In the Soviet Union

Ian Cohen
Monique James
Tonya Williams


On June 22, 1941 Germany invaded the Soviet Union with its Einsatzgruppen and kill thousands of Jews aimlessly. The extermination of Jews began and the deportation of some Jews to extermination camps also began. With these activities came Jewish Resistance and Partisan Warfare.

The partisanship is a kind of guerrilla warfare. The partisan fighter is an irregular. Loosely, attached, poorly equipped, tactics unscheduled, carry out forays and hit-or-miss assaults, harassing and impeding movements of the invaders of the homeland. They are as old as wars themselves. (Eckman 7) 

In 1941, the submerged powers of the forces began to emerge. Slowly but, surely they grew in depth and volume. Partisan, especially the Maquis in France and the movement in Plan and Russia, were instrumental in consuming much of the strength of the Nazis. The ones in the Soviet Union were considered to be "incomparably vaster and more decisive in effect". (Eckman 9)

Russian partisans started haphazardly with fugitive war prisoners, civilian refugees, and escaped soldiers. By the middle months of 1942, the Russian forests had become full with large groups of partisans. The general staff at Moscow often helped the partisans in the forests with their fields of operation and extra soldiers. (Eckman10)

By 1943, the Soviet partisanship organizations were perfected, with the partisans groups on national-territorial lines. The units were called Partisan Confederations and had brigades, battalion, divisions, details, echelons, platoons, and the like. The larger units were in charge with Moscow by radio, courier, or by emissaries who infiltrated the front or were dropped by parachute. Often women and children played the role of the couriers and messengers between ghettoes, camps in the forest, and Moscow headquarters. 

In each partisan group there would be heroes and/or survivors who would live on to tell the story of partisan warfare to the nations and people to come. 

P.Y. Braiko was one of these heroes from the Soviet Union. He was a commander of a Partisan Battalion. He reports that the group would engage in different activities to combat the advance of the German troops and police. The partisans would blow up bridges, train tracks and trains, and armored cars. Braiko led a battalion against the Germans where the Germans chased the men to the village of Nova Krassnitza between Chmigov and Avroch. The partisans were able to take refuge in the forests there. (Eckman 9,10)

Y.Y. Melnik set up partisan groups in the Samsk area. He formed the "Death to Fascism" party/group. Between October 1942, and March 26, 1944 his unit covered more than 6,000 kilometers and fought off German advancers. 

Gregory Davidov-Koltunov was appointed leader of the Southern group of the partisan company in Kizliar. They destroyed unpaved roads, enemy communications lines on the railway tracks of Ordzhonikidza, and fought the fabled "Cossaks" of the same village.

Women played an integral part in partisan warfare as well. In Minsk, a woman named Natasha Lifshitz played the role of a danny ground scout. Some women were used to distract the Gestapo men until more partisans could come and help out. Along with a partisan leader, Simon Gregoryevich, she helped to blow up a German military train, wipe out a garrison, and blow up convoys (Eckman 59-61)

Ruth Kluger of Rumania, was the only female of a ten-member underground cell that operated the line. She was fearless and resourceful. She dealt with corrupt ship owners, drunk captains and crew, and often unruly forces. She sacrificed her marriage and her love for the cause of the Jewish armies. (Laska 10)

Rivka Yosselvska was a young mother from the village of Zagorodski near Pinsk. She helped hide out her family. In the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, on May 8, 1961, Rivka bore witness about her experiences in the many hideouts of the partisans. (Laska 265)

The partisan groups also had family camps. This meant mobility and the ease of moving quickly with all of your loved ones nearby. Some lived in underground tunnels and bunkers, coming out only at night. The actual belonging to a camp enabled the Jews to exist and be safe from the enemies who were ever on the lookout for weaponless, defenseless, Jews. (Eckman 85)

Works Cited

Eckman, Lester and Chaim Lazar. The Jewish Resistance. Sheng Old Publishers, Inc. New York City, 1977.

Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Macmillan Publishing company: New York, 1990.

"Jewish Resistance to Nazi Genocide." American Israeli Cooperative Entreprise, 1998.

Kershaw, Ian. The Nazi Dictatorship: Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation. London: Edward Arnold, 1985.

Laska, Vera. Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust: The Voices of Eye Witnesses. Greenwood Press: Connecticut, 1983.

Lederer, Zdenek. Ghetto Theresiestadt. New York: Howard Ferlig, 1983.

Mendelsohn, John. The Holocaust, Selected Documents in 18 Volumes. New York Grand Publishing Inc., 1982, vol.10.

Porter, Nusan Jack. Jewish Partisans: a Documentary of Jewish Resistance in the Soviet Union during World War II. Washington, DC: University Press of America, Inc., 1982.

"The Lodz Ghetto." The Jewish Student Online Research Center (JSOURCE), JenniferRosenberg, 1998.

Works Consulted

Wirth, Louis. The Ghetto. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1928.