Living and Surviving in the Partisans: Winter and Night

Former Jewish partisans describe surviving harsh weather conditions while living in the forest resisting the Germans.

Transcript (Text)

Winter's bad weather brought more difficulties to the partisans. 

The snow, you could not walk in the snow. Sometimes two, three feet high snow, and you le[ft] traces when you walked. 

So we had to walk in different directions to confuse the enemy so the enemy will not know where we are situated. 

We used to go backwards. Like instead of going this way, we're going this way. We learned a lot of tricks. 

Jewish partisans struggled to keep warm with inadequate clothing. Many only wrapped rags around their feet for shoes. 

That was the fiercest winter of 1942. It was very, very cold and we just went out with what we had on. 

I stood guard once in winter with just a shirt made out of silk from a parachute. Now that's cold. 

You're soaking wet, I mean wet, and you never take a shower. You never bathe. You stink. Unreal. Forty below zero. Thirty below zero. It's tough. You cannot hold your gun in your hand, the hand freezes to the gun. Tough. 

My legs were burned completely because it was so cold when we sat in front of the fire, I did not feel when my flesh was burning, my legs. It was a horror. 

You know, we were sleeping in the forest and freezing rain in storms, snow, on the snow. The snow covered us up. In the morning I got up. It was a blanket of snow. 

Sometimes we used to cuddle up to each other and just for the warmth of it. And in the morning just, you know, it was cold in our country. 

Very often we slept with animals and they put up a lot of heat. 

To survive in these harsh conditions, partisans scavenged among the dead. 

I did not have any blanket all this time, until we hit some Germans when they were retreating and two of them that were killed. I see a blanket behind him. So I grabbed his blanket, and that was the best present that I ever had. 

But the bad weather also had advantages. But the winter also gave us a feeling of safety. Because when you looked outside the area in which we were encamped, you could see footprints. You could see if people were walking there. So, we really felt safer even though we were a lot colder. 

The worse conditions were, the better it was for us. We only walked at night because it was dangerous for us to walk during the day because the Germans were around, the Polish antisemites were around. 

So the night, blizzard, heavy snow, heavy rain, these were our friends. The night protects us. A mother protects her children. The night would protect us. The night is our mother.

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