Until the spring of 1942, German authorities, taking into account the hostile attitude of former Polish citizens toward the Soviet regime, preferred to appoint them burgomasters, heads of volosts, and starostas [village elders]. In Grodno, Pinsk, Brest, and Baranovichi districts, these were former Polish officials, who had emigrated to Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia in 1939. They included members of Polish paramilitary organizations, such as Znak [Sign], Zwiazek Walki Zbrojnej [Union of Armed Struggle], Muszkieterowie [Musketeers], Strzelec [Rifleman], Krakusi [Light Cavalrymen], and Osadniki [Settlers]. Former Polish landowners, managers of farming and landed estates, owners of mills and small enterprises, and so forth had returned there. Belorussian cities and small towns were covered with a network of military garrisons and police formations . In Slonim in 1942, the garrison consisted of detachments of 300 Polish and Belorussian policemen, 120 Lithuanian members of punitive squads, and 30 German gendarmes. The garrison's strength in Postavy reached 2,000 men; in Vileyka, 800; and in Zel'va, 210. Punitive squads often changed their location and, together with the local police, participated in the roundups and liquidation of the Jewish population and in blockades against the partisans.
The German administration imposed heavy taxes on the population. In Krivichi and Kurenets rayons, peasants were ordered to hand over 6 poods (Russian measure of weight = 16.38 kg of grain per hectare of land and 20 kg of meat ; in Baranovichi Oblast, the entire harvest with the exception of 6 kg of grain per capita per month, 3 eggs per chicken per week, 450 liters of milk per year, and so forth. Furthermore, monetary charges were introduced for dogs (150 rubles), for every window in the house, for a pipe and a well (25 rubles), as well as a per capita tax per family member (50 rubles). Suspicion of disloyalty to German authorities, as well as nonfulfilment of deliveries of agricultural products and evasion of forced labor, was punished strictly.
A special policy was pursued with respect to Jews, who were placed outside the law. In the second half of 1942, the Nazis destroyed the majority of Western Belorussian ghettos. The Brest ghetto with more than 30,000 inmates was liquidated on October 15 and the Pinsk ghetto with 15,000 inmates, on October 30. A total of 10,000 Jews perished in Slonim and 18,000, in Baranovichi. Jews from the neighboring towns of Voronovo, Skidel', Dyatlovo, and so forth were rounded up in Lida, where 6,700 people were tortured in the ghetto. All of them perished on the outskirts of the town of Kotorovo in Lida Rayon. In Smorgon' Rayon, together with the inhabitants, members of punitive squads burned the villages of Koroko, Leypuni, and Zhidovnya with a predominantly Jewish population. In Nemencheno, 700 Jews were locked in the school building. For two days they were starved and then were led to execution. In Molodechno, after the liquidation of the ghetto, the following poster was hung at the railroad station: There are no Jews here - all clear. The Jewish population of Volozhin, Rakov, Radoshkovichi, and other Jewish shtetls was destroyed completely . The liquidation of Belorussian Jews was part and parcel of the final solution of the Jewish question in Poland .
Resistance to the Nazis arose as early as the first weeks of the occupation of Belorussia. At first it was uncoordinated, but gradually gained in strength. The multi-ethnic character of the population was reflected in the composition of the participants. Polish, Belorussian, and Russian, as well as mixed Belorussian-Polish, centers of resistance were established in western regions. In every center there were Jews -- local inhabitants, Red Army men who had escaped German encirclement, and former party, Komsomol (Young Communist League), and Soviet officials. The political orientation of members of the resistance differed. Some Polish anti-fascist groups considered it possible to support Belorussian partisans. At the same time, Armia Krajowa [Home Army], or AK, preferred to act independently. Occupation authorities also recognized the rapprochement between Polish and Belorussian underground members. The report on the activity of Einsatzgruppe A during the period from October 16, 1941, to January 31, 1942, noted that Polish and Soviet underground organizations were combining their efforts .
The Polish underground organization led by brothers Jozef and Waclaw Szejko began to operate in November 1942. In the spring of 1943, they established communication with the Kirov Partisan Detachment and helped with the supply of weapons, demolition explosives, and food . In Pinsk Oblast, the Ordzhonikidze Detachment used intelligence data, weapons, ammunition, and medicines received from Polish groups in Logishchin, Ivanovo, Lyubeshov, and Pinsk . Antifascist groups led by Mieczyslaw Juchniewicz and Leon Onichimowski operated in Zhabchitsy Rayon. In Logishchin Rayon, teachers Aleksey Zhilevich and Jerzy Wachowski headed such a group. The group maintained contact with the Molotov Partisan Brigade.
