A Russian course by Alexander Lipson

By Alexander Lipson

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Stalin’s broadcast on 3 July 1941 set the tone for a national struggle by including the ethnic groups that were under threat from fascist aggression. E ACTS OF SABOTAGE Mine warfare was an obviously important partisan tactic as traffic interdiction underpinned many of their operations, particularly after the order of 5 September 1942. During the summer of 1943 various partisan formations participated in Operation Rail War designed to interrupt the German supply chain across the entire Eastern Front but specifically Heeresgruppe Mitte.

Having discussed the matter with Medvedev, Chorny (himself a Jew) recalled Medvedev saying, ‘We can’t feed them all. ’ Chorny was tasked with leading them to the right track; however, the group broke up within days preferring to return to their previous hideouts. A small number of younger Jews remained with the ‘Winners’ as combatants. Interestingly one of Kovpak’s men commented that once they were given their first mission by Moscow he anticipated ‘the first few days to be filled with raids, fights and mass heroism’.

Indeed fear of discovery before the group coalesced into a fighting unit provoked problems. This came to a head when experimenting with mines. Some of the group grumbled that the sound of the explosions would attract the attention of the Germans. Therefore Kovpak assembled the men and pointed out that ‘if anyone came to the forest, hoping to sit quietly [or] to collect mushrooms and nuts it is better they go’. No reference was made to anyone leaving. In part this wait and see mentality was due to the fact that many ‘fair weather’ partisans anticipated the speedy return of the Red Army and had joined up simply to gain post-war kudos with the Soviet regime.

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