Below are questions answered by many of the Jewish partisans JPEF interviewed. Check and uncheck any answer or combination of answers, then scroll down to see which partisans answered like you did. Click their photo to find out more about them.
Faye Schulman, partisan fighter and photographer, with commander on a boat as they head off on a mission that would lead them near Nazi areas. Photo taken by fellow partisan.
A self-portrait of photographer Julia Diament Pirotte. Pirotte grew up in a working class Jewish family in Warsaw. In the 1930's she emigrated to Belgium, where she married and studied photography. After the German occupation of Belgium and the depor
Faye Schulman, partisan fighter and photographer, with other Jewish Partisans who she knew from before the war. They were acting as messengers for another partisan brigade. Faye says she was, "happy that there are three Jewish boys fighting."
Cover of the underground Yiddish newspaper, Jugend Shtimme (Voice of the Youth), which was distributed in the Warsaw Ghetto. The Yiddish caption reads "Fascism must be smashed!"
Many Jewish partisans in Eastern Europe lived in underground bunkers called zemlyankas (Russian for "dugout"): small, primitive shelters that provided a living and hiding space, sometimes for dozens of people, even through freezing winters.
Click and drag in the window below to explore a virtual model of Shalom Yoran's zemlyanka that he built and lived in with four other men in the winter of 1942.
1937 borders. Approximate areas of Jewish partisan activity marked in yellow.
Approximately 30,000 Jews throughout Eastern and Western Europe -- many of them teens -- fought back during the Holocaust as Jewish partisans.
During World War II, approximately 30,000 Jews throughout Eastern and Western Europe -- many of them teens -- fought back against the Germans and their collaborators as Jewish partisans. They were men and women from a variety of backgrounds.
Leon Bakst was one of four siblings born to a wholesale merchant in Ivie, a small Polish town 73 miles west of Minsk. Leon was 15 when the Germans occupied Ivie, Poland in the summer of 1941 and forced the town's Jews into a ghetto. When they asked Leon's father what he did for a living, he lied and told the Germans that he was a brush maker -- he figured the occupiers would have more use for a tradesman. His assumptions were correct: he was spared from the initial massacre of Jewish men.
The labor camp was located in a railroad yard -- the prisoners even slept in the boxcars. Their food rations were meager, and their futures uncertain. Having heard about partisan groups living in the nearby forests, twenty of the youngsters decided to risk escape and join them. The prisoners had one tremendous advantage: the Germans were using the railroad depot to unload weapons and ammo taken from the retreating Russians. By slowly stealing rifles and stashing them in the ground, the prisoners were able to arm themselves before fleeing.
The two brothers were familiar with their surroundings, which made it easier for their group to travel at night. The rifles they stole from the Germans also ensured that the group got fed along the way. When they finally reached the Naliboki forest, the group encountered the Bielski brigade, which at the time had about 200 partisans. Arriving with rifles, the newcomers were quickly accepted.
Leon's duties ranged from guard duty to food-gathering missions to railroad sabotage. Leon had many close calls. Once, the Germans encircled the forest and started shelling it to try and flush the partisans out. With bullets flying past and German planes dropping bombs, his group made their escape through a swamp. Leon remembers: "I could hear -- 'tsch, tsch' -- the bullets -- falling in the water right beside me and, you know, I was not afraid at all. I was just like I've been -- normal, you know, and I kept on."
After the war's end, Leon managed to leave Poland with his brother and Libby -- a partisan from another otriad and Leon's future wife. They eventually made it to a displaced persons camp in Munich, where Leon met Allen Small, a boyhood friend from Ivie who fought with a Soviet partisan otriad. It would be 65 years before they see one another again. (For more on their story, see JPEF's documentary "The Reunion".)
During the four years they spent in the displaced persons camp, Leon and Libby got married and their first child was born. They immigrated to the United States in 1949. Leon currently lives in Dallas, Texas. He has two daughters.