When Germany attacks the Soviet Union in 1941, the Nazis occupy Vilna and begin imposing their harsh antisemitic rule, banning Jews from sidewalks, requiring the wearing of an identifying yellow star, and worse. “Within just a few days,” Mira Verbin recalls, “they started kidnapping Jews.”
By Dr. Samuel Kassow
The German attack on the Soviet Union on the morning of June 22, 1941, came like a bolt out of the blue. There had been rumors that war was imminent, to be sure, and Red Army generals begged Stalin for permission to put the troops on high alert. But he ignored their pleas and lulled the population into a false sense of security. As Abram Zeleznikov recalls in this episode, on the very morning of the German invasion, party hacks were still toeing the line that the real warmongers were not the Germans but the British.
When the Germans struck that Sunday, they sliced through the Soviet defenses and moved fast. Whereas during the First World War, from basically the same starting point, it had taken the Germans one year to reach Kovno and Vilna, and almost four years to take Minsk, in 1941 they took Vilna and Kovno by Tuesday and captured Minsk—200 miles from the border—by the following Sunday.
Happy to have good weather on their one day off, many Vilna residents were at nearby lakes and forests. Assured by the authorities that war was unlikely, they assumed that the planes that suddenly appeared in the sky were Soviet. But all too soon, they realized that once again their lives would change in an instant, as they had in 1939. For many, the transition from peace to war was sudden and traumatic. Samuel Bak, who was only six years old, remembered that a bomb hit a nearby building, killing the teenaged daughter of a family friend. “They found her body, but they could not find her head.” A little later, his own father found it and came back “shattered.” To a young child, this was an introduction to a war that would upend his life.
That Sunday and Monday Jews anxiously debated what to do. Run? But what about aged parents or children? Stay? And leave oneself to the mercy of the Germans? But as people debated and hesitated, they all realized that they had to act fast. There was no time to lose. In 1939, the Bundist cultural activist Herman Kruk had fled Warsaw. This time, in Vilna, he decided that he would stay put, come what may, and record what he saw. Some older Jews remembered the “good Germans” of World War I and hoped against hope that they would somehow get by. Others were not so optimistic and tried to leave.
Crowds of people rushed to the train stations, but with few exceptions, only party members and Soviet officials made it onto a train. But they were still not safe. The two trains that left Vilna that Monday suffered nonstop bombing. At the old Polish-Soviet border, Soviet border guards turned back anyone who lacked a special permit to travel farther east. This happened to Benjamin Harshav, a future professor at Yale. With remarkable presence of mind, Harshav, only 13 at the time, did not panic but sneaked back onto the train when the guards weren’t looking, and survived the war.
Other Vilna Jews set out on foot. The Yiddish writer Chaim Grade and his wife set out on the road toward Minsk. But his young wife soon tired and begged Grade to go off alone. After all, rumor had it that the Nazis arrested men but not women. Grade left his wife, got a ride on a passing Red Army truck, and eventually survived the war in the Soviet interior. But he never overcame his feelings of guilt for having left his wife. The poet Avrom Sutzkever and his wife, Freydke, also tried to reach safety on foot. But they could not outrun the German panzers and within a few days they, along with almost all the other Vilna Jews who tried to flee, returned to the city. In all, only about 3,000 Vilna Jews, out of approximately 60,000 in the city in June 1941, managed to escape.
Although some Jews, such as Wiera Goldman or William Begell’s parents, were pleasantly surprised at first by the discipline and bearing of the first German troops they saw, their relief would be short-lived. Within a week, the persecutions of the Vilna Jews began: the mandatory wearing of the Jewish star, random beatings in the streets, curfews, restricted shopping hours, a ban on using sidewalks. No one was exempt from random beatings and humiliation.
When William Begell’s mother and aunt—both well-dressed women—showed themselves on the street looking well-to-do, with Jewish stars sewn to their clothing, Lithuanian police nabbed them and took them to a German police station, where a sergeant ordered them to take off their underwear and clean the windows. Later that night, they returned to their worried family, dirty and in tears.
But worse was soon to some. What is now called the Holocaust, the mass murder of European Jewry, actually began in Lithuania. Between June and December 1941, while Polish Jewry remained relatively untouched, and before the death camps were built, Germans and their Lithuanian helpers murdered 80 percent of Lithuanian Jewry. By January 1942, only 20,000 Jews remained alive in Vilna.
