Belorussia had the largest concentration of partisans in Eastern Europe. Partisans began to operate in Belorussia in the summer of 1941. Most of them were Red Army soldiers who had been surrounded by the Germans, and had wandered through villages and forests. Some of them were members of the Communist Party who had fled their homes when the Germans entered Belorussia. Belorussia, with its abundant forests and swamps, was well suited to partisan activity on a large scale. Already in June 1941, only a few weeks after the German invasion of the USSR, operatives were sent to cross the front lines at Sluzk and Kopyl and reached the area of Storabin, south of Minsk, and began to organize small partisan units. Among the first of these operatives were Kozlov and Varvashenya. According to Soviet sources, by the end of August 1941, there were about 230 partisan units. At the head of the first units were Bumazkkov, Pavlovsky, Shiniryev, Zaslonov and Korazh. Partisan units were formed in the areas of Vilekya and Kurenets. In the spring of 1942, thousands of automatic rifles and cannon were sent from inside the USSR to the partisans in Belorussia. In the summer of 1942, the partisan units were organized into brigades, and airfields were built in Klicev, Luban, and Mogilev. On September 9 1942, a partisan headquarters was established in Belorussia. The partisan units were a safe haven for those Belorussians who were in danger of expulsion or murder by the Germans, for their help to the partisans and their connection with them. Partisan activity increased, and in 1943 60% of Belorussia was under their influence. The Germans established auxiliary units of Belorussians and Lithuanians in their war against the partisans, and carried out large operations against them. The partisans fought for the soul of the civilian population, and waged a wide-ranging information operation by word of mouth and in the underground newspapers. Already in the early stages of their operations, they were coordinated with the Red Army, and in the summer of 1944, with the German retreat from Belorussia, there was especially close cooperation between them. At the same time, the partisans undertook a large combined demolition operation of the railroad tracks in the German rear and attacks on retreating enemy units. At the end of 1941, according to Soviet statistics, there were approximately 5,000 partisans in Belorussia. By 1942 there were 73,000, in 1943 – 243,000 and by 1944 there were 374,000 partisans, of whom 91,000 were in family camps in the forests. The Belorussian partisans were organized into units, most of them in the framework of 199 brigades. In the Belorussian partisan movement were Belorussians, Russians, Jews, Poles, Georgians, Slovaks and others. The Jewish partisans of Belorussia came from the ghettos and the camps, some in groups from the underground movements which had arisen in many ghettos in Belorussia, and some as individual refugees.
The Jewish partisans operated in the forests as part of the Belorussian partisan movement, but as separate Jewish units, although there were some mixed units. They operated in large Jewish units in the framework of Belorussian units, but there were those who operated as individuals in non-Jewish units.
The Jews had to tread a long and dangerous path before they could reach the partisan units. The partisan movement developed in three stages and the situation of the Jews in the partisan units depended, to some extent, on which stage had been arrived at when they joined
At the beginning of spring 1942, a group of 17 men left for the Novogrodek Forests, under the leadership of the Bielski brothers (Tuvia, Asahael and Zosia). This group was the nucleus from which the large Bielski Jewish partisan family camp grew in the Naliboki Forests. The Puszcza bloc of forests spreads over 3000 kms. in the Novogrodek District, on the right (northern) bank of the Neiman in western Belorussia, north-east of the city of Novogrodek. North of this bloc of forests lie the forests of Volozhin and Visnevo; in the east, Ivenets and Rubeghevichi;in the south, Vernichi; and in the west, Deliatchi and Ivie. The northern border of this bloc of forests was the Lida-Molodechno railway line. The town of Naliboki lies near the southeastern part of the virgin forest. The forest is crossed by a network of tributaries of the Neiman, such as the Berezina and the Svislock. Between the streams there are many swamps, in which there are islands – natural places to hide. The bloc of forests is set among a tight network of Jewish towns, and their Jewish inhabitants, especially the experts and lumber merchants among them, knew their way around the maze of forests.
