IN THE VILNA GHETTO
The Vilna ghetto had a significant Jewish resistance movement. A group
of Jewish partisans known as the United Partisan Organization (Fareynegte
Partizaner Organizatsye; FPO) was formed in 1942 and operated within
the ghetto. The resistance created hiding places for weapons and prepared
to fight the Germans. In early September 1943, realizing that the Germans
intended the final destruction of the ghetto, resistance members skirmished
with the Germans, who had entered the ghetto to begin the deportations.
The Jewish council, however, agreed to cooperate in the deportations
of Jews from the ghetto, hoping to minimize bloodshed. Consequently,
the FPO decided to flee to the nearby forests to fight the Germans.
Some ghetto fighters escaped the final destruction of the ghetto, leaving
through the sewers to join partisans in the Rudninkai and Naroch forests
outside the city.
In September 1943, in an attempt to destroy the evidence of the killing
of Jews at Ponary, the Germans forced detachments of Jewish laborers
to open the mass graves and burn the corpses. Jews from nearby labor
camps continued to be killed at Ponary.
During the German occupation, tens of thousands of Jews from Vilna and
the surrounding area, as well as Soviet prisoners of war and others
suspected of opposing the Germans, were massacred at Ponary. Soviet
forces liberated Vilna in July 1944.