As soon as the Soviets fled, in June and July 1941, scores of bloody pogroms in Lithuania and eastern Poland—fueled in part by widespread accusations that Jews had collaborated with the hated Soviets—claimed thousands of Jewish lives. Mass arrests of “unreliable elements” by the NKVD (the Soviet secret police) just a couple of weeks before had been blamed on “the Jews” and had raised antisemitic passions to a fever pitch. After all, who else but the Jews controlled the Kremlin and staffed the hated secret police? In fact, the prison trains that carried thousands of people to the gulag included many Jews: former businessmen, political activists, and others. (In reality, few Jews staffed the higher levels of the secret police in 1941. But at times like these, who cared about the facts?) That June, those who escaped arrest, like the formerly wealthy parents of William Begell, counted themselves lucky. How could they have known that Siberia, for all its hardships, offered much better chances of survival than Vilna?
During that summer of 1941, the Final Solution was still a work in progress. Before the invasion of the Soviet Union, SS Einsatzgruppen (special units) attached to the advancing German Army had orders to murder “unreliable elements,” especially Communists and male Jews. (For the killers, Communists and male Jews were virtually identical.) By the time the Einsatzkommando 9 arrived in Vilna on July 2, local Lithuanian nationalists had already begun to hunt down and shoot Jewish men.
When the Germans appointed their civil administration and the SS put a security apparatus in place, the killings became more organized. Under overall German supervision, Lithuanian volunteers did most of the actual killing, with one unit in particular, the Ypatingi Burai, playing a key role. Lithuanians also suggested to the Germans that nearby Ponary, where the Soviets had excavated enormous pits to store aviation fuel, was a convenient spot for mass murder.
Lithuanian nationalists hoped that their eager collaboration would win them favors from the Germans: recognition of Lithuanian independence; support against the Poles, who outnumbered them in Vilna; and, of course, a generous share of looted Jewish property. They soon discovered, however, that while it was relatively easy to grab Jewish wealth, it was much more difficult to gain German support for independence.
In keeping with the initial guidelines, during those first few weeks the killers—Jews called them khapunes (kidnappers)—targeted Jewish men. As Yitzhak Arad points out, in the 16 days between July 4 and July 20 they murdered 5,000 Jews, mostly men. Every day, they roamed the city, snatched Jewish men off the streets, and barged into homes, searching for their prey.
As the Final Solution was still being formulated, no decision had yet been made about whether Jewish women and children would be killed. (That would not begin until late August and September.) The men were hauled off to Łukiszki Prison and then taken straight to Ponar. Herman Kruk recalled that “the whole city is depressed by the men who have disappeared. Groups of snatchers wander about the streets and courtyards, snatch men wherever they can, and drag them off. The excuse is they are taken ‘for work,’ but seldom does anybody come back.” Testimonies in this episode convey the terror and the helpless despair that Jews experienced those first weeks of the German occupation. Overnight, new Yiddish words appeared: khapunes or khapers (catchers or kidnappers), malinas (hideouts), shayn (a German-issued labor card that might, or might not, offer protection).
Virtually every Jewish survivor from Vilna recalled the horror of that summer, as their husbands, fathers, and sons were abducted and never seen again. In this episode, we hear about Wiera Goldman’s father, Mira Berger’s brother, Mira Verbin’s father, Samuel Bak’s father. No one was safe, not even well-known members of the community, such as Mira Verbin’s father, who was seized on his way to a meeting to form a Jewish council. Verbin’s mother gave her money and told her to go to Gestapo headquarters to see what she could do. Many years later, Verbin still remembered the callous cynicism of a Gestapo man who assured this frightened young Jewish girl that her father would be fine: “‘I promise you, by the time you’re back home, your father will be back as well.’ We never saw my father again.”
Huddled in their malinas, terrified Jews hoped that the Lithuanian kidnappers would not find them. In this episode, we hear several witnesses who remembered the hiding places their families prepared that summer. William Begell recalled that his father built a hideout concealed by a cellar wall, with its entry concealed by a radiator and a windowsill. Sheila Zwany remembered how she stood guard and gave her family the signal to run to their hideout when she saw the khapers approaching. As her testimony shows, during that summer it was common for women to act as lookouts.
The key question on everyone’s minds was, what happened to the men? People hoped against hope that they were in some labor camp and would return. A few—like Samuel Bak’s father—did come back, but most were never heard from again.
