<b>Wersja Polska</b>

Tuvia Bielski "partisans"

Debunking WWII mythology with facts

Krzysztof Janiewicz


One of the earliest and most heinous episodes was the "pacification" of Naliboki, county of Stołpce, Nowogródek province, a village located in the middle of Naliboki Forest (Puszcza Nalibocka); currently a part of Belorussia.

The Polish and Belorussian villagers had formed a self-defense groups to fend off soviet and marauders that robbed them of the food and possessions. The Holocaust memoirs branded those who attempted to protect their property as anti-semites and Nazi collaborators.

Yet, they simply couldn't see any reason for supporting the lavish lifestyle in the forest with the fruits of their labor; certainly not at the price of starving themselves and their families.

Tuvia Bielski 'harem'

Bielski's "harem"; observe men wearing soviet officer's uniforms and boots.

Józef Marchwiński, a Polish communist, married to woman, for a while acted as Bielski's deputy, described the life of plenty and leisure led by Bielski's entourage and his "harem" of well dressed women, all whom the poor jews branded as the "tsar's palace". Another communist wrote that Bielski had been eager to accept into the camp people who had had gold and other valuables, but less likely to take in the poor.

The dire condition of the people in the camps of Bielski and Zorin painted by some jews are not quite true. In one of his reports, Bielski boasted that his unit had accumulated large quantities of provisions: 200 tonnes of potatoes, three tonnes of cabbage, five tonnes of beets, five tonnes of grain, three tonnes of meat and a tonne of sausages. (Boradyn, "Armia Krajowa na Nowogródczyńnie i Wileńszczyźnie [tr. Home Army in Nowogrodek and Vilnius regions] (1941-1945) p. 80)

In his memoir, a leading member of the Zorin's group presented a similar picture. Once a week, they even sent food surplus to Moscow by a plane, which landed in a field inside the forest. (Wertheim, "Żydowska partyzantka na Białorusi" [tr. partisans in Belorussia], Zeszyty Historyczne no. 86, 1988).

The food surplus sent to Moscow must have been taken from the impoverished Polish and Belorussian peasants, as Jews had no fields of their own to tend in the forest.

In soviet eyes, the main "crime" of the Naliboki villagers was that when in the spring of 1943 the commanders of the soviet partisans stationed in Naliboki Forest tried to subordinate the village's self-defense unit, the Poles refused.

The joint soviet-jewish assault on Naliboki occurred in small hours of May 8, 1943. One hundred and twenty eight (128) innocent Polish civilians, including women and children, were butchered in a heinous assault that lasted almost three hours. This surprise attack on Naliboki was carried out by the Stalin Brigade, under the command of Major Rafail Vasilevich, with the participation of the Bielski's and Zorin's detachments, who reported to him at that time.

The factions who did most of the pillaging and murdering were the Bielski's "Jeruzalem" and Zorin's "Pobeda" units. Eyewitnesses confirmed later that the majority of the 128 people killed died at their hands. Nearly all of them were killed not in the skirmish, but in cold blood executions. Some members of the self defense group, surprised by the attack, fought back and killed a few of the attackers, but seeing their overwhelming numbers and better armaments they withdrew to the forest.

This was not the end of the Naliboki village misery. Four months later, in August 1943, as part of a massive anti-partisan operation known as "Operation Herman", some 60 000 German troops arrived and with the assistance of Lithuanian auxiliary forces, attached to the SS and Byelorussian police, rounded up the civilian population of dozens of villages in the area of the Naliboki Forest suspected of supporting the partisans. Some 20 000 villagers were deported to the Reich as the slave labor, many were killed, while their houses were burned. The village of Naliboki was consumed by fire.

In 'From Victims to Victors' (p. 125), Silverman writes:

After a few weeks of fighting, the blockade suddenly ended. The German army units had been transferred to Stalingrad. Before they left, they burned all the villages in and close to the forest. The farmers in each place were told to assemble for a meeting and while they were concentrated in one building the Germans set it on fire. Men, women and children in village after village, were burned alive. The Germans wanted to make sure that no one could, or would help the partisans and the Jews again. They tried to make sure that we were deprived of food and supplies.