Well-to-do peasants and Polish landowners sympathized with partisans in Western Belorussia and helped them. Representatives of the TsK KP(b)B [Central Committee of the Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of Belorussia] in Glubokoye and Miory rayons reported to the Central Headquarters of the Partisan Movement in Moscow on repeated offers of help with clothing, food supplies, and weapons on the part of the landowners. Landowners Bogdanowicz, Orpinski, Koziell-Poklewski, Przezdiecki, and others provided assistance to the partisans. Landowner Kawerski helped to distribute leaflets urging people not to let a single German leave the territory of Poland alive. In Rakov, Priest Ganusewicz maintained contact with the partisans. He gave them not only clothing, food supplies, and medicines, but also the necessary information. S. Kharitonchik, burgomaster of Kopyl' Rayon, who was appointed by the Germans, in his report of May 24, 1943 wrote that Polish and Jewish bandits (800 Poles and 230 Jews from Sverzhen') were active along the section of the former Polish border from Uzda to the Brest-Moscow highway. They had cavalry, wagon trains, and camps and maintained contact with partisans in Nesvizh, Stolbtsy, Kletsk, and Miory. The bandits distributed their loot to peasants and during roundups hid their weapons, split up, and went home. Then they again came out of hiding, armed themselves, and pursued policemen and employees of German institutions. The burgomaster concluded his report with the request for a thorough combing and for the protection of the inhabitants, who were subjected to nightly attacks.
At the same time, organizations subordinated to the Polish Government in Exile in London were active. The main detachments formed part of the Union of Armed Struggle. They set for themselves the task of restoring the Polish state within the pre-September 1, 1939 borders and followed the theory of two enemies (Germany and the USSR). At the end of June 1941, the Information and Propaganda Office of the Union of Armed Struggle reported: Thanks and gratitude to God, our Lord, for the fact that the hand of one of our enemies cuts the other and both of them - the winner and the vanquished - will bleed profusely and weaken. In February 1942, the Union of Armed Struggle was renamed Armia Krajowa. All the underground organizations, which were not subordinated to the Government in Exile and cooperated with the Soviet Union, were considered hostile.
The AK High Command followed the tactics of limited war. Until the middle of 1943, its slogan was to arm and organize itself and to bid its time. First of all, its aim was self-defense and sabotage, not the development of the partisan movement. The command of AK districts of Vilnius, Novogrudok, Bialystok, and Poles'ye recommended that their people hold posts in occupation institutions. The latter worked on the railroad, in post offices, forestry stations, local self-administration, and even in the police. Underground groups were active in Svir, Lida, and Novogrudok rayons. In the town of Sloboda, Myadel' Rayon, in the priest's home, the Gestapo found an entire arms depot, where rifles, submachine guns, boxes with cartridges, grenades, and a machine gun were hidden.
Dismissals, arrests, and shootings of Poles began in the summer of 1942. In the fall of 1942, in Slonim Rayon, more than 1,000 Poles were dismissed and in Slonim itself, 84 Poles were shot. In August 1942, 73 Poles were shot in Nesvizh Rayon. In the town of Vselyub, the Gestapo arrested seven soldiers from the Belorussian Police Battalion, who defected to Armia Krajowa. In 1943 the terror against the Polish population intensified. In July, about 2,000 people were exterminated in Bialystok and Lomzha Rayon, and about 500 people, in Avgustov Rayon. Arrests spread almost throughout all rayon centers. German authorities expelled even Polish landowners, replacing them with Belorussian collaborationists. The Belorussian Corps of Self-Defense, Belorussian People's Self-Assistance, the Union of Belorussian Youth, and some others stepped up their activities.
For helping Jews, the following priests from Braslaw, Brest, Grodno, Vileyka, Molodechno, and Pinsk were shot: Mieczyslaw Kubik, Mikhail Daneletskiy, Tadeusz Grzesiak, Wladyslaw Grobel'ny, Iosif Kuczynski, Fabian Odlanicki, Jan Urbanowicz, and others. Certain partisan formations took part in the rescue of Jews. In contrast to the central Soviet press, which kept silent about the genocide of Jews in the occupied territory, some Belorussian underground publications printed documentary eyewitness accounts.
The Jews themselves also put up stout resistance against the Nazis. The possibilities of organizing a struggle under ghetto conditions were very limited. Members of the underground acquired and forwarded weapons to ghettos and tried to be in constant combat readiness in the event of an unexpected action by the Nazis. It was no less difficult to enlist support in the ghettos themselves. Many hoped that the Judenrats, in combination with the inmates' loyal conduct and diligent work, would ensure their survival. The Nazis encouraged these illusions, because they needed a free labor force and did not want any obstacles during their actions. When the occupiers got on the track of the underground, ghettos were threatened with early liquidation. At first, the majority of the inmates were hostile toward those who wanted to fight. They tore off their leaflets, saying: These madmen will destroy us! On the other hand, there was no doubt that the insurgents would not stop the Nazis from killing Jews. It was also clear that only few people would be able to survive. In 1942-1943, uprisings, which often were spontaneous, broke out in a number of ghettos.
