For Fairfield’s Holocaust Remembrance ceremony on Wednesday, April 10, six individuals lit a memorial candle in remembrance of the 6 million Jewish men, women and children who were killed during the Holocaust, not because of what they believed, “but because of who they were,” said Elaine Bowman.

The last surviving member of the Bielski family, Alan Bell, retold the story of four brothers and his father Aron (Bielski) Bell to an audience partaking in the ceremony that took place in the Egan Chapel.

Rev. George Collins, S.J. led a meditation, stating that acts of violence need to be remembered in order to “lead us to an awareness of a time of total evil,” so that these events don’t happen again.

As Bell recounted, the brothers fled to Belarus, Russia during the Holocaust to escape persecution. They ultimately saved over 1,200 Jews between 1941 and 1944 in the longest armed rescue of Jews from Nazi Germany.

They set up huts in the woods in order to create a village for themselves and the people they were rescuing, ranging from a shoemaker hut, a doctor hut and a school. “It was a Jerusalem in the woods,” Bell said.

However, he explained that the rescue could not have occurred without the help of the local people who hid the identities of those in the woods.

“They were redneck German farmers living in Russia,” said Bell in reference to the Bielski brothers, adding, “They weren’t accountants. [They were] hard-drinking, hard-living men who valued family and life.”

Even though it would have been easier for the brothers to have only saved themselves, they risked their lives to save others. The 1,200 people they rescued are relatives of 20,000 people today.

“It’s important to tell the [Bielski brothers’] story, which will help resistance in the future,” Bell reiterated, as a way to encourage youths to change the world when it comes to the violence in Darfur, for example.

Considering that the Holocaust happened, genocides in Darfur should not be occurring, Bell explained.

“Real heroes are flawed human beings,” he said, telling the audience that they can take action in order to eliminate violent acts.

The Bielski brothers’ story was adapted into the 2008 movie “Defiance,” starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber. The movie grossed almost $9 million its opening weekend, according to IMDb.

The audience reacted positively to the remembrance.

Ola Oyawusi ’15 said, “I like the fact that … six candles were lit in honor of the [6 million] killed.”

When asked what he thought of Bell’s talk, Oyawusi explained that he didn’t know the movie “Defiance” was based on a true story, adding, “It’s funny how Hollywood can take a story that’s unknown and make it known.”

Kevin Carroll ’15 also enjoyed the service, and found the fact that the 1,200 Jews that were saved turned into 20,000 people interesting because it shows that the brothers’ actions “had a bigger effect,” adding, “It’s … exponential.”

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