The Kovno ghetto was a ghetto established by Nazi Germany to hold the Lithuanian Jews of Kaunas during the Holocaust. At its peak, the Ghetto held 29,000 people, most of whom were later sent to concentration and extermination camps, or were shot at the Ninth Fort. About 500 Jews escaped from work details and directly from the Ghetto, and joined Soviet partisan forces in the distant forests of southeast Lithuania and Belarus.
The Nazis established a civilian administration under SA Brigadefuhrer Hans Cramer to replace military rule in place from the invasion of Lithuania on June 22, 1941. The Lithuanian Provisional Government was officially disbanded by the Nazis after only a few weeks, but not before approval for the establishment of a ghetto under the supervision of Lithuanian military commandant of Kaunas Jurgis Bobelis, extensive laws enacted against Jews and the provision of auxiliary police to assist the Nazis in the genocide. Between July and August 15, 1941, the Germans concentrated Jews who survived the initial pogroms, some 29,000 people, in a ghetto established in Vilijampolė (Slabodka). It was an area of small primitive houses and no running water which had been cleared of its mainly Jewish population in pogroms by Lithuanian activists beginning on June 24.
Initially, the ghetto had two parts, called the "small" and "large" ghetto, separated by Paneriai Street and connected by a small wooden bridge over the street. Each ghetto was enclosed by barbed wire and closely guarded. Both were overcrowded, with each person allocated less than ten square feet of living space. The Germans and Lithuanians destroyed the small ghetto on October 4, 1941, and killed almost all of its inhabitants at the Ninth Fort. Later, the Germans continually reduced the ghetto's size, forcing Jews to relocate several times. . Later that same month, on October 29, 1941, the Germans staged what became known as the "Great Action." In a single day, they shot around 10,000 Jews at the Ninth Fort.
The ghetto in Kovno provided forced labor for the German military. Jews were employed primarily as forced laborers at various sites outside the ghetto, especially in the construction of a military airbase in Aleksotas. The Jewish council (Aeltestenrat; Council of Elders), headed by Dr. Elkhanan Elkes, also created workshops inside the ghetto for those women, children, and elderly who could not participate in the labor brigades. Eventually, these workshops employed almost 6,500 people. The council hoped the Germans would not kill Jews who were producing for the army.
As an act of defiance an underground school was conducted in the Kovno Ghetto when such education was banned in 1942. A remarkable photo of one of the classes of that school features in the US Holocaust publication, "The Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto". Identification of the teacher visible in that photo is given in a website that deals with the hidden school..
On March 27-28, 1944, some 1,600 children aged 12 or less, alongside many of their parents who attempted to intervene, and elderly people aged 55 or more, approximately 2,500 in total, were rounded up and murdered in the Kinder Aktion ("children action"). 40 Jewish Ghetto policemen who refused under torture to disclose hiding locations where also murdered. During this time, police cars roamed the Ghetto streets and music was blared over loudspeakers to mute the terrified screams of families. Reports of similar actions at other towns had reached the Ghetto prior to the round-up, and some parents managed to smuggle their children to non-Jewish foster homes outside the Ghetto. However, the vast majority of Ghetto children where murdered. Very few Jewish children survived by the time Kovno was liberated by the Russian forces on August 1, 1944.
From 1942 births were not permitted in the ghetto and pregnant women faced death. However a number of babies of ages from about 9 months to 15 months were smuggled out of the Kovno Ghetto to willing Lithuanian foster mothers.
The orchestra operated in the ghetto between November 1, 1942 and September 15, 1943. Its leader and musical conductor was the famous pre-war Lithuanian musician Michael Hofmekler. The orchestra performed about 83 concerts, most of them were held in the building of the former Slobodka Yeshiva.
