This Post Received a Comrade’s Corner Citation
On June 22, 1941, Hitler’s planned invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, commenced making rapid advancements across the Soviet Union. The German Army moved so quickly that many Soviet units were just overrun, especially the reserve units and party leaders. As the Germans moved across Soviet lands they committed many war crimes against Russians, fueling the need to organize and resist or be destroyed. The quick German advancement also made German units vulnerable to attacks from guerrilla units behind their lines, attacks from Partisan fighters.
In occupied Soviet territory, Eastern Europe and Poland, Resistance and Communist Partisan units began to rise to fight the German Army behind their own lines. For occupied Russian territories, the Central Command gave the order for local party leaders to organize able bodied villagers against the German Army. They were also very impressed by the resistance movements in Eastern European countries by both Communist revolutionaries and groups of other political leanings who did not agree with the German occupation. However, rather than being led or mobilized by party leaders, many of whom had been killed by the Germans, these groups were led by Army officers whose lines had been overrun.
Although as the war raged on, Partisan casualties mounted, and the Red Army made little progress, many Russian Partisan groups in western Russia began to loose faith in Stalin. Partisan fighters began to feel abandoned and forgotten. Their fight became more about their own survival and less about the Soviet cause. This gave rise to plans to form separate Soviet governments after the war. When the tide of war turned, these groups began to resist reoccupation by the Red Army. For groups in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and some groups in Poland, all nations that were annexed or invaded by the Soviets as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, they saw World War Two as a chance to be free nations once again.
This was especially true in Lithuania. Soviet occupation after being annexed in 1940 had been horrible for their population. The Soviets began repressing the population. Soviets relocated and deported many Lithuanian citizens into forced labor camps, many of which were in Siberia. The Soviets even victimized the Jewish population. When the Nazis pushed the Soviets out, Lithuanians welcomed them over the oppressive Soviet rule. Nazi policy was to conscript the local population into serving as a local peacekeeping militia and serving in the German SS. However, Lithuanians resisted German conscription and their leaders were placed in German concentration camps. The Nazis were equally brutal.
When Soviet reoccupation came, they were not greeted as liberators like the Germans were. They were greeted with fear. The resistance began to work against the Soviets and much of the population joined up and moved to the woods, to avoid Soviet rule. Soviets responded to this resistance with mass executions and deportations to Siberia. The Lithuanian Partisans began to organize into the Union of Lithuanian Freedom Fighters. Although many were initially Communist, they adopted democratic ideals and even branded the Communist Party as a criminal organization. They were able to resist Soviet rule from 1944 until 1952. In that time an estimated 100,000 Soviet soldiers were killed by the resistance fighters. After that, many were forced to sneak out of Europe, into the United States. It wasn’t until 1960 that the last freedom fighter in Lithuania surrendered to the Soviet Union.
This video is incredibly graphic but it is a Lithuanian dipiction of the suffering they endured under Soviet, then Nazi, then Soviet rule, from the movie “Utterly Alone” (“Vienui, Vieni” in Lithuanian)
Soviet History: http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/partisans-in-the-forest/
Soviet History: http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1943-2/partisans-in-the-forest/partisans-in-the-forest-texts/organizing-the-resistance/