Belorussian Forest Camps Jewish Resistance during World War II
Southern New Hampshire University
During World War II the Nazi Party attempted to ethnically cleanse Europe of its population of Jewish people as well as starve and resettle the non-Jewish people of Eastern Europe. To achieve the annihilation of the Jews Nazis first forced whole communities into ghettos and from there into concentration camps, both death camps and work camps, with the intention of everyone eventually dying. Although this assault was brutal on both Jewish and non-Jewish populations it was not met without resistance in many places. In the eastern lands that bordered the Soviet Union Jews and non-Jews formed forest partisan groups and family camps formed along the edges of society. The forests were able to sustain life due to a variety of factors. These factors included topography, organization and resources found in the surrounding communities, backlash against the brutality of the Germans and in places lower levels of antisemitism in the local non-Jewish population. The forest partisan and family camps were strongest and most numerous in the Belorussian forests because of a special combination of these factors. The true story of the forests tells of two kinds of resistance; the active fighting of the partisans, many of whom were Jewish, and the almost unachievable act of surviving. This thesis relies on both secondary sources produced by historians through the years and memories of forest survivors in order to examine the value of each factor and its place in the story of Jewish resistance and survival in Belorussian forests during World War II.