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Moving into the Kovno ghetto.
Mass Murder
Inside the Ghetto
Secret Archives
Final Days
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


On July 10, 1941, the Germans decreed the Kovno Ghetto. Under a barrage of orders curtailing personal and civil freedoms and ensuring economic disenfranchisement, nearly 30,000 Jewish residents of central Kovno prepared to move into the ghetto. They packed whatever items the Germans allowed them to keep and crossed the Neris River to Vilijampole, an underdeveloped area known to Jews as Slobodka. Kovno's Jewish residents had hoped that the establishment of the ghetto would protect them from the violent attacks witnessed during the first weeks of occupation. When the ghetto was sealed on August 15, 1941, the purpose was clear: to serve as a pool of forced laborers for the German war effort. All Jews over the age of 16 had to work 12-hour days in backbreaking menial labor. To oversee the movement of the population into the ghetto, the Germans ordered Kovno Jews to form a committee. The committee appealed in vain to the Germans to postpone orders creating the ghetto or to allocate more space to alleviate overcrowding. Once the ghetto was enclosed, the committee became the ghetto's Jewish Council and, by German order, had to run the internal affairs of the ghetto. German orders and demands for labor were thus transmitted and administered through the Jewish Council. The leaders of the Jewish community elected as chairman the respected Dr. Elkhanan Elkes, who reluctantly accepted the unenviable position.
Moving into the Kovno ghetto.
Carts loaded with the possessions of Kovno's Jews head towards the bridge to Slobodka while empty carts return to the city, July-August, 1941.
Order #1 imposing restrictions on the Jewish populationOrder #1
Moving into the Kovno ghetto.
Theodor von Renteln (center), German civil administrator for Lithuania
Map of the city of Kovno and the Kovno Ghetto.
Response of the Jewish Council
Members of the Jewish council, 1943. Left to Right: Avraham Tory, head of the Secretariat; Leib Garfunkel, deputy chairman; Dr. Elkhanan Elkes, chairman; Yakov Goldberg, head of the Labor Office; Zvi Levin, advisor
Elkhanan Elkes, chairman of the Jewish Council during the ghetto's three-year existence.
Animated map of the city of Kovno and the Kovno ghetto
The Great Action

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