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Introduction

Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic

The Vilna Ghetto or Vilnius Ghetto was a Jewish ghetto established by Nazi Germany in the city of Vilnius in the occupied Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (nowVilniusLithuania), during the Holocaust in World War II.

During roughly two years of its existence, starvationdisease, street executions, maltreatment and deportations to concentration camps and extermination camps reduced the population of the ghetto from an estimated 40,000 to zero. Only several hundred people managed to survive, mostly by hiding in the forests surrounding the town, joining the Soviet partisans, or finding shelter among sympathetic locals.

Street in Vilnius Ghetto during the Holocaust

German troops entered Vilnius on 26 June 1941, followed by units of the Einsatzgruppe A death squads. Over the course of the summer, German troops and Lithuanian civilians and Lithuanian police killed more than 21,000 Jews living in Vilnius, in a mass extermination program.

Vilna or Vilnius was a predominantly Polish and Jewish city before World War II. After invading PolandJoseph Stalin gave it back to Lithuania in October 1939 according to the Soviet–Lithuanian Mutual Assistance Treaty. The Republic of Lithuania had claimed it as its capital and the dispute between Poland and Lithuania was a long-standing one at the League of Nations.

The Republic of Lithuania, operating out of the provisional capital Kaunas, sent in the Lithuanian Army to reclaim the city and embarked on a project to Lithuanianize the city. The Jewish population of Vilnius on the eve of the Holocaust was probably more than 60,000, including refugees from the German-occupied Poland, and subtracting the small number who managed to flee onward to the Soviet Union.

The kidnapping and mass murder of Jews in the city commenced before the ghetto was set up by the advancing German forces, resulting in an execution of approximately 21,000 victims prior to September 6, 1941.

The Lithuanian kidnappers were known inYiddish as hapunes, meaning grabbers or snatchers. In the months that followed Poles were also targeted by the German sponsored Lithuanian authorities collaborating with the Nazis in the extermination of Jews.

Lithuanian Nazi Policeman with Jewish Prisoners in July 1941

 

The Great Provocation refers to the incident the Nazis staged as a pretext for clearing the predominantly poorer Jewish quarter in the Vilnius Old Town in order to force the rest of the predominantly more affluent Jewish residents into the Nazi German-created ghetto.

Specifically, the Great Provocation of 31 August 1941, was led by SSEinsatzkommando 9 Oberscharführer Horst Schweinbergerunder orders from Gebietskommissar of the Vilnius municipality Hans Christian Hingst and Franz Murer, Hingst’s deputy for Jewish affairs, under “provisional directives” of Reichskommissar Hinrich Lohse.

Murer, Hingst and Vilnius Lithuanian mayorKarolis Dabulevi?ius selected the site for the future ghetto and staged a sniping at German soldiers in front of a cinema from a window on the corner Stikli? (Glezer, also known as Szklana in Polish) and Didžioji (Wielka, meaning in Polish Great Street, hence the name for the event) streets by two Lithuanians in civilian clothes who had broken into an apartment belonging to Jews. The Lithuanians fled the apartment, then returned with waiting German soldiers, seized two Jews, accused them of firing on the German soldiers, beat them and then shot them on the spot.

Stikli? and M?sini? (Jatkowa) streets were ransacked by the local militia, and Jews were beaten up. At night, in “retaliation,” all Jews were driven out of the neighbourhood the Nazis had selected as the future ghetto territory, street by street, and the next day the women and children on remaining streets were seized while the men were at work.

Men at workplaces were also seized. Jews were taken to Lukišk?s Prison, then to Paneriai, also known as Ponar or Ponary, where they were murdered between 1 September and 3 September. Five to ten thousand people were murdered, including ten members of the Judenrat. The objective was to clear a territory for the establishment of a ghetto to imprison all the Jews of Vilnius and suburbs.

Straszuna Street (Polish) of the former Ghetto: today - Žemaitijos st.

On 6 September and 7 September 1941, the Nazis herded the remaining 20,000 Jews into the parameters of two ghettos by evicting them from their homes, during which 3,700 were killed.

Converts, "half-Jews" and spouses of Jews were also forced into the ghetto. The move to the ghetto was extremely hurried and difficult, and Jews were not allowed to use transportation. They could take only what they were physically able to carry.

The area designated for the ghetto was the old Jewish quarter in the centre of the city. While Vilna never had a ghetto per se except for some very limited restrictions on the movement and settlement of Jews during the Middle Ages, the area chosen by the Nazis for their ghetto was predominantly and historically inhabited by Jews. The Nazis split the area into two ghettos with a non-ghetto corridor running down Deutschegasse (Niemiecka or Vokie?i? Street).

This made it easier for the Nazis to control what the victims knew of their fate beforehand, facilitating the Nazis' goal of total extermination. Like the other Jewish ghettos Nazi Germany set up during World War II, the Vilnius Ghetto was created both to dehumanize the people and to exploit its inmates as slave labour. Conditions were intended to be extremely poor and crowded, subjecting victims to unsanitary conditions, disease and daily death.

Health Care

Jewish Vilna was also known for its distinguished medical tradition, which inmates of the Ghetto managed to maintain to some degree during the Holocaust.  As in front of most Ghettos established by the Germans, a sign was put right outside the Ghetto stating: "Achtung! Seuchengefahr", that is "Attention! Danger of Infection".

Mortality rates did, indeed, increase in the Vilna Ghetto as compared with pre-war demographics. However, due largely to the efforts of the Ghetto Health Department, the Vilna Ghetto had no major epidemics despite malnourishment, cold and overcrowding. 

According to Dr. Lazar Epstein, the head of Sanitary-Epidemiological Section of the ghetto Health Department, the inmates of the Ghetto could, left to their own devices, have lived a very long time, certainly to the end of the war despite the numerous privations.

Liquidation A Holocaust memorial in Suba?iaus Street near the site of the HKP slave labour camp

By the end of October 1941, the Nazis had murdered all the inhabitants of the smaller second ghetto. They declared from that point on only 12,000 Jews would remain in the larger ghetto to serve the needs of the German military and economy.

In reality, 20,000 remained all together. The Germans systematically carried out Aktionen, or massive killing sprees, to reduce the number of sick and elderly and to meet quotas on the total of the population allowed. These Aktionen were conducted on a regular basis from the creation of the ghetto until January 1942.

The period between January 1942 and March 1943 was known as the time of ghetto stabilization when German murder in the ghetto decreased. From 6 August to 5 September 1943, however, 7,130 Jews were deported to Estonia by order of Heinrich Himmler.

Under the supervision of Oberscharführer Bruno Kittel, the ghetto was "liquidated" between 23 and 24 September 1943, and the majority of the Jewish population were sent to the Vaivara concentration camp in Estonia, killed in the forest of Paneriai, or sent to the death camps in German-occupied Poland.

A small remnant of Jews remained after the liquidation of the Vilnius Ghetto, primarily at the Kailis slave labour camp and at the HKP slave labour camp. The HKP camp (short for Heereskraftpark and an outfit involved in repairing German military automobiles) was commanded by Wehrmacht Major Karl Plagge, who, with the help of some of his men, managed to shield many of his workers from the murderous goal of the SS. Two-hundred and fifty Jews at HKP survived the war. They represent the single largest group of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Vilnius.

Resistance Abba Kovner with members of the FPO

The Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (United Partisan Organization) was formed on 21 January 1942 in the Vilna Ghetto. It took for its motto "We will not go like sheep to the slaughter," a phrase resurrected by Abba Kovner. This was one of the first resistance organizations established in the Nazi ghettos during World War II. Unlike in other ghettos, the resistance movement in the Vilna Ghetto was not run by ghetto officials.

 Jacob Gens, appointed head of the ghetto by the Nazis but originally chief of police, ostensibly cooperated with German officials in stopping armed struggle. The FPO represented the full spectrum of political persuasions and parties in Jewish life. It was headed by Yitzhak WittenbergJosef Glazman, and Abba Kovner.

The goals of the FPO were to establish a means for the self-defence of the ghetto population, to sabotage German industrial and military activities and to join the partisan and Red Army’s fight against the Nazis. Poet Hirsh Glick, a Vilna ghetto inmate who later died after having been deported to Estonia, penned the words for what became the famous Partisan Hymn, Zog nit keynmol, az du geyst dem letstn veg.

Ghettos Reichskommissariat Ostland (marked with red-gold stars)

In early 1943, the Germans caught a member of the Communist underground who revealed some contacts under torture and the Judenrat, in response to German threats, tried to turn Yitzhak Wittenberg, the head of the FPO, over to the Gestapo.

The FPO was able to rescue him after he was seized in the apartment of Jacob Gens in a fight with Jewish ghetto police. Gens brought in heavies, the leaders of the work brigades, and effectively turned the majority of the population against the resistance members, claiming they were provoking the Nazis and asking rhetorically whether it was worth sacrificing tens of thousands for the sake of one man.

Ghetto prisoners assembled and demanded the FPO give Wittenberg up. Ultimately Wittenberg himself made the decision to submit to the Nazi demands. He was taken to Gestapo headquarters in Vilnius and was reportedly found dead in his cell the next morning. Most people believed he had committed suicide. The rumour had it that Gens had slipped him a cyanide pill in their final meeting.

The FPO was thoroughly demoralized by the chain of events and began to pursue a policy of sending young people out to the forest to join the Jewish partisans. This was controversial as well because the Nazis attempted to kill all family members of people who had joined the partisans. In the Vilna ghetto a "family" often included non-relations who registered as a member of a family in order to receive housing and a pitiful food ration.

When the Nazis came to liquidate the ghetto in 1943, members of the FPO went on alert. Gens took control of the liquidation in order to keep the Nazi forces out of the ghetto and away from a partisan ambush, but helped fill the quota of Jews with those who could fight but were not necessarily part of the resistance. The FPO fled to the forest and fought with the partisans.

 

The Vilna Ghetto was called "Yerushalayim of the Ghettos" because it was known for its intellectual and cultural spirit. Before the war, Vilnius had been known as "Yerushalayim d'Lita" (Yiddish: Jerusalem of Lithuania) for the same reason. The center of cultural life in the ghetto was the Mefitze Haskole Library which was called the "House of Culture".

It contained a library holding 45,000 volumes, reading hall, archive, statistical bureau, room for scientific work, museum, book kiosk, post office, and sports ground. Groups, such as the Literary and Artistic Union and the Brit Ivrit Union, organized events commemorating Yiddish and Hebrew authors and put on plays in these languages. The popular Yiddish magazine Folksgezunt was continued in the ghetto and its essays were presented in public lectures.

 Yitskhok Rudashevski (1927–1943), a young teen who wrote a diary of his life in the ghetto during 1941 to 1943, mentions a number of these events and his participation in them. He was murdered in the liquidation of 1943, probably at Paneriai. His diary was discovered in 1944 by his cousin.

The Vilna Ghetto was well-known for its theatrical productions during World War II. Jacob Gens, the head of Jewish police and the ruler/dictator of the Vilna ghetto, was given the responsibility for the starting of this theatre. Performances included poetry by Jewish Authors, dramatizations of short stories, and new work by the young ghetto people.

The Ghetto Theatre was a great source of revenue and had a calming effect on the public. A total of 111 performances had been given by January 10th, 1943 and a total of 34,804 tickets were sold. The theatre was renovated to accommodate a bigger audience and create a better-looking theatre for the public eye. This theatre permitted the non-Aryan race to display their power through plays and songs; for instance, one of the songs that was sung was called "Endurance."

The last theatrical production, Der mabl meaning The Flood, was produced by the Swedish dramatist Henning Berger and opened in the summer of 1943, in the last week of this Ghetto’s existence. This play, set in an American saloon during a flood, featured a group of people who banded together during a time of danger and need.

Joseph Sobol's play Ghetto recounts the last days of the Vilna Ghetto theatre company

 

 

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Karl Plagge

Lithuania

Major Karl Plagge 

(July 10, 1897, in Darmstadt — June 19, 1957 in Darmstadt)

Was a Germanofficer and Nazi Party member who during World War II used his position as a staff officer in the Heer to employ and protect some 1,240  Jews — 500 men, the others women and children, in order to give them a better chance to survive the nearly total annihilation of Lithuania’s Jews that took place between 1941–43.

Care for his workers

Plagge graduated from the Technical University of Darmstadt in 1924 with a degree in engineering. On being drafted into the Heer at the beginning of World War II, he was put in command of an engineering unit, HKP562, whose duties involved repairing military vehicles damaged on the eastern front. Plagge and his unit arrived in Vilnius (Vilna) in July 1941 and soon witnessed the genocide being carried out against the Jews of the area. Plagge would later testify that "I saw unbelievable things that I could not support...it was then that I began to work against the Nazis".

Plagge, as a German, felt responsible for some of the horrors he witnessed and felt compelled to work against the genocidal machine. He did what he could to help some of Vilnius’ beleaguered Jews by giving work certificates to Jewish men, certifying them as essential and skilled workers regardless of their actual backgrounds.

This kind of work permit protected the worker, his wife and two of his children from the SS sweeps carried out in the Vilna Ghetto in which Jews without work papers were captured and killed at the nearby Paneriai (Ponary) execution grounds. Plagge issued 250 of these life-saving permits to men, many of them without mechanical skills, thus protecting over 1,000 Jewish men, women and children from execution from 1941 to mid-1944.

Plagge supported his workers' survival by procuring extra food rations and supplying hot meals to the workers in his workshops (an unusual measure) to supplement their starvation rations. He also allowed his Jewish male workers to barter for food with his men as well as local gentiles within the workshops so that they could smuggle food back to their families in the ghetto (an illegal activity).

Plagge also aided the survival of the Jews under his jurisdiction by providing warm clothing, medical supplies and firewood — all scarce commodities. On several occasions he and his subordinate officers helped secure the freedom of some of his workers or their family members when they were arrested during an SS sweeps of the ghetto.

In September 1943 it became clear to Plagge that the Vilna Ghetto was soon to be liquidated. All the remaining Jews in the ghetto were to be taken by the SS, regardless of any working papers they had. In this crucial period Plagge made extraordinary bureaucratic efforts to form a free-standing HKP562 Slave Labor Camp on Subocz Street on the outskirts of Vilnius. Evidence shows that he not only tried to protect his productive male workers, but also made vigorous efforts to protect the women and children in his camp, actively overcoming considerable resistance from local SS officers. 

On September 16, 1943, Plagge transported over 1,000 of his Jewish workers and their families from the Vilna Ghetto to the newly-built HKP camp on Subocz Street, where they remained in relative safety. Less than a week later, on September 23, 1943, the SS liquidated the Vilna Ghetto. The rest of Vilna's Jews were either executed immediately at the nearby execution grounds in the Paneriai (Ponary) Forest, or sent to death camps in Nazi occupied Europe.

The conditions in the HKP camp were relatively benign, especially when compared with those in other slave labor camps across Nazi occupied Europe, with tolerable work conditions, and food at subsistence levels. Plagge ordered respectful treatment of the slave laborers and their families, instructing his officers that "the civilians are to be treated with respect".

These instructions, transmitted through the example set by his subordinate officers, resulted in very little abuse by the men of his unit and the Lithuanian police who guarded the camp. In spite of the general benevolence of Plagge and his men, the SS controlled the ultimate fate of the HKP laborers.

The SS entered the camp on two occasions to commit atrocities, before finally liquidating most of the Jewish laborers in July 1944, shortly before the German retreat out of Vilnius.

In November 1943, a Jewish prisoner named David Zalkind, his wife, and child attempted to escape from the camp and were caught by the Gestapo. They were publicly executed in the camp courtyard in front of the other prisoners. On March 27, 1944, while Plagge was away on home leave in Germany, the SS carried out a Kinder Aktion ("Children Operation").

They entered the camp, rounded up the vast majority of the camp’s 250 children and then transported them away from the camp to be killed (most likely at the killing grounds of Paneriai (Ponary). Thus both Plagge, his subordinates and the prisoners understood that ultimately the SS would decide the fate of the camp’s Jews.

July 1, 1944 – Plagge's Warning A Holocaust memorial near the former camp, Suba?iaus (Subocz) Street

Inthe summer of 1944 the Soviet Red Army advanced to the outskirts of Vilnius. This change in the tides of war brought both joy and fear to the surviving Jews of the HKP camp who understood that the SS would try to kill them in the days before the German retreat.

  Many prepared for this eventuality by discreetly making hiding places in the camp in secret bunkers, in walls, and in the rafters of the attic. A large and crucial unknown was one of timing — the prisoners needed to know when the SS killing squads were coming so they could successfully implement plans to escape or hide. As the sounds of fighting grew closer the level of tension within the camp became palpable.

On July 1, 1944, Major Plagge entered the camp and made an informal speech to the Jewish prisoners who gathered around him. In the presence of an SS officer he told the Jews present at his speech that he and his men were being relocated to the west, and that in spite of his requests, he did not have permission to take his skilled Jewish workers with his unit. However, he said that they should not worry, for they too would be relocated on Monday July 3, and that during this relocation they would be escorted by the SS, which as they knew was “an organization devoted to the protection of refugees”.

With this covert warning from Plagge, over half the camp’s prisoners went into hiding before the SS death squads arrived on July 3, 1944. The 500 prisoners who did appear at roll call were taken to the forest of Paneriai (Ponary) and shot. Over the next three days the SS searched the camp and its surroundings. They found half of the missing prisoners, took them to the camp courtyard and shot them. However, when the Red Army captured Vilnius a few days later, some 250 of the camp’s Jews emerged from hiding.

Effectiveness of Plagge’s endeavors to save Jews

Mass executions in Vilnius (Vilna) and environs were carried out primarily in the Ponary massacre over the period between July 1941 and August 1944, in which 110,000 people were murdered. About 70,000 of these people were Jews of Lithuanian or other nationality; others were deported to Nazi extermination camps.

Plagge tried to spare as many as he could from this by purposely recruiting Jews instead of Poles for labor. His success was only partial; his unit had to retreat, thereby removing the slave-labor framework that had protected them until that point. The SS ultimately succeeded in murdering about 900 – 1000 of Plagge’s 1,250 slave-laborers between the Kinder-Aktion and the final liquidation of the camp.

The success of Plagge’s efforts to save Jews is manifested through a survival rate of about 20–25% among those he hired compared with the much higher rate of 3–5% — virtual annihilation — among the rest of Lithuania's Jews. The 250 to 300 surviving Jews of the HKP camp constituted the largest single group of survivors of the genocide in Vilnius.

