Gens Tells Vilna Jewish Leadership
About Aktion in Oszmiana
(October 27, 1942)
Protocol of the Meeting on the Aktion in Oszmiana
October 27, 1942
Present: The head of the ghetto, Mr. J. Gens;
Commissar Dessler; the head of the Health Department, Milkonovicki; the
deputy head of the ghetto, Fried; Mr. Fishman; Mr. Braude, liaison; Rabbi
Jakobson; Z. Kalmanovitch; the Commander of the Gate Guards, Levas; the
Commander of the Work Police, Toubin; the Commander of Police District No.
1, Ring; P. Natanson; and M. Ganionska.
Gens: Gentlemen, I asked you to come here today in
order to relate to you one of the most terrible tragedies in the life of
Jews – when Jews led Jews to their death. Once more I have to speak
openly to you.
A week ago Weiss of the SD came to us in the name of the
SD with an order that we were to travel to Oszmiana. There were about 4,000
Jews in the Oszmiana ghetto and it was not possible to keep so many persons
there. For that reason the ghetto would have to be made smaller – by
picking out the people who did not suit the Germans, to take them away and
shoot them. The first to go should be children and women whose husbands
were taken away last year by the "snatchers." The next to be
taken would be women and families with a large number of children. When we
received this order we replied: "At your command."
Mr. Dessler and the Jewish Police went to Oszmiana.
After two or three days the Jewish Police observed and reported to the Gebietskommissariat
(in Vilna) that, first of all, the women whose men had been taken away last
year were now working and could not be taken away, and, secondly, that
there were no families with 4 or 5 children. The largest were families with
two children. There were only a few [families] with three children. So that
would also not work. (I forgot to say that no fewer than 1,500 persons had
to be taken away.) We said that we could not provide such a number. We
started to bargain. When Mr. Dessler arrived with the report from Oszmiana,
the number dropped to 800. When I went to Oszmiana with Weiss, the number
dropped again to 600. In reality the situation was different. We argued
about the 600 and during this time the question of the removal of women and
children was dropped. There remained the question of old people. In
reality, 406 old people were collected in Oszmiana. These old people were
When Weiss came the first time and spoke about the women
and children, I told him that old people should be taken. He answered:
"The old people would die off in any case during the winter and the
ghetto has to be reduced in size now."
The Jewish Police saved those who must live. Those who
had little time left to live were taken away, and may the aged among the
Jews forgive us. They were a sacrifice for our Jews and for our future.
I dont want to talk about what our Jews from Vilna
have gone through in Oszmiana. Today I only regret that there were no Jews
[i.e., Jewish Police] when the Aktion was carried out in
Kiemieliszki and in Bystrzyca. Last week all the Jews were shot there,
without any distinction. Today two Jews from Swieciany (Old-Swieciany) came
to me and asked me to save them. The Jews from Swieciany, Widze and other
small places in the neighborhood were [collected] there. And today I ask
myself what is to happen if we have once more to carry out a selection. It
is my duty to tell them: my good Jews, away with you; it is not my wish to
soil my hands and send my Police to do the dirty work. Today I will say
that it is my duty to soil my hands, because terrible times have come over
the Jewish people. If five million people have already gone it is our duty
to save the strong and the young, not in years only, but in spirit, and not
to indulge in sentimentality. When the Rabbi in Oszmiana was told that the
number of persons required was not complete and that five elderly Jews were
hiding in a maline (hiding place), he said that the maline
should be opened. That is a man with a young and unshaken spirit.
I dont know whether everybody will understand this
and defend it, and whether they will defend it after we have left the
ghetto, but the attitude of our police is this – rescue what you can, do
not consider your own good name or what you must live through.
All these things that I have told you do not sound
sweetly to our souls nor yet for our lives. These are things one should not
have to know. I have told you a shocking secret which must remain locked in
our hearts. I want to tell you what the policemen did who carried out the
terrible task, who segregated people and ordered "left" or
"right"... This is no court of law. I want men of public affairs,
men of Gemara [Talmud] to know what is a ghetto, and, on the other
hand, what is police and what were the roads that other Jews had to tread.
From you, gentlemen, I want moral support. We all want
to live to leave the ghetto. Today, as we work, it may be that not many of
the Jews fully comprehend the danger in which we operate. None of us can
know how many times every day he could get to Ponary... I myself, as it
happens, was on the battlefield. I was not afraid then, only later when I
remembered it. It is the same for us now. We will think about it well
later, after the ghetto. Today we must just be strong. Those who have faith
will say: the Almighty will aid us. Those who have no faith must ask the
aid of the spirit of Jewish patriotism and public feeling. To survive it
all and to remain, after the ghetto, a human being fit for the great Jewish
future. Rosenberg said recently that it is the task of the Germans to
exterminate the Jewish people in Europe. I dont know what he means. If
he were to come here to us in the ghetto he might well be frightened by us:
people who have been driven into maline, to Ponary, torn from their
families – and in the course of a year we have built up a new life, we
have built up much more than the Aryans – that is the Jewish people: a
strong spirit and faith that we shall live. So that Rosenbergs words do
not come true, we must fight today. In every fight the aim justifies the
means, and sometimes the means are terrible. Unfortunately we must use all
means in order to fight our enemy.
The Jewish people saw no blood in the whole of the 2,000
years. They saw fire, but blood they did not see. But now the ghetto has
seen it. Jews have come from Ponary with bullets through their feet and
hands. Once there were five women and a child in the hospital, all returned
from Ponary. The Jewish people has become familiar with blood, and then one
loses ones sentimentality.
I want to draw you into todays life a little and to
let you understand the naked facts of this life, the naked fight. That is
why I called you here, you, who are people far from police [affairs]....
Moreshet Archives, D. 1.357.