It was December 31st. A dark, cold, night. Desperate and weary Jews gathered… hidden behind convent walls in the Vilnius Ghetto.
Their tormentors, their murderers, had been unrelenting. Over sixty-thousand men, women, and children had been slaughtered. This, at the hands of the Nazi’s and of the Jews’ own neighbors.
A young man named Abba; a poet, watched his sister and mother be lead away. That cold, dark, December night he was with those assembled in the convent.
Death Is Not To Be Preferred
When leading a band of harried fighters
or standing face-to-face with the enemy,
holding out in the siege
and standing alone
on the ramparts,
he never said death is to be preferred,
that life is negotiable;
by severe privations
he never asked anything
of Almighty God
but to grant him favor
and ease his pain
when he leads the congregation
in communal prayer;
and forgive our sins
And yet… And yet…
He rose, and spoke to his fellow fighters:
“Let us not go like sheep to the slaughter, Jewish youth! Do not believe those who are deceiving you. Out of 80,000 Jews of the Jerusalem of Lithuania (Vilna), only 20,000 remain. In front of your eyes our parents, our brothers and our sisters are being torn away from us. Where are the hundreds of men who were snatched away for labor by the Lithuanian kidnappers? Where are those naked women who were taken away on the horror-night of the provocation? Where are those Jews of the Day of Atonement? And where are our brothers of the second ghetto? Anyone who is taken out through the gates of the ghetto, will never return. All roads of the ghetto lead to Ponary, and Ponary means death. Oh, despairing people, – tear this deception away from your eyes. Your children, your husbands, your wives – are no longer alive – Ponary is not a labor camp. Everyone there is shot. Hitler aimed at destroying the Jews of Europe. It turned out to be the fate of the Jews of Lithuania to be the first. Let us not go like sheep to the slaughter. It is true that we are weak, lacking protection, but the only reply to a murderer is resistance. Brothers, it is better to die as free fighters than to live at the mercy of killers. Resist, resist, to our last breath.”
To all my fellow Partisans, I wish to sincerely thank you for your past and present support for our efforts, here at The Zelman Partisans.
As I go out to light the menorah for the eighth, and final time, this Chanukah, I wish each and every one of you bountiful Shalom, Chazak, Emuna, and Bitachon, for the coming year.