As the rumors spread about the mass shootings at Ponar, Jews refused to accept the truth. Abram Zeleznikov at first believed that Poles were spreading the rumors to frighten the Jews and cause them more pain. Herman Kruk recalled that the Judenrat “didn’t want to hear anything and considered it an unfounded rumor.” But in early September, the first, badly wounded survivors, who had played dead and crawled out of the pits, came back to tell their story. Kruk struggled to find the words to describe what he heard: “Can the world not scream? Can history never take revenge? If the heavens can open up, when should that happen, if not today? . . . How can you write about this? How can you collect your thoughts?”
What made the terror of that summer even harder to bear was the absence of any coherent Jewish leadership in Vilna. In nearby Kovno, where the community was also devastated in 1941, one source of comfort was that a meeting of prominent communal figures—lawyers, doctors, businessmen, and rabbis—implored one of the most respected members of Jewish Kovno, Dr. Emanuel Elkes, to head the Jewish council. Elkes and the council remained at their posts until 1944. Like all Jewish leaders under the Nazis, they were playing a losing game and some of their actions were controversial. But most survivors agreed that they worked for the good of the community, and that made life just a little easier.
But the case of Vilna was different. To be sure, as in Kovno, the leading Jews in the community followed German orders and called a meeting on July 4 to elect a Jewish council. Herman Kruk described what happened in his diary. As Dr. Gershn Gershuni, a respected physician, opened the meeting, he recalled the special place of Vilna in Jewish history and the belief that, thanks to the memory and legacy of the Vilna Gaon (the Sage of Vilna) and others, the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” would always enjoy some kind of protection. But now, Gershuni admitted, their luck had run out. Like it or not, the meeting had to elect a Jewish council and no one had the moral right to refuse a nomination.
The members of the council soon realized that they were helpless. They tried to stop the kidnappings, but in vain. Some believed that if the council promised to supply the Germans with a daily contingent of Jewish workers, the kidnappings would stop. But they quickly recognized that it was a terrible mistake to volunteer Jewish men unless they knew for sure that they would return.
On August 6, Franz Murer, head of Jewish affairs in the German civil administration, summoned three members of the Jewish council and demanded that the council collect five million rubles by the next day. If not, the members would be shot. By nightfall, the council had managed to collect 667,000 rubles and one pound of gold and diamonds. After Murer extended the deadline, the Jewish council ramped up its pleas to Vilna’s Jews to hand over valuables and cash. Samuel Bak recalled his mother “gave away everything she had: her wedding ring, the jewels, … So did most of the people.” Within a few days, the Jewish council came up with almost 1.5 million rubles, 33 pounds of gold, and 189 watches. (The German officials pocketed the loot themselves and issued no receipts.) Therefore, even before the Germans pushed the remaining Jews into a ghetto in September, they robbed them of much of their wealth.
On August 24, the Germans arrested and then tortured to death one of the most respected leaders of the “Jerusalem of Lithuania,” the venerable 85-five-year-old Dr. Jacob Vygodsky. One week later, they staged what Vilna Jews came to call “the Great Provocation.” On Sunday, August 31, the Germans falsely accused Jews of firing on German soldiers standing in front of a movie theater. (The shooting was staged by Lithuanian auxiliaries.) This was the excuse the Nazis needed to set up two ghettos. They also used the Great Provocation as a pretext to murder 10 members of the Vilna Jewish council on September 2.
Jews could not imagine that their lives could get any worse. But no matter how bad everything seemed, even greater horrors were in store. And the Jews of Vilna would have to face them without those trusted leaders who had made the “Jerusalem of Lithuania” so special.
Abram Zeleznikov: It was the summer of ’41, and I was in the second year of my technical school, and I had to have practical work in a factory. Sunday, the 22nd of June, 10 o’clock was a meeting of, uh, all the workers.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning. The sun was, uh, shining, and we come over and it start, the meeting, and a young Jewish Communist girl what I know gave us a talk. And the talk was on the subject about British, uh, French imperialism and how the British, French would like to provoke the Soviet Union in a fight against, uh, Nazi Germany and that we wouldn’t let ourself, and in the middle of this we heard bombs.
We went out and we saw planes bombing Vilna. We put on the radio and we heard Molotov’s speech that in the morning the Germans crossed the Soviet-German border and they attacked the Soviet Union.
Eleanor Reissa: You’re listening to “Remembering Vilna: The Jerusalem of Lithuania.” I’m Eleanor Reissa. Chapter three: “Nazi Invasion.”
