Partisan Jews

The Jewish partisans were groups of irregular troops who participated in the Jewish resistance movement against Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II . Several groups of Jewish partisans operated throughout occupied Europe, some of which were made up of fleeing from different ghettos or concentration camps , while others, such as the partisans of Bielski , numbered hundreds and included women and children . They were more numerous in Eastern Europe , although there were also groups in occupied France and Belgium , where they operated together with local resistance movements. 1 Many Jewish fighters also participated in various partisan movements in other occupied countries. In all, the partisan Jews numbered between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals. 2


The partisans engaged in guerrilla warfare and instigated sabotage of Nazi occupation through uprisings in the Jewish ghettos and the release of prisoners. Only in Lithuania , the Partisans killed approximately 3,000 German soldiers. 3 Sometimes they had contacts inside the ghettos, concentration camps, Judenräte and other resistance groups, with whom they shared military intelligence . In Eastern Europe, many Jews joined the ranks of Soviet partisans : throughout the war, they faced anti-Semitism and discrimination on the part of the Soviets and some partisan Jews were killed, but over time many of the Jewish partisan groups were absorbed into the command structure of the much larger partisan movement of the Soviet Union . 4


Jewish partisans had to overcome great difficulties in acquiring arms, food, shelter and evading capture. Usually they lived in dugouts called zemlyankas (in Russian , землянка) and in fields located in the woods. 2 Nazi reprisals were brutal, as applied collective punishment against those who supported them and against the ghettos from which partisans had escaped. 5 They often carried out “anti-partisan actions” as an excuse to exterminate Jews. 6 In some areas, partisans were helped by local villagers, but because of widespread anti-Semitism and fears of reprisal, Jewish partisans used to act on their own. 3

The Partisans operated under constant threat of starvation. In order to survive, the Jews had to set aside traditional dietary restrictions . While the friendly peasants supplied them with food, in some cases they stole food from the stores 2 farms 3 or looted the hideouts intended for German soldiers. 2 As the war progressed, the Soviet government occasionally launched munitions from the air, counterfeit money and food supplies to the partisan groups that it knew were from the same side. 2

Those who managed to flee from the ghettos and concentration camps, had nothing but the clothes on which often became rags by constant wear. Clothes and shoes were scarce. German uniforms became treasured trophies: they housed and served as disguises for future missions. 2 Those who were injured or maimed or fell ill, could not survive due to lack of medical care or supplies. Most of the partisan groups did not have a doctor and treated the wounded themselves, going to village doctors only as a last resort. 2

Forests also hid the family camps where Jews who had escaped from concentration camps or ghettos, many of whom were too young or too old to fight and awaited the end of the war, were hiding. While some partisan groups made it necessary for some combat preparation and weapons to enter their ranks, many non-combatants found refuge with Jewish fighting groups and their allies. These people and their families contributed to the group’s well-being by working as artisans, cooks, seamstresses and doctors. 2

Notably partisan groups

Some of the most well-known Jewish partisan groups were the Bielski partisans , who operated a large “family camp” in Byelorussia (more than 1,200 in the summer of 1944), 7 8 and the United Partisan Organization which attempted to initiate an uprising in the ghetto of Vilnius in Lithuania and later conducted sabotage and guerrilla operations. 9 Thirty-two Jews from the British Mandate of Palestine were trained by the British and parachuted behind enemy lines to carry out resistance activities. 3

Some notable Jewish partisans

  • Simone Schloss , activist and member of the French Resistance, executed in 1942.
  • Tuvia Bielski , head of the Polish Jewish partisans in the forests of Belarus from 1943 until the end of the war.
  • Haviva Reik , a member of the Palestinian forces who aided the Jews of Slovakia in 1944.
  • Moša Pijade , a member of the Yugoslav partisan movement that expelled the Germans from the Balkans . He held various senior positions in the government of socialist Yugoslavia .

See also

  • Jewish Brigade , a unit of 5,000 volunteers from the British Mandate of Palestine who fought in the British Army during World War II .
  • Soviet Partisans
  • Defiance , film based on the partisans of Bielski.


  1. Back to top↑ “Armed Jewish Resistance: Partisans” . Holocaust Encyclopedia . Holocaust Museum (Washington) . Retrieved on July 9, 2006 .
  2. ↑ Jump to:a b c d e f g h «Living and Surviving as a Partisan» . Jewish Virtual Library . Retrieved on July 9, 2006 .
  3. ↑ Jump to:a b c d «Jewish Partisans» . The Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students . Holocaust Museum (Washington) . Archived from the original on December 2, 2015 . Retrieved on July 9, 2006 .
  4. Back to top↑ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz (April 21, 2006). Review of Sowjetische Partisanen in Weißrußland by Bogdan Musial . Sarmatian Review, Vol. XXVI, No. 2 . Retrieved on July 9, 2006 .
  5. Back to top↑ Abraham J. Edelheit. History of the Holocaust: A Handbook and Dictionary , p. 98 . Westview Press, 1995-07-01. ISBN 0-8133-2240-5
  6. Back to top↑ Yitzhak Arad. The Murder of Jews in Nazi-occupied Lithuania (1941-1944) . In The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jews , p. 183 , eds. Alvydas Nikzentaitis, Stefan Schreiner, Darius Staliunas. Rodopi, 2004-05-01. ISBN 90-420-0850-4
  7. Back to top↑ Ruby (EDT) Rohrlich. Resisting the Holocaust , p. 89 , Berg Publishers, 1998-08-01. ISBN 1-85973-216-X
  8. Back to top↑ «Photo gallery: Partisan family camp in the Naliboki forests» . Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance. 1997 . Retrieved on July 9, 2006 .
  9. Back to top↑ Jennifer Rosenberg. ‘Abba Kovner and Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto’ . . Retrieved on July 9, 2006 .