Established in 1815, the Mir Yeshiva gained renown as a leading institution for Torah study. By the 1930s, this rabbinical academy attracted scholars from all over the world.
When the town of Mir fell to the Soviets in 1939, the students knew that their religious studies would be forbidden. Mir was one of the first yeshivas to depart for Vilna. Most students left on October 15, 1939, reaching Vilna legally before the border was sealed. They found temporary accommodations in the building of the Rameillas Yeshiva, where space was so limited that they slept curled up on their suitcases. Eventually they located adequate, if cramped, quarters in Vilna.
In early 1941, seizing an opportunity to continue their escape, the rabbis and students of the Mir Yeshiva traveled as a group across the Soviet Union to Japan and then to Shanghai, where members spent the war years. Mir emerged as the only eastern European yeshiva to survive the Holocaust intact.