11 Incredible Stories Of Resistance Fighters Who Took On The Nazis

Published October 4, 2021
Updated October 18, 2023

Sara Ginaite: The Jewish Lithuanian Resistance Fighter

Resistance Fighter Sara Ginaite

United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumSara Ginaite not only escaped from a ghetto but returned to rescue others as a resistance fighter.

In 1941, Nazi Germany brought horror to Sara Ginaite’s hometown of Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania. They encouraged the massacre of 9,200 Jews in the Kaunas Pogrom and herded the survivors into the notorious Kovno Ghetto.

Ginaite, who lost three uncles in the Kaunas Pogrom, resolved to fight back against those who killed her loved ones. From within the Kovno Ghetto, she decided to join the Anti-Fascist Fighting Organization (AFO).

Together with other resistance fighters — including AFO’s leader, Misha Rubinson, whom Ginaite later married — Ginaite broke out of the ghetto in 1943 and took refuge in the Rudninkai Forest.

There, Ginaite and the others made their intentions clear when they established a guerilla group that they dubbed “Death to Occupiers.”

“Jews did not join the partisans as a normal act of choice,” Ginaite later explained. “We were forced to fight the Nazis to save ourselves from extermination. We took the gun in our hands in a desperate situation, when our parents, brothers, and sisters were murdered, when children were grabbed from their mothers and sent to their gruesome death.”

Partisans And Ghetto Survivors

United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumSurvivors of the Lithuanian ghettos after the war. Sara Ginaite stands on the edge of the crowd (fifth from left).

Twice, Ginaite broke back into the ghetto. She even disguised herself as a nurse and pretended that she’d come to escort sick patients.

She and other resistance fighters helped liberate the Vilna and Kovno ghettos as the Soviets swept in, though by that time it was largely too late. Since the Nazis had razed the ghettos and deported most survivors to concentration camps, about 90 percent of the Jews held there had died.

“We fought in order to survive,” Ginaite later wrote. “We fought against fascism, which was our enemy, the enemy of all democratic forces, and the enemy of Lithuania.”

After the war, she went on to teach at Vilnius University and write award-winning books about the Holocaust.

Kaleena Fraga
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Kaleena Fraga has also had her work featured in The Washington Post and Gastro Obscura, and she published a book on the Seattle food scene for the Eat Like A Local series. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she earned a dual degree in American History and French.