From the spring of 1942 until the summer of 1944, the partisan units Stalin, Alex Nevsky, Sokolovelorussia, Czecholovelorussia, Bolshevik, 1st. of May, Iskera, Ponomarenko, Voroshilovelorussia, Strelkovelorussia, Sevoboda, and others operated in the Naliboki Forests. The inter-regional headquarters of the partisans under the command of generals Mayor Platon, Dubor and Sokolov were also situated there. Polish partisan units such as Koshtsushko also operated in the area. After the arrival of the Bielski Unit, in whose camp were about 1200 Jews who had fled from the area of Novogrodek, refugees from the Minsk ghetto reached the Naliboki Forests, led by Shalom Zorin, as well as Jews from other ghettos. There were approximately 800 Jews in Zorin’s family camp. Dr. Yehezkel Atlas’ Unit was in the Deredin region, the Schtorrs 51 Unit was in the Slonim region, refugees from the Nesvizh, Stolpec and Sverzhan ghettos were in the Kopyl area, south of Minsk, where they formed the Zhukovelorussia Unit, while Jews from the Zhitel area formed a company under the leadership of Zvi Kaplinski. In July-August 1943, the Germans laid siege to Naliboki, set fire to the town and surrounding villages, and transported hundreds of the villagers to labor camps in Germany.
An estimated 20,000 partisans operated in the Naliboki Forests, of them about 3,000 were Jews. In Pushtshe of Lipichany, groups of Jewish partisans operated in the Borba Battalion and in the Lenin Unit. A company of Jewish partisans from Mir joined the "For Soviet Belorussia” Unit of the Czechkalovelorussia Brigade and the Yuzhak Group. Jews from Gorodok and Velozhin also joined Czeckhalovelorussia brigades. In Kurenets, while still in the ghetto, members of the Zionist youth movements had already made contact with the anti-Nazi Russian underground, and when they left for the forests they operated in partisan units in western Belorussia, as well as in the Pleshchenisty and Vitebsk areas in eastern Belorussia. In the Vilekya area the Jews operated in the Prunzhe, Zhukovelorussia, Buryoni, 4th Belorussian Brigade, Gastelo and other brigades.
Fighters of Bialystok and underground members from the neighboring towns (Suprasl, Slonim and others) formed the Jewish Vapyerod Unit and other small partisan groups such as, Kinki, People of Baumatz, and Briansk. A group of Jewish girls served as liaisons between the anti-Fascist committee in Bialystok and the partisan units in the forest. Jews who had fled from ghettos in north Vohlyn and from the southern district of Novogrodek (Baravovich, Stolpec, Nesvizh) were concentrated in the Polesie region, where they formed Jewish partisan units, such as Baranovitz. Jews from Lenin, Pogost-Zagorodski and Lahkva reached the fighting units, such as the Komaroveylorussia Brigade of former Pinsk residents, the Kaganovich Jewish Unit, and the Bomazhkobelorussia, Bolotnikobelorussia, Pavloviski, Shveyiko, Gulayebelorussia units. In Soviet Brigade 123 there were Jews from eastern Belorussia as well as from Glusk, Staborin, Luban, in addition to Jews who had fled from Lakhva and Lenin in western Belorussia.
The Minsk ghetto underground worked to bring Jews out of the ghetto to partisan units. It is reckoned that thousands of Jews fled from the Minsk ghetto to the forests. Jews from Minsk were among the organizing founders of seven partisan units: Unit 406, Kutuzov (2nd Minsk brigade), Bodiyuni, Dverzhinski, Sergei Lazo, Parchomenko and Unit 106 (Zorin). Later the Jews became a minority in these units. There were Jews in partisan units in other areas of eastern Belorussia, in Vitebsk, Homel and Mohedev.
The Jewish partisan units performed daring operations, and there were many among them who received decorations for excellence. In addition to their military activities, the Jewish partisans also performed rescue operations bringing many Jews from the ghettos to the forests. Many of the escapees from the ghettos were not accepted into Soviet partisan units because they were without weapons. Some of them organized into separate Jewish groups, obtained weapons and undertook military operations. Other Jewish refugees, the older ones and those with families, organized family camps, some of which were under the aegis of Jewish partisans in Soviet units, who supplied them with food and protection. The number of Jews in the family camps grew to many thousands. The Jewish partisans operated in a hostile civilian environment, and in many cases within the partisan units also. With the advance of the Soviet Army, there was a reduction in the number of hostile acts against the Jewish partisans. There were approximately 40,000 Jews who fled from the ghettos of western and eastern Belorussia to the forests. The number of Jewish partisans in that area was between 12,000 and 15,000, the largest group in the entire Jewish partisan organization.
