Vilna Ghetto

The Ghetto of Vilna , Ghetto Wilno or Ghetto Vilnius was the ghetto Jew established by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust in World War II , in Vilna , a city that, before the occupation, belonged to Poland , and is now Located in Lithuania . It was in operation from 1941 to 1943 .


Under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union , which established the division of Finland , Poland and part of Eastern Europe , Vilnius was occupied by Soviet forces at the end of September of 1939 .

In October 1939, the Soviet Union made the Vilnius region belong to Lithuania. The population was 200,000 people, with more than 55,000 Jews and 55,000 Poles. In addition, from Poland came between 12,000 and 15,000 Jewish refugees, then occupied by Germany. In August of 1940 made Lithuania part of the Soviet Union.

But Germany, the 22 as June as 1941 , began Operation Barbarossa . On the third day of the invasion, Germany occupied Vilnius. German troops were followed by death squads of Einsatzgruppe A . In a short time, the Jews began to wear the bracelet with the Star of David and were banned many things, as the Germans had already done with the Jews elsewhere.

Between 4 and 20 July 1941 Germans with the help of Lithuanians associated with the Nazi regime murdered 5,000 Jews in the forests of Ponary . On 31 August there were more murders, about 3,500 Jews, again in Ponary.


In September 1941 the Germans established two ghettos, ghetto no. 1 and ghetto no. 2, in Vilnius. In number 1 were brought together artisans and workers with permits (yellow cards). To the Jews who were believed they were unable to work in their industries gathered them in the ghetto No. 2. It was established two councils of Jews, called Judenraete .


In September 1941 the detachments of the Einsatzgruppen , with the help of Lithuanian auxiliaries, killed the first Jews, eight girls of about 16 years old, this happened in the park of Traku Street, today belonging to the church of San Francisco . Then the ghetto No. 2 was slowly destroyed, the first massacre of more than 2,000 Jews that the Nazis gathered in the present Lyda Street (Lydos), were taken to Ponary and killed, there were men, women and children.

In the prison of Lukiszki the Jews were united that, later, they were going to be taken to Ponary and, later, shot. By the end of 1941, the Germans had already killed approximately 40,000 Jews in the forests of Ponary.

Some of the last remaining ghetto were forced to work in factories or construction projects outside the ghetto in subhuman conditions. Other Jews were sent to the labor camps that were in the Vilnius region. Periodic killing operations were carried out, where most of the ghetto’s inhabitants were massacred, especially in Ponary.

After a short period of inactivity, the Germans resumed massacres at the end of September 1943 . Children, the elderly and the sick, who were unable to work were sent to the extermination camp of Sobibor or were shot in Ponary. The men were taken to labor camps in Estonia , while the women were sent to labor camps in Latvia.


The Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (United Partisan Organization) was formed on 21 of January of 1942 in the Vilna ghetto. It took as a motto “We are not going to go like sheep to the abattoir”, resurrected thus a phrase of Abba Kovner .

The FPO collaborated with the Soviet partisans in the fight against the Nazis in the forests around Vilnius. The resistance created hidden places to conceal weapons and prepared to fight the Germans. They practiced smuggling of arms and other illegal activities.

When, in early September 1943 they learned that the Germans wanted to destroy the ghetto, these partisans offered stubborn resistance to the Nazi forces. However, the Judenrat agreed to cooperate in the deportations of Jews from the ghetto, hoping to minimize the killing. Then, the FPO retreated to the forests of Rudninkai and Naroch on the outskirts of the city.

Wittenberg, a commander of the partisans, had been arrested by the Gestapo and released by the FPO. The Gestapo threatened to liquidate the entire population of the ghetto if Wittenberg did not surrender. After a discussion within the partisan diirgence, Wittenberg surrendered, and was murdered two days later. This important event was commemorated in a song he wrote Kaczerginski .