Partisan hero ‘cheated old woman out of $250k’
ONE OF the Second World War’s most famous Jewish partisans has been arrested on charges of cheating a 93-year-old woman out of $250,000.
Aron Bielski, born in Stankiewicze, Belarus, fled to the forest with his three older brothers — Tuvia, Asael and Zus — after the Nazis invaded in 1941.
Theretheysetupapartisancampthat saved 1,200 Jews — a feat recorded in numerous books and films, which will be immortalised in a 2008 Hollywood movie starring Daniel Craig.
Now known as Aron Bell, the 80year-old last surviving Bielski brother has been arrested by Florida police on charges of attempting to trick Janina Zaniewska into giving him control of her bank accounts.
Police say that he and his 58-year-old wife Henryka befriended the elderly woman and persuaded her they were taking her on holiday to her native Poland — only to leave her in a nursing home and return to their Palm Beach home.
Ms Zaniewska was traced to Poland after a bank manager contacted police, concernedthattheBellswerewithdrawing money from her bank account.
The Bells, who face a maximum of 90 years in prison, have pleaded not guilty, claiming that Ms Zaniewska — a Catholic who herself survived persecution by the Nazis — was senile. They have been released on £60,000 bail.
Their lawyer, Steven Gomberg, told reporters that the idea that his clients had stolen the money was “just preposterous. The woman was all alone, had no family, and she needed a great deal of assistance and care.”
However, Ms Zaniewska’s lawyer, Robert Montgomery, said there was “no question” but that there had been theft. “She was taken advantage of,” he said.
After the war, the brothers — apart from Asael, killed in 1944 while fighting with the Red Army — moved to the US. Mr Bell retired to Florida 10 years ago.