This book is based on Soviet archival sources, most previously untapped by Western and Soviet and post-Soviet Russian historians, in addition to German material from the US National Archives. Using this material the author describes the harsh realities of partisan warfare and explains the changing fortunes of the Soviet partisan movement on the territory of north-western Russia occupied by the German Army Group North between 1941 and 1944. The author argues that after the virtual annihilation of the partisan movement of 1941, during the period from spring 1942 to autumn 1943, despite improvements in partisan combat effectiveness, ruthless German anti-partisan policies, in combination with other measures described, prevented the partisan movement from achieving results hoped for by its leadership. From the autumn of 1943 the prospect of a scorched earth policy in retreat by a German Army clearly on the run, in combination with the military development of the partisan movement and effective propaganda aimed at the civilian population and military collaborators, provided the foundations for increased partisan success. The author concludes that despite not living up to contemporary expectations, or, for much of the war, to the claims of Soviet post-war accounts, the Soviet partisan movement was nonetheless, for the Soviet government, a cost effective means of hitting the German war machine in the context of the Soviet war effort as a whole and in particular the horrendous loss of life at the front.
About the Author
After attending Queen Katherine School, Kendal, Cumbria, Alexander Hill gained a place to read History at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge. From the University of Cambridge he gained both his BA and doctorate, which forms the basis for this work. Whilst preparing his thesis he learnt Russian and spent nearly two years working in Russia. He is currently Temporary Lecturer in Contemporary Russian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Glossary Introduction Chapter 1 - The Soviet partisan movement and German occupation policy in Western, Soviet and post-Soviet writing Chapter 2 - The case study area - The Rear Areas of Army Group North
Chapter 3 - Soviet and German preparations for occupation and resistance Chapter 4 - The establishment and nature of German military government Chapter 5 - The fledgling partisan movement Chapter 6 - Who was winning the partisan war during 1941? - The military effectiveness of the partisan movement Chapter 7 - Life under German military government c. December 1941 - spring/summer 1943 Chapter 8 - German 'anti-partisan' warfare and the civilian population Chapter 9 - The Soviet partisan movement comes of age Chapter 10 - The suppression of the adolescent partisan movement - Partisan losses, the fragmentation of units and forced withdrawal to Soviet lines
Chapter 11 - Evacuation, scorched earth, and the emergence of a 'vsenarodnoe' partisan movement Conclusion - German brutality, the changing fortunes of the partisan movement and the partisan movement in the general context of the Soviet war effort Sources
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A closely argued and researched monograph where the realities of partisan warfare in the environs of Leningrad during World War II are teased out. In short, Alexander adopts a middle position between Great Patriotic War propaganda of there being a mass partisan movement and some recent analyses essentially arguing that the German security forces waged partisan warfare on non-existent partisans.The reality would appear to be that the partisan forces were more akin to regulars, rather than being guerrillas organic to the community, and support in the occupied zone was limited by the German ability to generally bring superior force against any but the most discrete recon unit until not long before liberation, which discouraged much of the local population from offering as much support as Soviet authorities hoped. In this respect one is reminded of the experience of the American Civil War (which Alexander does not invoke), where those caught in the no-man's land between Federal and Confederate forces bore the brunt of the violence and were often mostly concerned with simply maintaining as neutral a state as possible.Speaking of other useful points of this study, since the area in question was not one of wide-spread Jewish settlement, it offers something of a control as to how the German occupation was conducted without the complication of the Nazi racial imperatives. Alexander found a rather more restrained occupation than might be expected, at least until the forced-labor drafts of the local population began. A missed opportunity here might have been to try and tie official policy in Army Group North with the traditional twitchiness of the German military in the presence of irregular forces, though this work is more from the Russian perspective.
Among a spate of books featuring fresh archival research of original Russian sources, this work - full of promise and originality - doesn't quite cut the mustard. Poor editing has the most to do with it, one supposes. Dr. Alexander Hill states, then restates and states again a series of conclusions yet fails to carry his narrative to its logical conclusion, namely the complete 'liberation' of the Leningradskaia and Kalininskaia oblast'i, occupied in part by Germany's Army Group North in 1941. Perhaps this oversight was caused by lack of space in the final approved manuscript, perhaps not. The breadth of the story, June 1941 to January 1944 shortchanges readers who wish to learn more how partisans aided the Russian Red Army to liberate infested areas, how irregular Soviet troops were returned to Soviet power, and what became of the partisans in the end. Mr. Hill veers off at the conclusion of his text into an indictment of American soldiers who served in Viet Nam, comparing them very unfavorably to Waffen-SS troops of notorious Einsatzgruppen operating on Russian soil a quarter of a century earlier. A glance at Hill's bibliography turns up an explanation for this: He cites notoriously anti-American polemic writer Stanley Karnow as his source. Again this seems a waste of ink with no real scholarly value in exchange. A more useful comparison to Mr. Hill's study would have been the behavior of British and German mercenary soldiers within the thirteen colonies of North America, 1776-1781. I bought this book seeking to learn more about the mobilization and service history of partisan brigades. To a certain extent these subjects were illuminated. Yet there is no word of how these outfits fared during the winter 1944 campaign, nor the summer-autumn 1944 stuggles that tossed the battered Wehrmacht into the Baltic states and eventually into the Kurland pocket. A third subject I wished to have elucidated was how the NKVD treated 'liberated' partisans as this is an issue attendant upon the subject: 'The Soviet Partisan Movement in North-West Russia 1941-1944,' the subtitle of Mr. Hill's book. Were these troops drafted en masse into Red Army rifle regiments? Were they dispatched into the Baltic States as partisans? No such luck I haven't a clue in reading this book. Instead I was treated to a very conventional account of My Lai instead that could have easily been written in 1975. Oddly, the three volume history of Border Guards Troops appeared in 1968 and was quite forthcoming about what happened to former partisans throughout central and eastern Europe. Archival research could have built upon this material rather substantially if the will had been present. My hope is this bucket of cold water will not deter scholars - of all political strips - to mine nuggets from Russian archives. To do so today and tomorrow is to do the Lord's work. Buy this book. Read Erich Hesse's DER SOWJETRUSSISCHE PARTISANENKRIEG 1941-1944 for balance. And let's look forward to the next work of Dr. Alexander Hill. May he meet an editor worth their salt!