Plagge’s efforts are corroborated by survivor testimony, historical documents found in Germany, and Plagge’s own testimony found in a letter he wrote in 1957, a year before his death. In this letter he compares himself with the character of Dr. Rieux in Albert Camus' novel The Plague and describes his hopeless struggle against a plague of death that slowly envelops the inhabitants of his city.

Post-war

After the war, Karl Plagge returned home to Darmstadt, Germany, where he was tried in 1947 as part of the postwar denazification process. Some of his former prisoners were in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart and heard of the charges against him.

They sent a representative, on their own initiative and unannounced, to testify on his behalf, and his testimony influenced the trial result in Plagge's favor. The court wanted to award Plagge the status of an Entlasteter ("exonerated person") but on his own wish he was classified as aMitläufer ("follower"). Like Oskar Schindler, Plagge blamed himself for not having done enough. After the trial Plagge lived the final decade of his life quietly and without fanfare before dying in Darmstadt in June 1957.

HKP survivor Pearl Good points to Karl Plagge’s name on the Wall of the Righteous at Yad Vashem Entrance of the Major-Karl-Plagge Kaserne

In 2005 the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial posthumously bestowed the title “Righteous Among the Nations” on Plagge.

In February 2006 the former Frankensteinkaserne, a Bundeswehr base in PfungstadtGermany, was renamed the Karl-Plagge-Kaserne.

A bust of Karl Plagge was placed in the schoolyard of the Ludwig-Georgs-Gymnasium in Darmstadt, the oldest establishment of secondary higher education in the city.

A street in Darmstadt was named in honour of Karl Plagge.

 

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Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye

The Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (Yiddish: ???????????? ????????????? ??????????????; "United Partisan Organization"; referred to as FPO by its Yiddish initials) was a Jewish resistanceorganization based in the Vilna Ghetto that organized armed resistance against the Nazis duringWorld War II. The partisan organisation was established by Communist and Zionist partisans - their leaders were writer Abba Kovner and Yitzhak Wittenberg.

The FPO was formed on January 21, 1942 in the Vilna Ghetto. It took on the motto: "We will not allow them to take us like beasts to the slaughter." This was the first Jewish resistance organization that was established in the ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.

Unlike in other ghettos, where the underground resistance was coordinated to some extent with the officials of the local Jewish establishment, Vilna's Jacob Gens, head of the ghetto, cooperated with German officials in stopping armed struggle.

The FPO brought together socialist -Zionists, right-wing conservatives, communists and Bundists. It was headed by Yitzhak Wittenberg, Josef Glazman, and Abba Kovner. The goals of the FPO were to establish self-defense in the ghetto, to sabotage German industrial and military activities and to join the partisan and Red Army’s fight against the Nazis.

However, the FPO did not succeed in its mission. In early 1943, the Germans caught a resistance member in the forest and the Judenrat, in response to German threats, gave Wittenberg over to the Gestapo. The FPO was able to rescue him through an armed struggle and were then able to set up a small militia.

The Judenrat did not tolerate this, though, because the Nazis constantly put pressure on them to end the resistance or face liquidation. The Judenrat knew that Jews were smuggling weapons into the ghetto and when a Jew was arrested for the purchase of a revolver, they finally gave the people an ultimatum. The Judenrat turned the people against the resistance members by making them seem like selfish enemies who were provoking the Nazis.

Gens emphasized the people’s responsibility for one another. He said that resistance was sacrificing the good of the community. In the end, the people confronted the resistance and demanded their right to live. The resistance would not fire on the other Jews and they were eventually disarmed and arrested.

When the Nazis came to liquidate the ghetto in 1943, the members of the FPO again congregated. Gens took control of the liquidation so as to rid the ghetto of the Germans, but helped fill the quota of Jews with those who would fight but were not necessarily part of the resistance. The FPO fled to the forest, where most were able to reach Soviet partisan units. FPO members participated in the liberation of Vilna by the Soviet army in July 1944.

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Abba Kovner

Abba Kovner 

(Hebrew: (1918–1987) was a Lithuanian Jewish Hebrew poetwriter, and partisan leader. He became one of the great poets of modern Israel. He was a cousin of the Israeli Communist Party leader Meir Vilner

Abba Kovner (standing in the center) with members of the FPO

 

A quotation by Abba Kovner, displayed at the entrance to Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv

"Partisan & Poet"

Abba Kovner

Abba Kovner was born in 1918 in Sebastopol, Crimea, on the shores of the Black Sea. His early life was the typical model of Jewish youth of the time. He was raised in Vilna, the preeminent center of Jewish learning since the seventeenth century and was exposed to every variety of Jewish thought and  the teachings of traditional and modem persuasions, from orthodoxy to socialism. Abba attended the University of Vilna as an art student, learning to sculpt. and later developed a passion for poetry.

Like many other boys his age Abba became interested in the Zionist movement and joined a local youth group, the "Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'r". However Abba Kovners' destiny would be anything from typical, and the Nazi war machine would ensure that was to be the case.

On June 24, 1941, two days after Germany launched its surprise attack against the Soviet Union "Operation Barbarossa", the Germans occupied Vilna. Several thousand Jews fled eastward with the Soviet army, but the rapid German advance traps the majority of the Jews in Vilna. and almost 60,000 Jews remain in the city at the time of the German occupation. 

SS & Nazi administration of occupied Vilna

Less than a month after the Germans occupied Vilna, they conducted their first Aktion. Einsatzkommando 9 rounded up 5,000 Jewish men of Vilna and took them to Ponary, an abandoned Soviet oil storage facility with large pits designed to house fuel.

The Germans found these pre-dug "pits" a convenient place to dispose of the bodies  of not only these Jews but also the thousands of others they would bring there under the pretense of being sent to labor camps, when they were really sent to Ponary to be murdered.


The Nazis then staged What be came knows as the "Great Provocation", it began on August 31, 1941, led by SS officer Einsatzkommando 9 Oberscharführer Horst Schweinberger.

The SS established two ghettos in Vilna, referred to as Ghetto No. 1 and Ghetto No. 2. The following day they swept through the city and  forced the remaining Jews of Vilna into the newly created ghettos. 

The gate to the Vilna ghetto

About 30,000 Jews were forced into Ghetto No. 1 and between 9,000 and 11,000 Jews into Ghetto No. 2. However, Kovner and sixteen other members of the Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'ir chose not to be locked away in the ghetto and fled the city. Hiding out in a convent of Dominican nuns a few miles outside of Vilna, they watched as the Nazis conducted one series of actions, after another.

Though they had experienced unabated terror and destruction since the Germans arrived, the Jews of Vilna were still not ready to believe the truth about the mass shooting of Jews. On September 17 1941, SS squads, assisted by Lithuanian auxiliary units, shot more than 1,200 Jews from the Vilna ghetto, including almost 700 women and 250 children in the pits at Ponary. 

On November 6, 1941, the Germans then ordered that Jews without work permits move from Ghetto No. 1 to Ghetto No. 2.  and during the transfer, they seized  almost all the Jews without work permits from Ghetto No. 1. These they held for two days in Lukiszki prison and then marched them to Ponary for execution.                     

Lukiszki prison in Vilna

Those who remained in the ghettos learned nothing of the fate of their missing loved ones and when a survivor of Ponary actually, came back to the ghetto and told of her experiences, few wanted to believe her story. But Abba Kovner had no illusions about the German intentions for the Jews of Vilna.

He had seen first hand the treatment the Jews had received during one of the early actions; watching through a window, he saw a woman dragged by the hair by two soldiers, he later told his comrades what he saw:

"A woman who was holding something in her arms. One of them directed a beam of light into her face, the other one dragged her by her hair and threw her on the pavement.   Then the infant fell out of her arms. One of the two, the one with the flashlight, I believe, took the infant, raised him into the air, grabbed him by the leg.

The woman crawled on the earth, took hold of his boot and pleaded for mercy. But the soldier took the boy and hit him with his head against the wall, once, twice, smashed him against the wall!"

The bodies of murdered Jews at the pits of Ponary

By December of 1941 it became clear too many Jews in the Ghetto that the Germans meant to kill them all, and some formed activist groups while others made a call to resist.  Abba Kovner was one of these who wished to fight but there seemed to be no clear consensus amongst the activists on how best to do so.
A secret meeting was held on Dec 31st where many of the youth groups and activists advocating resistance came together to discuss the call to arms. Although not all in attendance agreed to stay and fight, Abba Kovner took it upon himself to urge what remained of the Ghetto inhabitants to rise up and fight from within ghetto itself.

FPO Manifesto "call to resist"

In an impassioned speech delivered at one of the Ghetto soup kitchens he shouted to those around him

"Jewish youth! Do not trust those who are trying to deceive you. Out of the eighty thousand Jews in the "Jerusalem of Lithuania" only twenty thousand are left. . . .

Ponary is not a concentration camp. They have all been shot there. Hitler plans to destroy all the Jews of Europe, and the Jews of Lithuania have been chosen as the first in line.

We will not be led like sheep to the slaughter! True, we are weak and defenseless, but the only reply to the murderer is revolt! Brothers! Better to fall as  free fighters than to live by the mercy of the murderers. Arise! Arise with your last breath!"

Yitzhak Wittenberg

Shortly thereafter the United Partisan Organization-Fareinikte Partisaner Organizatzie - F.P.O.- was formed on January 21, 1942 in the Vilna Ghetto. It took  for its motto "We will not go like sheep to the slaughter," from the speech given by Abba Kovner.

It was decided the F.P.O. would be lead by a "staff command" made up of Kovner, Josef Glazman, and Yitzhak Wittenberg, with the "chief commander" being Wittenberg. Later, two more members were added to staff command - Abraham Chwojnik of the Bund and Nissan Reznik of the Ha-No'ar ha-Ziyyoni - expanding the leadership to five. 
 

The goals of the FPO were to establish a means for the self-defense of the ghetto population, to sabotage German industrial and military activities and to join the partisan and Red Army’s fight against the Nazis.

Jacob Gens

Initial studies of how to defend the compact space of a few city blocks, cut off from outside contacts and sources of arms, made some believe that the only real defense would be classical hit-and-run partisan warfare from bases outside the ghetto.

However not all Ghetto Jews were in favor of the resistance movement. The Vilna Judenrat led by Jacob Gens felt that the only way  for the Jews of Vilna to survive total annihilation was to prove that the Ghetto was economically useful to the Germans and their war effort.

Fearful that the activists would bring severe reprisals on the remaining Jews, Gens, aided by his Ghetto Police, began a propaganda campaign against the resistance.  He succeeding in convincing the leaders of the "Work Brigades" to support his efforts, and was able to turn public opinion against the FPO and its leaders.

When the Germans learned of the resistance movement they began to pressure Gens to arrest them. Gens soon setup a meeting with the FPO leaders in an effort to get them to cease and desist all acts of resistance.

Abraham Chwojnik  - FPO

It was at this meeting that Gens had FPO leader Wittenberg arrested and taken out of the meeting, other F.P.O. members were alerted, and in anger attacked the Jewish police, eventually freeing Wittenberg, who immediately went into hiding inside the ghetto.

The next morning, in response to the failure of Gens to produce FPO leader to the Gestapo, it was announced that if Wittenberg were not apprehended, the Germans would liquidate the entire ghetto of all 20,000 of its remaining  Jews. Gens in a panic went to the people once more, claiming that the resistance members were provoking the Nazis, he asked them:

 "Whether it was worth sacrificing tens of thousands of lives for the sake of one man?"

The Ghetto inhabitants in large numbers began to demand the FPO give Wittenberg up, some even attacked FPO members with stones. The FPO was faced with literally a life-or-death crisis:

How could they engage in a fight against the ghetto population they had taken an oath to defend?

Abba Kovner as the new leader of the FPO

Ultimately Wittenberg himself made the decision to submit to the Nazi demands and turn himself in. However before submitting himself to torture and death at the hands of the Gestapo, as his final act as leader of the FPO, he appointed Abba Kovner his successor.

During the summer and fall of 1943, Kovner and his resistance fighters carry out acts of sabotage against German military trains and equipment transports, and even set up an illegal printing press outside of the ghetto.

One of their key goals was to establish ties to the Soviet resistance in the city and the forests. Kovner also sent emissaries to the Warsaw and Bialystok ghettos to warn the inhabitants about the mass killings of Jews in the occupied Soviet Union and to incite resistance.

On September 1, 1943 German forces began the final destruction of the Vilna ghetto. Kovner and the FPO made a concerted effort to try and persuade the ghetto residents not to gather for the deportation because they were in actuality being sent to their deaths.

Partisan hideout in the Rudniky forest

The Jews of Vilna refused to believe this, as Jacob Gens had lead them to believe they were simply being sent to labor camps in Estonia.

Fighting broke out between the FPO and the Germans, who brought in light artillery, and explosives, to flush out the ghetto fighters. But as soon as it grew dark, the Germans pulled out of the ghetto and left it to the Jewish Police to continue the hunt until daylight.
 

After the initial skirmish with the Germans, Gens tried to prevent further destruction by offering to provide additional Jews for forced labor in Estonia, if only the Germans would leave the ghetto. The Germans agreed, and Jacob Gens had been given a quota of Jews to be deported.

Hoping to meet the German demands with those members of the FPO he could capture, the German authorities refused to wait, and rounded up every Jew they could get their hands on, eventually deporting all but 12,000 Jews from Vilna.
 

Kovner testifies at the Eichmann trial in 1961

Shortly thereafter, on On September 14, Jacob Gens was ordered to a meeting with the German authorities never to return.  He was interrogated by the Gestapo who claimed he was aiding the resistance, and ordered him shot. Ten days later the ghetto was completely liquidated. 

Once more the FPO urged the remaining Jews to resist the deportation but the last of the Jews of  the Vilna ghetto, chose not to heed his call to arms.

Kovner and hundreds of the ghetto fighters escaped through the city’s sewers and other outlets to the Rudniky forests where they joined Soviet partisans in many combat missions. There Kovner and his followers operated a partisan division comprised solely of Jews, and performed many heroic acts of sabotage.

 

Abba Kovner the "Partisan & Poet"

The division played a key role in destroying power installations, water infrastructures and supply depots. They blew up German transport trains and even rescued groups of prisoners from the Kalais labor camp.
 

After the war, Kovner helped organize the Beriha movement, in which hundreds of thousands of survivors made their way west in order to reach Palestine. Kovner and his wife, Vitka Kempner, who was also his partner in the underground movement, settled in Palestine, where he joined the Givati Brigade in order to defend the newly formed state of Israel.

 

In 1961 Kovner testified at the trial of Adolf Eichmann and later dedicated his life to poetry, he also authored several books, for which he won the 1970 Israel Prize in Literature. 

Abba Kovner died at age 69 in September 1987.
 

                      One Living Word

No more willful silences.
No more verbal contact, he who loved to listen to so many will never again hear his own voice among them.

He will sit with his friends over talk from now on under constraint.
The talk. The thoughts. The friends.
And as he listens through the secret door he will turn his inner ear to the dark mumur: Son of man,
all this and all this never was and never will be
as good as one living word.

                         -Abba Kovner

 

 

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Yitzhak Wittenberg

Yitzhak Wittenberg 

(1907—July 16, 1943)

Was a Jewish resistance fighter in Vilna during World War II. He became famous as the leader of the Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye, a resistance group in the Vilna Ghetto. When the Germans learned about the existence of the group, they requested from the head of the Jewish council, Jacob Gens, to give up Wittenberg. Gens invited Wittenberg among others to his office where he had him arrested and later handed him over to the Gestapo.

The FPO managed to free Wittenberg. When the Germans threatened to raze the Ghetto and kill all inmates, Wittenberg surrendered himself to the Gestapo. He was later found dead in his prison cell, presumably having swallowed poison. It has been speculated, that Gens had slipped the poison to Wittenberg earlier.

 

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Hirsch Glik

Hirsch Glik was born in 1920 to a working class family in Vilna.  Glik began writing poetry at the age of 13, and was involved throughout his adolescent years in literary circles such as Yung Vilne ( Young Vilna) and its offshootYungvald (Young Forest).

In September of 1941, Glik was sent to the first of two ghettos established in the city. One of the most significant political forces in the Vilna ghetto was the underground Fareynigte Partizaner Organizatsye, of which Glik was a member. 

 The FPO was established in 1942 to organize armed resistance in the forests surrounding Vilna. However, the members of the FPO were also heavily involved in the cultural life of the Vilna ghetto.  Many partisan writers, such as Glik, saw song writing as an effective way of promoting their cause, encouraging resistance, and creating a feeling of communal strength.

Glik composed the popular song ‘Zog nit keynol as du geyst dem letstn veg’ (Never say that you are walking the final road), which became the official hymn of the FPO shortly after it was written in 1943. There were two important events that likely influenced the writing of this song; first, a battle between a group of Jewish partisans and SS officers in the forests near Vilna in 1943 and second, news of the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

The song was based on a popular Soviet melody by composer Dimitri Pokrass. This song’s popularity extended far beyond the confines of the Vilna ghetto; Glik’s song found its way to concentration camps throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. We know from survivor accounts that ‘Zog nit keynol as du geyst dem letstn veg’ was also translated into several European languages

In September of 1943, Glik was deported to the first of several Estonian concentration camps. Throughout his internment, Glik continued writing poems. In 1944, as Russian forces were closing in, he escaped from the camp to join the partisans, but disappeared, and was presumed dead. 


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A Safe House

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Vilna Ghetto Jewish Police

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Vilna Ghetto Resistance Fighters, 1942

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Work Permit

Work Permits = Life 
   In Oct. 1941, the Nazis brought 3000 work certificates to the ghetto and said to distribute them among the workers. They were called schaynen from the German word for certificate, schayn.  At first, printed on pink paper, they were called pink schaynen.  The schaynen could contain four  people, a husband and wife and two children. So, 12,000 people were temporarily safe. 
   One place where they gave out the schaynen was in the inner courtyard of the Judenrat building at 6 Rudnicka St., the former mansion of a Polish nobleman.  Given out in one night, the courtyard was full of people who were shouting and begging for one of the schaynen because they knew it meant life.  The Judenerat became corrupt and the price for schaynen jumped from 50 rubles to 15,000 rubles. 

