Living and Surviving in the Partisans: Medicine | Facing History & Ourselves

Living and Surviving in the Partisans: Medicine

Former Jewish partisans recall the challenges of treating wounded and sick partisans.
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  • The Holocaust
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Living and Surviving in the Partisans: Medicine

And if somebody got sick, nothing happened. He had to get well.

If there is a medical problem, we had a problem. We didn't have the right medication.

Many Jewish partisans died from lack of medical care. And diseases, like typhoid spread by lice, were a constant threat.

The clothing had millions and millions of lice in every seam.

And this is the reason why people got the typhoid, because the lice were the carrier of the disease.

And as far as treating the sick people, you did the best you could. Maybe they had some herbs or some alcohol to wash a wound. This is about it. Even bandages were in shortage. We had to wash them in order to use them again for other people.

Sympathetic doctors were often unavailable. And partisans were forced to treat themselves.

I had a bullet in my leg. I had a knife that the doctor gave me. And he told me I should just look for it and take it out. And that's what I did. They helped me. Somebody was standing there and holding the spiritus and I took it out. It hurt. But what can you do? I did it other people, too. It hurt, so what?

Some took a chance and risked betrayal by local doctors but went anyway.

So I took out my revolver and I said, look, you can give me an injection. But if anything will be funny or something, so then later, I figured a revolver is not good. I took out a hand grenade. I took out the pin. And I said, if you do something, I will let pin out, we'll all be killed.

Medical help during battles was limited. And the wounded usually died from infection.

And during the daytime, the fights were terrible. First few days, we had many, many casualties, wagons full of wounded people. I was frightened. And that's where I went was for 10 days. And after 10 days, I came back. My parents didn't recognize me.

We had our-- actually amputated some of our partners right on the horse and buggy. And one time, I stood, I almost fainted. I couldn't stand it. But a lady got gangrene. A lady died right after because of the harsh weather or did not have the right medication and not have the sterilize everything. You cannot sterilize in the woods.

Partisans got medicine in a variety of ways.

Medication and everything also was taking from the Germans. Lot of us, well, we were taking it.

As the war progressed, the Allies and Russians started helping the partisans.

I remember in our [INAUDIBLE]. They were delivered to us penicillin from the United States. I know via Moscow, but throwing by airplanes to us. And we got it. And a lot of our partisans were saved by it, from gangrene, from infection. And it was like a miracle.

If you got a shot and a bullet somewhere, try not to get it because the doctor's instruments were rusty. Doctors were very few and far between. You laid in a hospital, a make-believe hospital somewhere. And most of the people died of gangrene. So it was very rough. Don't get a bullet. Try to keep it out.



Living and Surviving in the Partisans: Medicine

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