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The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Artifacts of the Vilna Ghetto

About the Exhibition

The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Artifacts of the Vilna Ghetto featured 16 posters from the Vilna Ghetto, on view for the first time at a museum or academic institution in the United States.

The posters are from the collection of the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in Lithuania. Along with many valuable documents, they were salvaged after the ghetto was liberated in 1944.

Known as "The Jerusalem of Lithuania" for its rich scholarly and community life, its synagogues and yeshivot, teachers seminaries and schools—as well as for the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research—Vilna was a major religious and secular center of Jewish culture and education before the community's destruction by the Nazis during World War II. The Vilna Ghetto, which existed from 1941 to 1943, maintained an unusual degree of cultural and spiritual life, with the Jewish community's intellectual elite initiating a broad and multifaceted range of programs and activities as resistance against the Nazis' efforts at humiliation and degradation.

Posters on display in the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research galleries advertised such events as "The First Concert," basketball and volleyball competitions, lectures for young people, art exhibitions, theatre productions and a "Hanukkah Festival Evening."

Concurrent with the exhibition, which was held in Fall 2002, YIVO and Yale University Press published The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944, the long-awaited English translation of the Yiddish diaries of Herman Kruk. Kruk was a Bundist activist from Warsaw who fled to Vilna at the beginning of World War II, organized and oversaw the library of the Vilna Ghetto, and played an active role in several of the ghetto's social welfare and cultural organizations. He was a resolute and meticulous chronicler of day-to-day life under the Nazis and continued his diary after being deported to the Klooga camp in Estonia. He was taken to another Estonian camp, Lagedi, on August 22, 1944, and murdered there on September 18, 1944. The pages from his diaries were recovered from hiding places after the war, assembled and published in the original Yiddish by YIVO in 1961. These were among the first full-length diaries of life in the Nazi-created ghettos to be released. Click here for more information about the book.