Whispers from the Nabiloka

Guest commentary
Exclusive to The Zelman Partisans
by Historian

During the Second World War, a variety of partisan groups arose in the territories occupied by Nazi Germany. In the East, Poland, the Ukraine and Byelorussia, and into Russia itself, some of these partisan organizations were partially or primarily composed of Jews who had fled German attempts to concentrate them into ghettos or who had fled the ghettos themselves. One of these was made famous by the movie Defiance, starring Daniel Craig as Tuvia Bielski, the leader of this partisan group. This fictionalized account of the Bielski Otryad, which hid in the Nabiloka forest in what is now western Byelorussia I found compelling, and it awoke an ongoing interest in the history of the partisan groups that arose from the German invasion.

These groups varied considerably, as one might expect. Some were comprised of mainly young more or less healthy males, and geared towards military action against the Germans. Other groups, such as the Bielski Otryad, were more inclusive, taking in any Jew that wished to join, regardless of their fitness or prior employment. I was impressed at the survival of Bielski’s group in the face of both anti-semitism from the Soviets and ongoing attacks from the Germans, but I found it surprising to learn that partisan groups composed almost exclusively of young strong males, dedicated to fighting the Germans and resisting the invaders, fared much worse than groups like the Bielski Otryad whose members had widely varied backgrounds, and whose primary goal was survival.

Most of those young fit men died and their groups were wiped out, while the Bielski Otryad survived the war, growing even as the Nazis chased them through the Nabiloka forest. Some of the Bielski Otryad members died during the war, but when they were met by advancing Russian troops, they numbered 1200 Jews, the largest number of Jews saved by Jews during the war. Two of the three Bielski brothers (Tuvia and Zus; Asael was killed in 1944 fighting for the Soviets) survived also, traveling to Israel and ultimately emigrating to these presently united States in 1956.

It appears that there were two key factors at play; one was that the primary goal of the Bielski Otryad was not to kill Germans, but to help Jews survive. The other was that even deep in the taiga, there was survival value in having a wide range of skills available to the group. A wide range of outlook, experience and opinion allowed the group to better cope when conditions or circumstances changed.

There is a lesson in this for the Liberty Movement.

Today, I see a wide range of opinion about the path forward for individual freedom. Many of those espousing these various opinions bitterly attack others in the Liberty movement for their ‘impure’ or ‘imperfect’ ideas, or slather acid criticism on those who disagree in one particular or another. Topics ranging from the ideal caliber for pistols or rifles to whether or not we need or should have a Constitution and everything in between are viciously debated, and barbed words fly back and forth growing more heated with each exchange.

To what end? Cui Bono?

What is the goal of the Liberty Movement? More personally, what is YOUR goal, in the pursuit of freedom? Each one of you will have to answer that question for yourself, but my goal is: to create a system that allows each person to do as they wish, to speak as they wish, to do with their bodies, their lives and the fruits of their labors as they choose, as long as they grant others the right to do the same. As Enlightenment philosophers put it- Life, liberty and property. If someone who shares this goal with you disagrees with you as to how best to accomplish that, so what? Isn’t the whole point to allow others their otherness? Aren’t we trying to help individual Liberty survive?

Or are we?

Tuvia Bielski made his goal the survival of Jews. He did not cast out the old, the infirm or those whose politics differed from his, and as a result, a community of 1200 Jews, anarchists, socialists, communists and individualists survived the Holocaust. He made a place for a wide range of opinion, and the Jewish community he built in the Nabiloka forest was stronger and more resilient as a result.

There is much to be said for earnest discussions about the paths forward for individual Liberty. This is, after all, a war of ideas. There is no doubt that the American experiment is in trouble and we need to carefully consider how we went wrong, and what must be done to make things better. But are the paths leading to the restoration of American Liberty to be found in the stifling of dissent, or in bitter vituperation among those who agree on the big issues? This country was founded on dissent and disagreement; rather than weakness, it may be our greatest strength.

Put it another way. If this is a war of ideas, and ideas are weapons, don’t we want the forces of tyranny to have to face as many different threats as possible? Don’t we want to see statism attacked on as many fronts as we can manage? Do we want to let the perfect become the enemy of the good?

Tuvia Bielski welcomed Jews of all social classes, ideologies, ages or abilities. They followed different paths through the Nabiloka forest to reach their refuge with other Jews, and this was again, part of their protection. Imagine how easy it would have been for the Nazis to exterminate them all if they had all followed one path. Regardless of how they got there, where they came from, or what baggage they carried, they were all welcomed. As far as I can tell from my reading, Tuvia Bielski only asked that each person work as they could to support the goal of the group, which was to ensure that the Jews survive. And they did. He won.

