Some Jews who managed to escape from ghettos
and camps formed their own fighting units. These fighters, or partisans, were
concentrated in densely wooded areas. A large
group of partisans in occupied Soviet territory
hid in a forest near the Lithuanian capital of
Vilna. They were able
to derail hundreds of trains and kill over 3,000
Life as a partisan in the forest was difficult. People had to move from place
to place to avoid discovery, raid farmers' food supplies to eat, and try
to survive the winter in flimsy shelters built from logs and branches.
In some places, partisans received assistance
from local villagers, but more often they could not count on help, partly
because of widespread antisemitism, partly because of people's
fears of being severely punished for helping. The partisans lived in constant
danger of local informers revealing their whereabouts to the Germans.
Many Jews participated in the
partisan units formed in France and Italy to help
regular Allied forces defeat German forces. They
forged documents and identity cards, printed
anti-Nazi leaflets, and assassinated
Twenty-three-year-old Hannah Senesh, a Hungarian Jew who emigrated to Palestine in 1939, was one of the thirty-two
Palestinian parachutists the British dropped
behind German lines to organize resistance and rescue efforts. Before
crossing the border in Hungary on June 7, 1944, to warn Hungarian Jews
about the extermination camps, Senesh, a poet, handed a poem to one of
her companions. It ended with these lines: "Blessed is the heart with
strength to stop its beating for honor's sake. Blessed is the match consumed
in kindling flame." Senesh was captured the next day and executed as a
traitor to Hungary.
For more information, see "Jewish Resistance" and "Jewish Parachutists from Palestine"in the Holocaust Encyclopedia.