Mass Murder
Inside the Ghetto
Secret Archives
Final Days


Slobodka, the site of the Kovno ghetto, was home to a distinguished institution of Jewish scholarship and piety before the war, the Slobodka Yeshiva. In June 1941 the Germans and Lithuanians conducted pogroms in Slobodka, killing and assaulting the leaders of this once vibrant religious community. Pogroms continued throughout Kovno, as synagogues were defiled. In one, they shot stray dogs and cats and wrapped the corpses in torn Torah scrolls. Despite the devastation, pious Jews organized makeshift synagogues where they prayed covertly and continued to observe Jewish law and holidays. In 1941, when the Germans began a systematic confiscation of all books and religious items, a large portion of books was hidden to be used in clandestine study houses. After a full day of forced labor, Jews studied sacred texts in attics and basements of the ghetto.
"We are more obligated than ever to show...that we are spiritually free." Rabbit Ephraim Oshry, Responsa from the Holocaust, 1942-1944.
Carting away books during the confiscation.
Title page from Talmud Bavli, Temurah (Babylonian Talmud, laws of substitution). Vilna, 1908.