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Holocaust remembered by local congregation

Filmmaker Sharon Rennert recounts family's Holocaust experience

Posted: April 25, 2011 1:35 p.m.
Updated: April 25, 2011 1:35 p.m.

To commemorate Yom Ha'Shoah, “Holocaust Remembrance Day,” which honors the lives of the millions of Jews whose lives were taken by the Nazis during World War II, Congregation Beth Shalom is proud to present filmmaker Sharon Rennert, grandaughter of the partisan hero Tuvia Bielski, who is portrayed by Daniel Craig in the Hollywood film “Defiance.”

Rennert’s account of her family’s Holocaust experience breaks down historical fact from fiction and provides a unique and personal glimpse into the characters behind the film. Rennert’s presentation, including excerpts from her documentary film, “In Our Hands: A Personal Story of the Bielski Partisans,” will take place on Sunday, May 1, at 7 p.m., at Congregation Beth Shalom, 21430 Centre Pointe Parkway in Saugus.

“In Our Hands: A Personal Story of the Bielski Partisans,” is the inspiring true story of Tuvia, Zus and Asael Bielski, three Jewish brothers who refused to succumb to the hopeless circumstances of the Holocaust and took their fate into their own hands. They fled to the forests of Western Belarus to form an armed brigade, chose Tuvia as their commander, and could never have imagined the incredible feats of survival they were about to achieve.
The Bielskis welcomed all Jews to join them in the woods, especially those who were too weak to defend themselves. As more people arrived over a period of three years, the group grew into a small village that came to be known as Shtetl Bielski. Whatever needs they had for survival, they found ways to fulfill with tenacity and their bare hands. They built underground bunkers, a hospital, a school, a bakery, a bathhouse and even a theater.
They conducted sabotage missions against Nazi infrastructure and took revenge on neighboring peasants who were known to collaborate with the Germans. Their reputation as defiant Jews fighting from the woods caused Hitler to offer 10,000 reichsmarks as a reward for Tuvia Bielski’s head.
The Nazis knew that Jewish partisans were hiding in the forests, and they attempted several ambushes against them, but the partisans always managed to stay one step ahead. In spite of the constant threat of danger, these Jews were determined to live their lives as normally as possible. They laughed, sang, danced, prayed, gossiped, and fell in love, all under the protection of the trees.

When the war ended, more than 1200 Jewish partisans emerged from the woods. The descendants of these survivors now number in the tens of thousands living all over the world.
Sharon Rennert is the granddaughter of Tuvia Bielski and his wife, Lilka. She explores her family legacy with her video camera over the course of an 11-year journey that takes her around the world from Brooklyn to Florida, Israel, Belarus and Lithuania.
Her family’s contemporary pilgrimage is intercut with historical archival footage to create a story that weaves the past with the present, while exploring the impact of their history on the second and third generation survivors.
The documentary includes exclusive interviews and footage with the widows and children of the Bielski Brothers, as well as other surviving partisans. Rare family photos, movies and oral histories are integrated throughout the film to provide unique insights into the story and characters. Because of the filmmaker’s close relationship to the subject matter, the end product is a historical film told from an exceptionally poignant and intimate perspective that entertains as well as enlightens.

For more information about this special presentation, please call (661) 254-2411.


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