 In other places, there was a more honest distribution of schaynen.  One of these places was the Jewish hospital, given to its workers.  Also teachers got a small number of schaynen.  In the 1942 list of prisoners of the Vilna Ghetto, some of my relatives are listed.  One is a hospital orderly.  She would have received a schaynen given out at the hospital. 
   The passes meant life.  If the pass owner did not have a spouse or two children, they would add the names of other relatives or the children of neighbors who either didn't have passes or had more than two children. 
   The final work certificate color was yellow.  Yellow schaynen were given to workers and they could request blue schaynen for their spouses and two children.  Those with a yellow schaynen could leave the ghetto to go to work.  Those with a blue schaynen could only leave if accompanied by a someone with a yellow. 
 

 

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Rachel Margolis~War Hero

Lithuanian war hero Rachel Margolis is one of the most courageous women in her country's history. Yet amid the recent wave of anti-Semitism in the Baltic state, prosecutors are trying to implicate her in a case against a fellow partisan hero of the anti-Nazi forest war of the 1940s.

Fearing harassment and arrest, she is in exile in Israel but those who hear her story will surely conclude that the Lithuanian authorities should grant this extraordinary woman – now in her 90th year – a permit to return to her native land.

Rachel, born in 1921, is the only person I have heard of who demanded to move into a wartime Jewish ghetto. When the Nazis invaded and occupied Lithuania in 1941, she was sent to a Christian family for shelter but decided that rather than hide she would fight and, if necessary, die fighting.

Entering the Vilna ghetto in September 1942 she presented herself to the Jewish resistance and demanded to be given a role in the partisan war. She was soon an active member of the ghetto's clandestine underground and in the autumn of 1942 was admitted to membership of the Fareinikte Partisaner Organizatzie (the United Partisan Organisation) – formed only eight months earlier and commanded by Abba Kovner, later a noted Israeli poet.

"Everyone was anxious to fight," she wrote. "Our mission was to acquire weapons, complete militarily preparations, all with the aim of provoking an uprising in the ghetto. If we perished it would be with honour, having proved to humanity that we are not sheep going meekly to the slaughter."

In June 1943 the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, ordered the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto; 4,000 Jews were sent to death camps and murdered, another 4,000 sent to slave labour camps. A few hundred Jews managed to escape from the ghetto to the forests.

Rachel and her husband-to-be were among them. Despite enduring a bout of typhus which nearly killed her, Rachel and her fiancé joined a partisan unit that was blowing up bridges and railways essential to the German lines of communication.

In her recent memoirs she recounts tales of her own activities and a story told by fellow partisans about the battle in the village of Kanyuki on 29 January 1944 between armed pro-Nazi villagers and the partisans. The story describes how a group of Jewish partisans, including a woman called Fanya Branstovsky, attacked a Nazi garrison. Rachel writes:

"The partisans had surrounded the garrison, but the Nazis were exceptionally well armed and beat off all attacks. They broke the flanks of the Jewish detachments, and the partisans withdrew precipitously. Then Magid jumped up on a rock and yelled, 'We are Jews. We will show them what we are capable of. Forward, comrades!' This sobered the men up; they ran back and won."

In late 2007 and early 2008, local anti-Semitic newspapers focused on this one paragraph, took it out of context, and said it proved that Branstovsky murdered unarmed civilians and Margolis was an enemy of the Lithuanian people.

Unlike in Germany, Lithuanian society has never gone through a period of reconciliation and repentance of its Nazi past and there is a fierce ideological debate about how to describe and respond to the collaboration between ordinary Lithuanians and German occupiers that was in evidence in places like Kanyuki.

As a result, Rachel's memoirs were used as evidence that the organised resistance of Jews at Kanyuki was "a Communist atrocity" against ordinary Lithuanians. In May 2008, armed police came looking for both Branstovsky and Margolis.

Was the attack on Kanyuki village, in which 38 villagers were killed, a legitimate partisan military operation, with inevitable civilian casualties, or a calculated war crime? Whatever the answer, there is no explanation of why the Lithuanian prosecutor and police should even have opened an investigation when no concrete evidence existed that any of the named individuals had been involved in prosecutable offences. One may also contrast this investigative zeal against Jewish partisans with the negligent handling of cases involving the alleged murders of Jews.

Rachel does not deny her involvement in partisan activities – indeed, she is fiercely proud of it – but she was not even present in the Koniuchy area on the day, a fact which she explained in a detailed letter to the authorities in Vilnius.

After Fanya Brantsovsky answered some questions in 2008, her file was closed and she has not been troubled since by the prosecutor's office, despite local press hostility. But for Rachel Margolis there has been no such closure.

It seems that the prosecutor cannot close the file without posing questions to her and now claims that they only want to meet her "as a witness, not a suspect" – but she was not a witness of the events of Kanyuki village and never claimed in her memoirs that she was. She is willing to answer questions, if this can be arranged in a way that is not distressing or intimidating for her, and with an assurance that if her answers offer no basis for proceeding further, the file will be closed.

But the question remains why this extraordinary woman is being subject to a campaign of state-sponsored harassment for her involvement in – and reportage of – a campaign of resistance to those who had invaded her country and set about systematically murdering its Jewish population.

There were around 190,000 Lithuanian Jews at the start of the war; only 9,000 at its end. Rachel is the only member of her family to have survived; the remaining Jews left in the Vilna ghetto were slaughtered days before Allied liberation.

Throughout her imprisonment in the ghetto, her time in the forest as a partisan fighter and now as she struggles to clear her name in the face of attempts to smear her and other members of the Jewish resistance, Rachel was influenced by the words of another fighter she knew.

Her friend Sonia told her, when they were weighing up the risks of fighting and the tiniest of chances they had against the full might of the Third Reich, "as long as we're still alive we cannot lose".

Rachel Margolis, who will be 90 this year, is still alive after a voluntary entry to the ghetto, a voluntary membership of the armed resistance and voluntary involvement in the telling of the survivors' story which has so incensed the authorities. She cannot lose her fight to go home – and we must not let her.

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Mark (Meir) Dworzecki

 

Mark (Meir) Dworzecki was born in 1908 in Vilna and completed his medical studies at the University of Vilna in 1935. When the war broke out he served in the Polish army and was taken prisoner by the Germans. He escaped and returned to Vilna and worked as a doctor in the ghetto. His attempt to join the partisans failed. He was deported from the ghetto to a labour camp in Estonia.

Following the liberation Dworzecki emigrated to Israel and was one of the pioneers in researching medicine during the Holocaust. He testified at the Eichmann trial. One of his books is about the history of the Vilna Ghetto "Jerusalem of Lithuania in Resistance and in the Holocaust" (Yerushalayim D'lita Ba'meri U'va'shoah) in 1953 he was awarded the Israel Prize for Social Sciences.

The two of us sat in the dark corridor in the Judenrat and waited to hear our fate. We conversed, at the same time each of us knowing that a certificate of life for one was a death sentence for the other… and they brought me a certificate for life – and my friend was sentenced - I was embarrassed to raise my eyes – and even so I took… my yellow certificate 777 – that was my certificate for life.

A line of five people is walking: Husband, wife and three children… Gens counts "Father, mother, child, child." The third child, a twelve year old, he hits with a stick and removes from the line… and… marching in a line: a father, a mother and one child. Gens counts "One – father, two – mother, three – child," and suddenly he starts shouting a torrent of abuse at the father, "You fool, how have you lost your second son?..." and during the disturbance Gens places the crook of his staff around the neck of the twelve-year-old, whom he had previously removed from the line, drags him and attaches him as a fourth member of the family. And again he raises his voice… "You idiot, look after your son…"

Mark Dworzecki, Jerusalem of Lithuania in Resistance and in the Holocaust, p. 89-90

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Asia Big (Bik)

Asia Big (Bik) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Bund Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 23/9/1943

Bibliography 
* Ainsztein Reuben - Jewish Resistance In Nazi Occupied Eastern Europe, Paul Elek, London 1974.

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Shura Bogen (Alexander Katzenbogen)

Shura Bogen (Alexander Katzenbogen,  Leader of a Jewish partisan unit.

 

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Z. Botnias (Zerach Ragovski

Z. Botnias (Zerach Ragovski) the first leader of the Jewish underground Otriad " Nekama"  in Naarutz forest.

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Sonia Madiskar, a Partisan Leader was Killed in 1943.

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Zelda Trager and Dina Gruenwald

Zelda Trager and Dina Gruenwald, members of the FPO (United Partisans Organization) in the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto. Trager is on the left

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Chiena Borovska

Chiena Borovska, representative of the Communist party in the FPO (United Partisans Organization) Jewish underground in the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto. Borovska (left) is seen here with friends. Photographed after the war in an area that had been part of the ghetto

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Berl Szerszenewski

Berl Szerszenewski at the head of the stairs leading to the headquarters of the FPO (United Partisans Organization) in the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto. The building stood at 6 Oshmyany Street. Photographed after the liberation of the city.

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Shimon Bloch

Shimon Bloch, member of the FPO (United Partisans Organization) in the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto.

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Three Partisans

Three partisans from the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto, in Bucuresti (Bucharest). In the photo: Nisan Reidbord (on the right), Mitzka Lipenholz (center) and Miroszka Chefetz. Photographed on April 2, 1945.

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Three Partisans From the Vilnius

Three partisans from the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto. In the photo: Josef - Julek Charmac (on the right), Yitzhak Czuzuj (center), and Senka Nisilewicz

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Partisans

Partisans from the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto at an assembly of former partisans, photographed beside a memorial tablet at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. In the photo: Leib Szapirstein (on the right), Nisan Reznik (second from the right), Yitzhak Kowalski (third from the right), Elchanan Telerant (third from the left), Elchanan - Chanan Magid (second from the left) and Nisan Reidbord (on the left).

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The Soviet Jewish Writer Ilya Ehrenburg

The Soviet Jewish writer Ilya Ehrenburg in a meeting with partisans following the liberation of Vilnius (Vilna) in 1944.


In the photo:
Rachel Kuberski (front row, on the right),
Rivka Karpineks (front row, second from the right),
Emma Gurfinkel (front row, third from the right),
Solia Gurfinkel (front row, fourth from the right),
Ilya Ehrenburg (wearing a black beret, front row, third from the left),
Avraham Resel (front row, second from the left),
David Ehrlich (front row, on the left),
Lipa Bernstein (back row, on the right),
Yitzhak Alter (back row, second from the right),
Israel Wajs (back row, third from the right),
M. Gurewitz (standing, rear, to Ehrenburg's right),
Shim'on Luski (standing, rear, to Ehrenburg's left),
Shlomo Kuberski (back row, third from the left),
Yitzhak Mostowic (back row, second from the left), and
Chaim Seidel (back row, on the left).

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Three Partisans from Vilnius

Three partisans from Vilnius (Vilna). Photographed in the Rudniki (Rudninkai) Forest. In the photo: Josef - Julek Charmac (on the right), Aharon Kagan (center), and Senka Nisilewicz

 

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Liberation of Vilnius

Jewish partisans in the area on the day of the liberation of Vilnius (Vilna). In the photo:
Elchanan Magid (standing, on the left), Jacob Prener (standing, second from the left), Bluma Markowicz (standing, third from the left), Abba Kovner (standing, fourth from the left), Ruzka Korczak (standing, third from the right), Leib Szapirstein (standing, second from the right), Vitka Kempner (standing, on the right), Pesach Mizerecz (kneeling, center), Motl Szames (kneeling, on the right).

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Liberation

Partisans from Vilnius (Vilna), among them Jews,who took part in the battle to liberate the city. Photographed in the first days after the liberation, in July 1944.

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Partisans

Partisans in the area that had been the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto. In the photo: Abba Kovner (second from the right). Photographed in September 1944.

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Rivka Madeiskar,

Rivka Madeiskar, member of the Jewish underground in the Vilnius (Vilna) and Bialystok ghettos.
Note:
Rivka Madeiskar, born in 1922, was a member of Ha - Shomer ha - Tsa'ir and took part in the Bialystok ghetto uprising. After that she lived as a Pole, under the assumed name of Marysia Madejska, on the "Aryan" side of Bialystok, and served as a courier with the partisans. She was arrested by Ukrainian SS men after having been informed on. She was charged with providing aid for a wounded Jew in hiding. Rivka Madeiskar was tortured to death; she died on December 3, 1943

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Yuri Farber and Kolya Senin

Yuri Farber and Kolya Senin, two of the Sonderkommando at the Ponary extermination site, who afterwards escaped and joined the partisans.

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Fighting Guidelines

A page with part of the "fighting guidelines" of the FPO (United Partisans Organization) Jewish underground in the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto.

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Three Former Partisans

Three former partisans from the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto. In the photo: Shlomo Kuberski (on the left), Dr. Alexander Libo (center), and Israel Kronik (on the right). Photographed in Lodz in 1947.

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Three Jewish Women Partisans

Three Jewish women partisans in the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto after its liberation. In the photo: Zelda Trager (on the right), Ruzka Korczak (middle), and Vitka Kempner (on the left).

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Shim'on Pelawski

Shim'on Pelawski, member of the Jewish underground in the Vilnius
(Vilna) ghetto, during the period when he served in the Polish Army.

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Shlomo Brand

Shlomo Brand, Jewish underground fighter in the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto.

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A wounded Partisan in the Ghetto

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Avraham - Abrasha Chwojnik

Avraham - Abrasha Chwojnik, member of the Bund and the Jewish underground in the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto.

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Vilna Partisans~Page 1

Alexander Bogen (Katzenbogen) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 
Gender Male 
Nickname Szura Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) 

___________________________________________

Asia Big (Bik) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Bund Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius 
Unit F.P.O. 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 23/9/1943 Bibliography 
* Ainsztein Reuben - Jewish Resistance In Nazi Occupied Eastern Europe, Paul Elek, London 1974. 


Szlomo Baran 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/7/1926 
Gender Male 
Nickname Sioma Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) 


Helena Kaplan (Rudnik) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 25/1/1926 
Gender Female Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) 


Liba Augenfeld (Maharshak) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1923 
Gender Female 
Nickname Libale 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Zukunft Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) 


Aharon Aharonovitz 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1914 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit F.P.O. 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 10/6/1944 

 
Chiena Borowski 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1914 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Party Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Za Pobiedu 

________________________________________
Arasza Czuzoi 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) Resistance Organization The Second Fighter Group 
Job Fighter

Rachel Burakiski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Party Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius 
Unit F.P.O. 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Lavrisok Date Of Death 25/7/1943

------______________________________________
Zundl Lejzerson 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Not Indicated 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilejka Rank Private 
Unit Yosef Glasman Group Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 25/7/1943 
______________________________________
Zjaky Fjlersdorf 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Not Indicated 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Akiba Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit The Second Fihgter`s Group Resistance Organization The Second Fighter Group 
Job Member 
________________________________________
Dawid Kozibrodezki 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Pruszkow 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hechalutz Hatzair - Freihait Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground by Hehaluts Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization Underground by Hehaluts 
Job Member 
_______________________________________
Szorka Mazic 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Poland 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Sapper 
_________________________________
Pyma Minc 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hithahdut Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member 
_______________________________
Mosze Nemzer 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Commander 
__________________________________
Leib Opeskin 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1908 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Party Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius 
Unit F.P.O. 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 11/7/1944 
______________________________________
Unknown Rubinstejn 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Not Indicated 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member 
_______________________________________
Zalman Saker 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter -------------------


Unknown Szer 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member of Command Staff 
--------------
Unknown Szer 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization Not Indicated 
Job Member 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Vilnius Date Of Death 10/7/1944 
--------------------- 
Tewke Szeres 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member of Command Staff 
------------------- 
Lusik Szpiro 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Revisionists Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Private 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Vilnius Date Of Death 10/7/1944 
-____________________________________
Non Known Wajnsztein 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member


 
Josef Glazman 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Alytus 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1908 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Company Commander 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Narotsh Forests Date Of Death 10/9/1943 
Circumstances Fell in combat Bibliography 
* Ainsztein Reuben - Jewish Resistance In Nazi Occupied Eastern Europe, Paul Elek, London 1974.
* Ajzensztajn Betti - Ruch Podziemny w Ghettach i Obozach. Wydawnictwo Zydowska Komisja Historyczna w Polsce, Lodz - Krakow 1946.
* Dawidowicz L. - The War Against... Holt Reinhart. 


