Vintage Saturday: Faye Schulman

Faye Schulman, Jewish partisan
“We must not fear our enemies, it is for them to fear us” – Faye Schulman (second from left – click to see full size)

Faye Schulman was born in the small Polish town of Lenin in 1919 to a large Jewish family. After the German attack on Russia, the town was occupied, and in August 1942 the town’s roughly 2000 Jewish residents were executed by Nazi forces – with the exception of about two dozen, including Miss Schulman. She was a photographer, and was ordered to take and develop pictures of the mass execution. She did so – including a second set in secret to keep herself – and was able to escape into the forests and join a partisan brigade of Jews and escaped Russian POWs, where she served as nurse, photographer and fighter until the end of the war.

She married another Jewish partisan and moved to Canada in 1948, where she lives to this day. She published a memoir of her war experiences, which is still in print – as she explained, “I want people to know that there was resistance. Jews did not go like sheep to the slaughter. I was a photographer. I have pictures. I have proof.”


  1. SVT-40! And two Papashas! Great story, I think I’ll pick up a copy of the book.

    I think those folks need a little safety training… Violating all four of the basic firearms rules they are as likely to shoot themselves as they are to shoot NAZIs! =-O

    • Actually… shucks, you are right. The happy fella on left is aiming(with finger on trigger) at his buddy leaning on SVT’s muzzle. Kinda care-less, is it not? I know lives are cheap at the front, but why to tease the bad luck?

      I was run as kid thru (mostly compulsory) perhaps dozens of Ruskie war movies; in most of them partisans carried old Mosins or captured MP-41s (those lucky ones). But, those were just movies, this is document.

    • The bolt is forward in the left hand PPSh, difficult to tell with the right hand one, and obviously can’t tell with the Tok.

      still doesn’t excuse sloppiness with muzzle drift and trigger finger discipline when it’s their friends safety at stake,

      but how to tell them that? – If they’d been the types to listen to authoriteh they’d have been in mass graves a long time before the photo was taken.

  2. Faye Schulman nacida en 1919 en una gran familia judia de pequeño pueblo polaco llamado Lenin, fué una de las unicas dos docenas de supervivientes de los 2.000 judíos ejecutados por el ejercito Nazi en la ocupación de agosto de 1942. Era fotógrafa y se le ordenó documentar gráficamente las ejecuciones en masa, cosa que hizo – incluyendo un segundo juego de negativos que se guardaba para si en secreto – Consiguió escapar al bosque y unirse a una brigada formada por partisanos y prisioneros de guerra rusos fugados. Sirvió como soldado, fotografa y enfermera hasta el final de la II Guerra mundial.
    Se casó con otro partisano judío y emigró a Canadá en 1948 donde sigue residiendo. Publicó sus memorias sobre la guerra “A Partisan’s Memoir: Woman of the Holocaust” que continua reeditandose. Declara “Quiero que sepan que hubo resistencia. Los judíos no fuimos como ovejas al matadero. Era fotógrafa, tengo fotografías y tengo pruebas”

    Free traduction to spanish.

  3. Beware of communist propaganda! Remember the Katyn massacre which was falsely blamed on the Germans for decades until the russians finaly admited responsibility!

    • While I agree with your assertions about events such as the Katyn massacre, I don’t think Miss Schulman’s account is outright Communist propaganda — the Resistance fighters were armed mostly with Soviet-made weapons and received a modicum of support from the Soviet Union because the common enemy was Germany, and because they were situated geographically in an area where it made sense to acquire support from the nearest potential ally, the Soviet Union, even if they knew very well that the whole alliance was self-serving ( as are all political alliances ), and that an erstwhile ally could so easily turn completely against them if the situation warranted it.

      Propaganda, whether perpetrated by the Soviet Union, the United States of America, Great Britain, Nazi Germany, Japan or anyone else for that matter, is aimed at achieving the same basic common goal — convincing the common people ( on all sides ) of the justice and rightness of the causes that propaganda is espousing, rightly or wrongly. While I understand that this sort of maneuvering is seen by its originators as the necessary means to an end, it does involve manipulation of people’s mindsets and attitudes, and that is what I have a real issue with, because there is nothing to restrain those originators from distorting the truth, regardless of their good ( or bad ) intentions. And in the end, it is the hard truth that matters, not opinion or perception.

      • While I don’t doubt Ms. Schulman’s harrowing tale of survival and her time with the partisans during the war a couple of reviews on reveal a historical anachronism in her memoirs. Supposedly her partisan unit was attacked by a German “helicopter” in 1944. As far as I know there were none of the few Flettner FI 282 was not used in battle until the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium and the larger Focke-Achgelis Fa 223 was never used in battle.

        • I wondered the same thing, but it’s not impossible. Toward the end of the war the remaining FL 282s were apparently used for artillery spotting against the Russians. They were 2-man craft and could possibly have taken potshots at partisans.

      • Reminds me that golden and omni-present: “first casuality of was is truth”. Are we certain the ‘war’ per se ended? In my observation it goes on in different forms till this day. True, with some breaks for smoke and coffee.

