The Jewish partisan resistance fighters disprove the notion that Jews and those against the Nazi regime turned a blind eye to the atrocities of the Holocaust. There were many partisan groups stationed all throughout Europe comprised of Jews and non-Jews alike that invaded areas occupied by the Nazi soldiers, smuggled weapons, ammunition and food into various ghettos, moved Jews out of ghettos and several partisans were able to pass as Aryans and spy behind enemy lines without the Nazi soldiers becoming suspicious. To be a partisan required skillful planning for every single mission to be executed correctly and each member had to be fully committed, including if and when they were caught as to not give up information about the resistance.
Professor Hearst and I carried out our research using testimonies from partisans that survived the Holocaust in which they voiced their stories of what life had been like before World War II broke out, as well as their lives during their fight in the resistance and assimilating to the feeling of freedom after the war ended. We also used two works of literature written by various members; one of these was the Diary of Hannah Senesh in which we were able to read her count of World War II as it was occurring, as well as recite her thoughts, hopes, and dreams on a frequent basis and witness the transformation of who she was when she began keeping her diary up until her very last entry and how the things she cared about drastically changed. Information from the Jewish Partisan Education Foundation webpage was also incredibly helpful as the website had numerous pages on many partisans as well as other scholarly articles we found on different members.
Throughout the summer, I have witnessed an incredibly different side of World War II than I would have ever imagined. I have learned that it was exceptionally difficult to be a partisan and they did not accept just anyone to be a part of the resistance. Each member had to prove themselves to have valuable skills, courage and strength. Every partisan had an important role whether it was to raid and fight against the Nazis, preform surgeries on the wounded, take photographs to document the atrocities and prove the brutality against the Jews, act as Aryans to get information in and out of European countries, or raiding towns and saving Jewish communities; every single member was needed and each job had to be filled.
It has been an amazing experience to learn how exceptionally courageous and selfless the resistance fighters were and how there was something being done to show the Nazis they were not going to back down, and they did not back down. They had all put their lives on the line for the same cause regardless of where they came from and when members were arrested, they did not give up any information even after the Nazis would attempt to sway them and offer to release them in exchange for information. They were tortured to the brink of death, and even looked death straight in the eyes, and still did not disclose what they knew. The partisans would have rather died for their cause than to let the Nazis have the information they needed to track down the groups, and many of them did die for the cause and that takes incredible strength and selflessness; to die so that others can live.
As the summer has continued, Professor Hearst and I have made tremendous progress including identifying twenty-four sources we will be using to aid us in our research, we have gotten into contact with the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation to request assistance in contacting family members of Partisans and Partisans who are still alive today that may be willing to help us with our research, ordered two books: a memoir by a female partisan named Faye Schulman who photographed much of her experience during the resistance and the diary of Hannah Senesh, another female partisan who journaled her life before and during the resistance as well as her included poems and plays.
We have begun drafting the individual partisans we will be including in our project using the sources we have discovered and have faced difficulties in trying to contact family members of partisans; emails have bounced or gone unanswered.
Although we have faced challenges, we have also experienced success in communicating with the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation in regard to receiving assistance from them to contact partisan family members and partisans who are still alive today. This would be a great opportunity to receive new information to include into our project that has not been used before.
To this point, I have learned how courageous all of the resistance fighters were and that many Jews and non-Jews alike did fight against the Nazi regime, they did not sit around and wait to be arrested like many people today believe.
This project has impacted me enormously in the sense that I have learned so much more about World War II than I have ever thought I would and I have been able to read and watch firsthand accounts of the experiences of those who were apart of the resistance from different areas in Europe.
The working title for my research project with Professor Hearst is: “World War II Resistance: The Partisans and Civilian Spies Behind Enemy Lines.”
Professor Hearst and I have been conducting research on several resistance groups that existed during World War II known as the Jewish Partisans, that were primarily made up of male and female young who formed or joined the resistance groups. In addition, a number of Jewish and non-Jewish individuals were able to return to their homelands and spy on the Nazis, infiltrating them and bringing back information in order to save others in occupied areas of Europe. The partisan groups consisted of incredibly brave individuals who risked their lives to fight against the Nazi regime and were stationed in different parts of Europe occupied by Nazi Germany, often engaging in combat while hiding out by living in the forests.
The purpose of our research project is to gain a better understanding of the Jewish Partisans and other civilians who were engaged in these efforts, and the struggles they endured during their resistance, as well as educate people about their fight for freedom. Before commencing this project, I had never received any information about the Jewish Partisans and was never taught about them in school. I expect to gain knowledge and a better understanding of who the partisans were, and how they continued to survive in the dangerous and difficult conditions they faced.
To answer these questions, I will be focusing on organizational sites and scholarly articles along with firsthand accounts from some of the partisans themselves. I hope to highlight the importance of these resistance groups during World War II and the bravery the men and women exhibited during thisdark period of history.