Polish resistance turns against the ‘German’ occupiers

A group of suspected Partisans are led off by German troops in 1942.

A group of suspected Partisans are led off by German troops in 1942.

Frank Blaichman led a Jewish Partisan resistance group in the forests of eastern Poland. It had started as an unarmed refuge for groups of Jews who were hiding from the Nazi persecution. As time went on they gathered the arms and expertise from other Partisan groups, including the Polish AL, first to defend themselves and then to mount their own attacks on the Germans.

By the end of 1943 they were in contact with Russian army specialists who were sent to help the Partisan forces. As the Soviet army approached the Polish border, control of the region was gradually passing to the ever more confident Partisans. When they learnt that around seventy German troops were occupying the village of Huhnin in the Parczew Forest, it was decided to attack them on the 31st December 1943:

After we had identified the houses, Kolka and the various high commanders of the AL drew up plans to organize a group of around fifty men under the command of Russian and AL officers, myself and Sever included. We were to disarm but not kill the German soldiers if possible, to avoid Nazi reprisals against the villagers.

We were divided into four groups; each group was assigned to one of the four houses. The firing of a white flare was to be the signal for the attack. We hoped to take them all by surprise to avoid casualties. However, as we approached the village, a guard saw us and opened fire with a machine gun. At the same moment that we returned fire, the signal flare was sent up, and seeing the signal, each group set off toward its designated house. The German guard dropped his machine gun and ran off.

Sever and I were in the group led by Kolka. As soon as we had taken up defensive positions around “our” house, he ordered the Germans to come out with their hands up. There was no reply. So Kolka told them that, if they didn’t come out, we would burn them out, and we started to collect bundles of straw from the barn to place around the house. Kolka then tossed a hand grenade over the roof to scare them.

The sound of the explosion, together with the sight of the straw being brought up, did the trick. The soldiers opened the windows and jumped out of the house and raised their hands. They had left their weapons behind. Other units employed the same tactics at the other houses. The whole operation took about fifteen minutes and yielded a large arsenal of weapons: machine guns, submachine guns, pistols, hand grenades — all Russian—made. Only one of us was injured, but the soldier who shot him was killed instantly by one of our men.

We were in for a surprise: these German soldiers weren’t German. They had Asian features and black, silky hair. They were Russian—speaking Muslims, former Red Army soldiers who, after being captured on the Russian front, had volunteered to fight with the Germans rather than remain in POW camps. When we searched them, We found maps of our area and evidence that, the day before, they had carried out a raid on partisans not far from where we were.

Our Russian commanders, coming face to face with men who had switched sides and joined up with the Nazis, demanded that they be killed on the spot. So the Russians and the AL fighters marched them out of the village and into, a wooded area and executed all the soldiers except their officers. The Russians wanted to interrogate them before killing them.

Shortly after midnight, we headed for the area where the Muslim soldiers and their German officers had carried out their raid the day before, thinking that it would be a safe place to make camp. Around 9:00 a.m., we felt the ground trembling and, looking through binoculars, saw German tanks surrounding and attacking the village of Huhnin. There wasn’t anyone to shoot at. We had warned the villagers to leave.

The Russians marched the six Muslim officers off into the woods and executed them, using silencers.

See Frank Blaichman: Rather Die Fighting: A Memoir of World War II

From the very earliest days of their invasion of Poland, and then Russia, the Germans had adopted the most ruthless methods of dealing with anyone suspected of aiding the resistance.

From the very earliest days of their invasion of Poland, and then Russia, the Germans had adopted the most ruthless methods of dealing with anyone suspected of aiding resistance groups.

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