Digitizing the Vilna Ghetto


For one year, between the time they were rounded up and their final transport to concentration camps, all the Jews in the city of Vilna lived in a ghetto—a tiny, squalid neighborhood blocked off from the rest of the city. But contrary to what we tend to think about ghetto life, the area was bustling as residents learned how to live in terrible conditions, support themselves and each other, and create some culture and hope as they did so.

Seventy-two years after the ghetto’s liquidation, Menachem Kaiser and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research are creating reVilna, a virtual map of the area. Complete with photos, stories, markers of shops and synagogues, and a timeline showing the history of its population and depopulation, the map attempts to recreate that tragic time—and that fascinating culture—in a virtual world.

The map is online now, though its functionality is still limited. reVilna’s Kickstarter fundraising campaign to complete the project ends tomorrow.  If this sounds like something you’d like to see made a reality—or a virtual reality—then go poke around the map and consider lending a few dollars to the cause.

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