Introduction to the Jewish Partisans

Former Jewish partisans discuss the goals, challenges, and personal motives of the Jews who resisted the Germans.

Transcript (Text)

These are the images that come to mind when people think about the Jewish experience during the Holocaust. But these are not the only images. There were 20–30 thousand Jews who formed organized armed resistance groups all throughout Europe. These little known freedom fighters conducted thousands of acts of sabotage against their Nazi oppressors. They were known as Jewish partisans. 

People did not go only like sheep to their deaths. People were fighting every which way they can. 

I did my job the best I could. I was in many battles with the Germans face to face, sometimes maybe a 100 feet away, and bullets were flying on all sides, and luckily I survived. 

That day a German column was marching to us. We ambushed them. 

The partisans, they fought for freedom, for a better tomorrow, for a better future. And they fought in order not to be eliminated by the Germans, against the Germans. 

Jewish partisans were responsible for the liberation of thousands of Jews trapped in ghettos, saving them from annihilation.  

I started to organize an escape. I had 55 people who said they were willing to escape. From the 55, 30 were killed; 25 made it into the woods. Without the forest we couldn't survive. 

The trees, the sky, the pine needle ground were our summer home. The underground hut was our winter home. We're dealing with friendly and unfriendly peasants. The friendly peasant supported us with food and with ammunition. The unfriendly peasant had no choice. We would get in at night, pick up the prepared food orders that were prepared for the Germans and leave receipts, "The partisans were here." 

The moon was our biggest enemy . . . because in day we couldn't go or in night. If there was a moonlight night, we couldn't move. So the night blizzard, heavy snow, heavy rain, this was our friends. 

Jewish partisans committed thousands of acts of sabotage significantly impeding the Nazi war effort. 

We were interested in getting involved in sabotage acts to interrupt and disrupt the communication and transportation to the front. 

When we attacked a depot, we hit the guards and got ammunition and we blew up the train depot. 

We could see the Germans there, and I could recognize the Germans that I wanted to kill, who killed my friend. And they started to shoot towards us, but when they shot, they shot only with revolvers. They were not prepared. They didn't have rifles. They didn't have machine guns. We overpowered them so that little by little, their shooting stopped. 

We had to blow up a train, and I was sitting in the background and waiting till the train approached, and some of the Germans got killed. 

It's the same to Jews as it is to Americans who started the Revolutionary War and its heroes, right? People put their chests in front of English muskets to build a country. We put our chests in front of German muskets defend ourselves from annihilation and maybe prevent the death of other Jews. 

If I was going to get killed, I was going to get killed as a fighter . . . Not because I'm a Jew. 

I survived for two legacies: for revenge and for telling the story. Revenge for my father, and telling the story for my mother. So if I had the chance, and if I looked for resistance, this was the most important thing for me. And I didn't care if I would be killed, if I wouldn't be killed, I had to do it. 

There is such a thing as fighting back. This is the way I think. That's why I'm sitting here to give you the interview. Why else would I do it? I want the people to know that we were fighting. 

This is the hymn of Jewish partisans. [Singing the hymn]

© 2004-2016 Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation. All Rights Reserved

Get the Printable Transcript

Search Our Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.