Dow Sznajder 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1919 
Gender Male 
Nickname Buryja 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Estonia 
Circumstances Murdered 


Cwi Smoliakow 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Kaunas 
Date Of Birth 25/9/1922 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Smert Okupantam Bibliography 
* Smoliakovas Grigorius - Akistata, Vilnius, 1988.
* Smoliakovas Grigorius - Die Nacht die Jahre Dauerte, Konstanz, 1992. Mosze Henoch 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Ukmerge 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1923 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Youth Movement Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Nache Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Kutuzov Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Gudelki Vil. Date Of Death 17/7/1943

_____________________________________________

Abramowicz Dina Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Dina Abramowicz 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f)

---------------------------------- 
Aronovicz Hilel Lithuania F.P.O Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) 
 

Hilel Aronovicz 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1915 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter

---------------------------------- 
Bogen (Kacenbogen) Rachel (nee Shachor) Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Nekama (Mest) 

Rachel Bogen (Kacenbogen) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1914 
Gender Female 
Nickname Rala Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/1/1998 

Bursztejn Jechiel Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Nekama (Mest)
Â


Jechiel Bursztejn 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 17/10/1921 
Gender Male 
Nickname Chilke 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hanoar Hatzioni Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
----------------------------- 
Chazan Mulka Lithuania F.P.O Yosef Glasman Group 
Mulka Chazan 
Country Of Birth Russia 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1920 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilejka Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Yosef Glasman Group Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Section Commander 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 25/7/1943

------------------------------ 
Cipelewicz Cwi Lithuania F.P.O No. 2 
Cwi Cipelewicz 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Vishnevo 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1910 
Gender Male 
Nickname Griszka Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit No. 2 Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Commander 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/4/1945

------------------------- 
Cymerman Rachel Belorussia F.P.O Batalion Smert Fashismu 
Rachel Cymerman 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Batalion Smert Fashismu Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
--------------------
Cyplowicz Lala Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Lala Cyplowicz 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Liaison - Messenger (f) 

Added by bgill

Vilna Partisans~Page 2

Czaplinski Judel Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Judel Czaplinski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Party Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member

----------------------------- 
Czoch Mosze Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Nekama (Mest)
Mosze Czoch 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hashomer Hatzair Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/3/1944 
--------------------------------- 
Dejchs Pola Lithuania F.P.O

Pola Dejchs 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1923 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius 
Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member (f) 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1941 
-------------------------- 
Dimentman Israel Lithuania F.P.O 
Israel Dimentman 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Wegrow 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1904 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Poalei Zion Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius 
Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 19/9/1944

----------------------------------- 
Duszinski Israel Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Nekama (Mest)---
Israel Duszinski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Narotsh Forest Date Of Death 8/11/1943 ----------------------------- 
Fajgenberg, Dr. Mosze Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Mosze Fajgenberg, Dr. 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Private 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Doctor

---------------------------- 
Feldman Abraham Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Abraham Feldman 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Lodz 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1918 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Dror Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Ghetto Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Private 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Sapper 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Vilnius

------------------------- 
Firer Sara Lithuania F.P.O Battalion Za Pobiedu 
Sara Firer 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Za Pobiedu Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter

------------------------------ 
Fiszman Unknown Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Unknown Fiszman 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Svencionys 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Group Commander

------------------------- 
Fridman Dow Lithuania F.P.O The Second Fihgter`s Group 
Dow Fridman 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1912 
Gender Male 
Nickname Borke 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit The Second Fihgter`s Group Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Group Commander 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Rudniki Forest Date Of Death 1943

---------------------------- 
Fridman Israel Belorussia F.P.O Not Indicated 
Israel Fridman 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Wilno 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member

------------------------- 
Frucht Izidor (Meir) Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Izidor (Meir) Frucht 
Country Of Birth Poland 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member of Command Staff

----------------------------- 
Galpern Tuwia Lithuania F.P.O Battalion Hamaavack (Borba)---
----Tuwia Galpern 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1908 
Gender Male 
Nickname Tewke 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Party Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Section Commander ------------------------ 
Ganionski Miriam Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Nekama (Mest)

Miriam Ganionski 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Kaunas 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1925 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/1/1944

-----------------------
Glazer ? Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Non Known Glazer 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member


----------------------------- 
Glazman Josef Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Nekama (Mest) Â


Josef Glazman 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Alytus 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1908 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Company Commander 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Narotsh Forests Date Of Death 10/9/1943 
Circumstances Fell in combat

---------------------------- 
Glick Hirsh Lithuania F.P.O


Hirsh Glick 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Male 
Nickname Hirshka 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Jungwald Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/9/1944 Bibliography 
* Ainszteim Reuben - Jewish Resistance In Nazi Occupied Eastern Europe, Paul Elek, London 1974 ----------------------------- 
Goldsztejn Baruch Lithuania F.P.O 
Baruch Goldsztejn 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Miedzyrzec 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1913 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hashomer Hatzair Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Platoon Commander Bibliography 
* Ajzensztajn Betti - Ruch Podziemny w Ghettach i Obozach. Wydawnictwo Zydowska Komisja Historyczna w Polsce, Lodz - Krakow 1946

-_____________________________________________ 
Henoch Mosze Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Kutuzov 
Mosze Henoch 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Ukmerge 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1923 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Youth Movement Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Nache Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Kutuzov Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Gudelki Vil. Date Of Death 17/7/1943

----------------------- 
Ipa Checkl Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated
Checkl Ipa 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Poale Zion - Left Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member

------------------------------ 
Jafe Ester Poland F.P.O Not Indicated 
Ester Jafe 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1916 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Poland 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Liaison - Messenger

-----------------------
Janinski Non Known Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Nekama (Mest)
Non Known Janinski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter

----------------------------- 
Jaszunski Gregori Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Gregori Jaszunski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Nickname Grisza 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Bund Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Section Commander

------------------------------ 
Jawrow Izaia Poland F.P.O Not Indicated 
Izaia Jawrow 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Poland 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Ghetto Vilnius Date Of Death 1/8/1943

---------------------- 
Jechilczyk Szlomo Belorussia F.P.O Spartak Brigade 
Szlomo Jechilczyk 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vidzy 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1924 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hehaluts Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Kozyany Forests Rank Private 
Unit Spartak Brigade Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter

--------------------------- 
Jodkowski Baruch F.P.O Battalion Za Sovietskuyu Belor 
Baruch Jodkowski 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Ekatarinoslav (Dnepropetrovsk 
Date Of Birth 28/10/1906 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans 
Area of Combat Polesie Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Battalion Za Sovietskuyu Belor Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Platoon Commander 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Kibbutz Lochamei Hagetaot Date Of Death 10/6/1969

---------------------------- 
Kac Lowa Lithuania F.P.O Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) 
Lowa Kac 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter / Machine-Gunner

---------------------------------------- 
Kacenbojgen Szorke Belorussia F.P.O Not Indicated 
Szorke Kacenbojgen (Shura Bojgen)_
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Svencionys 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Group Commander

----------------------------------------- 
Kacerginski Szmarjahu Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Woroshilov 
Szmarjahu Kacerginski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1908 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Party Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Woroshilov Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Argentina Date Of Death 23/4/1954 Bibliography 
* Ajzensztajn Betti – Ruch Podziemny w Ghettach I Obozach. Wydawnictwo Zydowska Komisja Historyczna w Polsce, Lodz – Krakow, 1946.
* Friedman Philip – Martyrs And Fighters, Praeger N.Y., 1954.

-------------------------------------
Kamincka Hadasa Lithuania F.P.O F.P.O. 
Hadasa Kamincka 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hashomer Hatzair Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit F.P.O. Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Member (f) 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Ghetto Vilnius Date Of Death 29/10/1942

----------------------- 
Kampner Israel Poland F.P.O Not Indicated 
Israel Kampner 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Kalisz 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1923 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Poland 
Area of Combat Hrubieszow Rank Private 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Hrubieszow Bibliography 
* Ainsztein Reuben – Jewish Resistance In Nazi Occupied Eastern Europe, Paul Elek, London, 1974.

----------------------------------- 
Kaplan (Glezer) Ruth-Rikle Lithuania F.P.O Batalion Smert Fashismu  

Ruth-Rikle Kaplan (Glezer) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 17/12/1924 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hanoar Hatzioni Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Batalion Smert Fashismu Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f)

------------------------------------- 
Karpinks Rjwka Lithuania F.P.O Yosef Glasman Group 
Rjwka Karpinks 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1920 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Yosef Glasman Group Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/12/1979

--------------------------------------- 
Karpiwnik Rachel Lithuania F.P.O Yosef Glasman Group
Rachel Karpiwnik 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Yosef Glasman Group Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Ghetto Vilnius Date Of Death 23/9/1943

--------------------------------- 
Kas Nachum Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Nachum Kas 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Warszawa 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hanoar Hatzioni Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter


----------------------------------- 
Kojfman Icchak Estonia F.P.O Not Indicated 
Icchak Kojfman 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Poale Zion-C.S. Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Estonia 
Area of Combat Arada-Camp Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter

--------------------------- 

Koperberg Rita Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Kutuzov 
Rita Koperberg 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Not Indicated 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hanoar Hatzioni Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Kutuzov Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f)

------------------------------ 
Kos Nachum Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Nachum Kos 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Warszawa 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hanoar Hatzioni Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Vilnius

--------------------------------------- 
Kowalski Icchak Lithuania F.P.O The Second Fihgter`s Group 
Icchak Kowalski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1918 
Gender Male 
Nickname Icyk 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit The Second Fihgter`s Group Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter Bibliography 
Ajzensztajn Betti – Ruch Podziemny w Ghettach I Obozach. Wydawnictwo Zydowska Komisja Historyczna w Polsce, Lodz – Krakow, 1946 

_______________________________________
Kowner Michael Belorussia F.P.O Battalion Nekama (Mest) 
Michael Kowner 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1923 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hashomer Hatzair Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Belorussia 
Area of Combat Narotsh Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Kazan Forest Date Of Death 8/10/1943

_________________________________________

Kremer Pati Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Pati Kremer 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Bund Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Liaison - Messenger

___________________________________________
Krizowsky Abraham Lithuania F.P.O Not Indicated 
Abraham Krizowsky 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Not Indicated 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Party Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground Fighters Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Ghetto Vilnius Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Liaison - Messenger


Chaya Lazar (Shapira) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1924 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Youth Movement Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Israel Date Of Death 5/2/2003 
-----------------------


Cwi Lewin 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Male 
Nickname Hirszke 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hanoar Hatzioni Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 

_________________________________________
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 7/1/1967 
Dawid Lewin 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Not Indicated Resistance Organization Not Indicated 
Job Fighter 

_________________________________
Matitjau Lewin 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1915 
Gender Male 
Nickname Matys 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Rudniki Forest 

Szmuel Lewin 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit The Second Fihgter`s Group 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/8/1943

_____________________________________ 
Szulamit Lewin 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) Resistance Organization Local Underground 
Job Fighter (f)

Chaja Lewin (Mazia) 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 30/10/1920 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hanoar Hatzioni Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Not Indicated 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 

__________________________________________
Szoszana Lichtensztejn 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit The Second Fihgter`s Group Resistance Organization The Second Fighter Group 
Job Member


Icchak Lifshitz 
Country Of Birth Russia 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1912 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Smert Okupantam 

Rachel Lifszic (Per) 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
Gender Female Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Smert Okupantam 
Job Fighter (f) 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 17/1/2001 

Micke Lipenholc 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 

Ela Lipnovski-Aharonovitsh (D 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 7/1/1918 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Bund Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba 


Rachel Lopianski (Karnovski) 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
Gender Female Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Smert Okupantam Resistance Organization Not Indicated 
Job Fighter (f) 

________________________________________
Israel Lubcanski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Yosef Glasman Group Resistance Organization The Second Fighter Group 


Job Fighter 
Josef Lubocki 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Nickname Imka 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Communist Youth Movement Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 22/6/1944

________________________________________

Njusa Lubocki 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Beitar Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Reconnaissance Scout (f) 

___________________________________________
Haim Lukower 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Warszawa 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1911 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest) 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/1/1944 


Shimon Luski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 19/11/1926 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Maccabi Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Za Pobiedu 

_____________________________________________
Ljuba Madgbycka 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f)

________________________________________ 
Pesach Magid 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit The Second Fihgter`s Group Resistance Organization The Second Fighter Group 
Job Fighter

Batia Margoshilski 
Gender Female Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel 

Bluma Markowicz 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hashomer Hatzair Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter / Signalman (f) 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Vilnius Date Of Death 14/7/1944 

 


Rachel Markowicz 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Female 
Nickname Raszka 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hashomer Hatzair Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter / Signalman (f) 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Rudniki Forest Date Of Death 8/2/1944

______________________________________

Towa Mazia 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hamaavack (Borba) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 

Wolf Miasnik 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Vilkaviskis 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Svobodnaya Litva 
Job Fighter 

_____________________________________
Jankel Milikowski 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1920 
Gender Male 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hashomer Hatzair Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Berlin 


Zeew Mirkin 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
City Of Birth Sirvintos 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1921 
Gender Male 
Nickname Volodia 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hashomer Hatzair Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Za Pobiedu 

Pesach Mizeretsh 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 22/1/1922 
Gender Male 
Nickname Pesahke 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Hanoar Hatzioni Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Nekama (Mest 

Haim Nadel 
Country Of Birth Lithuania 
Gender Male Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest 
Unit Battalion Smert Okupantam 
Details Of Death 
Date Of Death 1/3/1981 
Libka Niedwidka 
Country Of Birth Poland 
City Of Birth Vilnius 
Date Of Birth 1/1/1922 
Gender Female 
Before The Holocaust 
Movement/ Organization Not Indicated Holocaust Period 
Framework of Combat Underground and Partisans Country of Combat Lithuania 
Area of Combat Rudniki Forest Rank Private 
Unit Battalion Hanokem (Mstitel) Resistance Organization F.P.O 
Job Fighter (f) 
Details Of Death 
Place of Death Rudniki Forest Date Of Death 11/4/1943

 

 

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Sarah Shapiro nee Gerstein

Sarah Shapiro nee Gerstein, daughter of Leiba and Pnina perished in the Shoah in Ponary

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Yehudit nee Todres the Wife of Shaul Kaplan

Yehudit nee Todres the wife of Shaul Kaplan perished in the Vilna ghetto. She was born to Arye Leib Todres and Sara nee Chodes

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Shane Weksler nee Todres

Shane Weksler nee Todres was born in Kobylnik in 1916 to Arie and Sara nee Khadash. She was married to Schneur. Weksler. She perished in the Vilna ghetto

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Jacob Gens

The Holocaust in the Vilna Ghetto 

Jacob Gens

Jacob Gens was appointed by the Germans in 1941 to head the Judenrat (Jewish Council) in the Vilna Ghetto. He held this post until Sept 14th, 1943 when  he was summoned to the Gestapo headquarters and shot. The Vilna ghetto was completely liquidated 10 days later, this is his story.

 

Jacob Gens was born in 1903 at the village of Illovieciai in the Siauliai district of Lithuania. to a middle-class Jewish family, the eldest of four brothers. 

In 1919, when Lithuania was fighting for its independence, he volunteered to serve in the Lithuanian army, and three years later In 1922 married a non-Jewish Lithuanian woman, and became the father of a daughter. Gens  had hoped to transfer to the fledgling Lithuanian air force, but that branch of the armed forces only accepted bachelors. Instead he was sent to the front, joining an infantry regiment in the war against Poland, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and won a decoration.

He served in the army until 1924, and in the same year he enrolled in Kovno University, earning his living as a teacher of Lithuanian and of physical education in the Jewish schools of Ukmerge and Jurbarkas. Three years later he became an accountant in the Ministry of Justice in Kovno, he completed his university studies in law and economics in 1935.

Jacob Gens as an officer in the Lithuanian army

In July 1940 when Lithuania became a Soviet Republic, he was dismissed from his post. As a Zionist who was close to the Revisionists, Gens feared that he was in danger of being arrested in a campaign that was being waged against anti-Soviet elements, and he moved to Vilna, where he was generally unknown. A Lithuanian friend who headed the municipal health department there helped him obtain work as an accountant in the department.

When the Germans occupied Vilna in late June 1941, his Lithuanian friend appointed Gens director of the Jewish hospital. In the beginning of September 1941, two ghettos were established in Vilna in early September 1941. At first, people were moved into either ghetto at random. 29,000 people were incarcerated in Ghetto 1 and 9,000-11,000 in Ghetto 2. Several days after the Jews had moved in, Ghetto 1 was designated for craftsmen and workers with permits, and Ghetto 2 was to be for all others.

The transfer of orphans, the sick, and the elderly from Ghetto 1 to Ghetto 2 began. Those with work permits moved with their families into Ghetto 1. On 7 September 1941, the day after the ghetto relocation began, a new separate Judenrat was established in each of the two ghettos. Anatol Fried, a former director of the community bank, assembled the new Judenrat for Ghetto 1.

The Judenrat for Ghetto 2 was appointed by SD and Security Police in Vilna and was led by Eisik Lejbowicz. Fried, who had been a patient in the Jewish hospital and thus became acquainted with Gens, appointed him as head of the ghetto police.

Rudnicki Street entrance to the Vilna ghetto

Gens established the Ghetto police force, and made it into an orderly and disciplined body, and the Germans used this force to assist in the Aktionen that took place in the Ghetto from September to December 1941, in which tens of thousands of Jews were murdered. Gens and his police force  had participated in the deportation of Jews to Ponary.

Ghetto chronicler Mendel Balberyszski recorded that Gens told him after the so-called "Old People's Aktion" in July 1942, in which some 84 elderly people were murdered:

"I have no connection with the purge of the elderly. It was an old debt which the Judenrat owed them. They wanted several hundred people, and it was with great difficulty that the `price' was reduced to 100 aged…"

On occasions he had stood at the ghetto gate and personally selected those who were to live and those who were to die. In the Gelbschein Aktionen that took place between 24 October 1941 and 3 November 1941, Gens himself had checked the papers of the Jews as they passed before him, three blue cards to one yellow card.

According to other available evidence, Gens, within the framework of his role, did his best to aid the Jews. He became the predominant personality in the Ghetto and its de facto Governor. His direct contact with the German authorities, bypassing the Judenrat, added to his prestige among the Jews in the Ghetto. Gens involved himself in affairs that had nothing to do with the police, employment, cultural activities and other aspects of Ghetto life.

Members of  the Vilna ghetto Police

Gens did not easily tolerate autonomous activity within the ghetto. He was especially eager to receive the approval of the intelligentsia for his policies, even when this involved the sacrifice of thousands of Jewish lives. He eagerly accepted the appointment of intellectuals to positions on the Judenrat staff in order to ensure them some sort of livelihood and a modicum of security.

In an attempt to appear not simply a policeman, but an enlightened intellectual, Gens formed a "club" in his home for discussion and debate between a select group of invited guests. Gens' desire to emerge from the war not only as the saviour of the remnant of Vilna Jewry but as custodian of its cultural heritage, continued to the end.

On 15 January 1943, the first anniversary of the theatre's initial performance, Gens said:

"Last year they said that the theatre was just a fad of mine. `Gens is amusing himself.' A year has passed and what do we see? It was not just a fad of Gens. It was a vital necessity… For the first time in the history of Vilna we were able to get a curriculum of studies that was all Jewish… Our care for children has reached a level never seen before in the Jewish life of Vilna. Our spiritual life reaches high…

Vilna Judenrat at a ghetto sporting event, Jacob Gens is in the front row, sixth from the left

 


How did the idea come up? Simply to give people the opportunity to escape from the reality of the ghetto for a few hours. This we achieved. These are dark and hard days. Our body is in the ghetto, but our spirit has not been enslaved. Our body knows work and discipline today because this maintains the body. The spirit knows of tasks that are harder. Before the first concert they said that a concert must not be held in a graveyard. This is true, but the whole of life is now a graveyard. Heaven forbid that we should let our spirit collapse. We must be strong in spirit and in body…

I am certain that the day of the phrase `Why hast Thou deserted us?' will pass and that we shall still live to see better days. I would like to hope that those days will come soon and in our lifetime."

In July 1942 the Germans dismissed the Judenrat and appointed Gens as head of the Ghetto Administration and sole representative of the Ghetto (Ghettovorsteher), thereby making official his de facto position.

Gens promoted the idea of “work for life” meaning that the survival of the Ghetto’s depended on their work and productivity. He believed that efforts had to be made to gain time and keep the Ghetto in existence until the Germans were defeated, and that this could be achieved by working for the German war effort.

