RIGA (Sep. 16)
Wilno was subjected to a devastating series of German air raids Friday afternoon and evening, it was learned here today, when 18 Nazi bombers swooped without warning on the city. The German warplanes, advices from Wilno said, rained more than 200 explosive and incendiary bombs on the city. The thickly populated Jewish quarters were hardest hit in the raids.
Horrible carnage was reported among Jewish children, women and aged. The planes were said to have dived close to the streets in the Jewish quarters, machine-gunning fleeing pedestrians and leaving hundreds dead and wounded in their wake.
A number of synagogues and scores of houses were in flames from the incendiary bombs. Medical attention was lacking and the greatest panic prevailed among the city’s extremely poor Jews who make up a large proportion of Wilno’s population. The normal population of Wilno is about 200,000, but it is estimated that this figure has risen to about 500,000 as a result of the influx of war refugees, at least half of whom are Jewish.
Juan Ruiz, Brazilian diplomat, returned yesterday from Poland with heartrending tales of the plight of war refugees, a majority of whom apparently were Jewish.
Ruiz said he had seen 1,000 Jewish refugees stranded without food, many of them wounded or paralyzed with shock, beside the bodies of killed or wounded relatives in windowless, bomb-shattered trains stalled on the line between Wilno and Lido. Other large groups in similar plight were observed 50 kilometers beyond the Wilno-Lido line, toward Baranowichi, where the trackage had been destroyed by Nazi air raiders.
Ruiz returned to Riga after an unsuccessful effort to reach southern Poland or the Russian frontier. Leaving Riga on Sept. 12, Ruiz crossed through Wilno and Lido, but was forced to turn back because the Baranowichi line had been destroyed. Returning on the following day, he found the line cut north of Lido and finally made his way back by means of a peasant cart after the greatest difficulty, passing through Wilno just before Friday’s bombardment by German warplanes.
Ruiz said he saw thousands of Jewish refugees stranded in trains or trudging through towns, many of which were still burning. He saw numerous bodies along the tracks mostly of aged Jewish men, women and children.
Flotillas of Nazi bombers were reported by military sources to be systematically raiding towns and refugee trains. In the absence of anti-aircraft and other defenses, the raiders were said to be literally massacring the population of towns, many of which are predominantly Jewish.
Synagogues in Krzemienice, Dubno, Baranowichi and other Volhynian towns were bombed repeatedly during the Jewish New Year services which ended Friday. Services were held in those towns because they were considered in safe Polish zones, since they are near the Russian frontier. The synagogues were crowded with thousands of Jews and, according to information reaching here, the number of killed and wounded in the raids reached “very large” proportions.
According to the same sources, the towns of Siedlice, Lublin, Kalisz and others with large Jewish populations have been “completely obliterated” by Nazi bombs. The same thing has happened to central streets in Lwow.