United States Holocaust Memorial Museum







Oral History















Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto
A sense of hopelessness pervaded the ghetto after the Great Action. The catastrophe left 17,412 survivors stunned and bereft. It was to the Altestenrat, the Jewish Council of Elders, that the ghetto's prisoners turned. The ghetto's leadership assumed many municipal functions--overseeing police and fire departments, housing, welfare, and sanitation services. Yet the council seldom operated independently of its Nazi overlords. Leaders wrestled daily with the same dilemma: How could they obey the Germans--prolonging, in their belief, the life of the ghetto--but at the same time defy the full intention of German orders, thus improving the life of the community? The council's courageous acts of defiance included creating secret archives to document German crimes and supporting the ghetto's underground resistance.
About the Children About Religion About the Jewish Council
About the Underground About Labor
Yearbook map showing the streets of Vilijampole to be included within the confines of the ghetto.
Mass Murder
Inside the Ghetto
Secret Archives
Final Days