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Vilna: Gens on the First Anniversary of the Vilna Theater

(January 15, 1943)

Last year they said that the theater was just a fad of mine. "Gens is amusing himself." A year has passed and what do we see? It was not just a fad of Gens. It was a vital necessity. The little theater, the first concert, the first mourning assembly, the second concert, a light performance by the second Commissariat and another performance and after that – big performances followed by – the big schools in Vilna. For the first time in the history of Vilna we were able to get a curriculum of studies that was all Jewish. A big Jewish Writers’ association, big children’s homes, a big Day Home, a wide Jewish life. Our care for children has reached a level never seen before in the Jewish life of Vilna. Our spiritual life reaches high, and we have already held a literary competition. A musical competition will be held in another few weeks. All this was achieved by artists who mounted the stage.

How did the idea come up? Simply to give people the opportunity to escape from the reality of the ghetto for a few hours. This we achieved. These are dark and hard days. Our body is in the ghetto, but our spirit has not been enslaved. Our body knows work and discipline today because this maintains the body. The spirit knows of tasks that are harder.

Before the first concert they said that a concert must not be held in a graveyard. This is true, but the whole of life is now a graveyard. Heaven forbid that we should let our spirit collapse. We must be strong in spirit and in body.

The singer Lyuba Levicka is not with us today,* but we must not despair. I am certain that we shall still hear her. I am convinced that the Jewish [life] that is developing here and the Jewish [faith] that burns in our hearts will be our reward. I am certain that the day of the phrase "Why hast Thou deserted us?" will pass and that we shall still live to see better days. I would like to hope that those days will come soon and in our lifetime.


Moreshet Archives, D. 1.363.


* She had been arrested about this time on a charge of smuggling food and was executed.

Source: Yad Vashem