The partisan movement in Lithuania developed much later than in Belorussia, and its activities were connected geographically and dependent organizationally, to some extent, on the partisan movement in Belorussia. The relative delay in the development of the partisan movement in Lithuania stemmed from the hostility that most Lithuanians felt towards the USSR, and from the relative distance of Lithuania from the front in the early years of the war in the east. The western region of Belorussia was a suitable area for temporary bases for Soviet armed groups, which had infiltrated from the front in order to strengthen the activities of the Lithuanian partisans. Until the middle of 1943, the forests of Belorussia were the only refuge for Jews from eastern Lithuania who had fled from the ghettos and labor camps. Hundreds of Jews reached the Nacha Forests (about 80 km. south of Vilna) and to the lakes and swamps for the Kazhan and Naroch area (about 150 km. east of Vilna). A call to the Jews to rise up against the Nazis in the ghettos came from Lithuania, in a manifesto of revolt written by Abba Kovner in the Vilna ghetto during the night between December 31, 1941 and January 1, 1942. Within 3 weeks the United Partisan Organization (P.P.O.) was established.
Already at the end of 1941, the first Jews from Lithuanian towns reached the Nacha Forests, singly and in small groups, and they were joined by refugees from the Vilna ghetto. Some were organized into family groups; others joined the Leniniski Comsomolita Partisan Battalion. Jewish youth who fled to the Naroch Forests were concentrated in the Voroshilobelorussia Battalion of the Brigade, under the command of Fyodor Markov. In the spring of 1943, ten youths who had fled from the Svencionys ghetto arrived at the Chapayebelorussia Battalion of this Brigade. Several of them were sent back to the ghetto to bring out more Jews. In August 1943, a group of P.P.O. fighters from the Vilna underground reached the Naroch Forest under the command of Joseph Glazman, and the Jewish Battalion Nekama was formed with 200 fighters. The paratrooper Butenas (formerly called Zerach Ragovsky) was appointed commander and Glazman became battalion Chief of Staff. About two months after its formation, it was split up, on orders from the Soviet command, and some of the fighters were transferred to the Konsomolksi Battalion. Many of this battalion’s fighters were killed during the German siege of the area in November 1943. When the siege ended, many of the Jewish fighters of the Voroshilov Brigade were abandoned by the command, apparently with the knowledge of the commander Markov. A turn for the better occurred at the beginning of 1944. A large number of the Jewish survivors, including those without weapons, were accepted into the partisan battalions. Many of these Jews were Lithuanians. Altogether there were approximately 450 Jewish Lithuanian fighters in the ranks of the partisans in Belorussia.
The Soviet partisan headquarters parachuted a group of political and military leaders into German-occupied territory in order to intensify partisan activity. On March 7, 1942, a group of about 20 people was parachuted into northern Lithuania. Among them were Jews, led by the Secretary of the Central Committee of the Lithuanian Communist Party, Itzik Meskup, nicknamed Adomas. After a short while the group was discovered and all the members were killed. A similar fate befell many of the other parachuted groups.
In the summer of 1943, a group of 40 people landed at an improvised landing-strip in Belorussia, bringing about a turning point in the history of the Lithuanian partisan movement. Leading the group were two senior members of the Communist Party, Shummuskas (Kazimir), and Genrik Ziman (Yurgis), a Jewish teacher from Kovno. Shumuskas set himself up, with some of the men, in the Naroch Forest, near the Lithuanian Zhalgiris Brigade, and from there he commanded the partisan and political activity in northern Lithuania. Ziman, with some of the men, arrived in October 1943 on Lithuanian territory and set up a base in the Rudniki Forest. His area of command included southern Lithuania, including Vilna and Kovno, where there were still approximately 20,000 Jews. At that time there were tens of Jewish partisans already operating in the Rudniki Forests in the "For the Homeland” Battalion of the Troky Brigade. Later, when the battalions "Free Lithuania” and "The Liberator” were established in the same brigade, the Jews who fled from the Kushiador and Palemon labor camps in the Kovno area, were accepted into these battalions. The total number of Jews in the Troky Brigade was 100 out of the 600 fighters.
