In my partisan memoirs, I was always confused by one moment. Memories could be good and bad, but in them the partisans won victories over the Germans somehow very easily: they smashed the garrisons, destroyed the columns, exterminated them in hundreds and thousands. This is strange in light of the fact that the enemies surrounded the guerrillas from all sides and outnumbered them and outnumbered them. The most suspicious was the book of the former secretary of the Minsk underground regional committee of the CPSU (b), Hero of the Soviet Union R.N. Machulsky "Eternal Flame". He knew a lot and could tell about different things. However, most likely, the book was written for him. Maybe he said something or made corrections. There is such concentrated and unrestrained heroism, such beating of the Germans everywhere and everywhere, that one wonders why the Minsk partisans themselves did not defeat the entire Army Group Center?
It goes without saying that in stories guerrilla warfare was not only a success. But there were enough defeats and failures. Which is not surprising and completely inevitable due to the very position of the partisans in the enemy rear. However, for some reason, they did not want to tell us about the sad details.
As far as can be judged from the memoirs of I.G. Starinov, the question concerned the top party leaders. For example, L.Z. Mehlis. They ordered the use of such forms of partisan struggle, which, in essence, only made it easier for the Germans to defeat the partisans. And they led to huge losses. We are talking about the requirement, for example, that the partisans themselves select weapon and ammunition from the enemy. For all this was generously paid in blood. And after the war, they began to compose colorful and emotional stories, which now form the basis of the history of the partisan movement during the war.
German losses: mythical and real
Here's just one example. Operation "Winter Forest" (Waldwinter) from December 27, 1942 to January 25, 1943 in the triangle of railways between Vitebsk, Nevel and Polotsk.
Alexander Dyukov writes about this operation in his review, mentioning a number of punitive operations in Belarus ("Live Journal" of May 24, 2007):
“Merciless battles were fought along the Obol River near the villages of Lukhnachi, Ravenets, Shilino, beyond the villages of Katlyany, Tokarevo, Patera, Zakhody and others, where the partisans were able to inflict heavy losses on enemy motorized, armored and infantry units. After bloody battles, most of the partisan formations managed to break through the Polotsk-Nevel railway and lead thousands of local residents to the Rasson region. "
Moreover, one should not think that this is how Dyukov came up with it. On the site "I remember" there are memories of Yakov Fedorovich Menshikov (he was surrounded, then captured, fled, hid and in the summer of 1942 joined a partisan detachment), who fought as part of the 4th Belarusian partisan brigade, located in the liberated zone in this very the triangle of railways. That is, he was a direct participant in those very events. But he also writes about the battles of the 4th partisan brigade with German units on December 24, 1942 - January 3, 1943:
“This attack cost the Nazis dearly. In the battles from December 24, 1942 to January 3, 1943, they lost more than one hundred of their soldiers and officers.
Then his losses of the Germans increased to thousands:
“Thus, even this widely planned punitive expedition against the partisans did not bring the desired result to the German command, the Germans lost more than one thousand of their soldiers and officers in the battles. In some villages, the Nazis left the German police garrisons, but they were defeated by the partisans a week later.
Anyone can now refer to an eyewitness and participant. And to describe the most heartbreaking pictures about how the German operation failed, the Germans lost thousands and thousands of soldiers and officers, guns, Tanks, airplanes.
The fact is that we have a report from the commander of the security forces and the commander of the army rear of Army Group Center, Infantry General Max von Schenckendorff on the results of this operation, sent to the command of Army Group Center on January 31, 1943. It says (TsAMO RF, f. 500, op. 12454, d. 631, l. 43):
Own losses: 20 killed, 79 wounded.
Enemy losses: 670 killed in action, 957 shot after interrogation, 1627 in total.
A sheet from the operation report that lists losses and trophies
In response to the cry: "They were hiding losses!" I will answer that this is a secret report, for the accuracy of the information of which the compilers were responsible. There could be some inaccuracies, but clearly not (the discrepancy between the actual figures and those shown in the report) by orders of magnitude. Moreover, the underestimation of losses would inevitably be revealed. The operations went one after another, and if hundreds and thousands were killed in each of them, and the reports showed small losses, then soon the security forces of the rear of the army group would become incapable of combat and this would become obvious to the command. With ensuing disciplinary consequences. So, during the operation "Winter Forest" there were no hundreds, let alone thousands of killed German soldiers and officers.