This episode begins in the summer of 1941. You’ll hear diary entries by Herman Kruk, the voices of Abram Zeleznikov, Wiera Goldman, William Begell, Sheila Zwany, Mira Verbin, Mira Berger, Henny Durmashkin Gurko, and Samuel Bak.
Samuel Bak: I was in a dacha, which means it was a little house, out of town, uh, near the river, and we were spending there summer vacations. And I was there, my parents were in town. And, my mother’s brother came to fetch me, to bring me back to town. And by the time we were in Vilna, there were already airplanes flying very low over the city, bombs were falling and we were running, running, running. I was on his shoulders. We were running through this uh, street where we used to live and, um, we went directly to the cellar.
All the people of the apartments in the building were hiding there. It was quite scary because the building was really shaking. After, um, the bombing was over, we went up to our apartment, and besides a few broken windows, it was not so bad. But a building, just nearby ours, had a direct hit from a bomb. My father was asked to go there because he knew very well the people that lived in that apartment.
And, actually, uh, the tragedy was, uh, that, uh, the daughter of his friends—a girl, I think—she, 14 or 15, was killed. They found her body, but they could not find her head. The whole thing of course was—all the furniture was upside down. It was terrible and her parents who were down in the, in the cellar, permitted her at a certain moment to go up to do something, and this is when it happened. And, uh, it was my father who found the head of this girl. He came back, he was… shattered. All the sudden the reality of the war really exploded.
William Begell: The German tanks looked very much different from the Russian tanks. First of all, they’re cleaner, they’re shining. They had these red, white, and black, uh, flags. The soldiers were clean-shaven. There was a tank company that, um, stayed in our backyard. And the first thing that they did was to take a bath and pour eau de cologne on themselves and shave and powdered their noses, so to say, and shine their boots.
Wiera Goldman: When the Nazis came in, the first tanks, who came in, we were excited about it because they were handsome guys. But my mother was telling us that she was in the First World War and they were Germans, too. But these Germans were different than these Germans. And the first week was quiet, nothing was going on, you know, normal.
Samuel Bak: Little by little, the things became more and more difficult for the Jews.
Sheila Zwany: The first thing they said when Hitler came, that the Jewish not allowed to go in the—on the sidewalk.
Samuel Bak: We had to walk on the road.
Mira Verbin: Jews were not allowed to buy in shops. There were separate lines for bread, for milk, for everything. Jews had to walk outside at restricted times.
Sheila Zwany: Jew not allowed to go to the store to shop. Jewish not allowed to go certain hours in the street.
Samuel Bak: We had to wear a yellow star sewn on our clothes. I did quite a number of those yellow stars that I painted on fabric and cut them out. And my mother sewn them on, on our clothes.
William Begell: My mother and her brother’s wife decided to make the Jew signs out of embroidered silk. And they stitched the silk both in front and in the back with yellow silk and beautiful black surroundings, and they put on very elegant summer silk dresses, and they went parading on the streets with a “J” sign.
Both of them were good-looking women, striking women, well-dressed women. And within 10 minutes of their venture outside, they were caught by Lithuanian police, uh, put into a police station and picked up by a German sergeant. And we have not heard from them until maybe nine o’clock in the evening. The whole family was extremely nervous.
They came in dirty, crying. Uh, they were taken by a German sergeant from that police station and brought into a building that served as barracks for an air force outfit and told to take off their underwear and wash all the windows.
Wiera Goldman: They used to come in, the Germans, at night and rape young girls. They used to come about five, six o’clock, looking for young girls. We used to dress up like old ladies. We used to hide in the cellar—mine and where she had the house. Her cellar was under the dining room table and she had a big carpet. So, when we heard noise, we ran to the cellar. They shouldn’t find us.
One night they knocked on our door to open them. And we lived on the first floor, and my mother said, “Jump, get out.” And I jumped and I went out in the bushes, and they—my mother was a brave woman. They walked in and they said, “Where’s your older daughter?” And my mother said, “This is my two kids. I don’t have any children.” “Oh, yes, you have.” And they wrecked the whole house. And they touched my sister what’s three years younger than me, and she said, “Don’t touch the kid, if you wanna touch, touch me.”
Samuel Bak: And then my father was taken to work in a camp, uh, not far from town where they were cutting turf. My mother was trying to survive by selling various items that were not really essential for our survival, but they permitted us to get food. The first thing that was sold was my father’s tuxedo. There was a peasant who came with a s—sack of potatoes and my mother gave him my father’s tuxedo.
