Conservative Liberal

FDR would have been a Republican today.

A good movie and pretentious blowhards

As I have mentioned before, last Saturday my wife and I went to see the movie "Defiance".  The movie is based on a true story told by Nechama Tec about 4 Bielski brothers who organized a Jewish partisan band in Nazi-occupied Western Byelorussia and saved 1200 Jews.  This is the only kind of Holocaust movie that I like: the kind where Jews save themselves, have guns, fight back and defend themselves.  The movie is very well made, and the acting is pretty good too.  The reviews by regular movie-goers are almost universally good.  People can relate to the story: people hunted like animals stand up and defend themselves.  The professional critics, being the pretentious blowhards that they are, don’t particularly like the movie and keep analyzing artistic merits of the story.  But there are no artistic merits in this story, it is what it is.  This is a docudrama, or, more properly, a reenactment of historical events.  The script writer did not have to invent any clever plot lines, they were provided by life itself.  However, the review linked to above is not the most insulting and idiotic.  Yesterday my co-worker sent me a link to this Atlas Shrugs post, which links to a review written by someone named Tom Charity and published by CNN.  Pamela quotes this lovely passage from the review:

"The timing is unfortunate. For a story that has gone neglected for the best part of 60 years, this is hardly the ideal week to be extolling heroic Jewish resistance fighters. Ari Folman’s angst-laden nonfiction animated film, "Waltz With Bashir," is altogether more relevant."

This guy of course has a problem with the Jews in Israel defending themselves against Hamas murderers.  This basically reveals the main problem the Left has with Israel.  Besides the anti-Semitism prevalent on the Left, the leftists prefer Jews as quiet little victims silently marching into the gas chambers, so the Left can feel sorry for them afterwards.  But as bad as the passage above is, the complete article is even worse.  The term "pretentious blowhard" is, well, too charitable for Mr. Charity (pun intended).  Mr. Charity writes his review with very little, if any, knowledge and understanding of the subject matter of the film.  Well, I will take up an exercise in futility and attempt to enlighten Mr. Charity and his ilk.

One of the idiocies of this review that stands out is this:

In "Defiance" those words come with a thick, guttural European inflection (Hebrew is spoken as English, though characters also break into subtitled Russian and German on occasion). The speechifying is often clumsy and long-winded.

I would have forgiven Mr. Charity if he would have said "Yiddish is spoken as English".  This is probably the way it was intended by the director anyway.  But Hebrew?  This guy is just an ignorant idiot.  No, I am not being charitable any more.  Apart from a rabbi conducting a service, Hebrew was never spoken by Jews in Byelorussia.  The language spoken by those involved in the story was probably a mixture of Russian, Byelorussian, Polish and Yiddish, with Russian predominating among the city dwellers from the East and Polish among those from the West.  Any commands and speeches would probably be given in Russian.  How do I know this?  Well, look at my background!  Yes, Odessa is not in Byelorussia, but I know enough people from there too.  And there are and were enough similarities in conditions in Odessa and Byelorussia for me to know what language was spoken by the real characters in this story.  And by the way, there was no German spoken by the Jews in the movie.

Mr. Charity laments Zus’ decision to join the Soviet partisans and take the fight to the Nazis.  Hiding in some hole must be more appealing for Mr. Charity.  He does not think that the Russians were true friends of Zus.  It would help if Mr. Charity would have read Nechama Tec’s book on which the movie is based.  Victor Panchenko, the Russian commander, is not shown as a villain in the movie.  Indeed, he was not.  Unlike many Russian partisans, Panchenko accepted Jewish able-bodied men into his group.  And once he esteblished contact with the Belski brothers, he sent the non-fighters their way.  If Mr. Charity would have read the book, he would know that Panchenko was very helpful to the Belski brothers.  He helped the Jewish partisans establish contact with the Soviet High Command, which was necessary for treating the wounded and getting supplies.  Jewish fighters were participating in missions together with the Russians, missions ordered by the Soviet Command.  And Panchenko made use of Jewish camp as a base, using skilled laborers weapons maintenance and repair and medical professionals for treating lightly wounded.  This actually alluded to in the movie, when the newcomers to the camp are asked what they can do.  And, by the way, Panchenko punished anti-Semites.  While Zus and some of his comrades did come back to the Belski camp, some other Jewish fighters stayed with Panchenko because they wanted to fight the Germans more actively as members of a more mobile Panchenko group.  Here is one more news flash for Mr. Charity: wanting to take the fight to the Nazis is a good thing.

Here is another lovely passage by Mr. Charity:

The movie is full of mud and muck, yet somehow Zwick sanitizes the things that matter most. In the most challenging scene, just as Tuvia turns a blind eye as his enraged fellow Jews beat a German prisoner to death, Zwick consistently pulls back from anything that might be too unpleasant or tasteless.