Four were pricked with one bayonet
Thus, serious doubts arise about the accuracy and veracity of the partisan memoirs, especially regarding the German losses. If we are told here that they were filled with thousands, almost four were stabbed with one bayonet, and the report turned out to be only 20 killed in a whole month of the operation, then these stories should be classified as "hunting stories".
Dyukov also writes:
“During the operation, the invaders killed 1627 local residents, 2041 people were taken to hard labor in Germany, completely burned the villages of Arzhavukhovo, Beloe, Charbomysl with the majority of residents, captured 7468 head of cattle, 894 horses, about 1 birds, 4468 tons of grain, 145 tons of potatoes, 759 tons of flaxseeds and flaxstraws and much more. "
Pay attention to "killed 1627 local residents." It was not Dyukov who came up with that. He and other authors cite whoever wrote it first. And he, in turn, read the document and falsified it, giving the number of killed partisans for the number of civilians killed.
The German document is clear in meaning: "670 Banditen im Kampf gefallen" and "957 Banditen nach Verhör erschossen". Killed in battle - killed in a shootout or immediately after it, in pursuit. Those who were shot after interrogation - whoever was captured and confessed that he was in the detachment was shot. Or who was shown as a partisan. There is a passage in this report that allows us to judge that some part of the population of this territory supported the Germans:
Die meisten Siedlungen wurden so gut wie menschenleer angetroffen. Mit dem Fortschreiten des Angriffes änderten sich diese Verhältnisse aber, wenige Tage nach dem Durchzug der Truppen kehrten Teile der Bevölkerung aus dem Wäldern, in die sie geflüchtet waren, zurück "(TsAMO RF., File 500 l. 12454).
That is, the Germans found the villages empty, and a few days after the start of the operation, the population began to leave the forest. Among them there could be people who pointed out to the Germans who the partisans were.
It was a rout and a beating
Already from a comparison of the losses of the Germans and partisans during the operation "Winter Forest" it is clear that this was a complete defeat of the partisans. How many of them were in the triangle at the beginning of the operation is difficult to say. There is information that it had several partisan brigades: 3rd and 4th Belorussian, brigade "For Soviet Belarus", them. Korotkin (Sirotinskaya) and them. IN AND. Lenin.
General von Schenkendorf reported on the defeat of the brigades of Marchenko (3rd Belorussian brigade), Korotkin-Fomchenko (named after Korotkin) and Romanov (brigade "For Soviet Belarus"). The 4th Belorussian Brigade, apparently, really managed to break out of the ring.
It is also difficult to say how many partisans there were before the start of the operation. The brigades even in 1944 included 600-1000 soldiers. And Menshikov recalls that in the 4th Belarusian Brigade, in which he fought, in the fall of 1942 there were about 2000 people. It seems that there were about 4-5 thousand partisans in total.
The number of the 286th security division that opposed it (which included the 61st security, 122nd security regiments, a battalion of the 8th police regiment, a battalion of the 213rd artillery regiment and reinforcement units) can be estimated at about 10 thousand people.
In terms of numbers, the Germans had an advantage, but not overwhelming. Taking into account the fact that the partisans were located in the forests, which in themselves are a kind of fortification and impede the actions of the advancing forces.
However, the decisive reason for the defeat of the militia was that the guerrillas were very poorly armed.
Only a third of the partisans were armed
General von Schenckendorff's report lists the trophies: 10 mortars, 14 machine guns, 31 submachine guns, 2 anti-tank rifles, 114 rifles. A substantial number of hand-held small arms are also indicated. Apparently, they mean pistols. And also a large number of cartridges and explosives.
It is very sparse. Considering that 670 partisans died in battles alone. And taking into account that the report of the Germans says about the destruction of 62 partisan camps and 335 bunkers (apparently dugouts). That is, there were no weapons in the partisan warehouses either.
