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From;"The War For Life" by Litman Mor

From;"The War For Life" by Litman Mor
Chapters about Vilna;
A few words about Vilna, in the thirties: Vilna was the largest city
in eastern Poland. It held about 200 thousand inhabitants; about 50%
of them were Jews. The language that the Jews used was Yiddish, but,
during the thirties, the influence of the Polish culture became
stronger on Jewish youth and they began speaking Polish.

In the city, there were many educational and cultural institutions:
Secondary schools, Yeshivas, vocational schools, and a university.
There was a Yiddish theatre, which was famous with its excellent
actors. Vilna was, basically, a city of pupils and students. In almost
every second house, there were rooms for rent; usually the landlords
were elder people whose children had left their home.

On my first year in the secondary school in Vilna, I lived together
with my sister Bella, who was 7 years older than me, in one room, at
corner Zavalna and Novogroozka No. 4. Bella was in the fifth and last
year in the teachers' seminary in Vilna, after which she was to become
a certified teacher.

During my first year in the secondary school, I witnessed a pogrom for
the first time in my life. In November 1931, riots broke out in the
medicine faculty. The reason was the lack of Jewish corpses for post
mortem dissections, for learning anatomy. The Polish students tried to
forcefully chase out the Jewish students from the operating theatre
where the corpses were operated on. Following the incident at the
medicine faculty, the riots spread to all other faculties, among them
the faculty for natural sciences, which was close to where I lived. At
the nearby street corner, there was always a gathering of Jewish
porters and carriage owners, whom we used to call "Die Shtarke",
meaning "the strong ones". At evening, when the riots broke out, I
stood near the window in my room, at the fourth floor, and saw an
angry mob hitting Jewish pedestrians, going wild and smashing shop
windows of Jewish stores. Naturally, the Jewish porters and carriage
owners came to the rescue of the Jewish students. On the following
day, a Polish student, by the name Vatzlavsky, was injured in his head
and died on his way to the hospital. As of that year on, in memory of
this student, riots and incidents between Christian and Jewish
students would breakout on November.
For the entire chapter go to;
In 1935, I placed an application to be accepted to study chemistry in
the faculty of natural sciences of the Vilna University. The Vilna
University is one of the oldest universities in the world. It was
founded, in 1568, by the Polish king Stephan Battori and is named
after him. Due to the "Numerus Clausus" laws, it was difficult for
Jews to be admitted in the university, especially to the medicine and
legal faculties. I was attracted to the precise sciences, and chose
chemistry. Based on my good marks at the secondary school, as well as
my matriculation marks, I was accepted. During the years of my study
at the university, I became more and more exposed to manifestations of
anti-Semitism. The population of Vilna was composed of many
nationalities: Jews, Russians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, and Polish.
The Polish, most of which were nationalists, were a minority, but the
regime, which was Polish, always stood by their side. Probably this
was the reason that the incidents in the Vilna University were worse
than in other places. Also, the fascist Endeks party, Naorodowa
Demokracja N.D., dominated the students' organization, at that time.
This group declared publicly and openly its hatred to the Jews and,
every now and then, used to launch pogroms on the Jews of the small
towns. Its slogan was "Jews to Palestine". In 1982, the Polish
students decided to establish a separate students' organization,
instead of the former organization, which included members of all
national and religious groups. This left the Jewish students with no
choice, and they established a separate students' organization of
their own.

In 1933, as Hitler assumed regime in Germany, anti-Semitism
strengthened in Poland, and Christians began launching pogroms on
Jews. In this year, the Polish imposed a boycott on all stores owned
by Jews, and posters ordering the Polish population to buy only in
Polish stores, were published. In public markets, special stands were
allocated for Jews, like a stand Ghetto, similar to the "bench Ghetto"
that I personally experienced in the university.
For the entire chapter go to;
At the beginning of October 1939, I traveled to Vilna and stayed with
my study mate Iziya Alperovitz, at Portowa Street, No. 5, in a
building that belonged to his parents.

In Vilna, I found that the university opened as usual, and that it was
possible for the students to continue studying. At the end of that
month, precisely as my father predicted, the Soviets have decided to
turn over the city of Vilna to the Lithuanians. I decided to stay in
Vilna, but I felt that I must go home to say goodbye to my family
members, as it was obvious that on the day that Vilna will be turned
over to the Lithuanians, it will become difficult to maintain
consistent contact with my family in David-Horodok, which belonged to
the Soviet Union. During the few weeks that I lived under the Soviet
regime, I realized that the Soviet Union is many years behind Europe,
not necessarily from the military aspect. I did not have a fluent
command of the Russian language. During my long years of study in a
Polish secondary school and in the university, I learned and got
acquainted with the Polish language and culture, and I did not feel
like starting everything all over again. Furthermore, under the Soviet
regime there was significant importance to one's family social status,
and since my family was in commerce and belonged to the bourgeois
layer, I could have been considered an unreliable element. On the
other hand, I feared that if the Soviet authorities in David-Horodok
will find out that I intend to leave for Vilna, that means escaping
from the Soviet Union, they might detain me. This was a quite feasible
danger on those days. Nevertheless, I decided that I must go and
depart from my family.

for the entire chapter go to
Early in the morning of Sunday, June 22, 1941, I heard on the radio an
announcement by Molotov, the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, that
Germany has invaded Russia. In those hours, the Barbarossa Operation
had commenced. Prior to the conquest of Vilna, the Germans launched a
two-day heavy shelling of the city.