Mira Verbin: Within a few days they started kidnapping Jews. Jews would go out of the houses and just not come back. Sometimes they would take groups of people to various working assignments and then they would return them at night.
Abram Zeleznikov: This was a special Lithuanian police. In Lithuanian they, they’re called ipatinga. In Yiddish we call them the khapers, the people, what, the “catchers.”
Sheila Zwany: Khapunes, they called them. They used to go to the houses and, uh, grab mens. I mean, they told them they take them for work. They should take a towel with soap. They took them away to jail.
Wiera Goldman: My father was 41 years old, and they took him away. And they took him to the jail, and somebody told us that they are taking out the men to work.
Mira Berger: My brother was among them. They took him, they came in, the four of us were in the room. They said to—he is going with us. I went with my mother to see my brother off. I took with me one of my dresses and I told my brother, “Listen, Moula, we don’t know what they’re going to do. Go into the bathroom.” There was a public bathroom. “Put on my dress and come home with me.” I talked to him Hebrew. I said, “Take my dress, go into the bathroom. Put on my dress and come with me home.” And he refused. My mother was there, too, and he didn’t want to go.
Then they put them and they arranged them in lines and they took them to Łukiszki to the prison, the city prison. And my mother went along on the sidewalk and, uh, she waited near the gate and then she saw him once more taking out. And he looked terrible because he was beaten.
Herman Kruk: July 1. I have now learned that many of those who were snatched for labor were sent to Łukiszki Jail. According to a rumor, that was to be the gathering place from which they were to be sent to work. Many women gather in front of the prison.
On July 4, 1941, an automobile arrived on Zydowska Street in front of the synagogue yard, and two Germans emerged with rifles on their shoulders. They went into the synagogue yard and asked for the chief rabbi of Vilna. The municipal sexton, Chaim Meyer Gordon, a big, tall Jew with a white beard was brought to them. Asked if he was the Vilna rabbi, Gordon answered no. He explained that the first rabbi, Isaac Rubinstein, was in America and the second rabbi, Chaim Ozer Grodzinski, died.
The Germans couldn’t understand how Vilna could be without a chief rabbi, and they ordered him: “From now on, you’re the rabbi,” and they also announced, “We order you to set up a Jewish representative body today and present it to us tomorrow.”
Eleanor Reissa: As they had done in other cities, the Germans ordered the Jewish community to create a council, or Judenrat, that would allegedly represent the Jewish community. Jewish leaders convened an emergency meeting to select representatives.
Mira Verbin: My father received an invitation to a meeting of the local Jewish community to elect a leadership for the Jewish committee for the city. He got dressed in the morning and went to the end of the street, five houses away. That’s where they snatched him. It was the chapunes. A Gentile acquaintance saw it happen and he ran to our apartment and told us that he saw my father being taken.
My mother gave me money, and I ran to the Gestapo’s main building. It was on the other side of town. I was so nervous and angry that I ran near the marketplace. I went to the market and bought some strawberries and kept running and eating all the way. When I arrived at the Gestapo, I told the guard that I had to check something, and he let me in. I entered and went to the officer and told him the whole story. He told me: “I know, but I promise you, by the time you’re back home, your father will be back as well.” We never saw my father again.
Herman Kruk: July 10. The whole city is depressed about the men who have disappeared. Groups of snatchers wander around the streets and courtyards, snatch men wherever they can, and drag them off. The excuse is that they are taken “for work,” but seldom does anybody come back. Sometimes Germans themselves come for workers and take them to their work sites. Who are the snatchers? Nobody knows what their purpose is. It’s hard to figure it out.
William Begell: The most important thing was to have a place where to hide, which was in Yiddish it’s called the malina. Uh, my father organized to have a part of our cellar, uh, separated by a wall from the rest of the cellar, uh, so that if anyone walked in, they would run into a wall that separated the hiding place. The entrance to the place was through a fake, uh, radiator and a, uh, windowsill. And we used to go down there and then put the windowsill in place. And it was very difficult to discover.
Herman Kruk: July 12. Guarding my own bones. Like all those who want to save themselves, we decided to get a malina. It is a system introduced into hundreds of Jewish houses where there are men. Can we hold out like this for long?
Sheila Zwany: Our family, they made a place like in a hole to the house, and there, they hide in there. So I was standing on this stairs and watched. When we saw somebody came, they went into this place, my father and my brother, and was like, you know, in the darkness, and put some things, and they couldn’t see them. They came to the house. They look in the—in the closet. They look all over. We said, “No more men. All men are already taken.”
