Escape to Vilnius – The Journalist Train

Shortly after the German attack on Poland on September 1, 1939, it was decided within the first week of the war that the Polish government was to be withdrawn eastbound as Warsaw was threatened. The Polish press, among them representatives of the Jewish Polish press, was to be rescued as part of the evacuation plans.

In the night between the 5th and the 6th of September 1939, the most important press reporters were evacuated from Warsaw on a journalist train organized by the Polish government. Among the journalists were Polish-Jewish press reporters. One of them was Pinkhas Shvarts (1902-1963) 11For biographical details, see Herts, Y. Sh. (ed.), 1956–1968. Doyres Bundistn, Vol. 3. New York, pp. 116–122., a writer and journalist, an active member of The General Union of Jewish Workers (Bund) and brother of the famous chronicler of the Shoah in Lithuania, Herman Kruk. 22For biographical details, see Kruk, Herman, 2002: The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939–1944. New Haven: Yale University Press. Another was Zusman Segalovitsh (1884-1949) 33For biographical details, see Cohen, Nathan: Segalovitsh, Zusman in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Segalovitsh_Zusman (25.9.2019)., who counted as one of the most popular Yiddish writers in interwar Poland. Their record of the turbulent journey into the unknown serves us as a compass. The flight memories Shvarts and Segalovitsh are also part of the We Refugees Archive in written form.

Noyekh Prilutski (1882–1941) 44For biographical details, see Weiser, Kalman: Pryłucki, Noah in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Pry%C5%82ucki_Noah (25.9.2019). was also a passenger on the so-called journalist train. He was a Polish Jewish politican of the Folkspartey 55The Folkspartey (National Party) was a diasporan nationalist party fighting for Jewish autonomy in the diaspora. It was founded in 1906 by Simon Dubnow and Yisroel Efroikin in Saint Petersburg following the Russian Revolution in 1905. Dubnow’s party inspired the founding of a Polish branch in German-occupied Poland during the First World War. Noyekh Prilutski was one of the founders. For details, see Weiser, Kalman: Folkists in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Folkists (25.9.2019)., pioneer of Yiddish Studies, journalist and until 1939 publisher of the most important Yiddish newspaper Der moment 66Der moment (The moment) was one of the most important Yiddish newspapers in Warsaw, which was published for 29 years (1910-1939) and was thereby the longest-published newspaper. Its founder was Noyekh Prilutski. For details, see Weiser, Kalman: Der Moment in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Moment_Der (25.9.2019). in Warsaw. When the journalist train reached its destination Vilnius in October after a long and dangerous ride, the exiled Jewish refugees did not hesitate. In November 1939, Prilutski and his exiled colleagues of writers and journalists founded the Committee to Collect Material about the Destruction of Polish Jewry, 1939. It was the earliest Jewish collective effort to document German atrocities against Polish Jewry in secret. Their work was based on eyewitness accounts by refugees. 77For the history of the Committee, see Schulz, Miriam, 2016: Der Beginn des Untergangs. Die Zerstörung der jüdischen Gemeinden in Polen und das Vermächtnis des Wilnaer Komitees. Berlin: Metropol. http://metropol-verlag.de/produkt/miriam-schulz-der-beginn-des-untergangs/. Some of these testimonies have been included in the We Refugees Archive: Chaim-Leyb D., Pese R., Motel Grajer and Owsiej Bułkin described their escape experiences before the committee. Information about the life of the refugee journalists in Vilnius can be found in report about the intellectuals’ accommodation at Sadowa 9.

    Footnotes

  • 1For biographical details, see Herts, Y. Sh. (ed.), 1956–1968. Doyres Bundistn, Vol. 3. New York, pp. 116–122.
  • 2For biographical details, see Kruk, Herman, 2002: The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939–1944. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • 3For biographical details, see Cohen, Nathan: Segalovitsh, Zusman in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Segalovitsh_Zusman (25.9.2019).
  • 4For biographical details, see Weiser, Kalman: Pryłucki, Noah in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Pry%C5%82ucki_Noah (25.9.2019).
  • 5The Folkspartey (National Party) was a diasporan nationalist party fighting for Jewish autonomy in the diaspora. It was founded in 1906 by Simon Dubnow and Yisroel Efroikin in Saint Petersburg following the Russian Revolution in 1905. Dubnow’s party inspired the founding of a Polish branch in German-occupied Poland during the First World War. Noyekh Prilutski was one of the founders. For details, see Weiser, Kalman: Folkists in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Folkists (25.9.2019).
  • 6Der moment (The moment) was one of the most important Yiddish newspapers in Warsaw, which was published for 29 years (1910-1939) and was thereby the longest-published newspaper. Its founder was Noyekh Prilutski. For details, see Weiser, Kalman: Der Moment in: The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, https://yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Moment_Der (25.9.2019).
  • 7For the history of the Committee, see Schulz, Miriam, 2016: Der Beginn des Untergangs. Die Zerstörung der jüdischen Gemeinden in Polen und das Vermächtnis des Wilnaer Komitees. Berlin: Metropol. http://metropol-verlag.de/produkt/miriam-schulz-der-beginn-des-untergangs/.

Excerpts from:

Shvarts, Pinkhas, 1943: Dos iz geven der onheyb, New York.

Segalovitsh, Zusman, 1947: Gebrente trit. Ayndrikn un iberlebungen fun a pleytim-vanderung. Buenos Aires: Tsentral-farband fun poylishe yidn in Argentinye.

Translation:
Miriam Schulz

Voice:
Tal Hever-Chybowski

Script:
Kristof Gerega (Schuldenberg Films)
Miriam Schulz

Direction:
Kristof Gerega (Schuldenberg Films)

Camera:
Anton Yaremchuck

Cut:
Kristof Gerega

Production:
Schuldenberg Films

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