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Click here for Vilna...From The Simon Wiesenthal Center
Click here to listen to Holocaust Survivor Testimony (audio)
Click here to see Lithuanian Images Including Vilna, Kuanas and Vilkomir
Click Here to read an account of the Holocaust period in Vilna

Vilna has a special place in Jewish history. It was called the Jerusalem of Lithuania. The city was founded around 1320 as a fortress. In 1387, it was granted city rights of self-rule. The Lithuanian name for the city is Vilnius.

According to tradition, a synagogue was built in Vilna around 1573. The townsmen feared the competition from the Jews in trade and crafts, and in 1592 attacked the synagogue, stores and apartments of the Jews on the street that was already know as "The Street of the Jews." The attack helped the Jews convince the King to give them official authorization to live in Vilna. A year later, the Jews received written rights of residence to live in houses of the noblemen, pray according to their religious traditions and to engage in trade. Some time after that they received a permit to establish public institutions needed by the community, such as a cemetery, bathhouse and slaughterhouse.

In 1634 and 1635 the townsmen opposed the orders and organized attacks on the Jews. An investigating committee appointed by the King told the town to protect the Jews.

In a 1645 census counts showed that their were 262 Jewish families with 3000 individuals. The Christian population was close to 12,000. A census taken in 1765 showed the Jewish population of Vilna and its suburbs as 3887. The 1800 Census gave the Jewish population at 6971. By 1832 the Jewish population was 20706.

Vilna served as a center for trade and industry. Products were shipped throughout Russia and exported to Germany. Most of the Jewish residents worked in crafts and industry. They dominated the markets in Gloves and ready wear merchandise.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Vilna played a central role in the cultural life of the Jews of Eastern Europe, as well as being a center of Torah studies.

The capture of Vilna by Germany on Yom Kippur of 1916 sparked the beginning of a period of shortages, hunger, unemployment and forced labor. At the end of 1918, the Germans left. The local Poles took charge, but in a few days the Red Army entered the city. On April 19, 1919, the Polish Legionnaires entered Vilna. Their entry was accompanied by pogroms. Under Polish rule, Vilna was cut off from Independent Lithuania. Due to the economic situation, there was a continual flow of emigration to Eretz Yisrael and other lands.

When W.W.II broke out, Soviet Russia captured large sections of Poland. Russia turned over Vilna to Lithuania in October 1939. In June 1940, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR. Community leaders and writers of all parties were banished to Russia and exiled into the Soviet interior. Many were then interned in camps.

This is Wilna in 1925. great Synagogue in Wilna.
This is Wilna in 1917. Wilno. Ulica Ogrodowa.
Grave of Eliyahu ben Shelomo Zalman "Vilna Gaon" b. 1720. d. 1797. Rabbi, writer and philosopher. He is known as the Vilna Gaon and is buried in Saltoniskiu Cemetery, Vilnius, Lithuania

The Choral Synagogue in Vilna...2003 Click here for more photos