Order issued by Jacob Gens, head of the Judenrat in the Vilna ghetto, requiring Jews to offer a greeting to any German within the ghetto

He constantly sought to increase the number of Jews in such positions, in the last few months of the Ghetto’s existence, 14,000 out of the total Ghetto population of 20,000 were employed inside or outside the Ghetto.

On one occasion Gens was ordered by the Germans to send the Vilna Ghetto police to the Oszmiana Ghetto, to carry out a Selektion there and to hand over 1,500 children and women who were not employed. Instead Gens delivered to the Germans 406 people who were chronically ill or old.

Two days later Gens reported to his fellow Judenrat members the thinking behind his actions:

“Today I will say that it is my duty to soil my hands, because terrible times have come over the Jewish people. If five million people have already gone, it is our duty to save the strong and young, not in years only, but in spirit, and not to indulge sentimentality.

When the rabbi in Oszmiana was told and that five elderly Jews were hiding in a ‘maline,’ he said that the ‘maline’ should be opened. That is a man with a young and unshaken spirit. I don’t know whether everybody will understand this and defend it, and whether they will defend it after we have left the Ghetto, but the attitude of our police is this – rescue what you can, do not consider your own good name or what you must live through.

The Judenrat offices in Vilna

All these things that I have told you do not sound sweetly to our souls nor yet for our lives. These are things one should not have to know. I have told you a shocking secret which must remain locked in our hearts.”   

 

His attitude towards the Ghetto underground was ambivalent, on the one hand he maintained contact with the underground leaders and declared that when the day of the Ghetto’s liquidation arrived, he would join them in an uprising.

The United Partisan Organization (Fareinikte Partisaner Organizatzie or FPO) was formed on 21 January 1942 in the Vilna Ghetto. It took for its motto "We will not go like sheep to the slaughter," a phrase resurrected by Abba Kovner. This was one of the first resistance organizations established in the Nazi ghettos during World War II.

Yitzhak Wittenberg

Unlike in other ghettos, the resistance movement in the Vilna Ghetto was not run by ghetto officials. Jacob Gens, appointed head of the ghetto by the Nazis but originally chief of police, ostensibly cooperated with German officials in stopping armed struggle. The FPO represented the full spectrum of political persuasions and parties in Jewish life. It was headed by Yitzhak Wittenberg, Josef Glazman, and Abba Kovner.

The goals of the FPO were to establish a means for the self-defence of the ghetto population, to sabotage German industrial and military activities and to join the partisan and Red Army’s fight against the Nazis.

In early 1943, the Germans caught a member of the Communist underground who revealed some contacts under torture and the Judenrat, in response to German threats, tried to turn Yitzhak Wittenberg, the head of the FPO, over to the Gestapo. Wittenberg was arrested by the Lithuanian police only to be freed by armed FPO members. He went into hiding in the ghetto, and the consensus of the ghetto's population was that 20,000 people should not be jeopardized for the sake of one man.

View of the of the ghetto jail in Vilna

Wittenberg hid in an attic and at one point dressed in woman's clothes. When the FPO leaders presented Wittenberg with the facts and proposed that he surrender himself, he argued that the ghetto faced liquidation anyway and that armed resistance should begin immediately. Wittenberg convened with the Communist members of the FPO, and they influenced him to agree to give himself up.

The ghetto population, the FPO command and his party comrades were all in favor of his surrender. Wittenberg surrendered himself, and the next morning he was found dead in his cell from cyanide poisoning.

Another example illustrates the nature of Gens' apparent policy regarding the resistance in Vilna. Josef Glazman had been deputy police commandant in the ghetto until Gens dismissed him from that position and appointed him head of the housing department. Glazman was also a founder member and deputy commander of the FPO, and in Gens' opinion, because of this constituted a threat to the stability of the ghetto.

Gens ordered Glazman's arrest on 31 October 1942, but had him released on 5 November. Glazman was dismissed from his post and sent to the labor camp at Sorok-Tatar, but was released after a short time. In June 1943 Glazman was arrested once again; Gens had him sent to a labor camp at Rzesza. Glazman returned to the ghetto about two weeks later, but following the death of Yitzhak Wittenberg, Glazman escaped to the forest, joined the partisans and was killed fighting the Germans.

Gens made this speech to the Brigade leaders on May 15, 1943:

Abba Kovner, Wittenberg's successor

Ladies and Gentlemen! Today I have called you here because there is something I have to tell you! A few days ago I went to the Gestapo and spoke to the Commander of the SD there about the revolvers. I may tell you that he is not at all stupid. He said to me: "

From an economic point of view the ghetto is very valuable, but if you are going to take foolish risks and if there is any question of security, then I will wipe you out. And even if you get 30, 40 or 50 revolvers, you will not be able to save yourselves and will only bring on your misfortune faster."

Why did I call you together? Because today another Jew has been arrested for buying a revolver. I don’t yet know how this case will end. The last case ended fortunately for the ghetto. But I can tell you that if it happens again we shall be very severely punished. Perhaps they will take away those people over 60, or children... Now consider whether that is worthwhile!!! There can be only one answer for those who think soundly and maturely: It is not worthwhile!!


It is not worthwhile having anything to do with the Poles. I have said it from the first day, and today I say it more than ever. You would do better to take a good look at what goes on among the Poles, how they sell each other out, and how many Jews have gone to Ponary because of the Poles – and then consider whether it is worthwhile.

Josef Glazman

As long as the ghetto remains a ghetto those of us who have the responsibility will do everything we can so that nothing shall happen to the ghetto. Nowadays a Jew’s whole family is responsible for him. If that is not enough, then I will make the whole room responsible for him, and if even that is not enough – the apartment and even the building.
 

You will have to watch each other, and if there are any hot-heads then it is your duty to report it to the Police. That is not informing. It would be informing if you were to keep silent and the people were to suffer.

I am saying this for the brigadiers who are responsible for their brigades. I demand of the brigadiers that they should know their people. In an army an officer must know his men well. And the brigadiers do not know their people. They just have their passes, sit in offices and carry in [smuggle foodstuffs] through the gate. Yesterday for the first time I punished brigadiers because the badges** were not worn properly by their brigades. By nature I am a very lazy man.

I give an order and then I pay no further attention. I gave an order that the badges were to be worn on all garments. Yesterday I remembered this order – and straightaway 35 brigadiers were sitting in the lock-up. Starting tomorrow the brigades will be checked by Levas, and if there is anything that is not in order, then the brigadier will be punished. It is enough that the Police have to act as nursemaids. If the workers do not go to work then the brigadier is trash, he is no use!

Don’t cause trouble yourselves. If they do not provoke us, then we must not do it ourselves. Because it is we alone who pay! Look, think, and see where we stand!!!

[I wish you] A good night."

Ruins of the ghetto in Vilna

Once the Germans decided to liquidate the Ghetto, and this process had been set in motion, in August and September 1943, Gens knew that his life was in danger. His Lithuanian wife and daughter were both living in Vilna, outside of the Ghetto.

He had several offers from his Lithuanian relatives and friends to leave the Ghetto and take refuge with them, but he refused, believing that in his role he was engaged in a mission on behalf of the Jewish people.

On September 14 1943, nine days before the final liquidation of the Ghetto, Gens was summoned to the Gestapo, the previous day he had been warned that the Germans were planning to kill him, and had been urged to flee. He replied that his escape would mean disaster for the Jews who remained in the Ghetto.

Gens reported to the Gestapo, as ordered on September 14 and at six pm, he was shot to death in the Gestapo courtyard for maintaining contact with the United Partisans Organisation and for financing its activities. News of his death reached the Ghetto at once, and the Jews who were still alive mourned his passing. Gens belief that if the Ghetto were productive its’ Jews would be saved proved baseless.

But given the terrible conditions prevailing at the time, a view could be formed that he did his best, as he understood it, to save as many Jewish lives as possible.

 

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Riva

Riva, daughter of Chaia and Abe Gordon, was born in Vilna, Poland. She married Ruben Hakner, and they lived in Vilna before and during the war. Riva was a housewife. In October 1943, Riva was taken to Ponar, outside Vilna, where she was shot. She was 37 years old. 

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Sara ( Sonia) Anolik

Sara ( Sonia) Anolik was born in Orsha, Belorussia in 1894 to Nisan. She was a midwife and married. Prior to WWII she lived in Wilno, Poland. During the war was in Wilno, Poland. Sara was killed in 1943 in Wilno, Poland. 

 

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Mozes Anolik

Mozes Anolik was born in Wilno, Poland in 1890 to Avraham and Bunia. He was an accountant and married to Sara ( Sonia) . Prior to WWII he lived in Wilno, Poland. During the war was in Wilno, Poland. Mozes died in 1944 in Klooga at the age of 54.

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Against All Odds, My Grandmother’s Story

Galit Breen | Apr 09, 2010 | 

In 1939 when World War II started, Safta was an eleven year old girl living in Vilna, Lithuania. In 1941 Safta, her mother, father and sister, grandmother, aunt, uncle and cousin were forced into the Vilna ghetto. In 1943 the ghetto got infiltrated. Safta’s grandmother died there, and the rest of the family went into hiding in an uncle’s attic. Until they were discovered, just two weeks later.

They were led to a long line at Ponary, by a forested area. Ponary was called “the killing field” and they all knew that they were waiting to be shot. Safta’s thirteen year old cousin, Yitzhak Rudashevski had watched this scene play out for too many from that attic window and wrote about it in his diary.

They all wanted to run. Of course they did! But where-oh-where would they go? Using terrified, raw, gut instinct, Safta’s  mother grabbed her arms, looked her in the eyes and told her: You’re fast. And smart. Run. Run fast. And don’t stop until you reach the other side of the forest. And while the rest of her family stood. And died. She did exactly that. She ran.

Except she got stopped by a guard, who inexplicably turned the other way and let her go.

Except she got stopped by the Gestapo, who inexplicably believed her made-up story about forgotten papers, proof of who she was and that it was okay to be out and about, and having lost her way from her work camp.

Except she was fourteen. And alone.

Except literally against all odds, Safta got taken to a work camp where Jewish police were in charge. The best of a bad situation. These policemen gave her papers to use. Papers that had once belonged to someone else; until they died. And these same policemen organized her release, her escape into the forest.

She joined a group of partisans. And at fourteen years old, she became a Holocaust-resistance “runner,” delivering weapons, papers, whatever was needed and necessary to help save lives.

After six months or so of running, working, risking and living in the forest, Liberation Day arrived. And Safta, now fifteen, rode into her once hometown of Vilna on a big bad tank driven by Abraham Sutzkever. Her partisan commander. A soldier. A poet. A writer. I so love that image of her!

“Triumphant” in this case, meant alive. Safta was triumphant. And she wanted to see her home. Her hiding spot. Where she was last within the folds of family. Again, against all odds, she went into the hiding-spot-attic and found her cousin’s diary. She read. And cried. She reminisced. And then she cried some more.

My Grandparents on vacation in 1955. My Safta is 27 years old here. What a fabulous looking couple, right?!

At fifteen, she knew that she had more than a diary in her fingertips. She was holding a piece of history. So she gave the diary to Sutzkever. Who eventually handed the diary over to YIVO. And there, it was published as part of a compilation in honor those who died in Vilna.

Safta worked. Made money. Got a law degree. In law school she met her husband, Marik. They had a daughter, my mom. Then moved to Israel. And had a son, my uncle.

And they lived. Against all odds.

Safta has never used that hard earned law degree. Instead, she dedicated her whole life to Yad VaShem, The Holocaust Remembrance Museum in Israel. Translating countless numbers of documents. Artifacts. Stories.

She rarely tells her own story, though. I imagine it’s too painful. Too personal. Too raw. But more than sixty years later, she still takes a bus to work to keep telling others’ stories. Because for her the Holocaust does come up every single day. At work, by choice. And in her heart, because how could it not?

Safta has recently decided that she wants, that she needs, her cousin’s diary to be close-by at Yad VaShem. Why now? Not sure. How? Also not sure. What can I do? Stumped again. All that I do know, all that I feel, is that my Safta has a big story to tell. And that I can do for her.

So now Safta’s story has been told. And it’s written down. Yom HaShoah is just around the corner and I haven’t discussed, taught or shared any of this with my young children. I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around what that’s going to be like, feel like. For any of us. What I do know is what it’s like to be heard. And to finally hear. From my Safta’s lips to my ears. To my heart. Which is now wide open.

We don’t have control over survivors’ fears. Nightmares.  Stress. Or trauma. What we can do while survivors are with us is listen to them when they talk. Whenever that might be. And when they’re gone, we can share and pass on what we heard. Learned. Felt. That I can do.

My Grandparents. Against all odds.

Many of us have been told this for as long as we can remember.We must keep telling the stories. The words. The lives. Of our people so we never forget. And so they are never forgotten. And so some of the most horrid parts of history are never ever repeated. But this morning as I talked to Safta on the phone, I actually heard, actually felt that lesson. I could hear her smile in her voice once she heard that.

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Yitskhok Rudashevski

Yitskhok was the only child born to Rose and Elihu Rudashevski.

Yitskhok's father worked as a typesetter for a well-known Yiddish newspaper. His mother worked as a seamstress. Yitskhok had a relatively comfortable childhood.

He was part of a large, closely-knit and loving family. He lived in Vilna, the capital of Lithuania. Vilna had a large Jewish population and was a world center for Jewish culture and learning. In 1941, the city was home to over 80,000 Jews. Yitskhok completed one year of high school at the prestigious Realgymnasium.

He was a good student and his favorite subjects were literature and history. He loved to read, and wrote as often as he could in his diary. He went hiking or to camp with his youth group. 
When the Germans invaded Vilna in June 1941, Yitskhok was fourteen years old. The Germans immediately set about persecuting the city's Jews, and in July, took 35,000 men, women, and children to the Ponary forest, about 10 miles outside Vilna.

Forced to dig their own graves, the Jews were massacred. In September, the remaining Jews were herded into two overcrowded, sealed-off ghettos. The smaller one was closed 46 days later, after its residents were murdered. Conditions were horrible in the remaining ghetto.

There was little food, poor sanitation, and the residents were subject to random Nazi brutality and periodic roundups. Despite these conditions, underground cultural events were organized, newspapers were published, and various social welfare groups continued functioning. Yitskhok attended a clandestine school for two years. He joined various clubs including one that collected folklore. He continued to write in his diary, describing life in the ghetto. 

The destruction of Vilna's Jewry continued, as the Nazis rounded up Jews and murdered them in the Ponary forest. A strong underground resistance group was formed, gathering weapons and planning for the defense of the ghetto.

After the group was betrayed, many of its members escaped to the forest. In August 1943, as a prelude to their plan to empty the ghetto, the Nazis began sending the remaining Jews to Estonia. In September 1943, the Germans decided to murder those who were left.

Yitskhok and his parents moved to a "hideout" in the attic of his uncle's home. They hid there with his uncle's family , along with five other people, for two weeks. In early October 1943, the Germans discovered the hideout. Sixteen year-old Yitskhok and the others were taken to the forest and murdered. One of Yitskhok's cousins managed to escape the massacre and joined the partisans in the surrounding forests.

He returned to Vilna after the war and found Yitskhok's 204-page diary.http://www.museumoftolerance.com/mot/children/list4.cfm

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Lova Gershtein

Lova Gershtein, Vilna 1912 ; son of Gershon Gerstein and Mera Meres was born in 1893. He was a physician in Kovno.He perished in  concentration camp 1945

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Jablon Kopel

Russian Army conscription photograph for Kopel Jablon son of Eljash at Vilnius on July 29, 1908

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Sonia Madiskar – Fearless Fighter

Written by Joseph Harmatz, commander of the Vilna Ghetto underground and a partisan in the Rudniki Forests.

Sonia Madiskar was born in 1914 in the city of Vilna, Lithuania. From an early age she was involved with the communist underground and later, circumstances brought her to be a central activist in the Jewish underground.

During her lifetime she spent much time in various prisons and even managed to escape the death penalty. Joseph Harmatz, one of the commanders of the Vilna underground, brings the heroic story of an unusual underground woman, who wanted to work with children, but fate destined her for entirely different tasks.

 

 

Picture caption: Sonia Madiskar, member of the Jewish underground in the Vilna Ghetto

From the Ghetto Fighters’ House website

 

 

Underground fighter from an early age

Sonia Madiskar’s parents were born in the 1880’s in the town of Malat in Lithuania. At the end of WWI her parents returned and settled in Vilna. They both were educated in a teachers’ seminary. Both her parents were murdered during the liquidation of the ghetto in 1943.

Sonia was born in 1914. Her younger sister Dina tells: “Sonia had many interests, she liked to dress well, she was always well turned-out, her hair combed. She was an independent thinker and had opinions of her own. A sense of responsibility and obligation were almost an obsession with her.

She also had a flair for dramatics, and in the school where she studied she always appeared in the musical performances. People said: ‘When she grows up she will be an actress’. She did not look Jewish. Sonia was talented and was a good student. She was fluent in the languages of the area”.

Her underground activities against the Lithuanians (before the war) brought her before many courts and as a result she was familiar with several prisons. She “sat” in the Lokishkis prison in Vilna, afterwards in the Pawiak in Warsaw and in Siaritz, a prison for adolescents. In 1933, at the age of 19 she returned to Vilna and in the spring of 1935 she was accused of anti-government activities and sentenced to six years imprisonment.

In 1939 the Red Amy approached the area of Grodno, where Sonia was incarcerated, which awakened the hope in her to be liberated by the communists. But Polish police and other hooligans took control of the prison and sentenced all the prisoners to death.

The prisoners were informed that the death sentence would be carried out early the next morning. Was this her last night? That very night the Red Army occupied the city, and Sonia’s life was saved.

Altogether, Sonia spent 6 of her 30 years in prisons. She loved children very much, and she used to say that if the Soviets reached Vilna, she would do anything to be able to work with them. But fate had other plans for her. Her dreams were not realized, and in 1941 the German forces invaded Lithuania and destroyed everything.

 

A brave liaison

In Vilna, Sonia met all her friends from her time in the communist underground, and discovered that they were all in the preparatory stage of organizing a new underground, this time against the Germans. She was appointed as the one responsible for organizing groups of youth, and she devoted herself totally to the task.

