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

The Jerusalem of Lithuania

The Story of the Jewish Community of Vilna


On the eve of the Shoah the Jewish community of Vilna was the spiritual centre of Eastern European Jewry, the centre of enlightenment and Jewish political life, of Jewish creativity and the experience of daily Jewish life, a community bursting with cultural and religious life, movements and parties, educational institutions, libraries and theatres; a community of rabbis and gifted Talmudic scholars, intellectuals, poets, authors, artists, craftspeople and educators. In the Jewish world it was known as "The Jerusalem of Lithuania" – a spiritual centre of the first order.

On the 22nd of June 1941 the Germans invaded Soviet territory and entered Vilna on the 24th of June. Around 60,000 Jews lived in Vilna where they constituted 30% of the total population.

The community of Vilna which had flourished for hundreds of years was decimated during the Second World War.

This exhibition presents episodes from Vilna's history.

We would like to thank Dr. Yitzhak Arad for his assistance with this exhibition.

Further Reading:

Arad, Yitzhak, Ghetto in Flames - the Struggle and Destruction of the Jews in Vilna in the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1980.  

Arad, Yitzhak, In the Shadow of the Red Banner - Soviet Jews in war against Nazi Germany, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 2010.

Porat, Dina, The fall of a Sparrow - the Life and Times of Abba Kovner, Stanford University Press, Calif. 2009.

Ran, Leyzer, Jerusalem of Lithuania (3 vol.), New York 1974.

Miron, Guy, Shulhani Shlomit (ed.), The Yad Vashem Encyclopedia of the Ghettos During the Holocaust, vol. 1, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 2009, pp. 878-889.

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.