Animated Map
German troops advance toward Kovno.
Mass Murder
Inside the Ghetto
Secret Archives
Final Days
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Documents in many different languages appear in this exhibition. The name of the city Kovno will take several forms: Kauen (German), Kovno (Hebrew), Kaunas (Lithuanian), Kovno (Russian), Kovne (Yiddish). The ghetto was built in the district of Vilijampole, known to Jews as Solvodka. Today most Jewish survivors refer to the ghetto as Kovno.

During World War II, hundreds of thousands of Jews were confined behind barbed wire and under guard in more than 400 ghettos in eastern European countries occupied by Nazi Germany. The purpose of the ghettos was to control and isolate Jews. Hunger, epidemics related to overcrowding, exhaustion from forced labor, and periodic German "actions" to reduce the population took their toll on the ghetto communities. Between 1942 and 1944, as part of the Nazi policy to systematically kill Europe's Jews, the Germans liquidated the ghettos, deporting the inmates to extermination and concentration camps. Few survived. During the three-year life of the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania, members of the terrorized Jewish population engaged in a remarkable, organized act of defiance. Determined to leave a record of the ghetto's history for posterity, many of Kovno's Jews methodically created secret archives, diaries, drawings, and photographs to document German crimes against their community. Most of these works were buried beneath the ghetto in wooden crates, metal containers, and ceramic jugs. Dug up after the war, the remnants of this extraordinary documentation reveal the history of the Kovno ghetto. This history begins in the summer of 1941, soon after German troops invaded Soviet territory, including Soviet-controlled Lithuania.

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