We will give only some known examples. Jews in the town of Kamen', Vitebsk Oblast, were warned that they would be shot on September 16, 1941. In the morning, all the Jews were rounded up at a low-lying area near the Russian cemetery. The police surrounded the place -- a machine gun stood on the mountain. Men were ordered to dig pits. Meyse Aksentsov shouted Run and then hit the guard with a shovel. It took the policemen some time to gather their wits about them. Nevertheless, everyone, except Aksentsov who escaped, died under the bullets. On that day, his wife and four children were killed . The Gorki ghetto in Mogilev Oblast was being liquidated on November 7, 1941. When Abram Al'tshuler, together with his family, was being led to the pit, he reached for his hidden hammer and hit the policeman on his head. The entire Al'tshuler family was buried alive in the ground. On that day, more than 2,000 Jews were killed . In the winter of 1942, Jews from the town of Kublichi, who were brought to the desolate Ushachi ghetto a week earlier, set fire to the ghetto at night, before the Aktion. On July 17, 1942, it became known that members of punitive squads shot Jews in Gorodishche. An underground organization in neighboring Nesvizh began preparations to fight back. Jews who worked in German shops had rifles and guns and they assembled a machine gun and built several bunkers. On the morning of July 20, large police forces blocked the Nesvizh ghetto and began combing it. At that moment, fire opened from the machine gun placed on the synagogue roof. The insurgents did not have enough weapons, but they fought bravely. Taking advantage of the bewildered members of punitive squads, the people fled. Not everyone was able to get to the forest, but two groups managed to elude their pursuers. One of them, headed by Shalom Cholawski, reached the Kopyl' Forest, where it established a Jewish partisan group. Another group led by Moshe Domasek joined Belorussian partisans in the Naliboki Forest.
On July 20, 1942, the Germans began the second stage of the liquidation of the Lyakhovichi ghetto, where 4,000 people had already been shot in October 1942. Jews set the ghetto on fire. Hundreds of people perished, but some managed to escape. A strong underground organization operated in Slonim. On July 29, 1942, staff manager Rittmaier shot Judenrat chairman Kvint, which marked the beginning of the pogrom. Several members of the underground responded with fire. Five Germans were killed and seven were wounded. One could run only toward the Shchara River, but submachine gunners were already there. The river was red from blood. For three more days, the Nazis searched for Jews, throwing grenades into their homes. When they began to bring Stolin Jews to the place of execution in the quarry and it became clear to everyone that the end was near, the inmates began to throw stones at the guards. The convoy opened fire. The Jews started running. Many perished, but some escaped.
On August 9, 1942, Jews revolted in Mir and on September 9, in Kamenets. Inmates in Glubokoye, Kobrin, Novogrudok, and other places offered armed resistance. In the town of Lakhva in September 1942, the Germans were preparing to liquidate 2,500 people. Pits had been dug in advance, but something unforeseen happened. Moysha Kolpanetskiy hid an axe under his clothes and killed an SS-man. This was a signal for an uprising. The streets of the ghetto turned into a battle arena. The forces were unequal. Some 1,900 people died, but about 600 prisoners managed to escape. Young Jewish people in Kletsk established a self-defense detachment. When punitive squads arrived there in the spring of 1943, Jews put up a fight in which several dozen policemen and Germans died. In March 1943, the inmates of the Braslaw ghetto put up resolute resistance, locking themselves in their homes. The homes were set on fire, but 11 people were able to get away. At the time of execution, Jews in Dokshitsy, Glubokoye, and Slutsk did not give up. According to researcher Al'bert Mayzel', there were about 140 episodes of Jewish resistance during Aktionen in the ghetto. By the summer of 1942, many groups of Jews who escaped from small towns appeared in forests. They merged into larger groups from Minsk, Brest, Grodno, Vilnius, and Bialystok. At first they wanted to organize national partisan detachments, in which, specifically, Jews would be fighting against the Germans. However, owing to various circumstances, they had to give up this idea.
Special NKVD groups and detachments, which were not mentioned at all in the reports of the Soviet Information Bureau, operated in the occupied territory of Belorussia. Quite a few Jews fought as part of these groups and detachments. In September 1943, a group under the command of Vladimir Litvinskiy (pseudonym Davydov) was parachuted into the Lipichany Forest in Bialystok Oblast. After landing, his group, Novatory, was reinforced with Soviet prisoners of war, Belorussian and Polish peasants, and Jews fleeing from ghettos. By July 1944, the detachment had 126 people, including 48 Jews. They committed acts of sabotage along the Volkovysk-Zheludok-Slonim-Lida-Zel'va-Baranovichi railroad and damaged or destroyed 50 steam locomotives, 119 railroad cars with manpower, platforms with combat equipment, 32 railroad cars with motor vehicles, 51 railroad cars with ammunition, dozens of railroad cars with food supplies, and 14 tanks with fuel. According to incomplete data, they killed 470 and wounded 680 German soldiers, officers, policemen, and gendarmes. Many Jews headed partisan detachments and brigades, in which representatives of various nationalities - Belorussians, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, and others - fought.
