Welcome!

Article

Jacob Gens - Jewish leader in Vilna

The Judenrat

Jacob Gens

The Holocaust in the Vilna Ghetto

Jacob Gens

Jacob Gens was appointed by the Germans in 1941 to head the Judenrat (Jewish Council) in the Vilna Ghetto. He held this post until Sept 14th, 1943 when he was summoned to the Gestapo headquarters and shot. The Vilna ghetto was completely liquidated 10 days later, this is his story.

 

Jacob Gens was born in 1903 at the village of Illovieciai in the Siauliai district of Lithuania. to a middle-class Jewish family, the eldest of four brothers.

In 1919, when Lithuania was fighting for its independence, he volunteered to serve in the Lithuanian army, and three years later In 1922 married a non-Jewish Lithuanian woman, and became the father of a daughter. Gens  had hoped to transfer to the fledgling Lithuanian air force, but that branch of the armed forces only accepted bachelors. Instead he was sent to the front, joining an infantry regiment in the war against Poland, was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and won a decoration.

 

He served in the army until 1924, and in the same year he enrolled in Kovno University, earning his living as a teacher of Lithuanian and of physical education in the Jewish schools of Ukmerge and Jurbarkas. Three years later he became an accountant in the Ministry of Justice in Kovno, he completed his university studies in law and economics in 1935.

In July 1940 when Lithuania became a Soviet Republic, he was dismissed from his post. As a Zionist who was close to the Revisionists, Gens feared that he was in danger of being arrested in a campaign that was being waged against anti-Soviet elements, and he moved to Vilna, where he was generally unknown. A Lithuanian friend who headed the municipal health department there helped him obtain work as an accountant in the department.

When the Germans occupied Vilna in late June 1941, his Lithuanian friend appointed Gens director of the Jewish hospital. In the beginning of September 1941, two ghettos were established in Vilna in early September 1941. At first, people were moved into either ghetto at random. 29,000 people were incarcerated in Ghetto 1 and 9,000-11,000 in Ghetto 2. Several days after the Jews had moved in, Ghetto 1 was designated for craftsmen and workers with permits, and Ghetto 2 was to be for all others.

 

The transfer of orphans, the sick, and the elderly from Ghetto 1 to Ghetto 2 began. Those with work permits moved with their families into Ghetto 1. On 7 September 1941, the day after the ghetto relocation began, a new separate Judenrat was established in each of the two ghettos. Anatol Fried, a former director of the community bank, assembled the new Judenrat for Ghetto 1.

 

The Judenrat for Ghetto 2 was appointed by SD and Security Police in Vilna and was led by Eisik Lejbowicz. Fried, who had been a patient in the Jewish hospital and thus became acquainted with Gens, appointed him as head of the ghetto police.

Rudnicki Street entrance to the Vilna ghetto

Gens established the Ghetto police force, and made it into an orderly and disciplined body, and the Germans used this force to assist in the Aktionen that took place in the Ghetto from September to December 1941, in which tens of thousands of Jews were murdered. Gens and his police force  had participated in the deportation of Jews to Ponary.

 

Ghetto chronicler Mendel Balberyszski recorded that Gens told him after the so-called "Old People's Aktion" in July 1942, in which some 84 elderly people were murdered:

 

"I have no connection with the purge of the elderly. It was an old debt which the Judenrat owed them. They wanted several hundred people, and it was with great difficulty that the `price' was reduced to 100 aged…"

 

On occasions he had stood at the ghetto gate and personally selected those who were to live and those who were to die. In the Gelbschein Aktionen that took place between 24 October 1941 and 3 November 1941, Gens himself had checked the papers of the Jews as they passed before him, three blue cards to one yellow card.

 

According to other available evidence, Gens, within the framework of his role, did his best to aid the Jews. He became the predominant personality in the Ghetto and its de facto Governor. His direct contact with the German authorities, bypassing the Judenrat, added to his prestige among the Jews in the Ghetto. Gens involved himself in affairs that had nothing to do with the police, employment, cultural activities and other aspects of Ghetto life.

Gens did not easily tolerate autonomous activity within the ghetto. He was especially eager to receive the approval of the intelligentsia for his policies, even when this involved the sacrifice of thousands of Jewish lives. He eagerly accepted the appointment of intellectuals to positions on the Judenrat staff in order to ensure them some sort of livelihood and a modicum of security.

