Shoeless Joes

“Joining an existing partisan group was never easy. Males who wanted to do so were often told to join the auxiliary police, to obtain arms and ammunition there, and then to desert. Newly recruited Red Partisans, as they often called themselves, pledged to serve ‘my motherland, the party, and my leader and comrade Stalin.’ They underwent a harsh probation period. Although partisans, Soviet or not, tended to consume a lot of alcohol, all were subject to severe disciplinary rules, which were enforced with beatings and other punishments by not only the commanders, but also political commissars or (in the large units) special sections of the NKVD. Unauthorized plunder and being drunk or asleep on duty often brought the death penalty. Partisans with a serious illness that endangered the group also could be killed. Female partisans worked as cooks and cleaners. As long as they did not accept a steady boyfriend, the males considered them common property. Pregnancies were usually aborted; babies born often were given away to peasants or killed. Very few partisans had medical knowledge. In all, the partisan life was restless and often brutal, marked by semidarkness, damp cold, dirty water, disease, lice, and shortages of food, tobacco, clothing, and shoes.” – Karel C. Berkhoff,  in Harvest of Despair

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