Partisans and Scouts
It was not only the army that fought against Germany and its allies on the eastern front. The rear also joined the anti-fascist struggle. The brutal occupation and noble patriotic feelings drove people underground in cities or turned them into partisans operating mainly in forests. They performed numerous acts of sabotage, carried out reconnaissance, engaged in anti-fascist propaganda, and assisted the Red Army during offensives. Nazi resistance fighters are believed to total 1.3 million people. Over 128,000 people were presented with orders and medals. 248 people received the Hero of the Soviet Union title. Partisans derailed 20,000 trains, killed or captured 650,000 enemy soldiers and officers during the war. Partisan operated in vast rural areas in the German rear, over which the occupation administration lost control as a result.
The partisan movement began to take shape as early as in the summer of 1941. The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) played a pivotal role as it helped sabotage groups get behind enemy lines. The Central Headquarters of the Partisan Movement was established in May 1942. It was tasked with coordinating the struggle in the rear of the enemy. Partisans moved beyond separate acts of sabotage and subversion to conduct coordinated operations over the first year. They were particularly active in the wooded area where Belarus, Ukraine, the Oryol Region and the Bryansk Region of the Russian SFSR shared borders.
The operation codenamed Rail War, which aimed to disrupt the Germans’ railway communications, was one of the largest railroad sabotage operations. It began on the night of August 3 to August 4, 1943 (the Red Army was trying to reinforce its success in the Battle of Kursk at that very time). All in all, 1,350 km of single-track lines were blown up. The operation codenamed Concert was conducted during the Battle of the Dnieper in September 1943. Partisans destroyed 148,000 rails, thereby reducing throughput capacity of railways by 40 percent.