Tens of thousands of Jews in Eastern Europe survived the Holocaust by virtue of their escape to the forests.
Some just hid, but others engaged in fighting, motivated by the desire for revenge on their loved ones’ killers.
They operated amongst dozens of Partisan Units, Jewish and non-Jewish, fighting Guerrilla warfare, the purpose of which was to hit German Soldiers and strike at infrastructure that could assist the Nazi Army, like blowing up railway tracks and bridges, and attacking Bases.
The dilemma they faced was not an easy one – should they stay with their families and friends in the Ghetto or leave them and run away to the forest?
It was clear to them, that beyond the separation, which might be final, they were possibly bringing about deadly collective punishment on those who remained in the Ghetto.
Moreover, for most of them, who had grown up in the city, “living in the bosom of nature”, in the harsh European climate, was not going to be easy.
The local population’s backing – in providing hiding places, food and weapons – was not taken for granted by the Jews.
The Anti-Semitism surrounding them was not demonstrated only by the Nazi enemy but also by non-Jewish Partisans, some of whom even murdered Jews themselves, for Anti-Semitic or other ideological reasons.
Most of the Soviet Partisan Forces were concentrated in Belarus and numbered over 300,000 Fighters. Beginning in the spring of 1942, these Forces caused the German Forces significant troubles and affected their operations in the area. The Partisan activity aimed primarily at disrupting the train system, gathering Intelligence and attacking the rear of the German Army. The number of German casualties, including those wounded and captured, was estimated at about 1.5 million Soldiers.
In the latter part of the war, the Partisans’ main operations were conducted in coordination with Soviet Offensives. The Soviet Army supported Partisan Forces considerably by transporting equipment and supplies to them through the air. Partisans operating in territories that were liberated by Soviet Forces joined the “Red Army” and continued fighting the enemy within its framework.
Jewish Underground activity in Belarus was most noticeable at the Minsk Ghetto and in the forests around the City.
See the story of the Bielski Brothers’ “Family Camp”.