Herman Kruk: On the corner of Nehemiah and Glezer Streets a shot was heard. They say a German was wounded. Soon there was a commotion and somebody pointed to a Jew from a house on that corner of Glezer and Wielka Streets as the one who must have shot the German. People soon appeared there. The Jew was beaten horribly. Everything was thrown out of his house and a pogrom against Jewish property spread over Glezer and Judoka Streets. This did not finish the game. At night they started driving the tenants out of their apartments.
Sheila Zwany: One night, we see a lot of people through our window. We see a whole—lines with people screaming in the middle of the night, some naked, some had something, and they was [inaudible].
So what happened? They made like a provocation, the German. They wrote down that a, that a Jew killed a German, and they took from the Jewish quarter everybody out from the beds in the middle of the night, and they chased them out like, uh, cows like with the machine guns, the Lithuanian and the, and the German, and they pushed them to the, uh, the jail.
Herman Kruk: So far it is hard to determine the extent of the destruction. It is estimated that about 5,000 Jews were driven out, including old people and children.
Sheila Zwany: My aunt was there, my mother’s sister, the brother-in-law, the children, everybody they chased. We didn’t know what was happening.
Herman Kruk: September 4. The first messages from Ponar.
Abram Zeleznikov: Some Polish farmers start telling us stories that Jews are taken to Ponary and that there is, they heard shootings. We couldn’t believe this. We have been thinking that they want to provoke us. They want to denigrate us, to frighten us.
Samuel Bak: This existence of the place called Ponary, it was near Vilna. To me it was a beautiful place, a beautiful wood where there was the dacha of my aunt. And I remember that place very well from, from the years before when we used to go there in the summer.
William Begell: Ponar was built on the basis of, uh, six, I think, very large cavities that the Russians have dug to, uh, for, uh, large, uh, gasoline dumps, tanks, and they never built those tanks. Big, deep holes, uh, with all the, uh, with all the earth around it.
Herman Kruk: A rumor came to the Judenrat that people were shot in Ponar. The Judenrat didn’t want to hear anything and considered it an unfounded rumor.
Sheila Zwany: The Jewish people didn’t believe this could happen, but when they—they, you know, after a while, the Jewish, you know, we’re smarter. We told ourselves they take children. They take, uh, handicapped. They take people like this. Do they have to have them for work, you know? We got suspicious. That is not right.
Eleanor Reissa: Herman Kruk went to the Jewish hospital to meet several people who had come in with injuries. They all told similar stories—from Łukiszki prison they were taken to the forest in Ponar. They were lined up at the edge of pits that were already filled with thousands of bodies and shot. A few people, including some children, did not die. They crawled out of the pits and made their way back to Vilna.
Herman Kruk: The hand trembles as I write these words, and the ink is bloody. Is it possible that all those taken out of here have been murdered, shot in Ponar?
Henny Durmashkin Gurko: The news came, you know, was spread, but, uh, we weren’t sure. It was like a, you know, … We weren’t sure, yes or no. And it, it was very hard to go on because you didn’t know with the Germans, you never know, knew what they had in mind to do. And it was very hard to live in those conditions. A lot of Jews were being deported all the time. A lot of Jews went to work and never returned. So… We, we knew, we thought that maybe they were sent away to a, a camp somewhere because we were trying to, to make ourselves, our lives easier by not thinking that they’re being killed. But they were killed.
Eleanor Reissa: The Nazis killed approximately 33,000 Jews in Vilna in the summer and fall of 1941.
In this episode, you heard from Abram Zeleznikov, Samuel Bak, Wiera Goldman, William Begell, Sheila Zwany, Mira Berger, Henny Durmashkin Gurko, and Mira Verbin, whose Hebrew testimony is voiced by Rachel Botchan. You also heard diary entries of Herman Kruk, read by John Cariani.
Next up, chapter four: “The Ghetto.”
This special series about Jewish life in Vilna is written and produced by Nahanni Rous and Eric Marcus. Stephen Naron is the executive producer. Our composer is Ljova Zhurbin. Our theme music is an arrangement of “Vilna, Vilna,” the 1935 song by A. L. Wolfson and Alexander Olshanetsky. The cellist is Clara Lee Rous. Our audio mixer is Anne Pope.
This podcast is a collaboration between the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University and YIVO, the Institute for Jewish Research. I’m Eleanor Reissa. You’ve been listening to “Remembering Vilna: The Jerusalem of Lithuania.”