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Yad Vashem The Jerusalem of Lithuania: The Story of the Jewish Community of Vilna

Vilna During the Holocaust

Final Days of the Ghetto

Gens and the FPO

Jacob Gens, Chief of the Jewish Police in the Vilna Ghetto and also head of the ghetto from July 1942Jacob Gens, Chief of the Jewish Police in the Vilna Ghetto and also head of the ghetto from July 1942
Yitzhak Glazman, Commander of Beitar and member of the FPO Staff Command in the Vilna GhettoYitzhak Glazman, Commander of Beitar and member of the FPO Staff Command in the Vilna Ghetto

On the 15th of May 1943 Gens assembled the heads of the work groups and the police and informed them that the ghetto was in danger:

In those days I was at the Gestapo and I spoke with the head of the SD. I spoke to him about pistols and I have to say that he wasn't injudicious in the least. He said, "The ghetto is essential from an economic point of view, but if you bring up the question of security, I will wipe you out…" For what purpose have I summoned you? Because today, once more, a Jew has been arrested for attempting to purchase a pistol. I don't know how this matter will finish… It is possible that they will take all the elderly people aged over sixty or all the children…It isn't worth the risk. As long as the ghetto is a ghetto, we will – we who hold responsibility – will do all that it is possible to do to keep the ghetto from danger… It falls upon us to watch out for one another and if you find hot-heads, you are required to inform the police.

Ruzka Korchak, Flames in the Ashes, p. 366-367

Gens organised searches for the FPO's weapons stores. At the end of May 1943 the Germans wanted to send 50 workers to Panevezys. Among those who were supposed to be sent were Abba Kovner, Chaim Lazar and Borka Schneider. The FPO was notified and they hid. The Ghetto Police searched for them in vain. Wittenberg requested that Gens should let them go and he conceded.

The strike was targeted correctly. Abba now lived underground in the ghetto. They were searching for him. His arrest had become a personal goal for Dessler (Chief of the Jewish Police)… For five days they searched in vain… Dessler, full of fury, was forced to concede.

Ruzka Korchak, Flames in the Ashes, p. 157

The Confrontation Between Gens and Glazman
On the 24th of June 1943 Yechiel's Struggle Group left the ghetto for the Nacza Forest to join the partisans active there. Among those who left were Jewish policemen. Gens saw this as undermining his policies; fearing that their leaving would encourage others, he decided to take action against those who were likely to organise additional groups. The following day he arrested Josef Glazman, a member of the FPO Staff Command and planned to move him to the Rzesza camp. The FPO Staff Command knew of Glazman's arrest, dozens of members were called up and they gathered near to where he was being held. When Glazman was transferred, in chains, to the gate, the FPO attacked the Jewish police who were transporting him and freed him. Gens decided not to use force. He summoned the FPO Staff Command and informed them that Glazman had to go to Rzesza but after a while would be able to return to the ghetto. Gens threatened that if Glazman did not come out, he and Dessler would not continue to manage the ghetto and the FPO would have to assume responsibility for the ghetto. The FPO Staff Command conceded and Glazman left. This was the first time that the ghetto population had witnessed a display of organised force acting against the police.  The public sided with Glazman and with his liberators. About two weeks later Glazman returned to the ghetto following the liquidation of the Rzesza Ghetto. The affair sharpened the relations between the ghetto leadership and the FPO.

The exhibition was made possible through the generous support of Mr. Nehemia Burgin in memory of his dear and beloved parents, Holocaust survivors Zlata (Zehava) Burgin and Yehiel Burgin of blessed memory.