In the autumn of 1943, the SS assumed control of the ghetto and converted it into the Kovno concentration camp. Wilhelm Göcke served as the camp's commandant. The Jewish council's role was drastically curtailed. The Nazis dispersed more than 3,500 Jews to subcamps where strict discipline governed all aspects of daily life. On October 26, 1943, the SS deported more than 2,700 people from the main camp. The SS sent those deemed fit to work to Vaivara concentration camp in Estonia, and deported surviving children and the elderly to Auschwitz.
On July 8, 1944, the Germans evacuated the camp, deporting most of the remaining Jews to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany or to the Stutthof camp, near Danzig, on the Baltic coast. Three weeks before the Soviet army arrived in Kovno, the Germans razed the ghetto to the ground with grenades and dynamite. As many as 2,000 people burned to death or were shot while trying to escape the burning ghetto. The Red Army occupied Kovno on August 1, 1944. Of Kovno's few Jewish survivors, 500 had survived in forests or in a single bunker which had escaped detection during the final liquidation; the Germans evacuated an additional 2,500 to concentration camps in Germany.
Throughout the years of hardship and horror, the Jewish community in Kovno documented its story in secret archives, diaries, drawings and photographs. Many of these artifacts lay buried in the ground when the ghetto was destroyed. Discovered after the war, these few written remnants of a once thriving community provide evidence of the Jewish community's defiance, oppression, resistance, and death. George Kadish (Hirsh Kadushin), for example, secretly photographed the trials of daily life within the ghetto with a hidden camera through the buttonhole of his overcoat.
The Kovno ghetto had several Jewish resistance groups. The resistance acquired arms, developed secret training areas in the ghetto, and established contact with Soviet partisans in the forests around Kovno.
In 1943, the General Jewish Fighting Organization (Yidishe Algemeyne Kamfs Organizatsye) was established, uniting the major resistance groups in the ghetto. Under this organization's direction, some 300 ghetto fighters escaped from the Kovno ghetto to join Jewish partisan groups. About 70 died in action.
The Jewish council in Kovno actively supported the ghetto underground. Moreover, a number of the ghetto's Jewish police participated in resistance activities. The Germans executed 34 members of the Jewish police for refusing to reveal specially constructed hiding places used by Jews in the ghetto.
Abe Rich (died November 25, 2008) was a wood craftsman and Holocaust survivor. He was inducted into the International Cuemakers Hall of Fame for the quality of the pool cue sticks he produced.Adrian von Renteln
Theodor Adrian von Renteln (September 15, 1897 – 1946 (disputed)) was an activist and politician in Nazi Germany. During World War II, he was General Commissioner of Generalbezirk Litauen and was involved in perpetrating the Holocaust in Lithuania.
Of Baltic German origin, von Renteln studied law and economics in Berlin and Rostock, but became a journalist. In 1928, he joined the NSDAP and the following year, he became the founder and head of the National Socialist Schoolchildren's League (NSS). In 1931, he was appointed the head of the Hitler Youth, but he gave up leadership of the two organizations upon his election to the Reichstag in 1932.
In 1932–1933 he led the Combat League of the Commercial Middle Class (NS-Kampfbund für den Gewerblichen Mittelstand), an organisation allegedly "Deflecting Jewish Atrocity and Boycott-Mongering", participating in the boycott of Jewish businesses and other forms of persecution. In June 1933, he was appointed President of the National Socialist Council of Industry and Trade (Nationalsozialistische Handwerks-, Handels-, und Gewerbeorganisation or NS-HAGO), holding this position until 1935, when this organisation was merged with the German Labor Front (DAF). Von Renteln became a staff leader of the German Labor Front. In 1940, he was appointed the Reich Leader of the Trade and Artisanship Section of the NSDAP (Hauptamtsleiter Handel und Handwerk in der Reichsleitung der NSDAP). He was also the head of the Supreme Court of the Reich Labor Front.
