Who Were the Jewish Partisans?
They were Jews in Europe, many of them teenagers, male and female, who fought against the Nazis during World War II. The majority were regular folks who escaped the ghettos and work camps and joined organized resistance groups in the forests and urban underground. Non-Jewish partisans could sneak back to their homes for security and safety. The Jews had no place to go and so they were constantly moving through the shadows on the edges of cities and towns. Some, like Polish teenager Frank Blaichman, knew their village would be turned into a ghetto; Frank escaped and joined a group of partisans in a forest. Others, like Abe Asner, were among the very few Jewish partisans with military training. Most partisans knew nothing about guns and ammunition, so people like Abe became important teachers and leaders. People who had guns and knew how to use them were mostly welcomed with open arms. If someone wanted to join and had no weapon, some groups required them to get one, in whatever manner they could. Outsiders who came to fight the Nazis – like Russian partisan groups in Poland – valued Jews who knew local terrain and could act as their scouts. Less than ten percent of the partisans were women. Some were fighters and scouts; the majority were part of the vital infrastructure, cooking for the group and caring for the sick. Those with young children often stayed in hidden enclaves in the forests. Some partisan groups, like the Bielski Brigade, accepted these families, but most groups did not. Jews who joined non-Jewish partisan groups often hid their Judaism because of antisemitism. Norman Salsitz, for example, used seven non-Jewish identities while fighting the Nazis and was able to save dozens of Jews from certain death.