STOCKHOLM (Jun. 16)
More than three-quarters of the 80,000 Jews who remained in Vilna under Nazi occupation were executed last month in a mass-slaughter which has no equal in Jewish history, according to an eye-witness who succeeded in escaping from Vilna on May 24, and reached Sweden yesterday.
Interviewed by correspondents of American, British and other newspapers, the eye-witness, a Pole, stated that only 20,000 Jews who were classified as “useful elements” were left alive in the Vilna ghetto. They consist mostly of doctors, engineers and highly-skilled artisans needed in industries working for Germany. The remaining 60,000 were massacred during a two-week continuous pogrom which started on May 7 and ended on May 20.
The Jews in Vilna, the eye-witness said, had been concentrated in two ghettos which the Nazis established soon after their occupation of the city. Shortly before the massacre, the Nazis, however, transferred all Jews into one ghetto located in the Baksht section of the city.
“On May 7,” the Polish eye-witness continued, “trucks driven by the Nazi-controlled police suddenly appeared at the gates of the ghetto. Jewish men, women and children were rounded up and herded into the trucks which carried them to the suburb of Ponary. There they were lined up and machine-gunned, while the trucks returned to the ghetto to bring new groups of victims.
“For fully two weeks – until May 20 – a continuous stream of trucks plied back and forth carrying more than 60,000 Jews of all ages to the execution place. While the massacre was going on, the dead were stripped of their clothing, which was sent back to the police headquarters in the city, apparently for use by the Nazis. The non-Jewish population was unable to intervene, since it was obvious that the order to kill all the Jews came from Berlin.”
The Pole, who had been living in Vilna for many years, escaped from there to Warsaw and then to Danzig, where he stowed away aboard a Swedish steamer bound for Stockholm.