It would appear that the poor peasants of Naliboki couldn't win. First, the soviet-jewish partisans murdered and robbed them, and then the Germans burned their village for supporting the same partisans. They were between a rock and hard place indeed.

The Polish Institute of National Memory (The Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation in Łódź) is currently conducting an investigation into "heroic" deeds of Tuvia Bielski, Sholem Zorin and their partisans in Naliboki. This investigation was opened on March 20, 2001. Naturally, Israel, where most of this war criminals live, is not cooperating.

According to their report, issued on March 1, 2002, 24 witnesses have been questioned so far, most of them former inhabitants of Naliboki or nearby settlements who had been present there during the attack.

Their detailed testimonies about the course of events under investigation mention the names of some of the perpetrators, several of whom have been identified as former residents of Naliboki. The witnesses also mentioned the names of soviet partisans.

The Naliboki atrocity was not an out of character event marking the soviet-jewish partisan units.

Similar atrocity, being also investigated by Institute of National Memory, was committed in the village of Koniuchy, township of Bienakonie, county of Lida, Nowogrodek province, at the edge of the Rudniki Forest, where numerous Soviet partisan groups had their bases. Members of these groups frequently carried out raids against the nearby villages and settlements including Koniuchy.

The Rudniki Forest partisans were under the command of the Central Staff of the Partisan Movement in Moscow. The massacre at Koniuchy was committed by a group of around 100-120 partisans from various units, including partisan unit of about 50 people strong.

The partisans in the Rudniki Forest, who had subordinated themselves to the Soviet partisan command, consisted of four divisions: "Death to Fascism" led by Jacob (Yaakov) Prenner; "Struggle" led by Avrasha Rasel; "To Victory" led by Shmuel Kaplinsky; and "Avenger" led by Abba Kovner.

There were fifty partisans in each division, and the four divisions together formed the so-called Brigade, of which Abba Kovner was the commander.
(Rich Cohen, "The Avengers" New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000).

Like in Naliboki and many other places in Poland, the purpose of those raids was to rob the local population of their property, mostly clothing, footwear, cattle and stores of flour. In the course of raids, violence was commonly used against the rightful owners. Again like in Naliboki, villagers driven to desperation formed a self-defense group to guard the village in order to prevent further robberies. The only "crime" committed by the inhabitants of Koniuchy was the fact that they had had enough of the daily, nightly robberies and assaults, and they wanted to organize a self-defense. The Bolsheviks from Rudniki Forest decided to annihilate the village in order to terrorize into submission the inhabitants of other settlements.

For this reason, on the night of 28/29 January 1944, a group of Soviet partisans from the Rudniki Forest surrounded the village. In the early morning, they used incendiary bullets to set the buildings on fire. The escaping inhabitants - men, women and children, were shot down. Most of the village was destroyed.

In this case 17 witnesses were questioned. This group included former members of the Home Army units stationed in the Rudniki Forest and the relatives of the victims.

Some witnesses supplied the names or pseudonyms of Soviet partisans, locations of their units and their numerical strengths. They also confirmed that the largest group consisted of partisans. These partisan units were commonly called "Wisincza", from their base location between this village and the Kiernowo Lake.

It appears from the depositions that some of the victims, especially the old and infirm, were burned to death in their homes. Those who tried to escape were shot at.

According to the Investigation Reports on Koniuchy and Naliboki, issued by the Institute of National Memory on March 1, 2002, in Koniuchy between 36 and 50 inhabitants, men, women, and children, were killed on the spot, many others were wounded. The survivors escaped to nearby villages.