Equipped with underground experience, she ran a printing press, prepared the calls to resistance, organized those who were leaving the ghetto, smuggled weapons and helped everyone with everything. Sonia was not a member of the staff of the FPO (United Partisan Organization of the Vilna Ghett0), but she was their faithful representative everywhere in accordance with the circumstances.

Among other things she was a member of the platoon which I commanded. I shall never forget the brightness of her wonderful face and her beautiful eyes which conveyed seriousness and inner strength accompanied by pain and the suffering she had experienced. When it was decided to send representatives from the underground across the front lines to report on the hellish situation in which we were living,

Sonia was chosen for the mission together with Tzesia Rosenberg. In this instance also the girls were caught and sentenced to death. And here too they knew how, with cunning and luck, to evade their captors and return safely to the Vilna Ghetto.

When the ghetto was liquidated in September 1943, Sonia remained in the city. She continued to direct the liaisons who came from the forest where most of the underground members who had succeeded in leaving the ghetto for the forests and had joined the partisan movements, were located.

Sonia continued to enlist and convince the Jews who had remained in the city in two blocks – the furriers’ block and the block of theHKP where they worked in the vehicle industry (two essential professions for survival at the front) – to leave and join the partisans.

 

To her death with head held high

The Germans traced her and after following her discovered where she lived. In March 1944 a group of Gestapo soldiers surrounded her building. Sonia drew her gun, shot three of them, and with the last bullet shot herself in the face in order not to be caught alive. But one of the Germans grabbed her hand and she was severely wounded.

It was important for the Germans to keep her alive in order to discover information about the underground. She was imprisoned but would not talk. Bella Maisel, who was arrested in the city holding a Polish passport, and who was moved from prison to the Stuffhoff concentration camp, saw Sonia in the Lokishkis prison. She relates:

“It was impossible to recognize Sonia. Her face was black and swollen. She had lost her sight and hearing completely. She sat for hours facing the window, silent”.

The Gestapo believed that they would be able to force her to talk, and kept her alive until the Red Army neared Vilna. Before dawn they called her. She was aware that these were her final hours. With her head held high Sonia walked her final steps to the prison courtyard. Several shots were heard. The prisoners in their cells were shocked. Sonia, the heroine, had been executed.

A few days later the Red Army entered Vilna. After her death she was awarded military decorations by the Polish government and by the Soviet Lithuanian government.

Shlomo Kowarski, secretary of the communist youth in the Vilna Ghetto underground wrote in his book, Sonia the Heroine: “She was always in action; either with her party in the underground before the war, in the underground organization in the Vilna Ghetto, with youth education, smuggling and hiding weapons, editing and distributing the underground newspaper, or with helping friends and their families – she always found time for everything and everyone.

Everything she did, she did with dedication, with her heart and soul. And most impressive was her way of thinking, her understanding of people and their circumstances, with the desire to find solutions in every situation. Not with words, always with action, and in the most difficult moments – and they were many.”

And this is what an underground fighter, Rozka Korczak said of her: “With Sonia’s death we have lost an incomparable fighter. She was a woman who did not know the concept ‘fear’. Her total commitment, readiness for self-sacrifice, have become and example and symbol for us all.”

 

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Religious Life

A group of Jews who were murdered in Vilna

A notice inviting the public in the Vilna Ghetto to a lecture on Sunday the 5th of July [1942] in the Butchers' kloize (study hall) about the Sadducees, the seventh lecture in a series about Jewish History by Eliezer Goldberg

Until the Kovno aktion in April 1943 the Jews were not accustomed to recite the kaddish prayer for the people who had been taken to Ponary because their fate was unknown… Although there were people who claimed that the meaning of "Ponary" was known, they weren't going rely on their own opinion to recite kaddish for their family members that had been sent there.

Mark DworzeckiJerusalem of Lithuania in Resistance and in the Holocaust, p. 280

The majority of Vilna's rabbis were murdered during the aktions. Religious Jews struggled to maintain a religious way of life in the ghetto. People were forced to work for the Germans on the Sabbath and on religious holidays.

There were three synagogues in the ghetto and about 70 Torah scrolls, mostly in batei midrash (study halls). Outside the ghetto, Torah scrolls and finials from destroyed synagogues were buried. A Jew who found a holy book would bring it to one of the batei midrash, which ultimately became filled with books.

Following the aktion targeting people without yellow scheins, the religious circles convened and sent a delegation of rabbis - Mendel Zalmanovitch, Dov-Ber Pilowski and  Yitzhak Kurnis Gustmann - to Jacob Gens, head of the ghetto.

They told him that according to Jewish Law it was permitted to deliver a Jew to the authorities if an individual had been specifically requested, pointed out or had committed a crime. However, it was forbidden to turn over a Jew if the authorities had not requested a specific individual… The rabbis informed Gens that he was not permitted to select Jews and to deliver them to the hands of the Germans in accordance with their demands. Gens justified himself by means of saying that his cooperation in the selection and arrest of a reduced number Jews, saved all the others from death.

Mark DworzeckiJerusalem of Lithuania in Resistance and in the Holocaust, p. 282-283

A religious primary school and a yeshiva were held in the synagogue. Matzohs (unleavened bread) were baked for Passover. OnSuccot a few Succahs (temporary huts) were erected and on Simchat Torah they danced hakafot. The Judenrat did not have a department or financial support for religious affairs but the "Public Committee for Social Work" provided financial support for the religious primary school.  

During the period of the aktions there were people whose religious faith weakened, alongside those who did not lose their religious enthusiasm or belief in the redemption to come after the horrors.

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Vilnius Ghetto During World War II.

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The Vilnius Ghettos

The Vilnius Ghettos

The first shootings of Jews in Vilnius occurred on 4 July 1941 (or even earlier), after the military administration was replaced by a civil administration. On the same date the Germans ordered the establishment of a Judenrat (Jewish Council) which was intended to control the Jewish ghetto police and various departments of: work, health service, social welfare, food, housing, etc. Of special importance was the department of work.

The mass extermination of the Jewish people in Vilnius began at the moment when district commissar Hans Christian Hingst arrived, together with the "expert on Jewish questions", Franz Murer.

It has been estimated that between one-half and two-thirds of all Lithuanian Jews were killed by local militia, although it should be said that there were also some Lithuanians as well as Germans who assisted Jews. Even if few in number, their courage serves to highlight the barbaric acts of their compatriots.

Two ghettos were installed, separated by Niemiecka Street. This street was outside the limits of both ghettos and served as a barrier between them. A wooden fence enclosed each ghetto, and the entrances of houses facing the outside were blocked off. Each ghetto had only one gate for exit and entry, placed at opposite ends of the enclosed area, so that it would be impossible for those entering and leaving to cross paths.

29.000 people were incarcerated in Ghetto 1 and 9.000-11.000 in Ghetto 2. The living conditions were those common to the ghettos of countries under Nazi occupation - dilapidated housing, lack of sanitation, unbearable congestion.

A doctor calculated that in the 72 buildings, which comprised Ghetto 1, the average living space was 1.5-2 square meters. The killing never stopped. Even on the day of the setting up of the ghettos, a day on which it was intended to lull the Jews into some sense of security, killings had taken place.

1941-43 was a period of relative quiet in the ghetto. Vilnius became a "working ghetto". The Judenrat’s policy of "rescue through work" was based on the assumption that if the ghetto would be productive, it would be worthwhile for the Germans to keep it going, for economic reasons. In this it shared a belief common to the Judenrat of many other ghettos. All sought, in their different ways, to preserve the precarious balance between work and death.

Few Jews wanted to be members of the Jewish councils. The Judenräte were instruments by which the Germans held control over the Jews. Since the council's functionaries were Jewish, the members felt as if they were betraying their co-religionists.

The Vilnius Judenrat was initially established with extreme difficulty, as those who were selected as members by Rabbi Simeon Rosowski refused the position. Thus, the decision was made at a meeting in the prayer house, that if someone was elected, they were obligated to accept.

By the summer of 1943, the final death throes of the Vilnius Ghetto had begun in accordance with Himmler's order to liquidate the ghettos of theReichskommissariat Ostland. All provincial work camps of the Vilnius Ghetto (in Baltoji Voke, Beznodys, and Kena) were dissolved, and several hundreds of their prisoners killed by the German police.

Under the supervision of Bruno Kittel, head of the Jewish section of the Gestapo from June 1943, the Vilnius Ghetto was liquidated on 23 and 24 September 1943.

By 25 September 1943, only 2.000 Jews officially remained in Vilnius, in four small labour camps. More than 1.000 were in hiding inside the ghetto. Those in hiding were gradually hunted down and executed.

Between 2.000 and 3.000 of the original 57.000 Jewish inhabitants of Vilnius survived, either in hiding, with the partisans, or in camps in Germany and Estonia, a mortality rate of approximately 95% - almost exactly corresponding with that of Lithuania as a whole. The 2001 census indicated that the population of Vilnius was 542.287 of whom 0.5% or about 2.700 were Jews.

In post-war trials of the major war criminals of Vilnius, Franz Murer, the "expert on Jewish affairs" in the city from 1941 to 1943, also called by survivors "The Butcher of Vilnius" was arrested in 1947 and extradited to the Soviet Union.

There he was sentenced to 25 years hard labour. In 1955 he was released and returned to his native Austria, where he became a farmer. He was eventually traced by Simon Wiesenthal. A further trial took place in Austria in 1967, at the conclusion of which Murer was acquitted. Soviet courts tried some Lithuanians. Most perpetrators were never prosecuted.

Map of the two Vilnius‘ ghetto districts.

 

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Yitzhak Wittenberg

Yitzhak Wittenberg was the first commander of the P.P.O. Following an interrogation and subsequent betrayal by a communist activist, Gestapo officers demanded that the Jews turn over the leader of the underground – or they would destroy the ghetto. The following story brings the affair that shook the Jewish underground movement in the Vilna ghetto
   

  

 With the establishment of the P.P.O. in early 1942 (see separate item), 35-year-old Yitzhak Wittenberg was appointed to lead the resistance. With him, as part of the staff were: Yossef Glazman, Avraham (Abrasha) Havoynic and Aba Kovner. 


The ghetto undergrounds had ties with the Communist Party outside the ghetto. In early 1943, a Polish communist by the name of Kozlovsky was captured by the Gestapo. The Polish communist broke under extreme torture and divulged the name of another partisan, the Lithuanian, Vitas. Vitas was also caught and tortured and gave the Gestapo the name ofWittenberg.

On the night of July 15th, Wittenberg and his comrades were called in by Gens and Desler, Head of the Judenrat and Chief of the Jewish Police. According to the testimony of Aba Kovner in the Eichmann trial: “We were informed that the meeting was to take place at a certain hour, then this was postponed and we were told the meeting wouldl take place at 10 that evening. We arrived at the offices of the Chief of Police […] we felt something was going to happen”.

For precaution, the underground members placed watchmen opposite the Judenrat building. After several minutes of conversation, a side door opened from the office of the Head of the Juderat and in the doorway stood SS men with drawn pointed machine guns. “Who isWittenberg?” they asked. Desler pointed at the underground leader who was handcuffed and arrested on the spot.

“Lowly traitors, we shall meet” shouted the stunned underground members at Gens and Desler.
 “I am not to blame; your man was caught by the Gestapo. He gave Wittenberg’s name and I must deliver him or others will pay with their lives” said Gens.

The watchmen posted outside attacked the Gestapo, liberated their commander and called for reinforcements. The fighters carried Wittenberg to a hideout. The Germans informed Gens that if Wittenberg was not delivered to them by 3 am, they would destroy the ghetto. 

The organization was mobilized to defend its leader and as a counter measure, Gens rallied the Jewish police and another group of strongmen. In the meanwhile, turmoil erupted in the ghetto. The crowds demanded that the commander be handed over. The crowds attacked the underground members with blows and stones wounding some and taking eight others hostage. The rioters were pushed back without the use of firearms as per the instructions from HQ not to use force against Jews. It should be noted that, that night no German was present in the ghetto.


The choice was clear: surrendering Wittenberg or civil war. The HQ members looked silently at their commander. Some say that they suggested to Gens to hand over an unidentified body to the Germans and claim that it was that of Wittenberg. Gens refused this suggestion for fear that the interrogated Kozlovsky would realize the fraud.Wittenberg looked at his gun and thought of taking his life, but held back.

The commander asked: “Do you want me to turn myself in?” after a silence Aba Kovner said: “See here, Jews are lining the streets. We will have to fight them to get to the enemy […] give us the order and we will fight. Are you ready for that?” No, he was not. He handed his pistol to Kovner and appointed the 25 year old in his place.
Wittenberg turned himself in. The next day, July 16th, he was found dead in his cell. The poison he had swallowed had prevented the torture.

In an interview Aba Kovner gave 40 years later he said:
“In retrospect, as a young man wearing a partisan’s uniform and grasping a gun in hand, I thought we ought to have tempted fate and tried to sneak Wittenberg out of the ghetto, come what may. But if you ask the adult Aba Kovner, in the State of Israel in 1984, what he thinks of the matter now – I am not ashamed to say that this is one of the highlights of the Jewish undergrounds’ acts of courage, by not provoking a situation of civil rebellion between Jews in the ghetto”.

   

Based on:

·        “The test of retort and redemption: the pioneer movements in Poland in the Holocaust and after 1939-1945” Volume 1 – by Levi Arye Sarid. Published by Moreshet, Tel Aviv, 1997.

·        The testimony of Aba Kovner in the Eichmann trial, the Snunit website.

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Vilna Ghetto Theatre~“Songstress of Hope,”

Established in January 1942, the Vilna ghetto theatre mounted productions of Yiddish and European classics as well as original plays and revues based on ghetto themes.

Yisrolik
Vilna ghetto, February 1942
Lyrics by: Leyb Rozental
Music by: Misha Veksler
Language: Yiddish
www.ushmm.org/dorpm.cgi/holomusic/yisrolik.smi
[play in RealPlayer to see lyrics English subtitles]


Leyb Rozental, songwriter, poet, playwright. Vilna,  1940.

Chayela Rosenthal
( Khayele Rozental)

(1924-1979) “Songstress of Hope,” rose to fame as the beloved teenage Star of the Vilna Ghetto Theater during the Nazi occupation of Vilna, Lithuania.

Playing key roles in the cultural resistance of the Holocaust, Chayela and her older brother, lyricist Leyb Rosenthal, created and performed original satirical revues and uplifting songs to boost the morale of their fellow Vilna Ghetto inmates from 1942-3.

>>>

Miriam my grandmother, remembers those times in Vilna ghetto.
A coffee place was opened and her mum became the manager. She, her mum, Sonia and sister, Necia had enough food to live off and work to maintain them. They had a corner with a bed, separated by a curtain and felt very fortunate. They even hosted friends visits in their corner. She had friends who were song writers and played music, they used to go to the theatre and there were youth sports and a library.

They knew the time will come and they will all be killed.

A brother of a waitress in the coffee place lived outside of the ghetto. She said he’s planing to take her and the family to a safe place in the country and that he fancied my grandmother so he can take her as well. She didn’t want to leave her mum and sister. but they all pressured her to go and before she knew it she was hiding with them in a few cabins in the country for 3-4 weeks when she finally decided to return to the ghetto to save her own family.

>>
Probably between he spring of 1942 to the spring of 1943 when there were no mass killings operations in the ghetto.

?

 

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Brief Biographies



Source: Marc Dworzecki: Jerushaleiym Delite. camphor in un umkum, p. 26

Mire Bernshteyn

Mire Bernshteyn worked before the German invasion as a teacher.During the Soviet occupation period before the German invasion, she was director of the Real Gymnasium in Vilna.She was active in Communist circles, with the aim of this movement in a revival of Yiddish culture and especially to reach the Jewish educational system. Together with some of her students took her, whose parents had been killed in the ghetto where she gained during the first few days of former students around him and was co-founded the school in the ghetto.She read the works of Jewish literature such as Perez and Sholem Aleiychem and taught Hebrew and Yiddish.She was an active member of the FPO.Mire Bernsteyn was murdered.

 


the well-known singing teacher Jacob Gershteyn drawn in the ghetto of Rochel Sutzkever 
Source: Shmerke Kaczerginski: Churbn Wilner, p. 81



an image from the pre-war 
source: Rachel Kostanian: Spiritual Resistance in the Vilna ghetto, p.39

Yankl Gershteyn

 

Yitzhak Rudashevski lies with jaundice at home when he learns that the popular and admired teacher and musician Yankl Gershteyn died. Gershteyn was an important figure in the Vilnius Jewish cultural life and especially education, founder and author of several choirs.Yitzhak recalls: "... The teacher Gershteyn suffered much in the ghetto He was grayer and grayer, his face darkened, he lived in a class of our school and could barely cope with the steps he was usually gone up happily ... An old man... , before his time, he walked slowly through the streets of the ghetto, but the head was erect as usual. ... The ghetto broke him and he did not survive. ... I will always remember as a good friend, the picture your proud appearance is us remain precious and dear. " (Yitzhak Rudashevski, p. 61)

 


the partisan Shmerke Kaczerginski 
Source: Shmerke Kaczerginski: Churbn Wilner, p. III

 

ShmerkeKaczerginski

Shmerke Kaczerginski was a writer and poet, and before the German invasion, a member of a group of artists.

Also in the ghetto and he wrote many of his songs were popular in the ghetto ( Ponarlied ). He was active in the youth club and a member of the FPO.Shortly before he left the liquidation of the ghetto with a group and came to the partisans in the woods. As a member of a Jewish partisan unit (with his friend Abba Kovner , Avrom Sutzkever and others) he was involved in the liberation of Vilna by the Red Army. 

The Jewish group immediately began trying to retrieve the hidden documents and cultural artifacts from the ghetto of Malinen and build a Jewish museum. On Stalin's orders, this museum was closed in 1949 as part of its campaign against Zionism and cosmopolitanism.Shmerke emigrated to Argentina. From his pen important documents and memories of the ghetto in Vilnius and the partisan struggles have emerged.