The largest concentration of Jewish fighters in Lithuania formed the Vilna Brigade in the Rudniki Forests. The Pushtzia of Rudniki spread over about 40 km. south of Vilna, over an area of around 2,500 km. The main highway from Vilna to Grodzny and Bialystok lay across the forests. The local inhabitants were Lithuanians and Poles. Partisan activities in the Rudniki Forests began in the summer of 1943, when a group of Soviet paratroopers, under the command of Captain Alko, set up a base there, and at the beginning of September the first Lithuanian-Soviet partisans arrived there from the Naroch Forests. That same month, the first Jewish partisans, 70 men and women members of the "Struggle Organization of Yehielita”, who left the Vilna ghetto a few days after the Aktion of September 1, 1943, arrived in the Rudniki Forests. Not all of them were armed. Their leaders were Elhanan Magid, Shlomo Brand and Natan Ring. They tried to join Alko’s partisans as a group, but the partisans were prepared to accept only 20 armed men. At the end of September and beginning of October, two groups of the P.P.O. arrived at Rudniki, comprising 70-80 members, under the auspices of Abba Kovner and Chiyena Borovske. They joined the men of the "Struggle Organization of Yehielita” and together they numbered 150 people.
The Jewish partisans accepted the authority of the Soviet-Lithuanian partisan movement. Liaisons were sent to labor camps in Vilna to bring back more Jews, and by the end of October there were 250 men at the base. They sabotaged roads, bridges, electric and telephone poles. Jewish partisans infiltrated into Vilna and sabotaged the electrical and water systems of the city. Some of their operations were for the procurement of arms and food. The Jews of Vilna set up four battalions comprised of 400 fighters:
HaNokem Battalion, commanded by Abba Kovner and his commissar Issar Schmidt;
For Victory Battalion, commanded by Shmuel Kaplinski and his commissar Chiyena Borovske;
Death to Fascism Battalion, commanded by Yankel Prener and his commissar Berl Shershnevsky;
Struggle Battalion, commanded by Aharon Aharonovitz and his commissar Berl Shershnevsky.
In the Death to Fascism Battalion and the Struggle Battalion, Jews from towns near Vilna were also included. At the beginning of 1944, non-Jewish fighters joined these battalions. The Jewish character of the battalions was undermined and most of the officers were changed. The official reason given was that the Soviet partisan movement was built according to republics, and since there was no Jewish republic, there was no justification for Jewish battalions. However, the Jews continued to be an absolute majority of all fighters in these battalions.
In November 1943, groups of fighters from the Organization of the General Jewish Fighter began to reach the Rudniki Forest from the Kovno ghetto. Until May 1944, there were about 200 men, mostly in three battalions of the Kovno Brigade: Death to the Occupier, Kadima and Vlodas Baronas. About 50 of them fell in battle. Most of their leaders were Soviet officers who had escaped from German captivity. About ten Jews were appointed as deputy commanders, mainly as section commanders. In the spring of 1944, Polish partisans appeared in the Rudniki Forests, men of the Krajova Army. They tried to drive out the Soviet partisans, and in the battles which ensued between the Polish and Soviet partisans, Jewish partisans were also killed. Anti-Semitic elements, seeing the Jews as pro-Soviet, murdered tens of Jews who had been hidden by local villagers. Tens of Jewish fighters were in Lithuanian partisan units in central Lithuania, in the Kazlu-Ruda Forests and in Kadyan. Jewish individuals fought in other partisan units, such as the Kastotis Battalion in western Lithuania. There were approximately 250 more Jews in groups, including in armed family groups in family camps in the forests. In spring 1944, when shipments of parachuted weapons arrived, partisan activity increased, and at the beginning of July, the Red Army reached the Rudniki area, and the partisans participated in the liberation of Vilna on July 13, 1944.
