Defiance: The Bielski Partisans

By Nechama Tec | Go to book overview
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9
The "Big Hunt"

When the Bielski otriad reached the Nalibocka forest in summer 1943, the Russian partisan movement had already granted it some legitimacy. Tuvia and his people had come to a place more fully controlled by the Soviets. Here many guerilla detachments had already established their bases, including the headquarters of General Platon, head of the Russian partisans for the Baranowicze region. 1

At that time the Soviet partisan movement had also adopted a more liberal recruitment policy. From the Jewish perspective this was a mixed blessing. As an open invitation to all able-bodied men this policy was a most welcome development. On the other hand, because this invitation included Nazi supporters, it led to stronger anti-Semitism.

From that point anti-Semitism among Russian partisans could be traced to two immediate sources: the acceptance of men with a pro-Nazi past, and a reaction to the stepped up German anti-partisan raids. Inevitably, such attacks led to hardships and losses. Relying on an old tradition, instead of blaming the enemy, the partisans blamed Jews for the problems created by these attacks. 2

Jews then were caught between these anti-Semitic partisan practices and the official Soviet policy of acceptance that gave them a right to exist. Not surprisingly, they emphasized and relied on the official policy. And as this policy became more firmly established, despite some flareups, it improved the conditions of the Jews in the forest. 3

All along Tuvia was sensitive to official and unofficial undercurrents and tried to use them to his and his people's advantage. In his contacts with

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