True, the report indicates that many weapons were hidden by the partisans or thrown into the snow. Which also speaks quite clearly about the defeat.
Offhand, including also pistols, about a third of the partisans who participated in the battles were armed.
Here it is, Mehlis's strategy, that the guerrillas must take away weapons from the enemy, in action. Such poorly armed units, of course, had no chance of fighting back.
Lieutenant General Johann-Georg Richert, commander of the 286th Security Division.
Partisan brigade commanders: (above) Pavel Minaevich Romanov, commander of the For Soviet Belarus brigade; (below) Arkady Yakovlevich Marchenko, commander of the 3rd Belarusian Partisan Brigade.
The second advantage of the Germans was that the commander of the 286th Security Division, Major General Johann-Georg Richert (the division was often called by his last name, including in this report) was an experienced commander. Member of the First World War, awarded the Iron Cross of both degrees. After the war he served in the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht. In 1939 Oberst Richt was appointed commander of the 23rd Infantry Regiment of the 11th Infantry Division. He took part in the offensive against Novgorod and in the defensive battles on the Volkhov at the end of 1941. For these battles, he received a high award - the German Cross in gold and the rank of major general. In June 1942, he was appointed commander of the 286th Security Division. Apparently, he was considered a specialist in fighting in wooded areas and therefore appointed to command counter-partisan operations.
In addition, Richert commanded the German forces in Operation Winter Forest alone. And against him were five brigades and five commanders, who did not have a joint headquarters. This is probably what allowed him to defeat the best partisan units in battles in late December 1942 - early January 1943. And then move on to beating up the almost unarmed partisans scattered through the forests. The overall result of the operation: three partisan brigades were defeated and scattered, the entire territory was cleared.
And about the rest of the trophies of the 286th Security Division. The report indicates that the troops used captured food for most of the operation, and consumed 167,4 thousand portions of meat, 139,8 thousand portions of vegetables and 42,1 thousand portions of fodder from trophy reserves. There was still a significant amount of fodder and potatoes that were not exported. It is generally believed that these supplies were looted from villages. However, it is unlikely that several thousand partisans would have been able to spend the winter in the forest without food. So for the most part, the trophy food was taken, apparently, from partisan bases. There would be enough food for the security division for about two weeks, and forage for a week or so.
Also, 2014 people of the able-bodied population were captured, which was then sent to Dulag-125 in Polotsk, where they were subjected to propaganda processing. However, the report says that most of the male population left with the partisans. And the Germans knew nothing about their further fate. Part of the population (especially the disabled) remained in the villages. But how much there was - the report does not say. And it is unlikely that you will be able to find out more accurate data. In any case, in the devastated area (first feeding the partisans, and then plundered by the Germans), the inhabitants of the strong starved without food supplies.
Pay for carelessness
In fact, the partisans paid for their carelessness. For the unpreparedness of the area for defense, for the absence of a general command and staff, for an acute shortage of weapons and a clear underestimation of the enemy. At the same time, there were many attacks on the railways. The partisans apparently hoped that the Germans would not climb into the forest in winter and that they would be able to spend the winter relatively calmly. In general, we made mistakes.
German map of partisan activity at the end of 1942. At the top, this triangle Vitebsk-Nevel-Polotsk is visible. Red marks - guerrilla attacks on railways, indicating the number of attacks. The activity of the partisans in this area stood out even against the background of the environs of Minsk. It is not surprising that the Germans launched an operation against the partisans of this triangle. TsAMO RF, f. 500, op. 12454, d.631, l. 35
All these facts of the death of the partisans were carefully hidden. Instead, stories spread about the widespread massacre of the Germans, with many times exaggerated enemy losses.
Although, what is there to hide? There were plenty of failures and defeats in guerrilla warfare. But the corresponding conclusions were drawn from them. And subsequently, including on the basis of this experience, the partisans learned how to defend their liberated areas, raid, maneuver and get out of attacks. The people won the Great War.
Before lying and composing myths, as well as all sorts of "hunting stories", one must remember what the first President of Czechoslovakia Tomas Masaryk said:
"Great things cannot be false."
Lying is destructive in any case, no matter how it is justified.