Semen Ganzenko, commander of the Ponomarenko Partisan Brigade; Lev (Leyba) Gil'chik, commander of the Zhukov Detachment of the 19th Molotov Brigade; Aleksandr Gorelik, commander of the Oktyabr'[October] Detachment of the Pervomayskaya Brigade; David Keymakh, commander of a special-purpose detachment; Zakhar Mukatsev, commander of the Rodzyalovichi Detachment of the 201st Grizodubova Brigade, and others.
Yekheskel' Atlas, detachment commander in Dyatlovo Rayon; Yakov Klimentenko, commander of the 39th V.N. Bozhenko Detachment; Georgiy Chernyavskiy, commissar of the Za Rodinu [For the Motherland] Brigade named after A.K.Flegontov; Grigoriy Reva, commissar of the Shchors Independent Detachment; Vladimir Klebanov, chief of staff of the Frunze Detachment of the Stalin Brigade; Grigoriy Olender, chief of the staff of the Kirov Detachment, and others.
Mikhail (Moshe) Belov, commander of the Za Sovetskuyu Belorussiyu [For Soviet Belorussia] Detachment of the Frunze Brigade; Iosif Lyanger, commander of the 3rd Detachment of the Lenin Brigade; Yevgeniy Miranovich (Finkel'shteyn), commander of the Voroshilov Detachment; Anton Rudakovskiy, commander of the 3rd Zhukov Detachment of the Brigade named after the TsK KP(b)B; Vladimir Saulevich, commander of the Kalinin Detachment of the Voroshilov Brigade; Eduard Smolenskiy, commander of the Voroshilov Detachment of the Frunze Brigade; Yakov Chernyak, commander of the 6th Detachment of the Kutuzov Brigade, and others.
Arkadiy Marchenko, commander of the 3rd Belorussian Brigade; Mikhail Zager, commander of the Kalinin Detachment; Viktor Katser, commander of the Za Rodinu Detachment of the Senno Brigade; Boris Klark, commander of the reconnaissance detachment of the Senno Brigade; Konstantin Kreyer, commander of the Za Sovetskuyu Belorussiyu Detachment of the Groza [Thunderstorm] Brigade; Grigoriy Levykin, commander of the Denis Detachment of the 1st Zaslonov Brigade; Dmitriy Levin, commander of the G.S. Kurmelev Detachment of the 1st Belorussian Brigade; Boris Bolotin, commissar of the 1st Shchors Detachment of the Bogushevsk Brigade; Yefim Gubler, commissar of the KIM [Communist Youth International] Detachment of the VLKSM [Komsomol] Partisan Brigade; Isaak Grigor'yev, commissar of the 1st Detachment of the 1st Vitebsk Brigade; David Koron, commissar of the 13th Gvardeyets [Guardsman] Detachment of the Danukalov Brigade, and so forth.
Viktor Shitman, commander of the Kirov Independent Detachment; Sheyel Yegutkin, commissar of the Mstitel' [Avenger] Brigade; Pinya Reyder, commissar of the 252th Independent Detachment and then of the 2nd Battalion of the Partisan Regiment of the 8th Rogachev Brigade; Girsh Erkin, commissar of the Bol'shevik Detachment of the Bol'shevik Brigade; Monya Shul'gin, chief of staff of the Vpered [Forward] Partisan Brigade; Sergey Gorelik, chief of staff of the 117th Detachment of the Zheleznyak Brigade, and others.
David Bobrov and Shlema Zandvays, commanders of the Kaganovich Detachment of the Sovetskaya Belorussiya Brigade; Yakov Rogozhin, commander of the Kaganovich Detachment of the Kuybyshev Brigade; Boris Khaymovich, commissar of the 1st Battalion of the 208th Stalin Independent Partisan Regiment; Nil Kramer, chief of staff of the Lazo Detachment of the Molotov Brigade; Shalom Fel'dman, chief of staff of the Kaganovich Detachment, and others.
Mark Filatorov, commander of the 25th Anniversary of the Komsomol Detachment of the 123rd Oktyabr' Brigade; Edit Chirlin, commander of the Krasny Oktyabr [Red October] Detachment of the 123rd Oktyabr' Brigade; Zusya Chernoglaz, commissar of the 37th Yel'sk Brigade; Il'ya Kantser, commissar of the Smert' Fashizmu [Death to Fascism] Detachment of the 123rd Oktyabr' Brigade named after the 25th Anniversary of the BSSR; Miron Mugerman, commissar of the 135th detachment of the 130th Petrikov Brigade; Zyama Tsymkovskiy, commissar of the Za Sovetskuyu Rodinu [For the Soviet Motherland] Detachment; Yankel' Erlakh, commissar of the Lel'chitsy Independent Detachment, and others.
