Memorial plaque that graphs the murder of Kovno's Jews.
Esther Lurie, self-portrait
1942 yearbook
Mass Murder
Inside the Ghetto
Secret Archives
Final Days
Folio containing transcriptions of German orders to the Kovno Jewish council from July 1941 to May 1943, most of which were delivered orally.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Menu From the moment the Germans issued decrees establishing the Kovno Ghetto, Dr. Elkhanan Elkes, the chairman of the Jewish Council charged Kovno's Jews to take up the task of writing their own history. This challenge was met with a multiplicity of responses: clandestine photography, artists' illustrations, miniaturized albums containing charts and graphs, protocol books, meeting minutes, and official and personal diaries. Even responsa, the traditional rabbinical form of answering queries based on centuries of rabbinical codes, were carefully saved as a record of the transgressions against Jewish law and traditions. The ghetto's chief scholar, Chaim Nachman Shapiro, spearheaded the writing of internal histories to capture every detail of survival and resistance. During three years of imprisonment, a stream of documentation was amassed by the ghetto's artists, historians, economists, statisticians, and poets. Although their material culture and their institutions had been plundered, Kovno's Jews set out to write a new chapter of their communal history.

Esther Lurie, The Wooden Bridge

Esther Lurie, a Latvian-born set designer and landscape and portrait artist, created more than 200 drawings and paintings depicting life in the ghetto. At the Council's direction and as an extension of her work in the graphics workshop, she clandestinely documented the people and landscape of the ghetto. To encourage art in theghetto, the Council sponsored a secret exhibition of her work. Not all of Lurie's buried works survived, but after the war she recreated her "lost" art by using photographs taken at the exhibition.


Jacob Lifschitz (1903-1945), untitled scene in the Kovno ghetto