Herman Kruk on hopelessness in Vilnius, June 1941

On 24 June 1941, Kruk writes about his discouragement regarding his futile attempts to leave Vilnius for the USA shortly after the German attack against the Soviet Union.

 

װערטער פֿון האַרץ

מײַן פּײַן האָט קײן װערטער נישט. דער הײַנטיקער טאָג האָט פֿון מיר געמאַכט אַ זקן. נײן, נישט קײן זקן, איך װיל זײַן יונג, שטאַרק און דוערהאַפֿט.

איבערהאַלטן, איך װיל און װעל עס איבערהאַלטן!

אלץ איז טאַקע פֿאַרשפּילט. אָט אַזוי טראַכט איך װען איך נעם זיך פֿאַר מײַן אויסגעקויפֿטן בילעט פֿון “אינטוריסט” אויף דער שטרעקע קאָװנע–װלאַדיװאָסטאָק. אויס רײַזע קײן אַמעריקע. װעגן דעם האָבן זיך שוין פֿאַר מיר באַמיט די באָלשעװיקעס. זײ האָבן געהאַט פֿאַר מיר נאָר אײן עצה: אָדער פֿאָרן אין פּוילישן לעגיאָן אין קאַנאַדע און פֿון דאָרט זײ אינפֿאָרמירן… אָדער שלעפּן זיך איבער 6 חדשים ביז… ביז איך בין צװישן די װאָס האָבן נישט אויסגעמיטן געשטעלט צו װערן פֿאַרן פּרוּװ פֿון די דײַטשע הונען.

אויב עס װעט נישט געשען קײן נס איז טאַקע אַלץ פֿאַרשפּילט. דאָס װאָס עס געשעט אַרום אונדז זאָגט דערפֿאַר, אַז קודם־כּל זענען מיר געפֿאַנגענע אין דער האַנט פֿון דײַטשלאַנד. עס קומט אויף מיר אַ נײַע, אפֿשר די שװערסטע ערע אין מײַן לעבן.

איך גיב זיך איבער דעם גורל אין די הענט און נעם אויף זיך די געלע לאַטע, װי קריסטוס די דערנער.

הערמאַן קרוק, װילנע, דעם 24טן יוני 1941

Words from my Heart

There are no words for my suffering. This day has turned me into an old man. No, not an old man. I want to be young, strong, and persevering. To make it through – I want to and will make it through!

Everything is really lost. This is how I think when I hold the ticket I paid for at “Intourist” [the official Soviet international tourist agency] for the Kovno-Vladivostok train. No more going to America. The Bolsheviks saw to that. All they’ve got for me is a piece of advice: either  going to the Polish Legion in Canada and from there inform for them […] or procrastinating for six months until […] until I am among those submitted to the trials of the German Huns.

Unless some miracle happens, everything is really lost. What is happening around us makes clear that, first of all, we are hostages of Germany. It’s the beginning of a new era, perhaps the hardest of my life.

I put myself in the hands of fate and wear the yellow patch, as Christ wore the crown of thorns.

Herman Kruk, Vilnius, 24 June 1941

On 23 June 1941 the German Wehrmacht occupied Vilnius. Herman Kruk (1897-1944), a Polish Jew and activist of the Bund, lives in the city since his flight from Poland in 1939. A few days after the invasion, he chronicles his futile attempts to flee to the USA due to the Soviet counter-demands to work as a spy in Canada in exchange for the exit permit. In case he declined the offer, they would postpone the permit for another six months. For Kruk, the decision to stay in Vilnius already pronounces his death sentence, yet he makes the decision regardless.

At this point, Kruk uses the image of the “yellow patch” only symbolically to express his acceptance of the historical Jewish fate. The German order to wear the yellow patch as a way to mark oneself as Jewish was given later. 11vgl. Kruk, Herman, 2002: The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 49.

Kruk lived in Vilnius for almost four years and experienced the fate of the Jewish community under Soviet, Lithuanian, again Soviet and finally German occupation. From 1941 until 1943, he lived in the Vilna Ghetto. Kruk documented his time in Vilnius as a chronicler. In 1943, he was deported to the concentration camp Klooga nearby Tallinn where he was murdered in September 1944. Parts of his manuscripts are missing until today.

    Footnotes

  • 1vgl. Kruk, Herman, 2002: The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 49.

Yiddish Original (PDF): Kruk, Herman, 1961: Togbuch fun Vilner geto, New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, pp. 5f.

For English translation, see: Kruk, Herman, 2002: The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania. Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, p. 49.

 

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