Already on the morning hours of the first day, the Germans succeeded
in destroying the adjacent to the city Porrubanek airfield, and
destroyed all the aircraft that were there. During the whole day, the
Germans bombed the city indistinctively, and focused mainly on the
bridge that connected the two banks of the Villia River. The bombing
was not accurate, but it smashed the windows in the apartment where I
stayed, which was relatively close to the bridge. The Germans
destroyed, from the air, the Kovna radio station and started
broadcasting ostensibly from "Radio Kovna" as if the city is already
in their hands.

The Red Army retreated on the following day. And at 4 am on the third
day, the Germans were already in the city.

Their entrance to Vilna was very impressive. They entered, with an
enormous military power, a mechanized well-equipped army. The
difference between the Russian entrance and the German entrance was
enormous. The German army was a power of an enormous invincible
strength, and we couldn't imagine when and what power will be able to
push it back. But, in spite of their strength, in no way did they seem
as murderers to us.

For the entire chapter go to;
On September 6, 1941, the Germans started to expel the Jews from their
homes to the ghetto boundaries. The evacuation went on systematically:
the Germans entered a Jewish neighborhood and, street after street,
took down the Jews from their apartments, and led them, in rows, to
the ghetto.

On that day, my friend and I went, as usual, to our work at the
railroad station. On our way, we saw in the adjacent streets Jews
being led with their belongings, as much as they could carry in their
arms and on their backs. As I mentioned earlier, we lived in a
district that was mostly Polish, and in our district, there was no
special commotion on that morning. As we arrived at the railroad
station, we realized that our Jewish friends did not come to work. We
felt very uncomfortable.

My friend and I did not want to stay out of the camp. Anyway, a
thought of escaping didn't occur to us, first because there was
nowhere to escape to. Only very few, outstanding people, were ready to
endanger themselves in hiding Jews. The thought that guided me on
those days of uncertainty and mortal risk was that what happens with
everybody will happen with me too.

Now we were facing a new problem. How to return home to pick up some
cloths and necessities and join the others, without risking being
kidnapped. We arrived at our neighborhood, with no problem, but when
we were close to our home, two Lithuanian policemen, who wanted to
take us to the prison, stopped us. I responded in my broken Lithuanian
and told them that we are on our way to the ghetto, and they let us
go. The "system" worked again this time. Or, maybe, down to it, it is
all a matter of luck!

We quickly went up to our apartment, packed a few cloths and things,
took along some food, as much as we could carry, and joined a group of
Jews that were marching in the street. Together with all the rest, we
walked towards the ghetto.
For the entire chapter go to;
The Underground Gets Organized
During the relatively calm period, that prevailed in the ghetto, at
the end of 1941, youth began to get organized. These youngsters, most
of who arrived in Vilna, in 1939, from all over conquered Poland,
waited in Vilna to immigrate in Eretz Isroel, via independent
Lithuania. These groups consisted of young people with no family. Only
a few of them succeeded in immigrating in Eretz Isroel, the majority
got stuck in Vilna, like me.

Go to http://davidhorodok.netfirms.com/Mor/ch-8-9.htm#ch9
Vittenberg Day - July 16, 1943
Itzik (Itzhak) Vitenberg, who was the head of the underground
headquarters, was at the same time, active within the Vilna Communist
party. In July, the Germans arrested another, non-Jewish, activist of
the Vilna Communist party and, in his interrogation; he gave them
Vitenberg's name.

As a result, the Germans set an ultimatum to the ghetto administration
to handover Vitenberg to them, or else the entire ghetto residents
will be executed. The F.P.O considered this as a sigh for eliminating
the ghetto and the underground, and called for a mobilization of all
its members. I was given a pistol and was ordered to wait at an
observation point, on the second floor of a building at the corner of
the streets Yatkova and Rudnizka, and when I will see that Vitenberg
is taken out of the ghetto, I should fire at the policemen that escort
go to; http://davidhorodok.netfirms.com/Mor/ch-10-11.htm
On The Way To The Forest
I left the ghetto at 10 o'clock in the evening of September 11, 1943,
with the first group. Two days later, another two F.P.O groups left
the ghetto. My group numbered 25 boys and girls. Among them were two
adult doctors, a man and a woman, the Dr. Gordon family. I didn't know
all the members of the group. Our destination was lake Naroch. We left
in couples, through the side gate. Within the ghetto police, there
were people who were connected with the underground, and they gave us
the keys. Shmulke Kaplinsky was the contact person and he had the key.