Yikskhok Rudashevski was born in Vilna in the Soviet Union in 1927. His father was a typesetter for a Yiddish newspaper and his mother was a seamstress.
In 1941 Vilna was captured by the German Army. Soon afterwards all Jews were rounded up and forced to live in the Vilna Ghetto. While in the ghetto (June 1941 and April 1943) Yikskhok kept a diary and in his last entry on 6th April records that Jews from Vilna are being taken to Ponar to be executed.
The Rudashevski family went into hiding but the Gestapo discovered their hideout in October, 1943, and the family were taken to Ponar where they were murdered.
Yikskhok's cousin, Sore Voloshin, managed to escape on the way to Ponar and she joined the partisans fighting the German Army in the Soviet Union. After the war she returned to the hiding place and found the diary. Yikskhok's diary was published in Israel in 1968.
One must stand in long lines to receive bread and other products. Jews are ousted from them. Germans go to the rows, throw out the Jews. Jews receive less food than the Aryans. Our life is a life of helpless terror. One day has no future. We have one consolation. The Red Army shows a fighting spirit. It has become concentrated. It gives blow for blow, it is offering resistance
The degree was issued that the Vilna Jewish population must put on badges front and back - a yellow circle and inside it the letter J. It is daybreak. I am looking through the window and see before me the first Vilna Jews with badges. It was painful to see how people were staring at them. The large piece of yellow material on their shoulders seemed to be burning me and for a long time I could not put on the badge. I was ashamed to appear on the street not because it would be noticed that I am a Jew but because I was ashamed of what they were doing to us. I was ashamed of our helplessness.
Jewish policemen donned official hats. I walk across the street and here go some of them wearing leather jackets, boots and green round hats with glossy peaks and Stars of David. Here goes Smilgovski (an 'officer') in the dark blue hat and a golden Star of David. They march smartly by in unison, (jackets are being 'loaned' by force in the streets.) They impress you as Lithuanians, as kidnappers. An unpleasant feeling comes over me. I hate from the bottom of my heart, ghetto Jews in uniforms, and how arrogantly they have somehow become such strangers to the ghetto. In me they arouse a feeling compounded of ridicule, disgust and fear. In the ghetto it is said that the reason for the uniforms is that thirty Vilna policemen are riding to the neighbouring towns to set up a ghetto in Oshmene. This is not known for certain.
Today the ghetto celebrated the circulation of the one hundred thousandth book in the ghetto library. The festival was held in the auditorium of the theatre. We came for our lessons. Various speeches were made and there was also an artistic programme. The speakers analyzed the ghetto reader. Hundreds of people read in the ghetto. The reading of books in the ghetto is the greatest pleasure for me. The book unites us with the future, the book unites us with the world.
We have good news. The people in the ghetto are celebrating. The Germans concede that Stalingrad has fallen. I walk across the street. People wink at each other with happy eyes. At last the Germans have suffered a gigantic defeat. The entire 9th German army is crushed! Over three hundred thousand Germans killed. Stalin's city is the enemy's grave.
A command was issued by the German regime about liquidating five small ghettos in the Vilna province. The Jews are being transported to the Vilna and the Kovno ghetto. Today the Jews from the neighbouring little towns have begun to arrive.
The mood of the ghetto is a very gloomy one. The crowding together in one place of so many Jews is a signal for something. Danger is hovering in the air. No! This time we shall not permit ourselves to be led like dogs to the slaughter.
(8) Yitskhok Rudashevski, diary entry (6th April, 1944)
We now know all the horrible details. Instead of Kovno, 5000 Jews were taken to Ponar where they were shot to death. Like wild animals before dying, the people began in mortal despair to break the railroad cars, they broke the little windows reinforced by strong wire. Hundreds were shot to death while running away. The railroad line over a great distance is covered with corpses.
In the evening I went out into the street. It is 5 o'clock in the afternoon. The ghetto looks terrible: heavy leaden clouds hang and lower over the ghetto.