Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Wilno Jews Machine-gunned As They Lifted Arms to Nazi Planes for Mercy

September 19, 1939
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Indescribable panic among Wilno’s Jewish population greatly contributed to the carnage resulting from Friday’s series of air raids by 18 Nazi bombers, according to details reaching here today.

Instead of going into cellars when the raiders suddenly appeared over Wilno’s thickly-populated Jewish quarters, aged persons and women carrying and dragging children rushed to the streets screaming hysterically. Many were hit by fragments of exploding quarter-ton bombs and buried in the debris of demolished buildings.

Some men were able to take shelter, but women, children and aged totally lost their heads and ran back and forth in the exposed streets, screaming, crying and pleading, often with hands uplifted suppliantly to the low-flying bombers, who answered with machine guns.

In the almost total absence of authoritative control, scores of thousands of refugees from the war zones were trudging the night long to the Latvian frontier where they were being turned back at rifle and bayonet point. Entrance to Poland from Latvia is likewise impossible.

Refugees arriving here from Warsaw via Lithuania report that the heaviest casualties occurred in Jewish quarters during the recent bombardments of the Polish capital.

Recommended from JTA