But according to the perpetrators themselves, approximately 300 of Koniuchy's inhabitants were killed in this action. It would appear that this massacre of the defenseless people is quite often mentioned in various publications and presented as a glorious battle of the heroic soviet partisans against Nazis and so called Nazi collaborators, that is, unarmed farmers trying to defend their property; a very curious case of murderers who take pride in their crime. Let's look at few such testimonies:

The peasants ducked into houses. Partisans threw grenades onto roofs and the houses exploded into flame. Other houses were torched. Peasants ran from their front doors and raced down the streets. The partisans chased them, shooting men, women and children. Many peasants ran in the direction of the German garrison, which took them through a cemetery on the edge of town. The partisan commander, anticipating this move, had stationed several men behind the gravestones. When these partisans opened fire, the peasants turned back, only to be met by the soldiers coming up from behind. Caught in a cross fire, hundreds of peasants were killed.
(See Rich Cohen, "The Avengers", New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000, 145)

Of course there was no German garrison in Koniuchy, only peasants from a self-defense group armed with a few rusty rifles. But this "German garrison" sounds good in the memoirs of Rich Cohen. At least it looks like there was a real battle, not just a massacre of unarmed civilians, women and children. The nearest German garrisons or police post was six kilometers away in Rakliszki.

The entire village [of Koniuchy] was laid in ashes and its inhabitants were killed - according to Zalman Wylozny who served in the "Death to Fascists" detachment.
(See Golota, "Losy Żydów ostrołęckich w czasie II wojny Światowej" [tr. Fate of Jews of Ostroleka during the II World War], Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, no. 187, 1998, 32. Also Kowalski, "A Secret Press in Nazi Europe", 333-34; also reproduced in Isaac Kowalski, "Anthology on Armed Resistance 1939-1945", volume 4, Brooklyn, New York: Combatants Publishers House, 1991, 390-91.)

In "Destruction and Resistance", Chaim Lazar wrote:

The Brigade Headquarters decided to raze Koniuchy to the ground to set an example to others. One evening a hundred and twenty of the best partisans from all the camps, armed with the best weapons they had, set out in the direction of the village. There were about 50 Jews among them, headed by Yaakov Prenner. At midnight they came to the vicinity of the village and assumed their proper positions. The order was not to leave anyone alive. Even livestock was to be killed and all property was to be destroyed.
The signal was given just before dawn. Within minutes, the village was surrounded on three sides. On the fourth side was the river and the only bridge over it was in the hands of the partisans. With torches prepared in advance, the partisans burned down the houses, stables, and granaries, while opening heavy fire on the houses. Half-naked peasants jumped out of windows and sought escape. But everywhere fatal bullets awaited them. Many jumped into the river and swam towards the other side, but they too, met the same end. The mission was completed within a short while. Sixty households, numbering about 300 people, were destroyed, with no survivors.

(See Chaim Lazar, Destruction and Resistance, New York: Shengold Publishers, 1985, 174-75)

The massacre of the population of Koniuchy, including women and children, has been described by Chaim Lazar as an outstanding "combat operation", of which he was genuinely proud.

So, how many villagers of Koniuchy did the partisans truly murder? Fifty, as stated in the Investigation Report of the Institute of National Memory, or a few hundred, as quoted in the memoirs of the perpetrators?
Perhaps, it is a case of boasting "heroes", self-censure of IPN, or a mixture of both?
I challenge any one to name all few hundred inhabitants of one's native village after 60 years.

In his CNN interview Mr. Duffy describes Bielski's partisans as aggressive fighters that at the end of the war, reported to the Soviets the 381 Nazi and Nazi allied fighters killed. Out of these 381 "Nazi and Nazi allied fighters" 128 were defenseless inhabitants of Naliboki. At least they were so-called confirmed kill.

How many more innocent people did Bielski's partisans kill nobody really knows. It is not that hard to become "aggressive fighters" against unarmed men, women and children. Most likely Bielski's partisans were just aggressive plunderers, not aggressive fighters. Probably many more peasants lost their lives trying to defend their property. Of course in reports, they all became "Nazi allied fighters" and anti-semites; the peoples Jews don't like. This sounded better since there was no glory in murdering defenseless Polish civilians.

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