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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Pictures of Resistance

“A partisan came in and said, ‘What do you think?’ And I said to myself, ‘My family was murdered. I am in the partisans. I’m alone. I won’t be living here anymore. The Nazis occupied my father’s house that he built himself.’ And I said to the partisan, ‘Burn it!’”
– Faye Schulman.

Faye Schulman's Family Home

When interviewed by the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation (JPEF) at her current day home in Toronto, Canada, Faye Schulman, the only known Jewish partisan photographer, shared this story behind her photograph of her charred family home. Almost every one of Faye’s photographs and personal captions in the traveling photography exhibit, Pictures of Resistance: The Wartime Photographs of Jewish Partisan Faye Schulman, move me to tears. The tears, however, do not come only from a deep feeling of sadness for the tragic losses of the Holocaust, but from a stirring sense of pride, as well, for the bravery of those who resisted.

Due to her photographic skills, Faigel “Faye” Lazebnik Schulman was one of only 27 who were spared when the Germans liquidated the Lenin ghetto on August 14, 1942 and killed 1,850 Jews. They forced Faye to develop and print photos of their aggressions, including the picture of her parents’ mass grave. When ordered to train a young Russian apprentice in photography, Faye realized that she would soon become “useless” to the occupiers, and that they would kill her too. Thus, she escaped to the woods, but not before protecting the lasting proof of their atrocities. She hid the photos of the Lenin ghetto massacre in the middle of a box of unexposed photographic paper and told the young apprentice, who knew little about photography, that she must never expose the box to the sun. Later, as a member of a Russian partisan brigade, Faye came back on a mission and recovered both the photos and the camera that she would carry with her throughout her two and a half years in the woods – and to this day.

It was not easy to become a partisan, especially for Jewish women. Though she had no training whatsoever, the fact that her brother-in-law had been a doctor won Faye acceptance into the Molotova Shish Bridage’s Detachment as a nurse. Luckily for her, there was a great need amongst the partisans for nurses and doctors. Faye explained, “The main part of being a partisan was not the killing but keeping the wounded alive, bringing the wounded back to life so they could continue fighting and bring the war to an end.”

Faye volunteered often to go on dangerous raids in order to replenish her photographic supplies. With her camera, she captured experiences that most of us have never and, hopefully, will never even be able to fathom. Her photos range from images of Jewish partisans being buried next to Russian partisans and honored for their brave deeds to defeat a common enemy to that of a young girl whom Faye saved. Some of the pictures are quite serene and artistic. For example, the one of Faye in a canoe with a man in partisan uniform. Were it not for Faye’s narration of the photograph included in the caption, one would never know that Faye and the man were about to embark on a dangerous mission from which the man would not return.

You must see her photographs yourself, for my words cannot do the images justice. Thirty of Faye’s exquisite photographs are displayed in Pictures of Resistance: The Wartime Photographs of Jewish Partisan Faye Schulman, which was produced by JPEF and curated by the well-known Jill Vexler, Ph.D. It is currently on exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum until November 26. To learn how to bring the exhibit to your community, visit or e-mail

JPEF Executive Director gives a tour of the exhibit to Bay Area educators

There are no other known Jewish partisan photographers. When I learned that Faye had to bury her camera and come back for it alone, develop the pictures under a blanket in the night, and lug her pictures with her while running from the Nazis, it was no wonder that she was perhaps the only one to capture the partisans’ experiences on film. In the woods, surrounded by enemies, during unforgiving winters, partisans struggled just to survive, let alone steal chemicals on raids to take pictures! Without her determination, the world would never have seen these images.

As she said, “I want people to know that there was resistance. Jewish people didn’t go like sheep to the slaughter. If they had the slightest opportunity to fight back, they did and took revenge. Many lost their lives heroically. I was a photographer. I have pictures. I have proof.”

– Lisa Block

Friday, October 19, 2012

Actor Liev Schreiber Narrates Documentary “The Reunion” – World Premiere to Be Held in New York at Paley Center for Media

NEW YORK CITY – October 19, 2012 – The Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation (JPEF), an organization dedicated to inspiring the next generation by teaching the history and life lessons of Jewish partisans, will host the premier of its latest documentary “The Reunion”, narrated by actor Liev Schreiber who portrayed Jewish resistance fighter, Zus Bielski, in the film Defiance. The premiere will be held at the Paley Center for Media on October 22.

