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Vilna: Zelig Kalmanovitch Diary Entry Following the Report by Gens

(October 27, 1942)

This evening at the Commander’s the men were relating things that had happened to them. The scroll of agony. How they handed over 400 souls to the murderers. An order came together with a threat. They went there and a thousand and more were demanded. They demanded women and large families. Till they agreed on 600, and gave 400. Ring saved women who were already on the carts. They were assembled in the square. The children were left in the houses. It was not known in advance what their task would be. They only guessed in their hearts. Slowly, it became clear. The Jews themselves agreed when they realized that it was possible to save the rest. The rabbi ruled that the old ones should be handed over. Old ones who asked that they should be taken. There was one woman who was a hundred. They asked for police, sons of servants, soldiers of the Mistress [Germany]. They paid no heed. They offered their lives in ransom, it was not accepted. The possessions remained. The food remained. If outsiders had done the job – there would have been more victims and all the property would have been stolen. In the synagogue some read Psalms. The women wept in front of the Holy Ark.

Sunday, November [1942]

Hard and bitter days once more. The [Jewish] Police has again been called on to "fix" affairs in the city of Swieciany. They were afraid that it would be done without them, and then the number of victims would have been greater. But apparently their fear was unnecessary. But it is here that the difficulty starts. The Commander began to demand that he and his assistants should not be the only ones employed on this operation; he does not want others to say "our hands are clean." At first sight he seemed to express the view that all the responsibility was his and that he alone would have to be judged by his Maker. But in fact he is not willing to be satisfied with spiritual cooperation, and he demands practical cooperation. The man who was his former assistant* was arrested yesterday because he refused to obey the order to go out to S[wieciany] with a group of policemen for this operation. The Ghetto is boiling; gatherings, meetings, consultations. Apparently he demands that others take part. In truth we are in any case not innocent in [among the people of] Israel; we have bought our lives and our future with the death of tens of thousands. If we have decided that we must continue with this life despite everything, then we must go on to the end. May the merciful Lord forgive us. The old rabbi can show us the way. One must have what one can. That is the situation and it is not in our hands to change it. Of course delicate souls cannot bear such acts, but the protest of the soul has no more than psychological value, and there is no moral value to it. Everybody is guilty or, more correctly, all are innocent and holy, and most of all those who take real action, who must overcome their spirit, who must overcome the torture of the soul, who free the others of this task, and save their souls from pain....


Z. Kalmanovitch, Yoman be-Getto Vilna u-Ketavim me-ha-Izavon she-Nimze’u ba-Harisot ("A Diary from the Ghetto in Nazi Vilna"), Tel Aviv, 1977, pp. 85-87.


* The reference is to Josef Glazman, Deputy Commander of the Ghetto Police and member of the F.P.O. staff in Vilna.


Source: Yad Vashem