Shabtai-Shepsel Blecher (b. 1904) and his wife Genia-Gitl née Szapiro (b. 1911) were actors in the State Yiddish Theatre in Vilna. Genia originally studied law and philosophy in the Vilna university, and after meeting Shabtai, studied acting and started performing in the theatre. She was also a gifted pianist. The couple married in 1939 and made their home in Vilna.
With the Nazi-German invasion of Lithuania in June 1941, Shabtai and Genia tried to flee eastward, but eventually returned to Vilna. After the Vilna ghetto was set up, Shabtai was one of the initiators of the ghetto theatre, and one of its principal actors. As part of the cultural activities initiated by the Judenrat, Shabtai Blecher wrote the life stories of his fellow performers who had perished in the first year of the German occupation. Blecher wrote 20 biographies of performers who were murdered in Ponary, and one more biography of an actor who died of typhus in the ghetto.
Blecher’s wife Genia was also a performer in the ghetto theatre. His mother, Dina, perished in the Vilna ghetto.
Shabtai and Genia remained in the ghetto until 23 September 1943, when they were deported to the Klooga camp in Estonia together with thousands of ghetto inmates, including Genia’s mother, Zelda.
On 19 September 1944, as the Red Army drew nearer to Klooga, the Germans started liquidating the camp. They shot the prisoners and set fire to the corpses. It would appear that Shabtai and Genia Blecher were amongst those murdered.
Genia’s mother, Zelda Szapiro, was also murdered in Klooga. Genia’s brothers and father had been murdered in Vilna in 1942. Her sister Chana survived.
In September 1943, the biographies Blecher had penned were found rolling down the street by Boleslaw Boratynski, who passed the pages on to the Etingen family hiding in his home. The title page was missing.
In 1962, Blecher's writings were published in New York in the original Yiddish. The book's editors added to the twenty-one biographies Blecher had composed one more biography – that of Blecher himself. They called the publication Twenty-One and One More.