In the Lithuanian partisan movement there were approximately 850 Jews – about 10% of all the fighters, with 450 Jewish fighters from Lithuania within the framework of the Belorussian partisans, and 350 fighters in other territorial frameworks. The number of Lithuanian fighting Jews was 1,650. More than half fought in the framework of 22 battalions (out of the 92 battalions in the Lithuanian partisan movement) whose achievements in battle were the greatest. To their credit, they derailed 461 out of a total of 577 trains derailed (79%); 288 out of a total of 400 locomotives destroyed (72%); 3,663 out of a total of 16,000 enemy Nazis wounded (23%), and more. HaNokem Battalion alone is credited with derailing 5 enemy trains, the demolition of 3 km. of railway line ramps, the blowing-up of railway track in 350 places, the destruction of 5 bridges and 3 electric power stations, and the disruption of 3 km. of telephone and telegraph lines. 250 Jewish fighters fell in battle, and many fighters were cited for distinction in battle. In spite of this, there still remained manifestations of discrimination against Jewish fighters in several of the mixed partisan units. The partisan movement was, in fact, the only fighting framework against the Nazi regime open to Jews; but joining was limited for political and military reasons as well as by prejudice
In northern Ukraine, where there are large areas of forests and swamps, a large Soviet partisan movement developed. These forested areas were, from the beginning of the occupation, a refuge for Jews who had fled the destruction, for Jewish escaped prisoners of war, both regular soldiers and officers who were also doomed to be murdered. They all joined the partisan units which had begun to organize in July 1941. There is scant information about the part Jews played, and since many of the Jewish partisans hid their identities, the picture is only a partial one. We know of Dr. Dina Maiyevska of the Kovpak Partisan Corps, the translator Misha Tartakovsky, the section leader Gregory Lubyensky, the reconnaissance scouts Kulka the Wise and Moshe Rubyenov and there were others whose names remain unknown. In the Sumi district, Dr. Yaakov Bulak, the wireless operator Joseph Mali, and the patrol and demolitions officer Yevgeny Volyanski all served in the Melnik Corps. In the cavalry of Naumov there were approximately 50 Jews who served with him in the battles towards central Ukraine and westward. Many Jews were in the divisions of Saburov and Alexei Fyodorov, such as the commander of the Lenin Company, section commander Alexander Margalit, and the sapper Shmuel Gottesban. In the Chernigov district, company commanders Shiklovsky and Alexander Kaminsky fought in Selai’s Brigade, and Nachumy was in command of the sappers. Jews fought in the Schtorrs Company in the Kiev area (section commander was Boris Pinchasovitz).
In the units in the Vinizia area we know of Yaakov Talit, deputy commander of the Lenin Corps, and in the Dnypropetrovesk we know of Benyamin Shachnovitz, who was a company commander and fell in battle. Later, a regiment under the command of Leonid Bernstein fought in the same area, and at the beginning of 1944 was transferred to the Lvov area. Afterwards, they were parachuted into Slovakia. Jews also fought in the Odessa catacombs, among them the commanders Forman and Yaakov Wasin.
The Jewish fighters in western Ukraine were a unique case. At the time of the destruction and slaughter in the summer of 1942, many groups of young, armed Jews organized and fled to the forests and mountains. Approximately 1,000 fighters in about 35-40 groups in Zohlyn fought on their own until they were able to join the Soviet partisan movement, which only arrived in the area at the end of 1942. Some of them fell in fierce battles; some joined the Soviet units, such as the group led by Moshe Nildenman, who created a Jewish Company within the Saburov Corps; the groups Zofyevka and Kolecky who joined the Kovpak Corps; the Medombrovitz and Sernik groups who formed the Maxim Misyara Unit and the Manyevitz, Lishniyovka and Pavorsk groups who formed the Nickola Konishtsok and Joseph Soviasyak Units, all of whom later joined the Rovnait Division under the command of Vassily Begma.
Jewish partisans fought in the Polish brigades of the Soviet partisan movement (Poland Is Not Lost), Vanda Vasilovska, Trangut and others, in the Polish village self-defense framework, and even in the 27th Corps of the Armia Kriova. Approximately 1,900 Jews fought as partisans in Vohlyn.
Because of the difficult terrain, and due the activities of the O.P.A. (the Ukrainian Rebellion Army) in eastern Galicia, it was very difficult for the Jewish fighters, and most of the fighting groups were wiped out and their names lost. It is known that Jewish groups operated in the areas of Tarnopol, Borshchev, Chortkov, Stanislavuv, Bolekhov, Skalat, Pshemichel, Themach, Olnik and Bukachovtsy. Jews from the Skalat camp and Stanislavuv joined the Kovpak Corps, during the military drive to the Carpathians at the end of the summer of 1943, and set up a Jewish section with Jewish commanders from the Zopeyevka and Kolecki groups. Jewish fighters served in all capacities. Many were in command positions and many were brigade commanders, such as Stephen Kaplun and Robert Satanovsky. Alex Abugov commanded a reconnaissance battalion in the Rovnayot Division, Moshe Geidenman was a company commander, and Joseph Karpus was supply commander of the Pinsk Brigade. There were many Jewish doctors in the medical corps, such as Dr. Erlich Medombrovitz, who was medical officer of the Rovnayot Division and Dr. Benjamin Chesarsky, doctor of the Medvyedyev Division.
