Honoring Partisans in Captions

Correction

By Dan Friedman

Published January 28, 2009, issue of February 06, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

‘That’s not Tuvia Bielski — that’s my dad!” Mark Werner thought while reading the Forward’s article “Bielskis vs. Hollywood” in the January 2 issue. Or perhaps he just thought, “Oh no, not again.”

In 1964, when the Forward first published the photograph to illustrate an article commemorating Yom HaShoah, there was no documentation about the fighters in it. The picture had arrived anonymously at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and both YIVO and the Forward were happy to hear from Harold Werner (standing at the back left), who recognized himself and wrote to tell us about this photo of him and his colleagues.

Far from being unknown (as we printed in 1964), and rather than a small group of Bielski partisans in Belarus led by Tuvia Bielski (as we printed earlier this year in “Bielskis vs. Hollywood”), those pictured were part of a large Jewish resistance group of roughly 800 people in the Polish woods, led by Chiel Grynszpan. A Russian military photographer snapped the picture of the eight fighters in 1943.

As well as being used on the cover of English and Hebrew versions of Harold Werner’s “Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance In World War II” (Columbia University Press, 1992), the picture has been used on the covers of related books. It was even used on an Israeli postage stamp, issued in May 2005 on the 60th anniversary of Germany’s 1945 surrender, to commemorate the contribution that Jewish fighters made to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Even though this was a photo with iconic status, its information and its content did not appear to reach the appropriate archives. When Aron Bielski was arrested in 2007 on charges (eventually dropped) of scamming an elderly woman the picture that appeared in papers across the world was again this one of Harold Werner and the Grynszpan group. The Yad Vashem archives had wrongly posted the information and it had appeared in an Associated Press article with the erroneous caption. At that point, Mark Werner sent a note to the AP which, in collaboration with Yad Vashem, promised to correct the false attribution.

By the time the film “Defiance” came out a year later, the database had been corrected but was not displaying properly on the Internet. This meant that although researchers within Yad Vashem would see the correct information, browsers of the Yad Vashem Web site still saw data that was old and incorrect. Again, a slew of images of Harold Werner and his fellow fighters flashed up, but they were labeled Bielski.

Thanks now to the vigilance of Mark Werner, the recent updates at Yad Vashem and, hopefully, this short piece in the Forward, the record has been set straight. The children and grandchildren of those featured in the picture can now take pride in the achievements of their forebears without having to fret about attribution.

Dan Friedman is the arts and culture editor of the Forward. You may email him at dan.friedman@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.