Iosif Fogel', commander of the Shturmovaya [Assault] Brigade; Izrail' Lapidus, commander of the Kutuzov Detachment of the Voroshilov Brigade; Pyetr Grenader, commander of the 4th Detachment of the Kirov Brigade; Isaak Gonikman, commander of the 3rd Detachment of the Zheleznyak Brigade; Yakov Chernyakov, commander of the Dzerzhinskiy Detachment of the 200th Rokossovskiy Brigage; Yefim Likhter, commissar of the Starik Brigade; Moisey Prusak, commissar of the Shchors Brigade; Semen Barkan, commissar of the Molotov Detachment of the Kalinin Brigade; Boris Vertkin, commissar of the Kotovskiy Detachment of the Narodnyye Mstiteli [People's Avengers] Brigade named after Voronyanskiy; Ruvim Gol'dberg, commissar of the Gastello Detachment of the Dyadi Koli [Uncle Kolya] Brigade; Mikhail Gutkovskiy, commissar of the Kirov Detachment of the 37th Parkhomenko Brigade; Gerasim Kruglikov, commissar of the Dzerzhinskiy Detachment of the 95th Frunze Brigade; N.A. Kupriyanov (Kogan), commissar of the Frunze Detachment of the Voroshilov Brigade; Mikhail Levitan, commissar of the Shchors Detachment of the 37th Parkhomenko Brigade; Isaak Mil'tshteyn, commissar of the 4th Detachment of the N.M. Nikitin Brigade; Engels Pavlovich, commissar of the Zaslonov Detachment of the 121st Bragin Brigade; Aron Khinich, commissar of the Bondartsov Detachment and of the Khorev Detachment of the 101st Aleksandr Nevskiy Brigade, and others.
Dmitriy Shreyn, commander of the 210th Independent Detachment of the 1st Osipovichi Brigade; David Fedotov, commander of the 425th Regiment of the Mogilev Brigade; Isaak Gershovich, commissar of the 277th Partisan Regiment of the Klichev Military Task Group; Ruvim Goland, commissar of the 210th Stalin Independent Detachment of the Osipovichi Brigade; Samuil El'kanovich, commissar of the 5th Chekist Independent Detachment; Nikolay Levin, commissar of the 25th Independent Detachment of the Chekist Brigade; Il'ya Rutman, chief of staff of the 5th Klichev Brigade; Giley Tsivin, chief of staff of the 61th Brigade, and others.
In 1943-1944 Jews fought in most of Belorussia's partisans formations. In Baranovichi Oblast alone, out of 695 fighters and commanders of the Lenin Brigade, 202 were Jews; in the Vpered Brigade, 579 and 106 respectively; in the Chkalov Brigade, 1,140 and 239 respectively. Altogether, 8,493 partisans fought in 15 brigades in Baranovichi Oblast, Belorussians comprising 46.8 percent, Jews, 12.4 percent, and Poles, 1.3 percent. By the time the republic was liberated in July 1944, there were 4,852 partisans in the Lida partisan zone (Belorussians comprising 48.9 percent, Jews, 28 percent, and Poles, 0.5 percent). An analysis of the sources of reinforcement of partisan formations is also significant. Sixty seven people were sent from behind the front lines; 225 came out of the encirclement; 505 escaped from captivity; 313 deserted police formations and crossed over to the partisans; 2,404 came from the local population; 124 from the forest and from private low-paying jobs; and 1,196 from ghettos.
The negligible number of Poles in Belorussia's partisan formations was indicative of the Polish population' distrust of the Soviet regime and objection to its restoration after the liberation from German occupation. Poles preferred to fight in national detachments - Peasants' Battalions [Bataliony Chlopskie], AK detachments, and others -- providing support to Belorussians from time to time. Both Polish (the London Government in Exile] and Soviet authorities considered Western Belorussia to be part of their legal territory. However, they were forced to abide by the interstate agreements signed in July and August 1941. In July 1942-1944 alone, AK detachments in the Novogrudok District engaged in 102 battles against the Nazis. AK insurgents smashed German garrisons in Radun', Benyakoni, and Yuratishki. In June 1943 they took the settlement of Ivenets by storm. At their request, Belorussian partisan detachments -- Kuznetsov, Kirov, and Za Sovetskuyu Rodinu -- blocked the Volozhin-Rakov-Ivenets road, impeding German reinforcement. In July and August 1943, Belorussian partisans and Polish insurgents contained the onslaught of 60,000 members of punitive squads during the blockade of the Naliboki Forest, fighting their way out of the encirclement. In the course of the blockade in Ivenets Rayon, the Nazis burned 38 villages, killed 462 civilians, and transported more than 4,000 people to Germany.
