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During his life and now in death, Tuvia Bielski was many things to many people: a courageous and resourceful leader who helped save more than 1,200 Jews from falling into the hands of the Nazis; a humble man whose monumental achievements have inspired at least two books and the new feature film "Defiance," starring Daniel Craig.
But for many years, Sharon Rennert knew Bielski by a simple, affectionate moniker: "grandfather."
"On a person-to-person level, he was just a very loving, emotional man," says Rennert, 43, a television editor in Los Angeles who is making a documentary film about her grandfather, the remarkable survival mission he engineered and its enduring effect on her family and the families of those whom Bielski and his brothers spared from almost certain annihilation.
Relatives recall that Bielski used to say, "I'll be famous when I'm dead." His words were prophetic. Since he passed away in 1987, his story has spread around the world. Underscoring the growing interest, last year the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg opened an exhibition, "Courage and Compassion: The Legacy of the Bielski Brothers," that will continue showing through February.
That process surely will accelerate with this month's nationwide release of director Ed Zwick's "Defiance," starring Craig, the latest James Bond, as Tuvia, and Liev Schreiber as his pugnacious brother Zus.