Mr. Ignoramus conveniently does not notice clearly visible SS insignia under the "poor" German’s camouflage coat.  The fact that he was SS means that he was likely a member of one of the Einsatzgruppen, a special SS unit whose only purpose in life was to murder Jews.  So, what would Mr. Charity have Tuvia Belski do, shoot his fellow Jews in order to save an SS-man?  And what would partisans do with a POW?  Start a POW camp in the woods?  The circumstances were such that the German had to be killed anyway.  Or should they let him go, so that he would come back with his Einsatzkommando?  I personally would have preferred that the Nazi were thoroughly interrogated and then disposed of cleanly with a bullet to the back of his head.  But once the mob started beating on him there was no stopping them without shooting one of long suffering people whose loved ones were perhaps murdered by that SS-man.  It obviously was not worth it.  The ignorance and lack of historical perspective displayed by Tom Charity is staggering.  And he uses this episode to take another anti-Semitic potshot at those "murderous" Jews.  By the way, why is this scene more challenging than, let’s say, the scene where Tuvia shoots Arkady, the man who challenged his command authority?  The man was a jerk, but at least he was on our side.  He was one of the Jews initially saved by the Belskis.  Could it be that Mr. Charity feels more sorry for the Nazi than for the Jew?  "His [Edward Zwick’s – Eric-Odessit] heroes remain fundamentally unsullied," Mr. Charity laments.  He clearly would prefer to sully them.

There is also this idiotic passage:

Zwick’s Hollywood liberal credentials are not in doubt, but his films have a surprisingly gung-ho undercurrent (they include such martial adventures as "The Last Samurai," "Glory," "The Siege," "Legends of the Fall" and "Courage Under Fire").

Tom clearly does not like plots where good guys are fighting the bad guys.  He must subscribe to the notion that "War never solves anything".  Well, I have to remind him that war did stop slavery, Nazism and Communism.  So, it did solve something.  And who cares about "Zwick’s Hollywood liberal credentials"?  He probably does lean Left, but it does not matter.  He made a good movie, movie I can relate to.  Older generation of my family lived this story.  I know people who were participants in similar stories.  And he made a movie about Holocaust where the Jews take up guns, shoot back and defend themselves, killing the Nazis.  That’s better than all the "Schindler’s Lists" and "Pianists" combined.

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January 20, 2009 - Posted by | Articles, History


  1. […] This post (via a comment by Eric at Bookworm) indicates that many “official” reviewers did not like this movie very much, and cites an absolutely bizarre passage in a review published by CNN: […]

    Pingback by Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » DEFIANCE–Brief Review | January 24, 2009 | Reply

  2. Absolutely excellent takedown of a foul and uninformed review. I wish you could get the play the uncharitable Mr. Charity gets from his perch at CNN.

    Comment by bwroom | January 31, 2009 | Reply

  3. Brilliant critique! I wonder if Mr. Charity also dismissed Frost/Nixon as an irrelevant topic for a movie because it happened so long ago. Probably not.

    Comment by Wende | February 1, 2009 | Reply

  4. Contrast this with well-meaning judenrat liberals like Jacob Gens. He selected his fellow jews to be exterminated by the Nazis and turned over resistance fighters to them as well.

    His intentions were good… he felt that by collaborating with the Nazis he could save lives.

    Gens was shot by the Gestapo and he didnt save any Jews. The Vilna ghetto was liquidated. Another fine example of the benefits of diplomacy.

    Comment by Freedom Now | February 4, 2009 | Reply

  5. […] organizations.  If your blood start boiling after reading that crap, try calming down by reading my review of the review.  You see, the Left wants to see the Jews as quiet little victims for whom they can feel sorry.  […]

    Pingback by My letter to a Liberal Jew « Conservative Liberal | March 10, 2009 | Reply

  6. […] is a young boy who lives a dreary life being tormented by school bullies. Unendliche Geschichte, Die. On one such occasion he escapes into a book shop where the old proprieter reveals an ancient […]

    Pingback by Unendliche Geschichte, Die, 1984 | May 2, 2009 | Reply

  7. Just today, I tossed my copy of the Bielski Brothers into a garbage can. They were no better in character than the Nazis, as even a childhood friend of theirs who pleaded for his life, just an unimportant person, was hung by them in the forest. There’s nothing at all uplifting about the book. You know, it seems ever since Bruno Bettelheim complained how the Jews did not defend themselves, books like this compete with one another to say how much the Jews resisted. This book, in particular, seems most of all to seek to emphasize even the smallest act of resistance. But the world needs to be reminded, point-blank, that resistance is very difficult when facing guns and dogs, not to mention the whole culture of hate by the Germans that was developed during the Nazi era. Ordinary people who never hated anybody were forced into it, or at least the motions of it, for fear of their lives.