The shift in relations between Polish insurgents and Belorussian partisans occurred after the breakdown in diplomatic relations between the USSR and the Polish Government in Exile on April 25, 1943. This was brought about by the approach of the Red Army to Poland's pre-September 1, 1939 borders and the refusal to guarantee its integrity after the expulsion of the Nazis. The tragedy in Katyn was the pretext. After this breakdown, the USSR was declared the enemy of Poland. Polish emissaries from London arrived in the western regions of Belorussia and removed from the leadership of AK detachments the commanders who were in agreement with Belorussian partisans.
On May 14, 1943, in Brest Oblast, partisans intercepted a directive from the center of the Grenadiers Party, stating that Germans and Belorussians were the enemies of Poles. Poles were ordered to prepare for an armed rebellion, collect weapons, and discredit Belorussians before the Germans. The directive signed by Captain Dubinski, one of the leaders of the Poles'ye AK District, concludes with the following statement: Blend with the partisans, win their trust, and, if an opportunity arises, destroy them.
Polish insurgents obstructed the partisans' movement, blocked the procurement of food supplies, and organized ambushes. On July 7, 1943, in the village of Machul'noye, Volkovysk Rayon, Ivan Klimchenya, secretary of the Bryansk Underground Rayon Committee of the Belorussian Komsomol(RK LKSMB), was killed by a shot from an ambush. In Shchuchin Rayon, the legionnaires of Krysia (Jan Borysewicz) and Ragner (Czeslaw Zajaczkiewicz), who commanded 3,000 fighters, organized ambushes on partisans. They searched for forest camps of partisans, killed their couriers, and burned farmsteads and villages in the partisan zone. In Vilnius Oblast in 1943, in clashes with Armia Krajowa, partisans lost 150 people - they were killed or wounded - and 100 were missing in action. Partisans of the Shchors Brigade had frequent clashes with Polish detachments. They reported that in Zaslavl' and Dzerzhinsk (Koydanovo) rayons, AK detachments destroyed 11 Belorussian villages, killing 200 civilians, including old men, women, and children. About 1,200 people were killed in the Lida District. Spies were sent to the brigade, inflicting great damage.
Anti-Semitism was widespread among the fighters of Armia Krajowa and of the grouping National Armed Forces (Narodowy Sily Zbrojne -- NSZ). Jews were regarded as a pro-Soviet element - they were persecuted and killed. In the spring and summer of 1943, Jews were subjected to all this in Lipichany, Naliboki, Rudensk, Naroch', and Bryansk forests. Reports by the Delegatura (General Sikorski's representatives in the occupied territory of Poland), which were sent to London, referred to Jews as enemies of Polish national interests and robbers. The report of December 20, 1942 noted that bands of Jews, acting in parallel with Belorussian partisans, attacked peasant farms, robbed, raped, and killed civilian residents, and terrorized the population, distinguishing themselves by special cruelty.
Jewish bandits (bandyci Zydowscy) were often mentioned in AK and NSZ reports on the situation in various localities and, especially, in Eastern Poland (western regions of Belorussia). They contained a description of the situation in the ghettos and the attitude of Jews toward the Polish-Soviet conflict. According to the assessments in these reports, 90 percent of the ghetto inmates were pro-Bolshevik. In reality, such assessments were exaggerations and served as a justification to fight Soviet partisans. In Ivenets Rayon in 1943, the 250-strong detachment of Zdzislaw Nurkiewicz (pseudonym Noc [Night]), Podchorazy [Cadet Officer] of the 27th Ulan Regiment of the Stolbtsy AK Formation, terrorized civilian residents and attacked partisans. I.G. Ivanov, commander of the Frunze Partisan Detachment, P.N. Guba, chief of a special department, several fighters and Commissar P.P. Danilin of the Furmanov Detachment, three partisans of the Zhukov Brigade, and others were killed.
Another tragedy occurred in November 1943. This time, 10 Jews from Shalom Zorin's detachment were the victims of the conflict. On the evening of November 18, they were stocking up food supplies for partisans in the village of Sovkovshchizna, Ivenets Rayon. One of the peasants complained to Nurkiewicz that the Jews were looting. The legionnaires surrounded Zorin's men and opened fire, after which they took away six horses and four partisan carts. They disarmed those who tried to get back the property and beat them brutally: They broke Khaim Sagal'chik's skull and Yefim Raskin's hand. The atrocities continued throughout the night. In the morning, they took the captives to the forest and began to execute them. Luckily, Abram Teyf and Lev Chernyak survived and were able to get to the camp of the 106th Detachment. On December 1, 1943, Belorussian partisans disarmed the Nurkiewicz Detachment.
The situation in Western Belorussia became the subject of discussion at the TsK KP(b)B Plenum on June 22, 1948. A letter was sent to underground formations, stating that the existence in Belorussia of various organizations led by Polish bourgeois-nationalist centers must be viewed as an illegal intervention in the interests of the Soviet state. Detachments and groups established by Polish reactionary circles were to be disarmed. In August 1943, partisans of the Voroshilov Brigade disarmed the AK detachment of Podchorazy Antoni Burzynski (pseudonym Kmicic), and partisans of the Frunze Brigade, the detachment of Kacper Milaszewski. In December 1943, in the Volma-Rakov region of Baranovichi Oblast, 120 Polish legionnaires, who refused to disarm, were beaten severely and dispersed, and so forth. However, Nurkiewicz himself managed to avoid arrest.