Source: Herman Kruk: togbukh Wilner fun geto, p. III

 

Herman Kruk

Herman Kruk, born 1896, was active Bundist and engaged in the "Culture League" and the youth organization of the federal "future". The political education was for him the tool, the Jewish working youth in political and social struggles against anti-Semitism and discrimination A Stronger.. Read - knowledge - emancipation and political action Under his leadership, the Big Library in Warsaw became the largest and most popular Jewish Public Library, he also headed the library the center of the "Culture League", a training facility of approximately 400 Jewish libraries in Poland and published in various magazines articles on topics of Jewish culture and librarianship. 
Herman Kruk was fleeing from the Germans from Warsaw to Vilnius. He work was as a press officer and published including several reports on the situation of refugees in Vilna, and the lives of children in this situation. 
's Herman Kruks name is also linked indelibly with his involvement in the Vilna ghetto as librarian of the ghetto library and as a chronicler of events in the ghetto. From the beginning of the German occupation, he is the chronicle are devoted. In the ghetto, he wrote almost daily, not all records are preserved under the date of September 4, 1941, he writes: ". ... it is my last wish: the words should go in the living world is not screaming ... then the world? Will the world once again take revenge? "(Kruk, p. 54) 
Herman Kruk was by the Germans during the liquidation of the ghetto were deported to Estonia and murdered in the camp Kloog.

 



Source: Rachel Kostanian: Spiritual Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto, p. 24

Sonje Madeisker

Sonje Madeisker was before the German crew member of a Communist youth group. In the ghetto, she was a member of the FPO, lived as an "Aryan" camouflaged outside the ghetto and was able to socialize, obtain housing protection, etc. Rudashevski Mary recalls: "From the Gita, I learned a lot about the Young Communist Sonja Madeisker with false papers. , as a Pole, they should cross the front line and beat themselves to Velikie Luki. However, it was taken. During interrogation, they said not a word. She was sentenced to death. On the last evening she managed to escape the fascist beasts. 
Sonja Madeisker is returned to Vilnius. She has lived illegally in the city and is of no danger deterred from continuing to work, it helps to get weapons come into the ghetto and keeps the connection alive with the working illegally Communists in the city. "(Masha Rolnikaite 1966, p. 90)

 

 


Masha Rolnikaite  
Source: Rolnikaite Masha: I must tell you, book cover

 

Masha Rolnikaite

Masha Rolnikaite was in the first days of German occupation, just 14 years old. She wrote a diary in the ghetto that they memorized on the advice of the mother learned from safety. It was before the final liquidation of the ghetto and transported to concentration camps liberated by the Red Army in Stutthof. She survived the Holocaust and now lives in St. Petersburg.2002, her records were uncensored for the first time in German language published (see References).

 

 



Source: Yitzhak Rudashevski: Diary from the Vilna ghetto, 
S. 34

 

Yitzhak Rudashevski

Yitzhak Rudashewski was fourteen years old when the Germans invaded Wina and attended grammar school. In the ghetto, he secretly wrote his diary, he describes the experience and the growing desperation of daily life, which is marked by persecution and death, but also the efforts of the cultural and spiritual resistance. Yitzhak was involved in the youth club of the Ghetto: The young people engaged in literary circles with Jewish history, an exhibition organized with the loot salvaged from the warehouse cultural goods and sat down together and discuss with the everyday life of the ghetto. When the Germans liquidated the ghetto, he and his family were hiding in a Maline.They were discovered and killed in Ponar. The only was able to save his cousin Sore Voloshin from the mass grave. They came to the partisans and took the diary after the liberation of the ghetto.So it has been preserved.

 



Ona Schimaite, photo from the prewar Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum 
Source: Rachel Kostanian: Spiritual Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto, p. 77

Ona Schimaite

 

The non-Jew Schimaite Ona worked in the university library in Vilnius. You not only saved over 200 letters that they got out of the ghetto, and important cultural assets that they either smuggled from the ghetto and got the loot of warehouse workers. She risked her life to save individual Jews. She survived the Nazi era.



Source: Rachel Kostanian: Spiritual Resistance in the Vilna Ghetto

Yekhiel Sheynboym

 

He led the group in the ghetto Halutz, was a member of the FPO and favored the fight against the Germans in the woods.Nevertheless, he was the leader of the defense group that stayed in the liquidation of the ghetto, the Germans at the first barricade. Sheynboym and his group were killed at the barricade.



Avrom Sutzkever, in the days of liberation 
Source: Avrom Sutzkever: Wilner fun geto, p. 187


Avrom Sutzkever and Shmerke Kaczerginski outside her apartment in the Vilna Ghetto 
Source: Avrom Sutzkever: Wilner fun geto, p. 187

Avrom Sutzkever

Before the invasion of the Germans he was a poet and as Shmerke Kaczerginski, a member of a group of artists. He was arrested in 1941 by the Germans, but managed to escape. In the ghetto he was involved in the youth club and other cultural initiatives. He was the founding member of the ghetto theater. Sutzkever left with the last of the ghetto resistance movement and fought with the partisans until the liberation of Vilna. In 1946 he testified at the Nuremberg trials. He lives in Israel and has written others about the ghetto and the struggles of the partisans.

 



the "father" of the Vilna Jews 
Source: Shmerke Kaczerginski: Churbn Wilner, p. 161

Yakov Wigodski

Dr. Jacob Wygodski (1857-1941) was a physician and longtime head of the Vilnius Jewish community. In the first government after independence in Lithuania, he was minister for Jewish affairs, then a deputy in the Polish Sejm. He became the "father of the Vilna Jews" (cf. Grossmann / Ehrenburg, p. 473). 
He was a member of an anti-Hitler Commission, before the Germans marched into Vilnius. Tirelessly he tried to defend against the harassing measures to translated. 
He died not long after an encounter with Murer, when this had let him feel the brutality of the Germans.



Yitzhak Witenberg, commander of the FPO, drawn by N. Borowski 
Source: Avrom Sutzkever: Wilner fun geto, p. 155

Yitzhak Witenberg (code name Leon)

Yitzhak Witenberg (1907-1943) was the commander of the FPO in Vilna ghetto.As a youth he had been involved in the trade union movement and had joined the Communist Party. In 1936 he became a member of the Union Council in Vilnius. During the Soviet occupation, he was chairman of the Union of Leather Workers. When the Germans invaded, he was on their lists of activists of the Communist Party and had to hide. From the beginning of the occupation was for him no question of armed resistance. In the debate about the possibilities of the FPO, he argued, in the liquidation of the ghetto by any means to defend and then, if still possible to join the partisans. He was on 16July 1943 murdered by the Gestapo in Vilna.


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Responses to the Mass Murder and Rescue Efforts

A Jew climbing out of a melina (hiding place) at 6 Strashun Street in Vilna

Jewish forced laborers

Young women from Vilna in a labour camp near the town Podbrodzie, photographed with the head of the work group, Gedalia Kaczerginski

An excerpt from a newspaper. A photograph of the entrance to the ghetto

FPO member Liza Magun who was killed in February 1943

A ghetto work certificate issued by the Fliegerhorst Kommandantur (German Air Force Headquarters) in Vilna

Response of the Youth Movements in Vilna and Rescue Efforts

When the murders began in July 1941 rumours about the mass murder in Ponary reached the Judenrat. At the beginning of September six women who had been wounded by gunfire returned from Ponary to the Vilna Ghetto hospital where they told the hospital staff and Jacob Gens what was taking place in Ponary.

The information was kept secret out of fear that the women might be taken back to Ponary. For the first few months the Jews of Vilna believed that the thousands of kidnapped men had been taken to work. The rumours slowly reached the public and it took months for their meaning to be understood.
                                       
At the end of September 1941 the Judenrats of the two ghettos met. Fried, chair of the Judenrat in Ghetto I claimed that cooperation between the two ghettos would cause harm to Ghetto I because three quarters of its inhabitants were over the age of fifteen and fit for work. In contrast to Ghetto II where there were many sick and elderly.

The Judenrat in Ghetto I believed that the murder of a proportion of Vilna's Jews was unavoidable and that it was necessary to strive to maintain a ghetto which would bring together those who were fit to work and so save as many as possible. The police forces of the two ghettos worked together and Gens became responsible for the police of Ghetto II as well.

In their individual struggles to survive the Jews would try to obtain a "Schein" (work certificate) which they considered to be equivalent to a permit to live. An additional option was hiding in the ghetto during the aktions.

The Jews used great imagination and initiative and prepared "melinas" (hiding places in basements and roofs, hidden rooms in apartments and so on). Jews hid in the "melinas" during aktions, once it was over they rejoined the main ghetto population until the next aktion. There were also Jews able to hide outside the ghetto with the help of Christian friends or by passing as Aryans.

It is estimated that hundreds of Jews hid in Vilna outside the ghetto. Hundreds of Jews fled Vilna for Belorussia, where, at the time of the mass aktions in Vilna, the Jews still lived in relative stability. In a number of cases individuals and small groups of Jews resisted during the aktions, in most of these cases the resistance ended with their immediate execution.

Response of the Youth Movements in Vilna and Rescue Efforts

From the beginning of the German occupation the youth movements in Vilna continued to function and simultaneously renewed the "The Coordination of Pioneering Youth Movements". Nissan Reznik  and Shlomo Antin of Hanoar Hatzioni, Edek Boraks and Jedrzej Leved of Hashomer Hatzairand Mordechai Tenenbaum and Zvi Mersik of Dror Hechalutzwere active in the "Coordination".

They helped their members with accommodation and food, found ways to save them from being kidnapped and found them places to work. The "Coordination" ran a forgery for identity cards and Scheins, located in the kitchen at 2 Strashun Street. Groups of "Coordination" members hid outside the ghetto with false papers, among them Mordechai Tenenbaum of Dror Hechalutz who disguised himself as a Karaite (regarded by the Nazis as Aryans) and Haika Grosman of Hashomer Hatzair who passed herself as an "Aryan". A group from Hashomer Hatzair, including Abba Kovner, hid near Vilna in a Dominican convent headed by Mother Superior Anna Borkowska and with the help of Righteous Among the Nations Jadwiga Dud?ec.

Members of the pioneering youth movements maintained contact with their members in other ghettos of Poland and Belorussia. Thus they understood that in contrast to Vilna where the Jews were being murdered, in other ghettos in Poland the majority of the Jews were still alive.

At the end of 1941 they began discussing an armed revolt and spreading the idea to other ghettos. Members of the "Coordination" and Beitar debated whether the mass murder in Vilna was a local German-Lithuanian initiative or part of a comprehensive, premeditated program.

The members of Dror Hechalutz claimed that there was no reason to remain in Vilna and that the movement should move elsewhere, in order to organise a unit that would be able to fight the Germans. Members of the movement organised by Mordechai Tenenbaum moved from Vilna to Bialystok with the help of the Wehrmacht Sergeant Anton Shcmid. Few members of the other movements left Vilna.

Don't Go Like Sheep to the Slaughter
The idea of resistance arose simultaneously in most of the youth movements and led them to unite with the communists, who had also been contemplating resistance. On the 1st of January 1942, 150 members of the pioneering youth movements gathered in the kitchen at 2 Strashun Street. During the gathering an announcement written by Abba Kovner was read out in both Hebrew and Yiddish.

They shall not take us like sheep to the slaughter!
Jewish youth, do not be led astray. Of the 80,000 Jews in the "Jerusalem of Lithuania" (Vilna), only 20,000 remain.

Before our eyes they tore from us our parents, our brothers and sisters. Where are the hundreds of men who were taken away for labour by the Lithuanian "snatchers"? Where are the naked women and children who were taken from us in the night of terror of the "provocation"?
Where are the Jews [who were taken away on] the Day of Atonement?
Where are our brothers from the second ghetto?
None of those who were taken away from the ghetto has ever come back.
All the roads of the Gestapo lead to Ponary.
And Ponary is Death!
You who hesitate! Cast aside all illusions. Your children, your husbands, and your wives are no longer alive.
Ponary is not a camp – they were all shot there.
Hitler is scheming to annihilate all of European Jewry. The Jews of Lithuania were tasked to be first in line. 
Let us not go like sheep to the slaughter!
It is true that we are weak and defenseless, but resistance is the only response to the enemy!..
Resist! To the last breath.

This proclamation represented a turning point in an understanding of the situation and how to respond to it. The idea of resistance was disseminated from Vilna by youth movement couriers, mainly women, to the ghettos of Poland, Lithuania and Belorussia.

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Heroine of the Vilna Ghetto~Vitka Kempner

July 9: 

by LAWRENCE BUSH on JULY 8, 2011

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Vitka Kempner and Itzik Matzkevitch returned to the Vilna Ghetto on this date in 1942, after blowing up a Nazi military train five miles to the southeast. Kempner, born in 1920, formed a resistance cell in the ghetto with poet Abba Kovner, whom she later married.

Their United Partisans Organization smuggled weapons through the sewer system; Kempner’s act of sabotage was their first act of resistance. They would later also sabotage the power plant and waterworks of Vilna.

Kempner moved regularly between the ghetto and the outside world through the sewers, leading hundreds of Jews to the forests of Rodninkai, where they formed a partisan brigade known as the Avengers. This brigade helped liberate Vilna as the Soviets advanced on the city in 1944, but even after the war, they sought revenge: In 1945, Vitka led the infiltration of the bakery at a POW camp in Nuremberg and poisoned hundreds of loaves of bread with arsenic.

The following year, after helping hundreds of survivors find their way to Palestine,Vitka and Kovner settled at Kibbutz Ein Horesh, where they raised two children. She became a clinical psychologist in her 40s and still lives in Israel today.

“Kempner painfully recalls the situation in which the youngsters, who assumed they had won the ghetto population over to rebellion, were in fact rejected by the Jews and regarded as the ones who jeopardized the ghetto’s existence. Kempner explained their decision to stay in the ghetto despite their exclusion: ‘We never thought in terms of rescue and living, but about a response adequate for Jews at that time.’” —Neima Barzel, Jewish Women’s Archive

Vitka Kempner  Additional Short Biography

Vitka Kempner was born in Kalish, on the Polish-German border, in 1922. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Kalish fell and Vitka escaped to Vilna, Poland. When Operation Barbarossa, Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union, was launched in 1941 Vilna was occupied and a ghetto was formed. Hearing the rumors about the death camps, Vitka decided to take her destiny into her own hands. 

After contacting the famous Jewish youth leader Abba Kovner who, like her, was a member of the Zionist youth movement Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'ir, Vitka became one of the founding members of
Kovner's resistance cell. Eventually Vitka became one of Kovner’s chief lieutenants, and later became his wife. 

In the Vilna ghetto, the group successfully organized a resistance movement called the United Partisans Organization, (FPO) and began to arm themselves, smuggling weapons through the sewer system. Vitka was responsible for the FPO's first act of sabotage, smuggling a homemade bomb out of the ghetto and blowing up a Nazi train line. 

The Germans then announced that the Vilna ghetto
would be liquidated. After a failed uprising, Vitka helped the FPO to evacuate much of the population through the sewer system, to the surrounding forests. The ghetto escapees who stayed with Kovner in the Vilna forests became the partisan brigade known as the Avengers. They continued their sabotage operations, destroying both the power plant and the waterworks of Vilna, the city they once loved. 

As the Soviets advanced westward, the Avengers emerged from the forest and joined the struggle openly, helping to liberate Vilna. But the liberation of their country and the German defeat were not enough. Vitka and Abba wanted revenge. In 1945, Vitka planned an infiltration of the bakery at a Nuremberg POW camp and poisoned 3000 loaves of bread with arsenic. Besides avenging the Jews killed by
Vitka Kempner
Nazis, Abba and Vitka also reached out to the survivors. They aided hundreds of European Jews in immigrating to Palestine. In 1946 Vitka and Abba followed, settling at Kibbutz Ein Horesh and raising two children. Vitka, now a widow, still resides in Israel. She has four grandchildren.

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ROZKA KORCZAK-MARLA 1921 – 1988

By Neima Barzel

“We did not have the privilege of choosing between converting to Christianity and sacrificing ourselves to sanctify the name of God—in this we differed from our ancestors. … We did have a choice of the manner in which to live to the very end as free Jews and die as liberated people.” Thus, in 1982, Korczak-Marla referred to the choice made by members of Halutz movements in the Vilna Ghetto.

Rozka Korczak was born in April 1921 in Bieslko, a small riverside village, near the Visla (Vistula), which had only forty Jewish families. Her father Gedaliah (d. 1940) was a cattle dealer, a tradition-respecting Jew and aspiring Zionist. Two younger sisters, Teibel (b. 1924) and Rachel (b. 1927) perished together with their mother Hinda in c.1942.

Since there was no Jewish school in her village, Korczak studied at a Polish school. In the eighth grade she organized a strike of Jewish pupils in protest against the principal’s antisemitic remarks. At the same time, she also studied the scriptures and the Talmud in a heder, seated at a side table, not around the central one, which was reserved for boys.

With the decline of their financial situation, the family moved to Plock (94 kilometers north of Lodz) in 1934. Despite her craving for learning, fourteen-year-old Rozka decided to work due to the shortage of money in the family. She acquired knowledge by attending evening classes and by reading books. “These were my universities,” she said.

Having read Autoemancipation (1882) by Leon Pinsker (1821–1891),she found her way to Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir, where she became an instructor and a member of the leadership. Her loyalty to the socialist movement soon led to conflict with the traditional way of life at home. Korczak, true to her promise, went out on a trip with her group on Yom Kippur, but she also observed the fast!

Upon the outbreak of WWII and the German invasion of Plock, she witnessed acts of violence and humiliation against Jews. Soon thereafter, she informed her parents that she was leaving to join her comrades in the “movement.” In Warsaw, in November 1939, she met Tosia Altman (1918–1943), who informed her about the gathering of movement members in Vilna (Vilnius).

There she learned of her father’s death and her family’s deportation to Piotrkow Trybunalski (45 km SSE of Lodz). She joined the commune and worked, together with Vitka Kempner and others, rinsing pig bristles for the brush manufacturing industry. Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir went underground after the incorporation in July 1940 of Lithuania, and with it Vilna, into the Soviet Union.

In addition to working, Rozka Korczak attended an evening high school to improve her knowledge of Yiddish and Jewish culture. On June 24, 1941, two days after invading the Soviet Union, the Germans occupied Vilna. Korczak and her comrades decided to escape to the East and join the Red Army, but the German army overtook them.

In July, the Germans and Lithuanian volunteers rounded up five thousand Jewish men, taking them to Ponary (12 kilometers from Vilna), where they were murdered. That was the first, but not the last mass murder in Ponary. The members of the movement tried to save themselves with forged documents. On September 6, 1941, two ghettos, for 28,000 Jews who escaped the killing, were established in Vilna. Ghetto No. 2 included the “superfluous” population, destined for extermination.