What is your goal, gentle reader?

Will you be like Tuvia Bielski, and make your goal the survival of Liberty, welcoming and protecting all those who love individual freedom, benefiting from each person’s unique outlook?

Or will you conduct intellectual auto-da-fé against all who disagree with you, seeking to crush disagreement and to force all to goosestep to the truth as you see it?

Do you view differing opinions within the Liberty movement as a threat, or as an opportunity?

I wonder what Tuvia Bielski’s Jewish partisans would say to the enraged ideologues among us?

Can you hear the whispers from the Nabiloka forest?

With regard to all who serve the Light,



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17 thoughts on “Whispers from the Nabiloka”

  1. Thank you for this. One of the biggest irritants of the ‘liberty movement’ is the number of people presuming to speak in its name, declaring that we must do/believe this and refrain from doing/believing that, or we just don’t love liberty. These people tend to be immune to irony.

    After wasting many years waiting for the right group/leader to make the world more free, I decided to go off and live as free as I can in the world I’ve got.

  2. To be at liberty for the purposes of ordering my affairs as I see fit, provided that I harm no other, within His will and His Natural Law.

    My fondest goal is to remain a “gentle reader” but in case any statists are viewing this; I’m aware that you have no clue as to what His Natural Law is, so don’t be confused by the “do no harm” part of my statement. The Natural Law provides for personal and common defense against the designs of control freakism to include offensive, asymmetric, combat operations to end you, reserving the right to any and all other methods, tactics, strategies, and means to your undoing of course . All is not well in the republic therefor you should try to and find out what a “natural state of war” is BEFORE you push the wrong button.

    Only evil seeks to separate a man from that which comes to him by God.

  3. @Joel: The history of the Bielski Otryad is highly instructive for those willing to look at it. Even if I could, I would not force anybody to do so; all I can do is shine the light on the page. This war of ideas will be won by persuading one mind at a time.

    @Fred: The zero aggression principle does not eschew violence in defence of self and others, it simply forbids initiation of violence. The difference may be hard for some to grasp, but is profound. Looks like you get it; I hope those bent on tyranny understand what they may get, as well.

    @Badanov: I doubt that any thoughtful person who loves Liberty in this day and age could look at the insanity of the world today and not be at least dismayed. Remember that we do have better ideas, and once most people shake off their preconceptions and destructive early memetic conditioning, they usually agree. Be of good cheer, and remember that while you are an individual, if you love Liberty, you are not alone.

  4. I have been away for awhile, but am now back and trying to catch up. It is therefore a wondrous thing that I find this as the first thing I am able to look at. I have been trying to educate myself on Israel and the history of her existence, if you will. To find yet one more bit of information about the struggles the Jews went through as a people is helpful, and instructive.
    How one could fail to see the parallels between the Jews of Europe from the war years, and the struggles we as a freedom loving community face, is beyond me. Yes, the Jewish people were fighting for their very lives, while we here in the United States are for the most part, not threatened with death around every corner. What we are threatened with is destruction of the very nature of the freedom that our country was founded upon.
    I can not even imagine the courage of the Jewish people who fought to stay alive, and to come out of the horrible war years, often at the loss of everything. It seems like we as freedom proclaiming Patriots have a lot to learn, in regards to both courage and tolerance for those who support us, but perhaps differ from us.
    Historian, once again, not only thought provoking, but humbling. I hope to see many more from you here. Not only the gun community needs you, but the country itself could learn much from your wisdom.

  5. Many in the Liberty movement need to read this,as the continual infighting is not only a huge distraction,the movement as a whole is not making the advances it should be making.
    There’s far too much vitriol spewed forth on a regular basis,far too much disagreement,not enough working towards a common goal a goal that we all share.
    The constant infighting is preventing us from advancing the goal of restoring rightful liberty to all.
    There’s a lesson to be learned from Tuvia Bielski and the story of the Nabiloka forest.
    How many will heed the lesson?

  6. Thank you, Historian. Much obliged. We are in this for the long-haul, no? Let us learn from our heroic brothers and sisters of the past.

    Great readers comments, by the way, but GREATER STILL is the hope and encouragement Historian gives each one.

    True mark of a warrior who leads the battle when things go hot.