Partisans borrowed the fighting methods of their enemy, at times displaying cruelty toward the civilian population that helped Armia Krajowa. According to the testimony of Mark Tayts, former partisan of the Chkalov Brigade, in 1943 a seemingly elusive detachment of legionnaires operated in the Naliboki Forest. During night inspections of farmsteads, it turned out that men were frequently absent. Brigade commander Frol Zaytsev announced that, if during repeated inspection Polish men were not with their families, the partisans would consider this an attempt at resistance. The threat did not help and farmsteads near the villages of Nikolayevo and Malaya and Bol'shaya Chapun' in Ivenets Rayon were burned down. On September 10, 1943, partisans took revenge on peasants in the village of Stavishchi in Osipovichi Rayon. The latter had informed on fighters Shteyn, Trifonov, and Vasilenko, which led to their exposure and death. They burned the village of Stavishchi to the ground and executed the residents -- young and old alike -- who did not manage to flee to the forest. At the Derevtsy station, they captured two policemen and subjected them to agonizing torture.
The bitterness between Polish insurgents and Belorussian partisans reached such heights that the latter began to use special tactics when admitting recruits. In the Dzerzhinskiy Brigade, they forced newcomers, who asked to be accepted into the partisan brigade, to dig graves for themselves and then fired shots over their heads. The brigade's handwritten history stated that those who could bravely look death in the eyes, did not lose their courage, and preferred to accept death at the hands of their comrades rather than to suffer in disgraceful slavery were granted life and admitted into the fraternal family of partisans.
By the beginning of 1944, the Red Army had approached Poland's borders. The Polish Government in Exile concluded that the time came for the 300,000-strong Armia Krajowa, which stood at ready, to start an uprising. It was assumed that Western allies, not Soviet troops, would liberate Poland. On January 4, 1944, the Red Army crossed the Polish border near Sarny and on January 11 TASS came out with the statement that the fate of Belorussian and Ukrainian land had been decided by the 1939 plebiscite. At the same time, it was pointed out that, after the war, territories in the north and the west, which Germany had seized by force from Poland at one time, would be returned to it and that the new Soviet-Polish border would pass along the Curzon Line.
The Polish Government in London did not agree with this and in February 1944 approved the Burza (Tempest) plan for the expulsion of German troops from Poland before the approach of the Red Army. At the same time, the struggle against the partisans intensified. On March 1, 1944, in London, General Tadeusz Komarovski, chief commander of Armia Krajowa, reported that defense against the hostile Soviet partisan movement and Jewish communist bands was put in the forefront. From January through July 1944, the scale of the fratricidal war increased manifold. Military, action, and situation reports and memorandums of partisan detachments and brigades were replete with examples of the struggle. Let us take one of them: Report on the fighting and sabotage work of partisan formations in the Lida zone in February-March 1944.
The entry recorded on February 10, 1944, described the clash between the partisans of the Kirov Brigade and Polish legionnaires in Yuratishki Rayon. On February 12, four partisan detachments of this brigade engaged in battles with AK detachments in Lida Rayon. On February 18, nine demolition partisans of the Sibiryak Detachment, who were returning to their base from a combat mission at the Lida-Molodechno railroad, fell into an ambush of the Poles. In response, on February 24, Bol'shevik, Sibiryak, Roshcha, Aleksandr Nevskiy, and Chkalov detachments carried out an operation against the AK formation in Molodechno Rayon. In March 1944, partisans from the Baltiyets Detachment, who were stocking up on food supplies, and fighters from the Oktyabr' Detachment were subjected to an attack by Armia Krajowa. As a result, Tomashevskiy, the detachment chief of staff, was killed.
