Abba Kovner

Abba Kovner ( Sebastopol , Russia , 14 March as as 1918 – Israel , 25 as September as 1987 ) was a Zionist poet and fighter (partisan) during World War II. He is considered a hero (in Israel) of the Jewish Resistance during the Holocaust in the Baltic countries , during and after World War II . It belonged to the Zionist independence movement of Israel. He witnessed charge against Adolf Eichmann in 1961. He is Uncle Grandfather of Ofek Kovner .


Abba Kovner was born into a Jewish family in the port of Sevastopol , peninsula of Crimea , which soon moved to the so – called Jerusalem of Lithuania , the city of Vilna ( Wilno in Polish) city of 195,000 souls, famous as a cultural center And Jewish religious. He studied art at Wilno University. In September 1939 the city was incorporated into the Soviet Union ; The pro-Communist government began to repress opponents of the new regime and Kovner joined the Zionist movement Hashomer Hatzair for a brief period.

The 24 of June of 1941 , during the invasion of the Soviet Union , the Germans attacked the city and immediately began pursuing and segregating the Jewish population (about 60,000 people), which was confined in the Vilna ghetto, in fact more Two sections, one minor and one with the largest captive population. Kovner managed to escape to the forests joining to the resistance antinazi, that managed to maintain channels of communication with the greater ghetto by means of the sewer use. 1

The Einsatzgruppen A at the behest of Franz Walter Stahlecker and his Sonderkommandos 1.a 1.b arrived just under a month later, arrested about 5,000 Jewish men from the minor ghetto who, on the pretext of transferring them to labor camps in Estonia, were led to The forests of Ponar (“Ponary” in Polish) where they were massacred and buried. In August the extermination group perpetrated a second massacre of 8,000 people. At first, the Jews hiding in the woods did not believe they were being murdered at this monumental magnitude, but the testimony of survivors finally led them to convince themselves of the terrible reality. The population of the ghetto rose from 80,000 to 20,000 in October. 1

Kovner witnessed many abuses and brutalities of the Nazis against helpless victims, which engendered a relentless hatred towards the Germans. 2 Kovner urged the people of the ghetto to resist and establish inner resistance groups. It played a decisive role in exposing the German lies to the leaders of the ghetto: Jews were not transferred to labor camps, but were being exterminated. Kovner urged the ghetto leadership to oppose armed resistance against deportation, but the leaders, including Jacob Gens of the Judenrat , opposed it, even acting against the same resistance and thus weakening any attempt of rebellion against the occupiers.

On September 1, 1941, the Germans met for the first time against Jewish resistance in the streets of Vilnius. From then on, it carried out numerous acts of sabotage against the supply line, as well as many other guerrilla actions. The second ghetto was finally liquidated in October 1943, leaving 95% of its population exterminated, including Gens, who was executed by the Gestapo ; A few survivors escaped through the sewers.

He became a prolific activist, leading an important armed resistance group that fought against the deportation of Soviet Jews to labor camps, which were actually brought to their extermination. But the powerful German army that controlled the ghettos installed in the Soviet towns that had invaded that area was difficult to beat, so that acts of sabotage and repression through the resistance guerrilla were manifold.

The Germanophobia that this situation caused him to fought tirelessly to create in 1945 a group called Nakam (Jewish Revenge), with the purpose of carrying out the ‘law of the talion’ (eye for an eye …) and end the life of Both Germans and Jews had perished at their hands.
Kovner joined the Russian and Belarussian partisans and continued to participate in resistance actions. He stood out for his bitter hatred of the Germans and was one of the most violent actions against them on the Polish border. 2


Kovner’s plan through Nakam (Jewish revenge) was to systematically eliminate Germans. To do this they would begin with all those who had anything to do with war and the holocaust. The plan consisted in poisoning the different water supplies of the main German cities, as well as ending the same way with the Nazi prisoners who were detained pending their trial. In 1946, more than 500 German prisoners in Langwasser Prison (Nuremberg) became ill from eating bread previously poisoned with arsenic. Numerous beings related to Judaism condemned such actions and urged to peacefully avenge the memory and the holocaust, through the path of justice. Although the group did small things to accomplish its initial purpose, it was finally decided to abandon the project.

Last years

He was part of the Zionist movements (Gavati Brigade) that helped to strengthen the newly created State of Israel , fighting against Arabs and Palestinians. 3 On May 4, 1961, he served as a witness against the former SS officer Adolf Eichmann. Kovner devoted himself to poetry, being widely recognized, and wrote in literary form many of his experiences as a partisan in the struggle against the Nazis. He was considered a hero in his country and received the National Literature Prize in 1970. He died in 1987.

Literary legacy

  • My little sister, ISBN 0-932440-20-7
  • The Modern Hebrew Poem, ISBN 0-8143-2485-1


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b Kovner and the Holocaust
  2. ↑ Jump to:a b Zionist Revenge
  3. Back to top↑ Biography of Abba Kovner