Safe Havens: Partisan Forests

The safety of forests! Over 20,000 Jewish and 30,000 Russian partisans found forests to offer refuge and lauch resistance during WWII

Traveling from Berlin to Warsaw and beyond, passing acre after acre of Birch tree forests, my imagination morphed  forests into  havens  for hiding partisans.  These 

Furst is a great historical spy novelist providing insight and intrigue into WWII. Try 'The Polish Officer'

visual images leapt from the page (Alan Furst) and the screen (Defiance) through my eyes to outside my train window.  

Eastern European forests offered a safe haven for Jews, Russians, Gypsies, political dissidents and others both fleeing and fighting the Nazi’s.  These forest bound partisan resistance fighters conducted guerilla warfare, sabotage, and, military intelligence.    Imagining the forest as homey and hospitable in the middle of winter is a stretch, yet forests concealed family camps living in dugouts complete with craftsmen and schools.

Belorussia, location of Bielski camp. While most partisans were in Eastern European, others were in France and Belgium

The most famous,  the Bielski brothers camp in Belorussia numbered about 1,200 in 1944 and is the basis for the movie Defiance.

From the movie Defiance: Bielski brothers fleeing into the woods after their parents were killed

Of course it’s more complicated.  Jews sometimes joined larger (more powerful?) Russian partisan groups who were often anti-Semitic.

Russians air-dropped supplies to sympathetic partisans at the end of WWII.  Russian partisans turned  Anti-Soviet and resisted Soviet control from 1944 – 1953.

Faye Schulman, photographer and partisan chronicled her life in the woods in ‘Pictures of Resistance’.  The link:

Theo, my Berlin Free Walking Tour guide ( explained

German organization includes  numbering their trees:  4,100.   We count what’s important.  Money and barrels of oil are counted like partisans must have counted food.

In 2012, danger lurks outside ALL windows.

Birch forest view outside my train window

 Carbon dioxide levels have declared war with our climate – and therefore us. (Or is it the other way around?)  It’s a matter of time before we must all seek oxygen rich hiding places.  A matter of time before we all become partisans.  As modern-day partisans, it behooves us to know  the number of trees on the planet, and how many we need to be safe.

29.6%  of Earth is tree covered.  Once, it was almost 100%.  Between 1990 – 2000, 2% of trees were lost.

Mr. Smarty Pants:  96 trees/person to offset our carbon balance

Each acre of forest provides enough oxygen for 18 people.  As you can imagine, it’s difficult to count the number of trees or even acres of tress on the planet. 

But I’m sure you  also know people far outnumber trees on the planet.  We  can still breathe a sigh of relief, confident we will be suitably oxygenated. But can we hide from the facts?

Environmentalists may seem to be crying ‘wolf’ about global warming.  But most European Jews didn’t believe the  warnings about the Nazi’s either. 

How much longer will forests provide safety?  A haven to hide?  Without  trees, where will our species go for safety?

Resources.  Wars and genocides begin over a scarcity of resources.  (Blood) diamonds, oil, and land have been washed with green(backs) and red. 

2% of forests have been lost in the last 10 years and will never be recovered. What if these trees were your source for oxygen? Would you allow these trees to be clearcut? Burned down for burgers (grazing)?

Wants feed needs feed power and lead to starvation.  Trees are harvested, burned to make way for more lucrative ventures like grazing land.  Land that will lead to starvation.  Of oxygen.  Because what resources REALLY are needed for life?  Water.  Oxygen. 

Without trees where will we hide?  Where will we go to be safe?

Is the human race out to destroy itself?                                                          (BBC quote from Auschwitz  2009)story.   

Organizations providing safety through tree planting:



2 responses to “Safe Havens: Partisan Forests

  1. What a great insight….I look forward to the next one.

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