    Victory is ours; we outnumber the tyrants 10,000:1.


  7. Working together with one goal in mind is important. If two horses pull a wagon, they must pull in one direction to reach an agreed upon direction. A fine line exists between tolerance of ideologies and disparate or subversive ideologies. Not all differences are necessarily good as this same movie aptly points out. I agree whole heartedly that we must all pull our wagon in the same direction or be trampled in the dust of history as a Grand Experiment gone awry. The danger is that sometimes charismatic personalities can blind us to the “other” agenda inside a person’s head. I am willing to accept a lot of difference before lights and sirens go off. Always vigilant.

    1. Exactly. If you favor individual liberty and will fight to uphold individual rights, then I can tolerate a wide range of opinion. And who knows, as we discuss things as wend our way toward victory, perhaps we’ll start to agree more with one another.

  8. The Bitter infighting in the so call patriot / liberty/ Truther/ III% or whatever cause de juer you wish.. has caused me to step back from my former occupation and focus on MY family and MY preparedness.

    Ego in the alt media, and the cult of personality that surrounds some.. until that changes the patriot community will remain ineffective on a major scale… Sure there will be small victories, but I am skeptical of major wins.

    long as we remain distracted by BS and hyperbole we will not united and focus on a common goals. instead we focus on the small percentage of disagreement and argue about that.

    divide and conquer… it works both ways

  9. During Jefferson’s & Adam’s presidential campaign (1800) against each other they had some very nasty things to say;

    Jefferson’s camp accused President Adams of having a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

    Adams’ men called Vice President Jefferson “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father.”

    Adams was labeled a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant, while Jefferson was branded a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.

    However before their deaths they became close friends and even planned their deaths to die on the same day, the day of the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

    Jefferson once wrote in a letter to Adams before their deaths;

    “A letter from you calls up recollections very dear to my mind. It carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us and yet passing harmless under our bark, we knew not how, we rode through the storm with heart and hand, and made a happy port. . . . “

    IMHO as in the past it will be true in the future that all true patriots will come to the call of freedom & liberty when needed and we will be known by our actions more-so than our words.

    “It was the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to ensure that while…visionaries are free to shout their dreams from the mountaintops, they are not at liberty to impose them on their fellow citizens.”
    Simon Schama

  10. ” my goal is: to create a system that allows each person to do as they wish, to speak as they wish, to do with their bodies, their lives and the fruits of their labors as they choose, as long as they grant others the right to do the same.”

    Excellent and concise statement. If each person in the “Liberty” movement could just agree on this goal, then the disagreements as to “how” could be resolved. But our world is so polluted with misinformation and disinformation and ignorance and lack of experience with real freedom that it is hard to be optimistic about what lies on the other side of the chaos we are approaching. If we face a complete collapse of civilization as we’ve known it, then those of a parasitic turn of mind will likely perish disproportionately, but unfortunately so will many honest, moral, and hard-working people. Those who survive will face a hard future, and you have to wonder what lessons if any will have been learned.

    This country was founded by moral and hard-working individualists. Let’s hope the survivors will form a better system than the failed one we have had. But I have to think that it is unlikely that those debating the issues today will have much part in making that future.

    1. @John Work- “But I have to think that it is unlikely that those debating the issues today will have much part in making that future.” Well, you are free to think and write as you please, (or you should be!) but please keep in mind that morals, ethics and principles have survival value. The ability to think clearly and debate freely has survival value. Being in the habit of acting independently has survival value. Most Liberty advocates understand the advantages of being well armed and in having supplies set aside for a rainy day. That has survival value, too. Those who are busy attempting to deny our freedoms are also those who deny the precipice our nation is approaching, and are grossly unprepared for what is to come.

      It is certainly true that far too many will die should there be a wholesale breakdown of civil order, but I submit to you, sir, with the above in mind, that we who debate these issues today are likely to be disproportionately represented among the survivors, and further, that some of us may be able to help our friends and neighbors PREVENT a wholesale breakdown of order in our immediate locale. In short, I see no reason to abandon hope.

      As James Stockdale, modern Stoic and former POW said “You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

      Always remember that 1200 Jews, young and old, of all classes and backgrounds, vanishingly few trained to arms, and all of whom were marked for death by an entire nation, hunted by thousands of heavily armed soldiers for two years, survived. Many of their persecutors did not.

      Dark times, indeed, but every dark day puts us one day closer to the new dawn of Liberty. The only way we lose is if we give up.


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