The Partisan Movement

Historical Background

Wide scale partisan war was waged against the Germans in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union. The vast territories with thick forests and marshland were well suited for partisan warfare. What began with small, isolated groups of locals and Red Army soldiers eventually became an organized movement, organized in battalions and divisions, with a structured chain of command that received orders from the Soviet Union.

Many Jews fled to the forests in the spring and summer of 1942, when the second wave of the mobile killing units was launched. Most of the partisan groups were hostile to Jews, and the local population often denounced them to the Germans when they came searching for food. Even after the organized Soviet partisan movement came into being in the second half of 1942, when attempts were made to gain control over the different units and to curtail hostility between national groups, Jews usually were not welcome by the partisans, especially if they had families or if they didn’t bring weapons with them. Consequently there were only a limited number of commanders who accepted Jews into their ranks, and Jews organized their own units and created family camps whose purpose was rescue.

It is estimated that there were about 12,000 – 15,000 Jewish partisans in the territories of Belarus.