        • Exactly — very good observation about history and “truth” being constantly re-written.

  4. In America the resistance is usually associated with the French and Belgian organizations. In the East from Poland to Romania there was an active resistance to Fascist occupation.Post WW1 civilian disarmament programs made it easier for for the Communists and Fascists to terrorize civilian populations. Poland and Belgium continued a tradition of underground workshops to make resistance weapons. The stories of partisan resistance in the East needs to be told.

    • There are some amazing factual histories to be unravelled from the opposing propagandas which have hidden and distorted them – and they’re on all sides.

      one of the first hurdles to cross on the way to interpreting the various resistance movements is the still popular myth that national socialisms and international socialisms are somehow polar opposites.

      once that myth is abandoned it becomes possible to understand how some individuals could set about escaping from or resisting both sorts – and resist they did.

      Armed resistance in the Romanian Carpathians continued up to the mid or late 1960s.

      there’s a piece here about the Lithuanian “Forest Brothers”

      • I think you’ve made a pretty realistic evaluation of how human political interactions work. Often, the interests and objectives of any movement or party will make for strange alliances and bedfellows. And let’s not forget that these convolutions are seldom, if ever, a case of black or white ; instead, countless shades of grey prevail, and they change depending on expediency.

        • Indeed

          There are few emnities as bitter as those between different sects of the same “church”

          for example Bolshevik versus Menchevik, Hitler/SS versus Röhm/SA and stalinist versus Trot.

  5. To see the Jewish resistance from the other side, read Yad Vashem’s publication of The Einsatzgruppen Reports. Many of the Jews of Eastern Europe did go meekly to their doom (the Nazis and their collaborators took measures to keep them full of false hope, of course), but the ones that didn’t really disturbed the German murder machine. If you were fully on board with Nazi race theory, Jews fighting back produced substantial cognitive dissonance.

    Russia supported some partisans, but they were leery about supporting groups that were primarily Jewish, or nationalistic in orientation. They preferred outfits that were oriented towards international Communism, and willing to take Russian direction. This was particularly true as the war went well for Ivan later on. You can be pickier about your allies when you’re winning (same thing happened on the Western side. For one example, SOE under Dalton was much more willing to arm and support Communist groups like the FTP than it was two years later, under different leadership).

    • Hi Hognose,
      There is a very good piece by Ludwig von Mises (a “Jewish” Austrian born in L’viv in the present day Ukraine) in “Human Action”, where he describes the exact same dissonance in the international socialists:

      “Today many historians and writers are imbued with the Marxian
      dogma that the realization of the socialist plans is both unavoidable
      and the supreme good, and that the labor movement is entrusted with
      the historical mission of accomplishing this task by a violent overthrow
      of the capitalist system. Starting from this tenet they take it
      as a matter of course that the parties of the “Left,” the elect, in the
      pursuit of their policies, should resort to acts of violence and to
      murder. A revolution cannot be consummated by peaceful methods.
      It is not worth while to dwell upon such trifles as the butchering of
      the four daughters of the last Tsar, of Leon Trotsky, of tens of thousands
      of Russian bourgeois and so on. “You can’t make an omelet
      without breaking eggs”; why explicitly mention the eggs broken?
      But, of course, it is different if one of those assailed ventures to defend
      himself or even to strike back. Few only mention the acts of
      sabotage, destruction, and violence committed by strikers. But a11
      authors enlarge upon the attempts of railroad companies to protect
      their property and the lives of their officers and their customers
      against such onslaughts.
      Such discrepancies are due neither to judgments of value nor to
      differences in understanding. They are the outcome of antagonistic
      theories of economic and historical evolution. If the coming of socialism
      is unavoidable and can be achieved only by revolutionary methods,
      murders committed by the “progressives” are minor incidents
      of no significance. But the self-defense and counterattacks of the “reactionaries”
      which can possibly delay the final victory of socialism
      are of the greatest importance. They are remarkable events, while
      the revolutionary acts are simply routine.”

      Page 89 of the Scholars edition (p126 of the free .PDF)

      • Sorry Keith, considering how skewed von Mises’s economic theories are, I give him very little credence when it comes to history.

        Anybody who rails against ‘cultural Marxism’ has no credibility for me.

        • Aron, I’ve seldom seen a better example of ad hominem

          Interestingly, the section of “Human Action” from which the quote was taken is called “Economics and the revolt against reason”

          From the same section (part way down page 79 of the “Scholars edition”) comes this:

          “There is no means to expose
          a faulty theory other than to refute it by discursive reasoning and
          to substitute a better theory for it. In dealing with the theorem of
          Pythagoras or with the theory of comparative costs, we are not interested
          in the psychologica1 factors that impelled Pythagoras and
          Ricardo to construct these theorems, although these things may be
          important for the historian and the biographer. For science the only
          relevant question is whether or not these theorems can stand the test
          of rational examination. The social or racial background of their
          authors is beside the point.”

