Lithuanian Jewish Partisan Units
which left their mark on the historiography of the Shoah and the Resistance
By: Baruch Shub
Based on the material "Lithuanian Jewry – The Litvaks”
The Shoah was witness to thousands of instances of the rebellion of individuals and of groups. Unfortunately, most of them are buried forever, together with their heroes. The following are a few of the events which I have selected from books dealing with the Shoah.
I sincerely apologinze to those whose exploits I have not mentioned
There was an underground organization in Oshmyan. Liza Magun, from the F.P.O., came to warn them of an impending Aktion. Organized groups left for the forest and on the night of the Aktion, a group of 50 people left.
On the day the ghetto was destroyed, approximately 200 Jews left for the Naliboki Forest, where they joined the Bielski Unit, Iskra.
Dr. Atlas organized a company of 120 men who fled from Derchin to the Lipitshan Forest. They joined the Bulat Battalion.
The Bielski brothers Tuvia, Asahel and Zosia set up a partisan-family unit in the Naliboki Forest. It numbered about 1,200 men, women, the elderly and children.
This was a Ghetto which held about 7,000 Jews. On the day the Ghetto was liquidated, August 20, 1943, the Jews defended themselves with firearms.. The Ghetto was set on fire and the Jews broke out. The massacre of the Jews of Naliboki lasted many days.
In 1941 the first manifesto calling the Lithuanian Jews to rebel was distributed in Vilna. The F.P.O., an Underground movement, was formed.
When the Ghetto was liquidated, the rebels managed to get out through the sewers and made their way to the forests.
Shalom Zorin was from Minsk. At the end of 1941 he escaped to the Troya-Silo Forests, about 30 km. south-east of Pinsk. Zorin established a partisan battalion, and later, a Jewish battalion, in part of the civilian camp "Unit 106”, in which there were 800 people.
About 600 Jews broke out of the Zhitel Ghetto during the Aktion which took place on August 6-8, 1942. They were among the founders of "Atlas”, Bielski Unit and other units. The Jews of Zhitel excelled as partisans.
The revolt in Lakhav was one of the more important ones which occurred against the Nazis. A well-organized Underground operated in the Ghetto. On September 3, 1942 the Ghetto gate was breached. Approximately 1,000 people escaped, of whom 600 reached the Ritzin swamps, on the Pripet River (Polesie).
About 500 Jews escaped from Lida to the forests. 300 of them reached partisan units.
An organized Underground succeeded in bringing thousands of Jews to the surrounding forests. Especially noteworthy were the Jewish children of Minsk, who became excellent guides and brought the fleeing Jews to the partisan bases.
Oswald Rufeisen posed as a local police Deputy Commander, warned the Jews and supplied them with arms. 180 people escaped to the Bielski unit.
Many groups escaped from Novogrodek, especially after the strengthening of the connection between the Jews of Novogrodek and the Bielski units. About 250 people managed to escape. After the third Aktion, they dug a tunnel under the camp and about 220 people escaped through it. 120 were killed and 100 reached the forests.
The first revolt against the Germans in the Ghetto took place on July 21, 1942. The rebels set fire to the houses and fought in hand-to-hand combat against the Nazis. Groups and individuals reached the forests and formed partisan units.
Ponar was the site of the pits where approximately 70,000 Vilna Jews were murdered. The "corpse burners” who were chained at the bottom of the pit and were forced to burn the victims, dug a tunnel and managed to escape.
The Pinsk Judenrat obstructed the efforts of the Underground to fight or to escape to the forests. Nevertheless, during the liquidation of the Ghetto, the uprising broke out. Most of the resisters were killed, but a few reached the forest.
30 people left Slonim for the forests and formed the Jewish Partisan Company "Schtorrs 51’. Other groups followed them, and they carried out daring operations in the ranks of the partisans.
Youths from this town found their way to Markov, their former teacher, who had become a commander of a Partisan Brigade. They filled an important role in the fighting and served as excellent scouts, during the smuggling of Jews from the Vilna Ghetto to the forest.
300 people, 120 of them in organized groups, joined the partisans. Some of the groups fought battles against the Ukrainians.
200 people left the Kovno Ghetto in an organized group. One of the amazing events was the escape of the "corpse burners” from the Ninth Fort.
Approximately 200 youth were about to leave the Ghetto, but the head of the Judenrat entreated them not to go. The next day the Germans entered the Ghetto. The Jews set fire to the houses and defended themselves. Many broke through the Ghetto fences but few managed to escape. Most of them were killed. Only 16 of the partisans returned.