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‘Four Winters’ – A Groundbreaking Movie on Jewish Partisans in WWII

During World War II, they were 25,000 Jewish partisans. Most of these people were young people between the ages of 16 and 25.  The movie Four Winters deals with this topic in a groundbreaking way.

The movie consists of interviews with five women and three men who were partisans in eastern Europe after the Nazis attacked Russia. These people spent four years in the woods and that is why the film is entitled Four Winters.

These were young people who left home and family to fight the Nazis. Most of their family members did not survive.

The eight partisans stress that they had not been not soldiers before the war and that they had to learn how to shoot and how to live by their wits.

There is a description of one of the partisans jumping out of the window of the cattle car on a moving train. Before he jumps, he begs his family to go with him, and they refuse. He survived. They did not.

Various incredible acts of heroism are described. One of the missions consisted of destroying telephone poles in order to disrupt Nazi communications. Another partisan describes being part of a group which blew up a railroad track leading to a train derailment.

The partisans had no hesitancy to kill those whom they considered to be the murderers of their family and this is stressed in several instances.

The eight people frequently speak of the fact that they had to eat lots of pork to stay alive. One of them said in her testimony that today she is kosher. Another one said: “We lived like animals.”

The role of women in the partisans is really quite interesting. One of the women partisans says that her job was not to be a woman, but to be a partisan and a soldier.

One of the partisans, Lupa mentions that revenge became the meaning of their life. She speaks with pride about women having more places to hide things than men.

One of the women said that it was difficult for her husband whom she married after the war to believe that when she got married, she was a virgin. He simply had difficulty believing that she could have spent four years in with the partisans in the forest and still be a virgin. Yet she was a virgin and was very proud this fact.

The film often has pictures of what these people looked like as teens and in their early 20s when they were partisans. They look so beautiful, handsome and brave!

Towards the end of the movie, one of the women partisans asked the question “Why me?”  Her answer was that she survived in order to tell the story.

The producer, Julia Mintz, by doing this movie allowed her and the seven other Jewish partisans to do just that. The story of the Jewish partisans has never to the best of my knowledge been presented in such a fashion.

The story of the partisans does not end with the war. Many will be involved in the Berichah movement which was the underground organized effort that helped Jewish Holocaust survivors leave Eastern Europe. Many will leave for the USA and others will end up in the land of Israel. Some of those who go to Israel will end up fighting in the War of Independence in 1948.

The eight people that are profiled are indeed incredible people who serve as an inspiration to all. They are true heroes of the Jewish people!

This is a magnificent movie! The movie is a “must see” for all who are interested in the history of the Holocaust.  Pre-previous movies like Defiance and Inglorious Bastards have dealt with this topic in a Hollywood fashion; i.e., “ based upon the truth.” Four Winters by contrast is the TRUTH!

When I was growing up, our parents always told us that we may need to be “nice Jewish boys, or girls.”  This movie shows us to being “nice” is not enough. Sometimes, one has to be tough and these eight incredible heroic people are indeed “tough Jews.”

This is the movie that should be seen by all, but especially by teenagers and people in their 20s. It challenges us not only to hear their stories, but to learn from them. It calls upon us to become our own fighters for freedom, justice, and the welfare of the Jewish people.

I can only hope that the movie will receive wide distribution, especially in educational format.

Julie Mintz has done a great service for Holocaust education and the inspiration of young people, especially Jewish teens and college students.

About the Author
Fred Guttman is the Senior Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Emanuel in Greensboro, North Carolina. He has served on the Commission of Social Action for Reform Judaism. He has been recognized as one of the “50 Voices for Justice” by the URJ and by the Forward Magazine as one of “America’s Most Inspiring Rabbis.” In March 2015, he organized the National Jewish commemoration in Selma of the 50th Anniversary of the Bloody Sunday March.
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