    Comment by Patti Morey | January 7, 2010 | Reply

    • Patti,
      Admittedly, I read the book years ago, but I don’t recall any such episode. In any case, partisans did not tend to hang those they were killing, but simply shot them. You must be mistaken. That is, unless you think that they hanged their friend Kostik. But Kostik was hung BY THE NAZIS FOR HELPING THE JEWS! Did you watch the same movie, read the same book that I did? In the movie the only person pleading with Bielski is a Nazi collaborator Beletski, the one who killed their parents. So, in order for you to mistake him for Kostik, you had to fall asleep around the time Tuvia confronted Beletski and awaken by the time the Bielski brothers were pulling Kostik’s body down, a good chunk of the movie.
      But be my guest and prove me wrong: point to a chapter in the book where the episode you mentioned is described.

      Comment by eric-odessit | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  8. Please allow me to add that one main thing we can learn from the Holocaust is to guard our cultures & nations against unwholesome attitudes, and to cultivate virtuous attitudes. It was attitudes that prevented many Jews from believing what they were told was happening to their people until it was too late, and it was attitudes that manipulated even ordinary German citizens to become hateful oppressors. Our attitudes toward people are reflected in our attitudes toward animals, who have no choice but to go to their deaths. Because they are “inferior” or “less intelligent” or… Only when our attitude becomes holistic to embrace all creation with dignity will such crimes end, because the treatment of animals is the reference used when dehumanizing others..

    Comment by Patti Morey | January 7, 2010 | Reply

    • Sorry, I wasn’t able to finish my reply yesterday. So, I’ll continue where I left off.
      The Jews did fight back, not only in the Resistance, like Bielski partisans or Warsaw Ghetto fighters, but also in the ranks of Allied armies, like both of my grandfathers and both of my wife’s grandfathers. And yes, I am tired of Jews being portrayed purely as victims sometimes saved by some gentile, a-la “Schindler’s List”. So, I was very happy to finally see a big budget Hollywood movie showing a true story of Jewish resistance. But the problem with leftist intellectuals like yourself is that they are always ready to shed crocodile tears for the victims of the Holocaust. However, as soon as they see people picking up weapons and defending themselves, refusing to be victims, they consider such people immoral: they dare to use violence in their defense. So, please tell me: how many people your “holistic attitude” would have saved? The Bielski brothers saved 1200, a documented number. Those were real people, in real life situation, not in the fantasy world you live in. Would you try talking to SS soldiers and their local collaborators intend on murdering Jews about your “holistic attitude”? Oh, by the way, you have just equated my relatives, my wife’s relatives and relatives of my friends, the ones murdered by the Nazis, to chicken that we eat. I repeat, the Holocaust did not happen in some fantasy world, it happened in real life. All my life I’ve been running into the reminders of it. And the only way to save at least some people was – oh, horror! – to commit violence against the Nazis and their collaborators. That was also the only moral thing to do.

      Comment by eric-odessit | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  9. The defiance against Nazis by Jewish Partisans is not uplifting enough for some fake liberals (although if they were Communist partisans I’m sure they would be viewed more favorably. Viva Che TShirts!!!).

    Saving 1200 lives is not uplifting enough for some fake liberals either.

    Comment by Freedom Now | January 16, 2010 | Reply

  10. A quick comment. To say that the Belski partisans were just as savage as maybe the Nazis leaves out one fact – Hitler youth would report their own parents if they thought they were opposing Hitler. Thus was the indoctrination. And also, bad things do happen in wars only to be realized after everthing is over. My grandfather told me how at war’s end a German teenager who was enlisted in the Wehrmacht was executed by the Americans because he shot at American troops even so Germany surrendered. Truth is that he was ordered by his superior to shoot at the approaching enemy, not knowing what was really going on. My grandfather pleaded with the commanding officer to have mercy on the boy who was ultimately executed. Was it wrong? Probably. But let’s not forget that even so there was calm in the rest of Germany, American occupation troops in Bavaria were still dealing with Nazi guerilla that caused quite a havoc months after Germany’s surrender to the Allies. Did Germany deserve the help it received from the United States after the war? Surely not. But again it’s human kindness that prevaled especially within American society to have pity on a nation that would have wished to see the Jews exterminated from the face of the earth. As a German myself, I hail the Belsky brothers for their effort and my heart aches for every Jewish life that got exterminated in the death- and labor camps alike.

    Comment by Andy | February 14, 2010 | Reply

  11. It was a friend of one of the brothers, and he ate with them but it was stated in the book that he knew his fate, and the other brother took him into the woods and hung him.

    Comment by Patti Morey | March 11, 2010 | Reply

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