Partisans were fighters in irregular military groups participating in the Jewish resistance movement against Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II.
A number of Jewish partisan groups operated across Nazi-occupied Europe, some made up of a few escapees from the Jewish ghettos or concentration camps, while others, such as Bielski partisans, numbered in the hundreds and included women and children.
Many individual Jewish fighters also took part in the other partisan movements in other occupied countries. In all, the Jewish partisans numbered between 20,000 and 30,000.
The partisans engaged in guerrilla warfare and sabotage against the Nazi occupation, instigated ghetto uprisings and freed prisoners. In Lithuania alone, they killed approximately 3,000 German soldiers. They sometimes had contacts within the ghettos, camps, Judenrats, and with other resistance groups, with whom they shared military intelligence.
The Jewish partisans had to overcome great odds in acquiring weapons, food, shelter and evading capture. They typically lived in underground dugouts called zemlyankas (Russian: землянка) and camps in the forests.
Nazi reprisals were brutal, as they employed collective punishment against their supporters and the ghettos from which partisans had escaped, and often used "anti-partisan actions" as a guise for the extermination of Jews.
The partisans operated under constant threat of starvation. Those who managed to flee the ghettos and camps had nothing more than the clothes on their backs and their possessions often were reduced to rags through constant wear.
The forests also concealed family camps where Jewish escapees from camps or ghettos, many of whom were too young or too old to fight, hoped to wait out the war. While some partisan groups required combat readiness and weapons as a condition for joining, many noncombatants found shelter with Jewish fighting groups and their allies. These individuals and families contributed to the welfare of the group by working as craftsmen, cooks, seamstresses and field medics.
Notable Jewish Partisan Groups
- The Bielski partisans who operated a large "family camp" in Belorussia (numbering over 1,200 by the summer of 1944),
- The Parczew partisans of southeast Poland,
- The United Partisan Organization - Yiddish: the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (FPO) (פֿאַראײניקטע פּאַרטיזאַנער אָרגאַניזאַציע); which attempted to start an uprising in the Vilnius Ghetto in Lithuania and later engaged in sabotage and guerrilla operations.
- Jewish Paratroopers of British Mandate Palestine - צנחני הישוב Thirty-seven Jews from the Mandate for Palestine were trained by the British and parachuted behind enemy lines to engage in resistance activities.
- The Jewish Combat Organization (Polish: Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa, ŻOB; Yiddish: ייִדישע קאַמף אָרגאַניזאַציע; it is also often translated to English as the Jewish Fighting Organization) was a World War II resistance movement, which was instrumental in engineering the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. ŻOB took part in a number of other resistance activities as well.
- The Jewish Military Union (in Polish: Żydowski Związek Wojskowy (ŻZW), was an underground resistance right-wing organization operating during World War II in the area of the Warsaw Ghetto which fought during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
- Mordechai Anielewicz - 'מרדכי אנילֶביץ
- Dawid Apfelbaum
- Yitzhak Arad
- Bielski partisans, Tuvia Bielski - טוביה בלסקי, Asael Bielski - עשהאל בלסקי, Zus Bielski - זוס בלסקי, Aaron Bell (Bielski) - אהרון בל-בלסקי.
- Frank Blaichman
- Masha Bruskina
- Eugenio Calò
- Paweł Frenkiel
- Hirsh Glick
- Munyo Gruber
- Abba Kovner - אבא קובנר
- Zivia Lubetkin - צביה לובטקין
- Vladka Meed
- Haviva Reik - חביבה רייק
- Joseph Serchuk
- Enzo Sereni - אנצו סירני
- Hannah Szenes - חנה סנש
- Yitzhak Wittenberg
- Shalom Yoran-Shnitzer שלום יורן-שניצר
- Simcha Zorin
- Yitzhak (Antek) Zuckerman - יצחק (אנטק) צוקרמן
Sources and Media
- Defiance (2008 film) - Film based on the Bielski Partisans - The film Defiance, starring Daniel Craig, tells the true story of the Bielski brothers, who saved 1,200 lives and organized the largest Jewish resistance unit during World War II.
- PARTISAN GROUPS IN THE PARCZEW FORESTS
- Zog Nit Keynmol - the "Partisan Hymn"
- Wikipedia: Links, Notes and References
- Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance by Michael Bart
- Jewish Partisans Education Foundation
- Novershtern, Avraham. "Kaczerginski, Shmerke." YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe 17 August 2010. 15 August 2013 <http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Kaczerginski_Shmerke>.
- Porat, Dina. "Kovner, Abba." YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe 19 August 2010. 15 August 2013 <http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Kovner_Abba>.