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Visiting Info
Opening Hours:

Sunday to Wednesday: ‬08:30-18:00
Thursday: 8:30-20:00 *
* The Holocaust History Museum, Museum of Holocaust Art, Exhibitions Pavilion and Synagogue are open until 20:00. All other sites close at 17:00.

Fridays and Holiday eves: ‬08:30-14:00

Yad Vashem is closed on Saturdays and all Jewish Holidays.

Entrance to the Holocaust History Museum is not permitted for children under the age of 10. Babies in strollers or carriers will not be permitted to enter.

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The Walls Tell Stories: Cultural Life in the Vilna Ghetto

After Vilna's liberation in the summer of 1944, a group of local partisans who had spent the war in the forest returned to the ruins of the ghetto. In mounds of garbage and various hiding places, they found and extracted precious documentary evidence of life in the ghetto, including more than 200 posters inviting the public to participate in various events in the ghetto. For this unit, we have chosen to focus on eight of these posters in an attempt to learn how they reflect cultural life within the Vilna ghetto.  

In central and western Poland, most ghettos were established prior to the start of the mass killings of Jews as an interim means of dealing with what they claimed to be the "Jewish Problem." In the East, however, ghettos such as the one in Vilna were created while the killing of Jews was underway. Consequently, from its first days, the Vilna ghetto existed in the looming shadow of death. This context is essential for analyzing the posters that were found, both in terms of their content and in their manner of design. The posters reveal the varied cultural life within the ghetto, and the attempts to raise the residents’ spirits by maintaining a fragment of the rich cultural life of Vilna’s prewar years – which was also a demonstration of defiance and resistance.

The posters are typically an invitation to participate in one type of event or another; however, from the posters themselves it is difficult to discern how the attempts to continue cultural life in the ghetto were received by the public and how the public felt about attending these events in the midst of chaotic circumstances. To present a fuller picture, the attached kit includes memoirs and testimonials from the ghetto, which shed light on the attitudes of the public toward these cultural activities. It is important to understand that the Jewish population of the ghetto was not of one mind regarding the appropriateness of cultural events in ghetto life. Arguments and public debate on this issue, as reflected in the firsthand sources from that period, demonstrate the varied efforts to maintain human dignity under impossible circumstances.

This unit focuses on the Vilna ghetto, which, like other ghettos established in the area of the Former Soviet Union, was created following the onset of mass killings. This reality made death a tangible presence from the ghetto’s first days of existence. The unit highlights ghetto cultural life in a world of rupture and chaos and in the shadow of death, and attempts to illuminate its significance during that time, as well as for us today.  

Unit Structure:

  1. Introduction: Testimony about the life and atmosphere in the ghetto.
  2. Group activity: posters from the Vilna ghetto. You may also wish to hold a class discussion regarding a selection of the posters.

Summary: Discussion of the significance of Vilna ghetto cultural life using art and poetry.

Educational Unit  

Educational Unit

Introduction: Testimony about the life and atmosphere in the ghetto  

Introduction: Testimony about the life and atmosphere in the ghetto

Group activity about the posters from the Vilna ghetto  

Group activity about the posters from the Vilna ghetto

Posters 1, 2  

Posters 1, 2

Poster 3  

Poster 3

Posters 4, 5  

Posters 4, 5

Poster 6  

Poster 6

Poster 7  

Poster 7

Posters 8, 9  

Posters 8, 9

Summary: Discussion on the significance of cultural and spiritual life in the ghetto  

Summary: Discussion on the significance of cultural and spiritual life in the ghetto

Historical Appendix  

Historical Appendix
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