Yitskhok Rudashevski's Diary Entry on Deportation to the Vilna Ghetto, September 6, 1941

Entry from the diary of Yitskhok Rudashevski from September 6, 1941, in which he writes about being deported into the Vilna ghetto.


It is the 6th of September [1941]

A beautiful, sunny day has risen. The streets are closed off by Lithuanians. The streets are turbulent. Jewish workers are permitted to enter. A ghetto is being created for Vilna Jews.

People are packing in the house.  The women go back and forth. They wring their hands when they see the house looking as if after a pogrom. I go around with bleary eyes among the bundles, see how we are being uprooted overnight from our home. Soon we have our first view of the move to the ghetto, a picture of the Middle Ages--a gray black mass of people goes harnessed to large bundles. We understand that soon our turn will come. I look at the house in disarray, at the bundles, at the perplexed, desperate people. I see things scattered that were dear to me, that I was accustomed to use.

We carry the bundles to the courtyard. On our street a new mass of Jews streams continually to the ghetto. The small number of Jews of our courtyard begins to drag the bundles to the gate. Gentiles are standing and taking part in our sorrow. Some Jews hire gentile boys to help carry the bundles. A bundle was suddenly stolen from a neighbor. The woman stands in despair among her bundles and does not know how to cope with them, weeps and wrings her hands. Suddenly everything around me begins to weep. Everything weeps. [. . .]

The street streamed with Jews carrying bundles the first great tragedy. People are harnessed to bundles, which they drag across the pavement. People fall, bundles scatter. [. . . ] I walk burdened and irritated. The Lithuanians drive us on, do not let us rest. I think of nothing: not what I am losing, now what I have just lost, not what is in store for me. I do not see the streets before me, the people passing by. I only feel that I am terribly weary, I feel that an insult, a hurt is burning inside me. Here is the ghetto gate. I feel that I have been robbed, my freedom is being robbed from me, my home, and the familiar Vilna streets I love so much. I have been cut off from all that is dear and precious to me.

People crowd at the gate. Finally I am on the other side of the gate. The stream of people flings me into a gate blocked with bundles. I throw down the bundles that cut my shoulders. I find my parents and here we are in the ghetto house. It is dusk, rather dark and rainy. The little streets, Rudnitsker, Shavler, Yatever, Shpitalne, and Disner, which constitute the [first] ghetto look like anthills.1

It swarms with people. The newcomers begin to settle down, each in his tiny bit of space, on his bundles. Additional Jews keep streaming in constantly. We settle down in our place. Besides the four of us there are eleven persons in the room. The room is a dirty and stuffy one. It is crowded. The first ghetto night. We lie three together on two doors. I do not sleep. In my ears resounds the lamentation of this day. I hear the restless breathing of people with whom I have been suddenly thrown together, people who just like me have suddenly been uprooted from their homes.

The first ghetto day begins. I run right out into the street. The little streets are still full of a restless mass of people. It is hard to push your way through. I feel as if I were in a box. There is no air to breathe. Wherever you go you encounter a gate that hems you in. [. . .]

I decide to hunt up my friends in the courtyard. I have an idea that all of us will be there. I soon will find Benkye, Nayer, Gabik, and several others. The first day is spent in settling down, hunting up one another. The second evening in the ghetto people fell a little more at home, calmer. My chums are figuring out how many weeks we shall be sitting here. [. . .]2

Source

[1] Yitskhok and his immediate family were in the so-called first ghetto. The “second ghetto” was smaller in size; the two were separated by Niemiecka Street and had separate entrances and exits, which were far apart to prevent contact between those imprisoned inside. The Germans frequently used the technique of creating multiple ghettos so that it would be easier to carry out repeated “selections,” each time isolating those who were deemed fit to live from those slated for murder. From Salvaged Pages, fn. 12. Yitzhak Arad, Ghetto in Flames: The Struggle and Destruction of the Jews in Vilna in the Holocaust (New York: Holocaust Library, 1982), 108.

[2] Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 199-201.

Topic:
Holocaust

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