Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Heritage Civilization and the Jews
About the Series Historical Timeline Resources Lesson Plans Episodes
sidecurve1 Out of the Ashes
sidecurve2
sidecurve3
Interactive Presentation
Interactive Atlas
Historical Documents
Video Resources
 
Call To Arms In The Vilna Ghetto

Jewish youth, frustrated by the powerlessness of the remaining Jewish institutions in the ghettos, were the driving force behind the ghetto uprisings. On January 1, 1942, Abba Kovner, a 23-year-old Zionist activist and poet, read this appeal to 150 youths at an illegal gathering in the Vilna ghetto. Those assembled formed the FPO (United Partisan Organization), which engaged in sabotage and published an illegal newspaper. After the Gestapo executed FPO leader Yiæhak Wittenberg in 1943, most of the FPO fighters left the ghetto to fight on as partisans in the forests.

Let us not be led like sheep to the slaughter!

Jewish youth!

In a time of unparalleled national misfortune we appeal to you!

We do not yet have words to express the whole tragic struggle which transpires before our eyes. Our language has no words to probe the depths to which our life has fallen nor to vociferate the anguish which strangles us. . . .

The community of Jerusalem of Lithuania numbered 75,000. On entering the ghetto, 25,000 were already missing, and today only 12,000 remain. All the others have been killed! death strolls in our streets; in our tents -- powerlessness. But the anguish at this huge misfortune is much greater in the light of the ignoble conduct of the Jews at the present time. Never in its long history of martyrdom has the Jewish people shown such abjectness, such a lack of human dignity, national pride, and unity, such communal inertia and submissiveness to the murderers. . . .

There are, however, occasions in the life of a people, of a collective, as in the life of an individual, which seize you by the hair of your head, shake you up, and force you to gird up all your strength to keep alive. We are now experiencing such an occasion. . . .

There is no way out of the ghetto, except the way to death!

No illusion greater than that our dear ones are alive. . . .

Before our eyes they led away our mother, our father, our sisters -- enough!

We will not go! . . .

If you are caught, you have nothing to lose!

Let us defend ourselves, and not go!

Better to fall with honor in the ghetto than to be led like sheep to Ponary ! . . .

Don't give the foe the chance to ridicule you!

When a German ridicules a Jew -- don't help him laugh! . . .

Jewish agents of the Gestapo and informers of all sorts walk the streets. If you get hold of one such, sentence him -- to be beaten until death!. . . .

Convey your hatred of the foe in every place and at every moment!

 

DOCUMENT SOURCE

FURTHER READING