In July 1941, he was appointed the Generalkommissar of Generalbezirk Litauen (roughly modern Lithuania), where he took harsh measures against the Jewish population. On August 26, 1941, he ordered that all telephones and lines were to be stripped, postal service be cut off, and bridges to the Kaunas (Kovno) Ghetto be surrounded with barbed wire fences to prevent people from jumping off. This order also forbade the Jews of the Kovno ghetto to use doors, window frames, or houses for fuel. In 1943, he was implicated in the clearing of the Vilna Ghetto, deporting 20,000 Jews to concentration or death camps, as well as in plundering.
According to some accounts, after World War II, he was captured by the Russians, tried, and hanged for war crimes in 1946. According to other sources, after the war he lived under a false identity in South America and died there. His death has never been fully confirmed.Aharon Barak
Aharon Barak (Hebrew: אהרן ברק, born Erik Brick, 16 September 1936) is a Professor of Law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and a lecturer in law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Yale Law School, Central European University, Georgetown University Law Center, and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
Barak was President of the Supreme Court of Israel from 1995 to 2006. Prior to that, he served as a Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel (1978–95), as the Attorney General of Israel (1975–78), and as the Dean of the Law Faculty of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1974–75).Avraham Duber Kahana Shapiro
Rabbi Avraham Dov-Ber Kahana Shapiro (also spelled Shapira) (1870–1943) was the last Chief Rabbi of Lithuania and the author of the three-volume work entitled Devar Avraham.Avraham Grodzinski
Rabbi Avraham Grodzinski was a Rabbi born in 1883 in Warsaw, Poland and died in 1944 in Kovna, Lithuania. He is best known for being the primary disciple of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the "Alter of Slabodka", serving as the Mashgiach Ruchani of the Slabodka yeshiva, and for authoring a book of mussar lectures, Toras Avraham.Central Committee of the Liberated Jews
The Central Committee of the Liberated Jews (ZK) was an organization which represented Jewish displaced persons in the American Zone of the post-World War II Germany, during 1945-1950.Originated on July 1, 1945 through the efforts of Dr. Zalman Grinberg, former director of the Kovno ghetto hospital, rabbi Abraham Klausner, a chaplain of the US Army, and others, on September 7, 1946 the Committee was recognized as "the legal and democratic representation of the liberated Jews in the American zone" by the American military government in Germany.The first Chairman was Zalman Gringberg, succeeded by David Treger (in 1946) after Grinberg's emigration to Palestine and then by Abraham Treger. Abraham Treger served as the Committee's chairman between 1946 to 1948 and then emigrated with his wife Ida to Haifa, Israel.Chaim Yellin
Chaim Yellin (Hebrew: חיים ילין; Lithuanian: Chaimas Jelinas; 1912–1944) was a Yiddish poet and leader of the resistance movement in the Kovno Ghetto during the German occupation of Lithuania.Ephraim Oshry
Ephraim Oshry (1914–2003), was an Orthodox rabbi, posek, and author of The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry. He was one of the few European rabbis to survive the Holocaust.Erich Ehrlinger
Erich Ehrlinger (14 October 1910 in Giengen an der Brenz, Kingdom of Württemberg – 31 July 2004 in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg) was a member of the Nazi Party (number: 541,195) and SS (number: 107,493). As commander of Special Detachment (Sonderkommando, also known as Einsatzkommando or EK) 1b, he was responsible for mass murder in the Baltic states and Belarus.
He was also the commander of the Security Police (SiPo) and the Security Service (SD) for central Russia as well as a department chief in the Reich Main Security Office (Reichssicherheitshauptamt or RSHA). He did not hold a doctorate degree, as is sometimes reported. He would eventually rise to the rank of SS-Standartenführer.George Kadish
George Kadish, born Zvi (Hirsh) Kadushin (died September 1997), was a Lithuanian Jewish photographer who documented life in the Kovno Ghetto during the Holocaust, the period of the Nazi German genocide against Jews.
Prior to World War II he was a mathematics, science and electronics teacher at a Hebrew High School in Kovno, Lithuania.
