The Purpose and Formation of the F.P.O.
(The United Partisan Organization)
by Chana Shafran: A Partisan in the Naroch Forests
The F.P.O. tried to give a social-nationalist answer to the Jewish youth of the ghetto, who were without hope, and to organize a united and armed force in order to fight and incapacitate the enemy. In the event of an attempt to liquidate the ghetto, the organization was charged with the task of arousing the Jews to fight and defend themselves.
This was the best objective that the Jewish youth could set themselves, under the prevailing conditions in the ghetto. Possible ways of escape included finding hiding places, passing for "Aryans', and joining the partisans.
The easiest thing for the members of the organization to have done would have been to leave for the forests, armed and organized. However, this would have meant leaving hundreds of Jews in the ghetto, which was unthinkable, and which they considered criminal.
When the danger of the liquidation of the ghetto increased, some of the youth turned to the partisans. This was the only unit organized to fight, to seek revenge and even, perhaps, to survive.
The organization of partisan fighting in Belorussia was limited and slow, with the consolidation of underground groups of members of the Communist Party, the Komsomol, officials of the former Soviet government, who did not manage to retreat to the rear and were forced to hide.
In July 1941, groups of activists of the Central Committee of the Communist Party were sent behind enemy lines, among them Fyodor Markovitz – later to become commander of the Markov Brigade.
Markovitz was a school-teacher in the town of Svintsyan, until the outbreak of the war. During the Soviet regime, he was elected to the Supreme Soviet of Belarussia. With the outbreak of war and the retreat of the Red Army he too was evacuated to the Soviet rear, and was sent to a special school for partisan commanders, near Krainesk. In August 1941, he was sent back to Belorussia to organize a partisan movement.
In Eastern Belorussia the partisan consolidation was rapid. Markov’s battalion was designated the Voroshilov Brigade. From November 1942 on, for one year, this was the only brigade in the district.
The first Jewish partisans to join the Markov Brigade were youth from the neighboring towns, among them Markovitz’s former pupils from Svintsyan, who convinced him to send them to the Vilna Ghetto. And so, on December 6,1943, Jewish partisans of the Markov Brigade rescued a group of Jews from the Ghetto and brought them to the Naroch Forests – the base of the Brigade.
1. Kovner Abba, "Igeret Lashomrim Hapartizanim", pp.35-43.
2. Snir-Nashmit Sarah, "Prakim Betoldot Halehima shel Hapartizanim Beyaarot Naroch", Introduction pp.15-17.