The threat to Moscow now seemed desperate. Many Soviet citizens were mobilised to build the city’s defences. Many volunteered for more dangerous duties. Eighteen year old Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was still in college in Moscow when she volunteered to join a guerrilla group that would operate behind enemy lines.
The Partisan unit that she was operating with was split into small groups with orders to burn down the villages where the German troops were sheltering. An attempt by Zoya’s group to burn down the village of Petrisheva on the 27th November failed when their leader was captured and killed. Zoya returned alone the following night but was found and betrayed by one of the locals. She was then tortured by the Germans attempting to discover her comrades. According to one report she was tortured all night so badly that a German officer in the next room was unable bear the sound of it.
Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya remained defiant to the end. She only gave her name as Tanya and named no-one else. The villagers who were forced to watch her execution on the 29th were to witness her remarkable final declaration:
You hang me now but I am not alone. There are 200 million of us. You won’t hang everybody. I shall be avenged. Soldiers! Surrender before it is too late. Victory will be ours.
Their account of what happened did not reach the Soviet press until January 1942. She was declared a Hero of the Soviet Union in February, her story making her one of the legends of the Russian resistance. It was a story that was re-inforced when these German pictures were subsequently captured.