          That applies whether we are discussing economists, metaphysical and epistemological theories, or in this case, resistance fighters and guns.

          it is no good claiming ” considering how skewed [individual]’s [works] are, I give him very little credence when it comes to [work]”

          without explaining why the reasoning is faulty and offering a better alternative. You have done neither, and I also challenge you to give me a chapter and verse reference for von Mises ever having used the term “cultural marxism”

          As this is neither my site, nor is it for discussing politics, feel free to suggest another venue if you wish to continue a “debate” on the relevance of Mises’ work.

          • It is only an an ad hom if you feel that disagreeing with someone’s political and economic theories constitutes an attack on their person.

            I am not going to debate this further, but I simply do not trust Mises.

    • Support to resistance was selective? Very much so. Notoriously known is case when Red Army was during Warsaw uprising laying on other bank of Visla river, vaiting. When everything was sorted out, they moved on.

  6. It looks like Faye has a pistol in the belt around that fur coat, perhaps someone can identify it from the holster, which appears to have a pouch for an extra magazine?

  7. Whoa what a awesome story of survival. I always wanted to learn more about the partisans on the Eastern front but Cold War politics and geographical differences have gotten in the way of that.

    • Perhaps not any more, or at least less so than before. No amount of politics or propaganda is going to change the truth about a subject, regardless of how the subject is manipulated, unless one chooses to believe the propaganda, for whatever reason. Everyone needs to have their story told and understood for the sake of our common humanity without the distortions of self-serving politicians, interest groups and so-called “authorities”.

  8. Somebody mentioned “resistance” in Eastern Europe. My uncle was involved, just before end of war; he was only about 17 years old. Nazis picked up his father, so he thought he had duty to ‘avenge’.

    Well, as you can imagine, it was not cakewalk. He was assigned with his buddy to hold position at the road where was expected advance of panzers, towards resistance headquarters. All he had was panzerfaust with minimum of training. Tans showed up and he fired on first one – and missed. The radioman-gunner returned fire with his MG and opened up scull of his friend. My uncle managed to escape; running thru woods like mad was not able to find his home for several days.

    Did I say this was not cakewalk? There are no conventions in cases like this. The objective is to inflict maximum pain and damage to enemy. And to take same yourself.

    • Denny, you have access to so many valuable direct and indirect stories of experiences associated with history ; at the cost of sounding like a Dutch uncle, so to speak ( with sincerest apologies to all my friends from the Netherlands ), I have to say that you ought to record these for posterity. What a fascinating and intriguing human tapestry these must weave! Thanks so much for your generosity in sharing them with the rest of us.

      • I am glad to do so, providing there is some interest (which I see it is) and editor’s patience (hopefully so). You know, I try to keep personal references to minimum for obvious reasons, but I am well aware how personal (or family in this case) experience acts, when is told. It is all in “real time” – true as it can be. By saying it I am perhaps adding to collective memory and wisdom; let’s hope!

        • If I can second Earl,

          I really enjoy your contributions Denny. when I can get hold of the credit card to subscribe, I look forward to Forum threads on the wider historical context that the guns which Ian is showing us – featured in.

  9. They all look to be remarkably well dressed, well groomed, and well equipped for the era. I assume this is a post-war “reunion” photo.

    I have a book on the Waffen-SS which mentions that most of the Waffen-SS units were mainly involved in anti-partisan activities. A *lot* of the SS units were not German, but rather soldiers (often conscripts) from supposed “allies” that were pressed into service. The SS was given responsibility for them because they were too poorly equipped or their units were too small to be useful under the command of the German army. By the end of the war, the majority of SS troops were not German! These non-German troops were responsible for some of the worst atrocities in the east, but due to cold war diplomacy it wasn’t politic to mention this.

    The partisan war was brutal and merciless. Anyone captured by either side could be expected to be executed out of hand. The memories of this was still being felt late in the last century, when it was one of the factors which fed into the Balkan wars.

    • You might just be right about that. They don’t look as if they’re being subjected to the stresses of living and fighting in an ongoing partisan war.

      A lot of the German ex-Waffen SS soldiers will go out of their way to disassociate themselves from many of the non-German units you mention as well as the arm of the SS responsible for garrison duties associated with the concentration camps. They strongly feel that these units besmirched the honor of the Waffen-SS and caused everyone to be labeled in negative terms by wartime and post-war propaganda and historical analyses, a stain that continues to haunt them to this day by association.

      I also concur with you about the long-term historical precedents that have manifested themselves in tragic events such as the Balkan Wars of the 1990’s, and which will continue to surface again in different forms if the political situation allows for it. Good observations, MG!

  10. resistance didnt end at the cessation of ww2 in eastern europe. active anti-communist resistance continued for many decades. i recall reading about one resistance member, the last one of his particular cell that was hunted down in the mid 60’s. instead of surrendering he drowned himself in a lake! in riga there is an armoury/museum which has excellent displays of weapons used by the resistance. a cut down mauser 98k with a rope loop used as an assassination weapon etc. one group was called the forest brothers, but similar groups operated in most eastern european communist occupied countries. sadly they received very little support from the west, because they were infiltrated so heavily by soviet intelligence.

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