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By mid-1942 the Soviet partisan movement had become a sizeable force, well over 100,000 strong. Referred to by Stalin as “a second front in the enemy’s rear,” the largely civilian movement grew, in part, as increasing numbers of displaced Red Army soldiers were able to evade German capture and join.  Many had been cut off from their units during German encirclements; others had defected and, after the Soviet victories at Stalingard and Kursk, decided to realign with the winning side.  Local civilians fleeing Nazi persecution continued to join, seeking protection and avenging their losses.  Among them were between 20,000–30,000 Jews who had escaped from Nazi ghettos and camps, as well as Jewish soldiers who avoided capture or escaped. Most joined non-Jewish partisans but some all-Jewish groups formed, where fighting operations were conducted and family members protected. Recognizing the partisan potential behind enemy lines, Moscow began to provide proper coordination, equipment and supplies.  Mostly located in Belorussia, the partisans were able to conceal themselves in the rough, forested terrain, concentrating on the systematic demolition of German supply lines and the elimination of targeted Germans and collaborators. In August 1942 Hitler delegated partisan extermination to the SS; their operations were marked by their startling brutality, making no distinction between partisan operatives and civilians.


VETERAN TESTIMONY

MARIYA GILMOVSKAYA

Life in the partisan unit, combat missions and returning to camp with food provisions.
For women, a difficult life in the partisan units.
The threat of execution within a partisan unit.