Vilna Ghetto Uprising - Revolt against the Nazis led chiefly by Zionist groups in 1943, by Yitzhak Wittenberg of the Communist youth and Abba Kovner of Hashomer Hatzair. This was one of several resistance operations organized during the Holocaust, which were led by Zionists or in which Zionists participated.
On June 24, 1941, two days after Germany launched its surprise attack against the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, the Germans occupied Vilnius or Vilna, now in Lithuania.
As the Germans swept east, they began the oppression and ultimately the
liquidation of the Jews in the areas they occupied.
In July, less than a month after the Germans occupied Vilna, SS Einsatzkommando 9 rounded up 6,000 Jewish men of Vilna and took them to Ponary, about 6 miles from Vilna, where they were shot.
The next major Aktion took place beginning August 31, supposedly in retaliation for an attack against the Germans. The Germans then crowded tens of thousands of Jews from surrounding areas into Vilna.
Abba Kovner, who was to lead the ghetto revolt, saw a woman dragged by the hair by two soldiers, 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.
During the four day Aktion. 8,000 men and women were shot at Ponary.
The fate of those taken to Ponary was masked by the Germans as "resettlement," but the truth got back to the ghetto. Most did not believe it was possible, but a few understood that the Germans were out to exterminate the Jews, and decided to resist.
In December 1941, activists held several meetings, where they decided to resist and to remain in the ghetto rather than trying to escape. They managed to hold a mass meeting on New Year's eve. In front of the 150 Jews, at 2 Straszuna Street in a public soup kitchen, Kovner proclaimed:
A meeting was held three weeks later, January 21, 1942, at the home of
Joseph Glazman. Representatives from the major youth groups met: Abba Kovner of
Hashomer Hatzair, Joseph Glazman of
Betar, Yitzhak Wittenberg and Chyena Borowska of
the Communists and Nissan Reznik of Ha-No'ar ha-Ziyyoni
The FPO gathered weapons from other partisans and black market sources. Daily practice sessions were organized.
In July 1943, Wittenberg, the commander of the F.P.O., was arrested at a meeting with the head of Vilna's Judenrat, Jacob Gens probably due to treachery of Gens under Nazi threats. He was freed by other F.P.O. members, and went into hiding. The Germans threatened that if he were not released, the entire ghetto would be liquidated. 20,000 still remained alive. Pressure against the FPO was organized by the Judenrat. Wittenberg eventually gave himself up, and appointed Kovner as his successor.
A month and a half later, the Germans decided to liquidate the ghetto. The F.P.O. tried to persuade the ghetto residents not to join the deportation because they were being sent to their deaths. They proclaimed:
Most ghetto residents did not heed the proclamation.Most of these transports were being sent to labor camps in Estonia, chiefly the HKP and Kailis camps. Most of the transportees at those camps were eventually killed by the SS.
The HKP camp was commanded by Wehrmacht Major Karl Plagge, who managed to shield some of his workers from the SS. Of all the Jews of the Vilna ghetto, the 250 survivors represent the largest group of those who were transported and survived the war.
On September 1, 1943, fighting broke out between the F.P.O. and the
Germans. The F.P.O. shot at the Germans, and the Germans blew up their buildings.
The Germans retreated at night and allowed the Jewish police to round up the remaining ghetto residents for the transports, at the insistence of Gens, the head of the
Judenrat (Jewish council).
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:
'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.
ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."
uu - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.
a- sounded like a in arm
ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.
'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.
o - close to the French o as in homme.
th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.
q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.
This site is a part of the Zionism and Israel on the Web Project
This work and individual entries are copyright © 2005 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism and Israel Information Center and may not reproduced in any form without permission unless explicitly noted otherwise. Individual entries may be cited with credit to The Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Zionism and Israel
ZioNation - Zionism-Israel Web Log Zionism & Israel News Israel: like this, as if Bible Bible Quotes History of Zionism Zionism FAQ Zionism Israel Center Maps of Israel Jew Israel Advocacy Zionism and its Impact Israel Christian Zionism Site Map