 

In an attempt to appear not simply a policeman, but an enlightened intellectual, Gens formed a "club" in his home for discussion and debate between a select group of invited guests. Gens' desire to emerge from the war not only as the saviour of the remnant of Vilna Jewry but as custodian of its cultural heritage, continued to the end.

 

On 15 January 1943, the first anniversary of the theatre's initial performance, Gens said:

"Last year they said that the theatre was just a fad of mine. `Gens is amusing himself.' A year has passed and what do we see? It was not just a fad of Gens. It was a vital necessity… For the first time in the history of Vilna we were able to get a curriculum of studies that was all Jewish… Our care for children has reached a level never seen before in the Jewish life of Vilna. Our spiritual life reaches high…

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/ghettos/gens.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

More Stories By Holocaust Research Project

The aim of H.E.A.R.T is to inform and educate people about the Holocaust and the extermination programs conducted by the Nazi regime throughout Europe during the Second World War.

H.E.A.R.T research and material is contributed from a group of independent Holocaust researchers who devote their spare time to research for the production of this website and other forms of related publications, such as leaflets and books.

H.E.A.R.T is run by its trustees and directors, who manage the daily administration of the website, review all research materials, fact checking, and addressing any required corrections.

Most materials presented on the H.E.A.R.T website originate in Poland, Germany, the former Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom as well as from private sources in the USA and other countries.

H.E.A.R.T currently accepts no new membership however we do maintain affiliations with educational institutions and private associations that contribute articles, photos, rare documents, etc.

Contributed text and pages will appear on the website as a "Guest Publication" with the author maintaining full copyright to the submitted text however page design and layout is owned by © H.E.A.R.T. All other material presented on this website is subject to H.E.A.R.T copyright however all pages may be used “Freely” providing the source is credited as the following:

"Courtesy of the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team www.HolocaustResearchProject.org " © H.E.A.R.T www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

Latest Stories
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
Any startup has to have a clear go –to-market strategy from the beginning. Similarly, any data science project has to have a go to production strategy from its first days, so it could go beyond proof-of-concept. Machine learning and artificial intelligence in production would result in hundreds of training pipelines and machine learning models that are continuously revised by teams of data scientists and seamlessly connected with web applications for tenants and users.
All organizations that did not originate this moment have a pre-existing culture as well as legacy technology and processes that can be more or less amenable to DevOps implementation. That organizational culture is influenced by the personalities and management styles of Executive Management, the wider culture in which the organization is situated, and the personalities of key team members at all levels of the organization. This culture and entrenched interests usually throw a wrench in the work...
"We want to show that our solution is far less expensive with a much better total cost of ownership so we announced several key features. One is called geo-distributed erasure coding, another is support for KVM and we introduced a new capability called Multi-Part," explained Tim Desai, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Hitachi Data Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
There is a huge demand for responsive, real-time mobile and web experiences, but current architectural patterns do not easily accommodate applications that respond to events in real time. Common solutions using message queues or HTTP long-polling quickly lead to resiliency, scalability and development velocity challenges. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ryland Degnan, a Senior Software Engineer on the Netflix Edge Platform team, will discuss how by leveraging a reactive stream-based protocol,...
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SkyScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. SkyScale is a world-class provider of cloud-based, ultra-fast multi-GPU hardware platforms for lease to customers desiring the fastest performance available as a service anywhere in the world. SkyScale builds, configures, and manages dedicated systems strategically located in maximum-securit...
DX World EXPO, LLC., a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, will examine the regulations and provide insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence...
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, presented an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He then expounded on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and ...
In the enterprise today, connected IoT devices are everywhere – both inside and outside corporate environments. The need to identify, manage, control and secure a quickly growing web of connections and outside devices is making the already challenging task of security even more important, and onerous. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Rich Boyer, CISO and Chief Architect for Security at NTT i3, discussed new ways of thinking and the approaches needed to address the emerging challenges of security i...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...
"The Striim platform is a full end-to-end streaming integration and analytics platform that is middleware that covers a lot of different use cases," explained Steve Wilkes, Founder and CTO at Striim, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
What sort of WebRTC based applications can we expect to see over the next year and beyond? One way to predict development trends is to see what sorts of applications startups are building. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arin Sime, founder of WebRTC.ventures, discussed the current and likely future trends in WebRTC application development based on real requests for custom applications from real customers, as well as other public sources of information.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Calligo, an innovative cloud service provider offering mid-sized companies the highest levels of data privacy and security, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Calligo offers unparalleled application performance guarantees, commercial flexibility and a personalised support service from its globally located cloud plat...