The documents of partisans and their field correspondence, combat orders, leaflets and appeals to the population were replete with special terminology. They referred to Armia Krajowa as a band, White Poles, national fascists, Polish-Hitlerite detachments, belated followers of General Sikorski, and so forth. This was a kind of legacy of the hostile relations between the USSR and Poland in the 1920s and 1930s. The mentioned terminology was actively used during the period of unfounded mass repressions, whose victims included many Poles. The Polish Government in Exile had every reason not to trust the Soviet Union and to fear its entry into Poland. It was not only a question of territorial losses, but also of a change in Poland's entire sociopolitical system. Stalin's treachery was fully manifested in the fall of 1939 when, after Soviet expansion, repressions, arrests, and deportations of the civilian population were carried out on a mass scale. However, while resisting Soviet pressure, the AK High Command and its local representatives went to extremes: They cooperated with the Nazis. The first contacts began to be established in the summer and fall of 1943, after the breakdown of relations with the USSR. In December 1943 and February 1944, Captain Adolf Pilch (pseudonym Gora), commander of one of the AK detachments, met with SD [Security Service] and Wehrmacht officers in Stolbtsy, requesting urgent assistance. He received 18,000 units of ammunition, food, and uniforms. During the eight months of its existence (September 1943-August 1944), the Gora Detachment did not engage in a single battle with the Germans, whereas it waged 32 battles against Belorussian partisans. Andziej Kucner (Maly) [Small]) followed his example until he was transferred to Ashmyany Rayon by order of the AK District Headquarters. The Nazis' attitude toward cooperation with Akovtsy [AK members] can be judged from German trophy documents. In February 1944, SS Obersturmbanfuhrer Strauch reported: Cooperation with White Polish bandits is continuing. The 300-strong detachment in Rakov and Ivenets proved to be very useful. Negotiations with Ragner's (Stefan Zajaczkiewicz) 1,000-strong band have been concluded. Ragner's band is suppressing the territory between the Neman and the Volkovysk-Molodechno Railroad and between Mosty and Iv'ye. Contacts with other Polish bands have been established.
First Lieutenant Jozef Swida (Vileyka Oblast), commander of the Nadneman AK Formation in the Lida District, also cooperated with the occupiers. In the summer of 1944, in Shchuchin Rayon, Polish legionnaires gained control of the small towns of Zheludok and Vasilishki, where they replaced German garrisons. For the purpose of fighting partisans, they were given four trucks and 300,000 cartridges. Some sub-units of Armia Krajowa displayed great cruelty toward the civilian population suspected of sympathizing with the partisans. The legionnaires burned down their homes, drove away their livestock, and robbed and killed the families of partisans. In January 1944, they shot the wife and child of partisan N. Filipovich, killed six members of D. Velichko's family in Ivenets Rayon, and burned their remains. In March 1944, AK members burned 28 farmsteads and the village of Bol'shiye Berezovtsy in Vasilishki Rayon, executing 30 peasants. In Zaslavl' and Dzherzhinsk (Koydanovo) rayons, they set fire to 11 Belorussian villages and killed 200 civilians. Along with Belorussian peasants who assisted partisans, AK legionnaires persecuted Jews. In the winter of 1943/1944, partisans of Aleksandr Matrosov and Kotovskiy detachments rescued more than 70 Jews (women and children) - members of partisan families - from AK members. They took them across the Neman and hid them in the partisan zone of Shchuchin Rayon.
Armia Krajowa undermined trust in it to such an extent that, when in the summer of 1944, the legionnaires began asking for a ceasefire and announced their readiness to turn their weapons against the Germans, the partisans considered this to be a military ruse. Nevertheless, the offers became more and more persistent. On June 27, the commander of the Iskra [Spark] Partisan Detachment in Baranovichi Oblast reported to the command of his brigade that he received an appeal from Armia Krajowa in Novogrudok, stating that Poles always wanted to be friends with the great Slavic nation related to them by blood and that the shed blood points to us the way to mutual understanding. In Lida Rayon, the offer of a military alliance was transmitted to the command of the Kirov Brigade and in Bialystok Oblast, to secretary of the underground oblast party committee Samutin. Confirmation of the intentions of the Polish side to abandon confrontation and to move toward interaction with Belorussian partisans was noted in the directives of the Government in Exile in London. The telegram of July 4, 1944 pointed out that, as the front drew nearer, AK commanders were obligated to offer military cooperation to the Soviet side. However, the initiative was lost. On July 21, 1944, the Polish National Liberation Committee (Polski Komitet Wyzwolenia Narodowego - PKWN) was formed in Moscow. In January 1945, General Leopold Okulicki (Bear), commander of Armia Krajowa, announced the dissolution of Armia Krajowa and on August 16, a treaty on the Soviet-Polish state border established along the Curzon Line was signed in Moscow.
By November 1945, the BSSR Government and the PKWN reached an agreement on the repatriation of the Polish and Jewish population to Poland as former Polish citizens. For many, this was the only possibility of legally leaving the territory of the Soviet Union. On December 1, 1945, in the Belorussian SSR, a total of 390,939 Poles and 3,980 Jews expressed their desire to leave and registered for departure. Many Jews, who came to Poland, decided to go to Palestine, where they participated in the establishment of the State of Israel.
Thus, in 1941-1944, the anti-fascist resistance in Belorussia was of a conflicting nature. The contribution of Belorussians and Poles to the fight against German occupation largely depended on their political aims. Other participants in the resistance did not always display a friendly attitude toward Jews, who became victims of an internecine struggle. Many Jews hid their nationality, continuing to fight as part of Polish and Belorussian detachments. The policy of latent state anti-Semitism, which for a long time was pursued in Poland and Belorussia, and the denial of the Holocaust hampered the scientific research of this issue.
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