English Texts

Abba Klurman - Stages in the Organization of the Partisan Fighting

The organization of the partisan fighting began, in fact, only in the fall of 1942, when Jewish young men went out to the woods and became the nucleus for the formation of partisan units. Word spread through the town that there was an organization made up of refugees from the Soviet rule who had remained in the rear lines when the Red Army retreated.

The reason for these people staying behind was hazy. It was very doubtful that they had stayed behind in the occupied area in order to organize a Soviet underground in the German military rear line, as the rumors stated. I suspected that the rapid disintegration of the Red Army at the beginning of July 1941, after the unexpected German attack, was the cause of their remaining behind. A local incident is imprinted in my memory that points to the friendship that prevailed or, more accurately, that was nurtured between the Germans and the Russians, especially in the border regions; because of this it is possible to infer that the Russian officers had no idea about the clash with the Germans. In any case they had not planned on preparing staff officers for fighting in the German's rear lines after retreating, which they had not dreamed of doing in the first place.

On June 19,1941, I was taking part in a party organized by Soviet officers for the German officers, who had come to us to attend to moving the volks Deutsch from the occupied Russian regions to Germany. At the same party, Soviet military officers were uttering threats in the ears of Jewish girls who refused to dance with German officers.

It is worthwhile mentioning that one night before the outbreak of the war, in the city of Brisk on the Bug River, German trains, filled with soldiers, crossed the border, disguised as merchandise for the Soviet Union. The cars were not expected at all. When the war broke out, commando units with improved military equipment jumped from the cars and attacked the city of Brisk. An additional fact is that, at the very least, in the region of my hometown, Kamin-Kushirski, there was not any organization prepared to deal with the possibility of a war in the rear lines, one of the cardinal principles in the partisan organization:

The plan for the final solution in the areas taken form the Russians by the Germans in 1941, as distinguished from the plan for the final solution in the territories taken by the Germans in 1939, was based on two concrete liquidation operations, the last one being complete.

Psychological preparation for annihilation that came about through selective murdering.

Complete annihilation in two actions.

This also confirms again the fact that the Germans had no trouble finding collaborators in carrying out the annihilation. These included the Ukrainians, who had been the Jews' neighbors for generations. The Germans found in them active collaborators who were ready to carry out the murder of a people. The final plan for destruction of the Jewish population in all the other occupied regions was carried out by removing the Jewish population from their home towns on various pretexts, such as assembling them for "work camps". In the Ukraine and Byelorussia, on the other hand, the Jews were publicly annihilated with the help of the local residents, who did not make the trouble to prepare alternative plans if there were to be mishaps or mistakes in the annihilation operation. One piece of evidence that confirms that there were preparations for massive annihilation is that in July of 1941, four weeks following the occupation, the Jews were put to work preparing the ground, digging pits, etc., near the Jewish cemeteries where, in fact, the murders were carried out.

The Jews – Combat and Creative Potential

With the grouping together of Jews from all levels, from those who were educated to the lowly maidservant, there was great creative potential. With their strong desire to justify the essence of their existence, this potential was doubled and tripled, helping the fighting units. There was a nucleus of communal life in the middle of the woods. While there was no agricultural or economic base, every one of the camp's residents carried a load of knowledge and the desire to create, help, and contribute. They also contributed to keeping up the moral framework between the partisan fighting unit surrounding the population.

The beginning of the partisan organization was based on the ethical behavior of the Russians who fled from German imprisonment, the pro-Soviet Ukrainians, or the Poles who did not sympathize with the Germans and had been forced to flee the woods. One can see in this period the first stage of individuals, or of small groups, who began the armed struggle against the Germans and their allies. Their behavior was different from that which existed in the area. It was an area where all kinds of gangs swarmed, whose common denominator was looting and plunder, murder and rape.

The second stage was still based on violence, murder, and rape by the fighters on the civilian population. But there began to be restraint, a slowing down of lawlessness, and gradually there was a governing force from above which took the trouble to unite the ranks of the fighter; it did so successfully. The third stage was defined by cooperation, tranquility, and humane relations in private and family life. And it was the "Jewish camp" that contributed to this.

Kruk – Anti-Semitism in the Midst of the Partisans

One of the central figures in our Partizankej was, without a doubt, Kruk. And it is not surprising that our opinions about him are divided. On the one hand, he received almost every Jew, even non-combatants, under his auspices; on the other hand he also killed Jews, including youths, because of a breach of discipline (though he also killed Ukrainians for this reason). All in all, he was a primitive man, illiterate, but imbued with an incentive sense for absolute justice and fine organizational ability. In my humble opinion, there was not a trace of anti-Semitism in him. On the contrary, I would dare say he was, as we nicknamed him, one of the "righteous of the nations". In fact, he also was not a Communist. The combination of Kruk and Jews was formed because both parties were looking for partners for support.

The anti-Semitism among the partisans mainly derived from the Russians' belief in some idea of freedom and equality, at a time when they imagined and remembered the Jews to be merchants and exploiters. It is possible that we felt guilty for following after a Gentile out of indecision and a certain fear. We could have gotten along as well without them.

Kruk killed as a result of the pressure of time. Generally people acted then according to the senses alone, and life or death was a trifling matter, a game, nothing else. Kruk was the one who would order fighters to guard the citizens' camp, when we had left them on their own and mortal danger awaited them. Through his inspiration we also left them a lot of food. Still, it must be emphasized that it was not Kruk, Max or Moscow who organized these partisan units, but the young Jews who ran from the ghettos.