Born in the Polish town of Kamionka in 1922, Frank Blaichman died last month in his Manhattan home. In 1942, three years after the start of the Nazi occupation, Blaichman fled Kamionka for the forests, where he found fellow Jews eager to fight back against the Third Reich. Neil Genzlinger writes:
[Blaichman soon] organized a defense force, though at first its main weapon was illusion created with pitchforks. “We broke off all the teeth, left one tooth on, and put a strap on the shoulder,” he said in [his] oral history. “From far away it looked like a rifle.”
Illusion of a sort also helped them acquire real weapons in the winter of 1942-43. His group learned of a farmer who had a stash of guns. He and another man went to see the farmer and convinced him that they were Russian paratroopers under orders to establish a resistance unit to battle the Germans. The ruse worked. “When we headed back to the forest, we had eight weapons,” Mr. Blaichman wrote. “Finally we could defend ourselves.”
The group grew more sophisticated and better armed, and Blaichman eventually commanded more than 100 armed Jewish partisans. His group linked up with other Jewish partisans, as well as groups like the [Polish] Communist partisan force Armia Ludowa, and spent the war disrupting German supply lines and communications and ferreting out Poles who were collaborating with the Nazis.
After the war Blaichman was assigned to the Polish Security Police, a unit of Poland’s new government, and given the job of tracking down Nazi collaborators. [In his memoir], Blaichman [depicted] certain other resistance groups as being severely anti-Semitic. That anti-Semitism . . . continued in postwar Poland. “As part of my job, I had interviewed many Poles who, unaware that I was a Jew, made no attempt to conceal their feelings about Jews,” he wrote. “As a result, I had come to realize the depth of Polish anti-Semitism.”
Blaichman and his wife, also a partisan veteran, quickly decided Poland was no place for Jews and emigrated to the U.S. Besides writing a book about his experiences, he was also active in efforts to commemorate Jewish resistance, and was instrumental in the creation of Jerusalem’s memorial to the partisans.