The documentary was inspired last fall, when JPEF hosted a reunion for all surviving Jewish partisans in New York City. 55 Jewish partisans attended the event, WCBS Anchor Dana Tyler was the emcee and actor Ed Asner gave a special presentation.

Allen Small and Leon Bakst were close friends growing up in Poland, both fought against the Nazis as Jewish partisans, and each lost their families during the Holocaust. They said goodbye, for what they thought was the last time, 66 years ago in a displaced persons camp in Germany. Their story unfolds in The Reunion, written and produced by JPEF’s executive director, Mitch Braff.

"This is an important story that must be told. I was happy to contribute to The Reunion, in hopes of helping ensure more people learn what the Jewish partisans went through and the incredible things they accomplished," said Schreiber. "Working on Defiance was a powerful and very personal experience for me. It was the beginning of an awareness and commitment that I'm certain will be with me for the rest of my life."

JPEF develops free educational materials for schools on the 30,000 Jews who fought against the Nazis as partisans. The Jewish partisans saved thousands of lives and destroyed thousands of German trains and convoys. Small, who now lives in Florida, Bakst, who now lives in Texas, and other partisans - including Frank Blaichman and Romi Cohn from New York, as well as Leah Johnson from Florida – are featured in the film. The movie answers questions about their very challenging life experiences.

Ticket sales can be purchased either on site or online at All proceeds from the ticket sales go towards developing JPEF’s curriculum. Members of the press, partisans and their families are invited to attend complimentary. A preview of the film can be seen at

About Jewish Partisans Educational Foundation:
JPEF is a not for profit organization and is the only association in the world solely committed to teaching the history and life lessons of the 30,000 Jews who fought back as partisans during World War II. More than 6,500 schools and synagogues worldwide use the organization’s free curriculum targeted for 7th-12th grades. Our mission is to develop and distribute effective educational materials about the Jewish partisans and their life lessons, bringing the celebration of heroic resistance against tyranny into educational and cultural organizations. For more information about the organization, the curriculum, to connect with other partisans or to donate, please visit

Thursday, October 11, 2012

New Jewish Partisan Book Out From Scholastic Publishing!

Educators: we are pleased to inform you that Scholastic has recently published a collection of stories entitled We Fought Back: Teen Resisters of the Holocaust. The book is written by Allan Zullo, and is his fourth book about the Holocaust for the teenage audience. The book is aimed at young readers, and gives a true-life narrative account of seven teen-aged partisans fighting the Nazis in World War II.

Each story opens with an attention-grabbing scene of sabotage, ambush, or a bloodied battlefield. The stories are fast-paced and captivating, but their content is always grounded in the actual experience of partisans, allowing students to see how life was like for teens of similar age in the most dire of situations.

Of the seven stories in the book, five are about partisans profiled on the JPEF partisan pages. These include Frank Blaichman, Sonia Orbuch (known in the book as Sarah Shainwald), Martin Petrasek (in the book as Martin Friedman), Shalom Yoran (in the book as Selim Sznycer), and Romi Cohn. At least one more will join them in the coming weeks as we finalize four new partisan biographies with accompanying photos and video interview clips.

The book provides a great opportunity for middle and high school teachers to supplement their history and English classes. As the book gives an account of a lesser-known aspect of the Jewish experience during the war, it is an obvious complement to the study of the Holocaust in schools. In addition to offering first-hand accounts of the war experience, the book supports curriculum aimed at exploring Jewish identity, leadership, and resistance.

In English courses, the book’s dramatized versions of the partisan fighters’ true stories provide a counterbalance to reading lists traditionally centered around fiction. Often we find non-fiction underutilized in the English classroom and yet it accounts for much of adult reading. This is an opportunity to engage students with narrative in an alternative way, potentially appealing to reluctant readers – or simply enriching the reading experience for all students.

The age of the protagonists in these stories makes it easy for students to identify with them, and the narrative of survival and resistance to oppression is powerful and compelling, especially for that age group. In these ways and more, We Fought Back can be a great resource for any classroom.

— Written by Chelsea Martin.