, they had to go through a large swamp. Aron Bielski said the Germans wouldn’t enter the swamp because they didn’t want to get their boots dirty.

“We were from the country. Country people live on the land. Our advantage was that we were born in the country,” he said, adding, “A person can be weaker than a fly, but at times, a person can be stronger than any steel you can think of.”

Regarding his motivation, he said, “Any man in his right mind would help if he could. I did not know the people I saved. What difference does it make? A person is a person, whether you go to church or synagogue.”

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Information from: The Intelligencer, https://www.theintelligencer.net


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