The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/poland/vilna/vilna.2

Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history
Subject: Holocaust Almanac: " wallow in filth..."
Followup-To: alt.revisionism
Organization: The Nizkor Project, Vancouver Island, CANADA
Keywords: Gens,Judenrat,Vilna,Wittenberg

"Vilna became the prime example of the tragedy that set in when the Nazis
manipulated the captive Judenrat to regulate the affairs of the community.
They appointed Jacob Gens, a former Lithuanian Army office, as liaison with
the Jewish community. Gens was contrantly forced into the Solomonic dilemma
of either obeying the Nazis or sacrificing his entire Jewish community. As
police chief, it was he who had to select the Jews to make up the quotas
for deportation. Under threat, he was required to name the hiding places of
resistance groups. Four rabbis, pleading with him to refuse, quoted the
response given by the medieval sage Maimonides: `And should the idolators
say to them: `Deliver unto us one of you and we shall kill him, or we shall
kill all of you!' let them all be killed rather than deliver a single
Jewish soul.' Gens's response, invariably, was `better for a few to die
than to have the catastrophe swallow up the entire community.' This was the
`cri de coeur' of many Jewish leaders in Europe, who were compelled to
perform the odious work of selection, breaking down the communal will even
as the victims died. Finally the Nazis demanded the surrender of Itzik
Wittenberg, head of Vilna's underground. He had been hunted unremittingly,
but, with the help of loyal comrades, always managed to escape. The Nazis
made the whole community hostage, declaring that, unless Gens produced
Wittenberg, the ghetto would be razed and its inhabitants liquidated. Gens
begged Wittenberg to give himself up to save the thousands who would
otherwise die. Wittenberg emerged from his hideout and was executed
immediately. `In order that certain Jews should live, I was obliged to lead
others to their death,' Gens claimed. `In order that some Jews should be
able to leave the ghetto with clear consciences, I was obliged to wallow in
filth and act without conscience.'<13> Ironically, most Jews in the hostage
community were killed anyway.

The few acts of defiance in Vilna did not become the pattern for the
community; only a handful of survivors escaped to join the Partisan
activists in the forests ... The bitterness of young activists impelled
them to accuse men like Gens, who were labeled `traitors to their own kith
and kin.' His ultimate fate brought no sorrow. Gens was killed by the
Gestapo when he had served the Nazi purpose.<14> The Nazis enjoyed no
greater triumphs than when, in this way, they set the Jews against each
other. ... The wounds inflicted by the Nazis in shifting such
responsibility to appointed Jewish leaders left deep scars in the political
and social life of Israel that were never fully healed."

<13> Isaiah Trunk. Judenrat: The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe Under
     the Nazis. pp. 420-421
<14> Ibid., p. 470

Extracted from--------------------------------------------------- 
"THE REDEMPTION OF THE UNWANTED", Abram L.  Sachar (New York: St.
Martin's/Marek, 1983.

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