As a hobby, Kadish was a photographer. He was skilled at making home-made cameras. During the period of Nazi control of Lithuania (along with indigenous Lithuanian collaborators) he successfully photographed various scenes of life and its difficulties in the ghetto in clandestine circumstances. Kadish constructed cameras by which he could photograph through the buttonhole of his coat or over a window sill. He was able to photograph sensitive scenes that would attract the ire of Nazis or collaborators, such as scenes of people gathered for forced labor, burning of the ghetto, and deportations. 
His photographs were featured in a 2003 exhibition at the YIVO Institute in New York.Jay M. Ipson
Jay M. Ipson (born June 5, 1935 in Kovno as Jacob Ipp) is a Litvak-American Holocaust survivor and co-founder of the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia.Joseph Kagan, Baron Kagan
Joseph Kagan, Baron Kagan (6 June 1915 – 17 January 1995) was a Lithuanian-British industrialist and the founder of Kagan Textiles, of Elland, which made raincoats from the waterproof Gannex fabric he had invented. Gannex raincoats were worn by Prime Minister Harold Wilson, a friend of his. Kagan was sent to prison for ten months in 1980 for stealing from his own companies.Leyb Gorfinkel
Leyb Gorfinkel (March 14, 1896 – September 7, 1976; also known as Leib Garfunkel and Levas Garfunkelis in Lithuanian) was an advocate, journalist, and politician. He was of Lithuanian and later of Israeli nationality.Nadezhda Dukstulskaite
Nadezhda Dukstulskaite [alternative spelling Nadežda Dukstulskaitė; surname also written Dukshtulsky or Dukstulsky] (5 March 1912 – 2 October 1978) was a pianist whose concerts and recordings promoted international awareness of Lithuanian composers, and who influenced several generations of Lithuanian pianists, singers and other musicians. She was one of the few survivors of the Kovno Ghetto.Shlomo Shafir
Shlomo Shafir (1924-2013) was an Israeli journalist and historian. His work included the underground Hebrew-language publication Nitzotz, circulated in the Kovno Ghetto and Dachau concentration camp; the Israeli Labor Party newspaper, Davar; and other Hebrew, German, and English language writings.Shafir was born in Germany as Selimar Frenkel. During the Second World War, he was a prisoner in the Kovno Ghetto and was subsequently transferred first to Stutthof and then to Dachau concentration camp. After World War II he emigrated to Israel. In the 1960s he was stationed in Washington D.C. as the US correspondent for the newspaper Davar. In later years he served as the foreign affairs editor of Davar and the editor of the journal of the World Jewish Congress, Gesher.Sidney Shachnow
Sidney Shachnow ((1934-11-23)November 23, 1934 – (2018-09-27)September 27, 2018) was a Jewish American Holocaust survivor who attained the rank of Major General in United States Army. He retired in 1994, after 39 years of active service.Timeline of deportations of French Jews to death camps
This is a timeline of deportations of French Jews to Nazi extermination camps in German-occupied Europe during World War II. The overall total of Jews deported from France is a minimum of 75,721.Wilhelm Göcke
Wilhelm Göcke (12 February 1898, Schwelm, German Empire – 20 October 1944, Fontana Liri, Italy) was an SS-Standartenführer, SS-Obersturmbannführer der Reserve der Waffen-SS and a commandant of Warsaw concentration camp and the Kovno Ghetto.Šančiai
Šančiai is an elderate in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas. It is located on the right bank of the Nemunas River, and is divided into Higher and Lower Šančiai. Its 2007 population was 23,237.
Remains of transatlantic pilots of Lituanica Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas were reburied in cemetery of Šančiai, after Kaunas Old Cemetery (also known as Kaunas Carmelite Cemetery) was liquidated by soviet authorities.
From November 1943, until July 8th, 1944, there was a German slave labor Camp in Šančiai. which was a subcamp of the SS-run KZ Kauen, located at the site of the former Kovno Ghetto