Federal Republic of Russia
There were also Jewish partisan fighters in the areas of the Federal Republic of Russia which were occupied by the Germans. In the northern-most area reached by the Germans, the Leningrad region, many Jews fought in the Boyevoy Unit. The only commander, Eng. Dmitry Novakovsky, was Jewish. Jews who had fled the ghettos fought in the partisan ranks in the Schrorrs Battalion, which operated in the Briansk forests, southwest of Moscow (not to be confused with Briansk in Belorussia). Lazar Belyachman was the commander of the Furmanov Company. The surgeon Arkady Idalin and the doctors Tiomkin and Unkovska all served in the medical corps of the partisans. Hungarian Jews who fled from the Hungarian work force served with the Dzhrzinsky Company.
In the communities and ghettos of the General Government in Poland, wide ranging partisan organization operated with initiative and daring in many areas, but were not greatly successful in guerilla warfare or in the partisan struggle outside the cities and towns. The lack of Jewish partisans fighting on a large scale in Poland was due to several reasons. Central Poland does not have abundant forests like the large forests in the east. At first, the large and strong partisan organization, Armia Krayova, which took its authority from the Polish government in exile, refrained from guerilla tactics, and displayed its main military force in operations in the last stages of the war. In 1942, there was very little partisan activity of the Armia Krayova in the forests, the organization did not encourage the Jews to flee to the forests and, for the most part, the unit commanders were unwilling to accept Jews into their ranks.
The Nationalist Fascist Armed Forces, who operated mostly outside the framework of the Armia Krayova, were extreme anti-Semites and even murdered Jews who had escaped to the forests. There were some men of the Armia Krayova who were genuinely concerned about the fate of the Jews, and tried to protect them in the forests, but they were few in number and their power was limited.
The Polish communists were friendlier to the Jews, for two reasons. Firstly, unlike the Armia Krayova, the communists wanted to start the struggle against the Nazis immediately and in this the Jews were natural allies. Secondly, at that time, the Communists and the Left were more sympathetic to the plight of the Jews. Between the two World Wars there were many Jews in the Polish Communist Party, but communist partisan activity did not start until the middle of 1942, and it was only organized properly in 1943. The majority of the Polish people rejected them, and so the communists devoted much effort to gain the support of their countrymen. Therefore, the communists took care that there not be too many Jews within their ranks, to avoid being labeled a Jewish organization. The Armia Ludova (Gvardia Ludova) was a communist partisan organization which only became significant at the end of 1943. By this time, however, all the ghettos had been destroyed and all their inhabitants had been sent to their deaths. Only those Jews who had escaped to the forests beforehand, and had managed to survive there, benefited from the strengthening of the Armia Ludova.
This indicates the importance of the third factor, that of time. When the systematic slaughter of the Jews was at its height, from spring of 1942 until the spring of 1943, the partisan movement in the General Government was weak. When the partisan movement grew and strengthened, and there was a friendly attitude towards the Jews, there were few Jews left. These were not in either forced labor camps or concentration camps. According to statistics published by the Poles, approximately 25,000 men participated in the partisan movement in the General Government, in the framework of the main underground and the Armia Krayova and Armia Ludova. It appears that the number of Jews who managed to escape and sought shelter in the villages, forests and hills was in the thousands, but only about 2,000 succeeded in finally becoming armed fighters in the forests. About 3,000 wandered in the forests and villages. All the rest were captured and murdered.
