Survival in the Forest: Isidore Karten and the Partisans | Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation

Survival in the Forest: Isidore Karten and the Partisans

In 1942, Isidore Karten and his older brother Hersch fled to the forest near their hometown of Swirz, Poland, escaping near-certain death at the hands of the Nazis. Aided by Michal Zoltanski, a sympathetic Pole and close family friend, who provided them with supplies and a rifle, the brothers became partisan fighters. Their group soon grew and became the Swirz Vald (Swirz Forest) partisans, an all-Jewish fighting brigade that eventually rescued more than 400 Jews.

Isidore Karten, top row, second from the left, and Hersch Karten, far right bottom row, with fellow partisans after the war.

In 2013. Isidore's grandsons, Izzy (named after his grandfather) and Jonathan, traveled with their father Harry to Poland and Ukraine to trace their grandfather's wartime history. JPEF tells these two experiences in its 28-minute film, Survival in the Forest: Isidore Karten and the Partisans.

As Izzy and Jonathan travel through small villages and dense forests where their grandfather and uncle fought as partisans, they meet Michal Zoltanski's son, who 70 years earlier risked his life and those of his family to save them.

The Survival in the Forest Study Guide explores human behavior during the Holocaust and what motivated people like Michal to risk their lives to save Jews. Classroom activities and discussion prompts serve as catalysts for students to explore their own behaviors. What role will they play in the future when faced with the decision to take action in the face of injustice, antisemitism, and tyranny? Will they act or remain passive? Will they become Upstanders or be Bystanders?

The Karten Family sugar mill in Swirz.
Michal Zoltanski's son and Jonathan Karten near the encampment where his father helped save Isidore and Hersch Karten.
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