Now that I am a bit more familiar with the streets of this beautiful city of Vilnius, I realize that the fire very near our hotel, behind the All Saints' Church, was on the street, and within a few meters of the main gate to the Vilna Ghetto. In September 1941, when the Jews of Vilna (Vilnius) were confined by the Nazis to a small area in what had previously been the Jewish Quarter, Jews accounted for an estimated 40% of the population of the City. In fact, the Polish and Yiddish speaking population of Vilnius was the majority, and Lithuanian speakers were a small minority in 1941. The Jewish population was confined to the Ghetto for 2 years, from September 1941 to September 1943.
The Ghetto population peaked at about 40,000, with most of the inhabitants being sent to their deaths in Poneray where they were shot 10 at a time, or machine gunned if the executioners were in a hurry, or blown up with a grenade if there were not enough executioners for the task. When the Ghetto was liquidated in 1943, there were no surviving Jews in the Ghetto. A few hundred had escaped to join the partisans. Of course, part of the notion of placing the Jewish population in the ghetto was to cut off any knowledge of what was happening outside the Ghetto walls, including at Poneray, and to prevent mass resistance...hence, part of the source of the controversy surrounding the Jewish Ghetto leader Jacob Gens.
Despite the size of the fire on Tuesday, only one building was destroyed. The All Saints' Church appeared undamaged, and a typically relaxed street scene at the Church corner carried on the next evening.
Blogging by Paul Bauman