Jewish resistance film sparks Polish anger
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A film starring Daniel Craig about a Jewish underground resistance movement that took on the Nazis has prompted a storm of protest in Poland. Defiance, directed by Edward Zwick, which recently opened in Poland under the title Opor (resistance), has been booed at cinemas across the country and banned from others because of a local perception that it is a rewriting of history and anti-Polish.

Opponents say in its telling of the true story of the four Bielski brothers who fled the Nazis and set up a kibbutz-style secret village with hundreds of followers in a forest in what was then part of Poland, the filmmakers have, in true Hollywood style, simplified the facts, mythologised the group and omitted to address accusations that they ill-treated Polish locals and the underground home army.

It is an indisputable fact that the Bielskis' unit waged a campaign of armed resistance against the Nazis as well as providing a refuge for the old, weak and sick which saved 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust. But many Poles, particularly nationalists, continue to believe that the Bielskis' partisans also took part in a brutal 1943 attack led by Soviet partisans on the village of Naliboki in which 128 people were killed, despite historical investigations that have exonerated them.

The launch of the film has prompted a wave of front page articles and commentaries and thrust the issue to the top of the chatshow agenda. The most scathing attack, which has led to charges that anti-Semitism is the driving force behind the criticism of the film, appeared in the conservative daily Rzecpospolita.

In a leader column the paper wrote: "The Jewish groups were not squeamish when it came to procuring food. They turned to pillaging, murder and rape." The newspaper said that while it was understandable that the film succeeded in challenging the cliche that Holocaust victims largely "went to their death like sheep to the slaughter", director Zwick had mistakenly "put on a pedestal a man who was bandit and hero rolled into one", referring to the group's leader, Tuvia Bielski.

The liberal newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza has also made clear its disapproval of the film's lionisation of the Bielski brothers. While clearing them of involvement in Naliboki, two of its reporters, who unfavourably depict Tuvia Bielski as a drunk and a womaniser, came up with evidence suggesting he took part in a joint operation with the Soviets to wipe out Polish anti-communist units and that he helped lead the Soviets to the whereabouts of a Polish underground leader.

The film is based on the 1993 book "Defiance: The Bielski Partisans" by the Holocaust researcher Nechama Tec, a Jew who escaped Poland during the war by posing as a Catholic. Craig plays Tuvia Bielski, who after the war was a taxi driver in New York and died in 1987.

Source >  Guardian

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