As the horrible truth about the mass murders reached the remaining people in the ghetto, the movement members argued constantly about their ultimate commitment: should they stay with the community in Vilna or find their way to another “safe” ghetto? Rozka Korczak was among those gathered for the historical meeting on the eve of December 31, 1941, at which Abba Kovner (1918–1988) read aloud a manifesto which stated, in part: “Hitler plans to kill all the Jews of Europe. …

Let us not go like sheep to the slaughter.” On January 21, 1942, a Jewish combat organization was established, the Fareynegte Partizaner Organizatsye (United Partisan Organization; FPO). Korczak, who documented this gathering in her book Flames in the Ashes, insisted both in 1945 and in 1988: “You may by no means say that whoever supported the uprising became a hero, and whoever objected to it was a coward. It was not divided like that.”

While serving as an active member in initiating the establishment of the FPO, she took care of orphans and also became a “mother” to her comrades. At the same time, she worked in the ghetto library.

On the night of July 15, 1943, when Jacob Gens (1905–1943), the head of the Judenrat, complying with German demand, was about to hand over the FPO’s commander, Itzik Wittenberg (1907–1943), Korczak and Vitka Kempner, together with others, rescued their commander by a brave operation.

However, because of the severe confrontation between the FPO and the Jews in the ghetto, Wittenberg gave himself up to the Germans. In her book, Flames in the Ashes, Korczak describes the separateness of the underground members, the responsibility they felt for the Jewish community, and their resolution to leave for the forest. She herself was among the last group of fighters who, in September 1943, left the ghetto through the sewage canals for the forests of Rudninkai, carrying the movement’s archives and Abba Kovner’s poems on her back.

In the forest, an autonomous Jewish partisan brigade had been organized under the command of Abba Kovner. In charge of managing the camp life of the Jewish unit, Korczak handled food acquisition and distribution, the organizing of laundry and equipment—complicated issues in a harsh reality of severe shortage and poverty.

At the same time, like other women, she struggled for the right to participate in combat. “I recall that in the first operation I was chosen along with one of our female comrades; we felt that the entire fate of the female sex depended upon us. If we fulfilled the task we had been trusted with, we would pave the way for the other girls.”

On July 13, 1944, Vilna was liberated and Abba Kovner, Vitka Kempner and Rozka Korczak returned to the city, together with several hundred survivors. There they discovered that the ghetto had been totally destroyed. In this situation they decided to organize the remaining Jews and the refugees for immigration to Palestine. Korczak left for Kovno to search for survivors, partisans and movement members.

In December 1944, Kovner sent Korczak and Dr. Shlomo Amarant (d. 1995) to find ways of passage to Romania and Black Sea ports. In Bucharest the messengers of He-Halutz bade her to leave for Palestine and reveal her story to the Jewish public. Her first home was in Kibbutz Eilon where, in 1945, she began her great book of testimony, Flames in the Ashes. In January 1945, she addressed the Executive of Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir, unfolding to them the narrative of agony, extermination and heroism during the Holocaust.

A petite young woman with delicate features and a modest smile at the corners of her mouth, speaking Yiddish in a quiet, subdued tone, she was among the first who introduced the story of the Holocaust and heroism to the Palestine Jewish elite. Employing the terminology of pain and strength, she presented to the public an extensive and detailed account of Holocaust events, describing how the concept of armed resistance had been crystallized among the members of the Halutz movements, which functioned as the avant-garde and leadership of the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

Together with Vitka Kempner, Abba Kovner and Chesia Rosenberg (b. 1920), Korczak was accepted as a member of Kibbutz Ein ha-Horesh in October, 1947. There she married Avi Marla (b. 1922). The couple had three children: Yehudah (b. 1952), Yonat (b. 1954) and Gadi (b. 1959).

Rozka Korczak-Marla integrated into kibbutz life as an educator and public figure. She served two terms as kibbutz secretary, from 1958 to 1961 and from 1980 to 1981. She perceived herself as an educator due to the determination and humane attitude she had derived from her personal experience of the Holocaust.

In a debate held in 1974, she said: “Our failure will be if we lack the will to respond to them [the youngsters] honestly, in a clear manner. We—including the Jewish people in its own homeland—should all learn and teach how to live with the hazardous reality called Judaism—all this out of love and with critical awareness. Nevertheless, we should live with the problematic aspects, for we have no other life.”

Korczak-Marla was a dedicated and loyal member of the kibbutz. Yet the leadership considered her, like all Holocaust survivors, as being in need of “re-education.” In 1947, she complied with a verdict to postpone her studies, in spite of her strong desire to learn.

She accepted the verdict that studying “was not to be recommended” and consented, “with quite hard feelings, but fully aware of the necessity to do so.” Since, unlike Kovner, she was not perceived as threatening by her movement’s leaders, she was recruited in 1947 to work among the new immigrant partisans in order to help them adjust to reality in Palestine.

In the sixties, as a partner and, later, the head of Moreshet, an institute established by Ha-Kibbutz ha-Arzi to engage in research, collection of testimonies and publication of literature and Holocaust research, she was fully involved in every book, pamphlet, and event. With her subtle criticism, sense of humor and sensitivity, she played a central role as editor and as an authoritative figure in various aspects of editing and publication.

In a speech delivered in 1984, on the twentieth anniversary of the publication of the first Moreshet pamphlet, she underscored the significance of publishing testimonies and journals from the Holocaust together with engaging in research. These testimonies should represent “the humane, ethical, national and spiritual perspective of Jewish existence during the Holocaust,” she said.

Her attempts and those of others to erect the Moreshet building were unsuccessful. In the last year of her life, she complained bitterly about this failure: “Commemoration is the task of the movement, not mine. I have done my bit. For years nobody in the Kibbutz ha-Arzi has cared. This movement and its present leadership are unworthy of the movement they had abroad.”

Korczak-Marla had an outstanding ability to listen to people and to display empathy with those who approached her, on the kibbutz and outside it, as well as in Moreshet. She lent an ear to people in distress and they consulted her on various issues even when she was in public office. She continued her activity in Moreshet until her last days, reading, writing, and counseling, emanating love and support for writers, humbly negating herself.

On the other hand, she was eager to discuss her family, children and grandchildren. Throughout the years, a deepening friendship developed between the Korczak-Marla family and the Kovners, so much so that they constituted a unique social unit.

Rozka Korczak-Marla died of cancer on March 5, 1988. Her children wrote after her death: “Mother lived a life of dedication and that way of life became virtually a character trait.”

"Let us not go like sheep to the slaughter,” urged Abba Kovner, a leader of the Jewish resistance and future husband of Ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir member Vitka Kempner. With that battle cry urging her on, Kempner devoted the war years to hiding from the Germans while simultaneously maintaining fierce armed resistance against them.

Years later, after her immigration to Israel, she was forced to confront new challenges, including tuberculosis and forced separation from her children. A true heroine, she fought each of these battles with courage and optimism. She is shown here (far R) with fellow partisans, including Kovner (second from R) and Rozka Korczak-Marla (third from R), after the liberation of Vilna in July 1944.

Institution: Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

Together with Abba Kovner (C) and Vitka Kempner-Kovner (R), Rozka Korczak-Marla (L) fought valiantly against the Germans as a member of the Jewish Resistance in Poland. They are shown here after the liberation of Vilna in July 1944, after which all three made their way to Kibbutz Ein ha-Horesh in Palestine. For the rest of their lives, these three partisans (along with Korczak's husband, Avi Marla) maintained the powerful bond forged years earlier in the inferno of the Holocaust.

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Vilna Ghetto Gate Guard Police

The Jewish ghetto police who were stationed at the gate of the Vilnius (Vilna) ghetto. In the upper left corner: Jacob Gens, the head of the Judenrat. The policemen are: David Dessler, police commander (upper right corner), Meir Levas - Lev, L. Rak, Meir Szmulewic, Shmuel Landau, Leizer Bert, J. Rasianski, Oriasz Margolis, J. Amdurski, A. Slucki, Israel Anolik, M. Zamski, J. Dawidowski, M. Gebstein, K. Glaz, Ch. Luski, K. Grossman, A. Lipow, G. Szturman, J. Rudaszycki, J. Korchowski, S. Gordon, M. Kagan, S. Halpern.

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JEWISH FIGHTERS FROM THE VILNA GHETTO

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Jail in the Vilna Ghetto, 1941-1943

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The Ghetto Prison in the yard of the Strashun 4

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Chaim Lazar, a Jewish Partisan from Vilna

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German Soldiers Hanging Two Jews in the Vilna ghetto.1

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Herman Kruk

From Yad Vashem:


Herman Kruk was born in Plock in 1897 to Henoch and Pesa. He was a journalist and married to Paulina nee Horovitz. Prior to WWII he lived in Plock, Poland. During the war he was in Wilno, Ghetto. Herman perished in 1943/4 in Klooga, Camp. This information is based on a Page of Testimony (displayed on left) submitted on 01-Jul-1955 by his wife Paulina Vardi of Tel Aviv
Genya Turner nee Krok was born in Plock in 1907 to Henoch and Pesia. She was a housewife. Prior to WWII she lived in Plock, Poland. Genya perished in the Shoah. This information is based on a Page of Testimony (displayed on left) submitted on 10-Jul-1955 by her sister-in-law Paulina Vardi of Tel Aviv

Synopsis

"The time of horrors I leave for future worlds. I write because I must write—a consolation in my time of horror. For future generations I leave it as a trace."
Herman Kruk, March 24, 1944

For five horrifying years, the librarian Herman Kruk recorded his own experiences and those of others, determinedly documenting the life and daily resistance of European Jews in the deepening shadow of imminent death. This unique chronicle includes all recovered pages of Kruk's diaries and provides a powerful eyewitness account of the annihilation of the Jewish community of Vilna. The widely scattered pages of the diaries, collected here for the first time, have been meticulously deciphered, translated, and annotated for this volume.

Kruk describes events both public and private in entries that start in September 1939, when he fled the German attack on Warsaw and became a refugee in Vilna, the "Jerusalem of Lithuania." His diaries go on to recount the two tragic years of the Vilna Ghetto and a subsequent year in death camps in Estonia. Kruk penned his final diary entry on September 17, 1944, managing to bury the small, loose pages of his manuscript just hours before he and other camp inmates were shot to death.

Kruk's writings make real the personal and global tragedy of the Vilna Jews and their courageous efforts to maintain an ideological, social, and cultural life even as their world was being destroyed.

The diaries record the reality of daily ghetto and camp life, rumors about the world war raging outside the walls, reactions to the endless persecution, and stories of instances in which Lithuanian peasants tried to save Jews from death. To read Kruk's day-by-day account of the unfolding of the Holocaust is to gain a powerful understanding of the gradual, relentless dicovery of the Nazis' fatal intent, to recognize the horror of the abyss, and yet to discern possibilities for human courage and perseverance.

 

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George Rishfeld

As a baby, George Rishfeld’s mother and father tossed him over a barbed-wire fence into the arms of a young Polish woman. That woman and her parents risked their lives again and again to keep George safe from the Nazis.

 

George Rishfeld – originally named Jureck – was born on April 26, 1939 in Warsaw, Poland, just before the start of World War II. George’s father, Richard, owned a fur business, and he and his wife, Lucille, enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle, even though many of his neighbors were prejudiced against Jews.

When the Nazis invaded Warsaw in September 1939, the family fled to the Lithuanian city of Vilna, where they hoped they would find safety. Soon, however, the Nazis occupied Vilna too, and established a ghetto. The Vilna Ghetto, like other ghettos, was created to separate and isolate the Jewish population.

Large numbers of Jews were forced to live in a small area behind brick walls and barbed wire. Conditions were crowded, and there was little food or sanitation. Residents of the ghetto were hungry and became sick; many died. Although George was too young to remember, his family often feared for their lives.

After living in the Vilna Ghetto for a year and a half, George’s parents grew more and more frightened. Residents of the ghetto were being deported to concentration camps where conditions were even more brutal. The Nazis had already murdered some of George’s relatives, including an aunt and baby cousin, and his grandparents had been buried alive in a mass grave. Life as a Jew had become so dangerous tht George’s parents decided on a daring plan to save their baby son.

George’s father had employed several people in his fur business, including a Mr. Fronckvics and his daughter Halinka. The Fronckvics became very close to the Rishfeld family, although they were not Jewish. When it became clear that the Nazis would invade Poland, Halinka and her father promised George’s parents that they would take care of George if things got bad. They also promised to return George to his parents if they survived. If not, they promised to raise George as their own son.

After living in the Vilna Ghetto for a year and a half, George’s parents grew more and more frightened. Residents of the ghetto were being deported to concentration camps where conditions were even more brutal. The Nazis had already murdered some of George’s relatives, including an aunt and baby cousin, and his grandparents had been buried alive in a mass grave. Life as a Jew had become so dangerous that George’s parents decided on a daring plan to save their baby son.

George’s father had employed several people in his fur business, including a Mr. Fronckvics and his daughter Halinka. The Fronckvics became very close to the Rishfeld family, although they were not Jewish. When it became clear that the Nazis would invade Poland, Halinka and her father promised George’s parents that they would take care of George if things got bad. They also promised to return George to his parents if they survived. If not, they promised to raise George as their own son.

George’s parents made the difficult decision to hand George over to the Fronckvics, even though they knew they might never see him again. However, because of the high barbed-wire fences surrounding the ghetto, and the constant presence of Nazi guards within the ghetto’s walls, they knew that their decision would not only be emotionally difficult, but also extremely dangerous.

They knew that if they were caught, they would very likely be executed on the spot. So, after finding a way to contact Halinka and her father, and arranging a secret meeting place, George’s parents kissed their little son goodbye and then carefully tossed him over the fence. There, George was caught by Halinka, who was waiting on the other side with her boyfriend.

Halinka and her boyfriend smuggled George back to Halinka’s home, and the ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬Fronckvics family immediately accepted George as if he were their own son. George adapted so well to the family, that he called Mr. and Mrs. Fronckvics “Papa” and “Mama,” and to this day does not know their first names.

Of course, George wondered what had become of his parents and why he was not allowed to be with them, and when he asked the Fronckvics, they always reassured him that were keeping him safe and that everything would soon be fine.

George was under strict instructions not to speak with anyone, so instead Halinka or her parents answered questions on his behalf. The Fronckvics were worried that if he said too much, the Nazis would discover that he was Jewish. If that happened both George and the Fronckvics would almost certainly be killed by the Nazis.

George remembers taking a walk with Halinka one afternoon when they were stopped by a Nazi who squatted on the sidewalk to talk to George. Since he was at eye-level with the Nazi, Halinka was unable to prevent George from speaking to the officer.

When the man asked him where his mother was since Halinka appeared too young to be his mother, George tried to say that she was in the ghetto. Fortunately, the Polish word for “ghetto” is similar to the word for “mud,” so the officer thought that George had said that his mother was lying in the mud, and laughed. George so charmed the Nazi that he presented him with a fresh apple.

Every Sunday, George attended church with the family. He even wore a St. Christopher medal for good luck as part of his disguise. However, one day the serenity of the church was broken by a group of Nazis searching for suspicious families who might be hiding Jewish children. Halinka feared that they would realize George was Jewish, and so she asked George to play a game and pretend that he was suddenly sick. George grabbed his stomach and began to moan, and she was able to whisk him right past the Nazis and out of the church.

Although George suffered some scary moments during his time in hiding, what he remembers most is the love shown to him by the Fronckvics family. Now, as an adult, he recognizes how much they risked to save him, and appreciates their extraordinary courage and kindness.

Meanwhile, his parents were faced with their own set of challenges. George’s father managed to escape from the Vilna ghetto and joined an underground resistance movement whose members lived hidden in the forest. George remembers fondly the two times that his father secretly came to visit him during the war.

His father spoke little of his years in the resistance, but did tell George that he worked to rescue Jews from the ghetto. He was unable to rescue George’s mother, whom the Nazis moved to a number of different ghettos. However, she miraculously survived the war, and the family was reunited. George knows how fortunate he is that he and both his parents survived the Holocaust.

In 1949, George’s parents were able to obtain the necessary papers for their family to come to the United States. The Rishfelds moved to New York, but ten year old George had a difficult time adjusting to the American lifestyle. In school, he was known as the “refugee kid” and the other children teased him because he was a foreigner.

At first, he just wanted to fit in and be like all the other kids, but after a while he realized that he should be proud of his background. After high school, he joined the Army because he wanted to help defend the country that had been a refuge to him and his family.

George then went on to college and began a successful career in the electronics industry. He and his wife Pamela live in Atlanta and enjoy spending time with their two daughters and their grandchildren. Aside from his family, George’s passion is speaking publicly about his experiences during the Holocaust. He hopes to touch at least one person every time he speaks.

 

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Franz Murer

Franz Murer

 (1917–1995), 

Also known as the "Butcher from Vilnius", was an Austrian SS officer, who set up, organized, and ruled Vilna Ghetto.

He joined the NSDAP in 1938. Murer was trained with Hitler Youth in Nuremberg. He was then transferred to Vilnius and was from 1941 to 1943 responsible for Jewish affairs as deputy of Territorial Commissioner (Gebietskommissar) Hans Hingst

He was known as a sadist who showed special cruelty towards the Jews. Vilnius, which was known as "the Jerusalem of Lithuania" before the war, had a Jewish population of about 80,000. After the war around 250 Jews were living there. The rest had been murdered by the SS and Murer was instrumental in organizing these killings. On July 1, 1943 Murer was replaced by Gestapo man Bruno Kittel to liquidate the ghetto.

After the war Murer moved to Steiermark in Austria. Near his residence in Admont there was a camp for displaced persons. In 1947 one of these DPs recognized Murer and British forces arrested Murer. In December 1948 he was deported to the Soviet Union since Vilnius had been under Soviet jurisdiction.

He was found guilty of having murdered Soviet citizens and sentenced to 25 years of hard labour. As a part of the Austrian State Treaty, he was released in 1955 and thus returned to AustriaSimon Wiesenthal managed to get him prosecuted again in 1963. The trial that took place in Graz, Austria, lasted for a week and ended with the acquittal of Murer.

Franz Murer, Nazi criminal caught by Wiesenthal

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