Jews played a very important role in the consolidation of the strength of the partisans organized by the communists. There were many Jews among the Communist Party commanders, although most of them hid their Jewish identity. Many of the parachutists sent from the USSR to organize guerilla warfare in Poland were Jews. From 1942-1944, 27 Jewish partisan units were organized in Poland. The most important of them was the one commanded by Yehiel Greenspan. It arose from the thousands of Jews from the forests of north-eastern region of Lublin, who had escaped from the deportations to Sobibor, in the summer of 1942. In January 1943, Greenspan’s unit numbering 50 men operated in the forests neighboring Parchev, and served to protect the family camp set up by refugee Jews. On Christmas 1942, Easter 1943 and May 1944, the Germans conducted massive manhunts in the Parchev Forests during which most of the refugees were murdered, more than 4,000 souls; but the family camp was not destroyed and Greenspan’s unit held firm. From the spring of 1943, the company received help from the Gvardia Ludova and then officially joined them. Help from the Polish underground and supplies of weapons, and Soviet partisans who were parachuted in, enabled Greenspan’s Company to attack German police stations and transportation routes of the German Army. When the area was liberated on July 23, 1944, approximately 200 souls survived in the family camp and 120 fighters in Greenspan’s Company.
Among the Polish Jewish partisan units, mention should be made of: the unit commanded by Shmuel Yegyer, comprised of Jewish prisoners of war of the Polish Army who escaped from a camp in Lublin; the unit commanded by Avraham Amsterdam, made up of 47 men, which operated in the Dolcha Forests east of Krakov, and when they were surrounded by the Germans, succeeded, while suffering many casualties, to break through the front lines and join up with the Red Army; the unit commanded by Shmuel Gruber, with 30 men; the unit of Mordechai Anilevitz which fought in the area of Wyszkov, near Warsaw, and in part was made up of fighters from the Warsaw ghetto who had survived the suppression of the rebellion.
Nine Jewish partisan units joined the Armia Ludova in the course of time. Most of the fighters of these units fell in operations, but the few who survived joined Polish partisan units. We can assume that hundreds of Jews fought in units of the Armia Kryova. Among both those who hid their Jewish identity, and those who did not, some reached high rank within their units. Many Jews fought in the ranks of the Armia Ludova, in the Polish units, and in the organization’s international units. Most of the Jewish units operated in the areas of Lublin, Kielce and Radom. Approximately 1,000 Jews, among them surviving fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt, participated in the Polish Warsaw revolt in the summer of 1944.
In Slovakia, the Jewish youth groups played an important role in consolidating cells of resistance in case the transports to the death camps were to be resumed. Such cells existed in every one of the forced labor camps, Novaki, Sered and Wyheneh. At the beginning of 1944, contact was made between these cells and the National Slovakian Council. With the outbreak of the Nationalist Slovakian Revolt at the end of August 1944, the members of these cells joined them, as well as did Jews who had not been organized into the resistance cells until then. 2,500 Jews participated in the rebellion, of them 1,566 partisans, representing 10% of the total partisans in Slovakia. 500 Jews fell in the rebellion, 269 of them partisans, that is, one sixth of all the partisans killed in the revolt. The Novaki cell, comprising 200 men, fought as a separate unit, first within the framework of the regular army. Later, with the suppression of the revolt at the end of October 1944, most of the men of the unit joined the partisan units. During the revolt, five paratroopers from Eretz Yisrael arrived in Slovakia, and four of them, Chaviva Reik, Zvi Ben-Yaakov, Rafi Reis and Abba Berdichev, were killed. Only one, Chaim Chermesh, survived and continued to fight in the ranks of the Slovakian partisans until the end of the war.
In Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece the Jews were accepted into the partisan ranks as equals, but there were no special Jewish units, or any with a Jewish character. There were proportionally a large number of them. This fact was especially apparent in Yugoslavia, where the most important partisan movement of all the Nazi-occupied countries existed. The large number of Jews in the ranks of the partisans led by Josep Broz Tito is especially impressive, considering the great difficulty the Jews had in reaching the distant areas of battle, and also considering the fact that when the partisan struggle began in the autumn of 1941, strengthening in the second half of 1942, most of the Jews of Yugoslavia had already been murdered. In the list of names of the Jews who served in the ranks of the resistance movement, there are 4,572 names, of whom about 3,000 served in fighting units. 1,318 fell in battle, 150 were awarded the decoration "First among the Fighters” and 10 received the highest honor bestowed in Yugoslavia, "National Hero”. Jews reached high positions of command, among them General Woje Todorovitz, who, after the war, became commander of the land forces, and Dr. Rosa Pappo, the first woman with the rank of General. Jews played an important role in the establishment of the medical corps, which was headed by Dr. Herbert Kraus.
Countries of the West
In the West there was no significant partisan activity. Jews were very prominent in the partisan movements in Italy, in the French Resistance, as well as in the Jewish Army in France, which participated in military operations.