With sundown announcements appeared
Bringing mourning, sadness and pain
“All the Jews must appear at dawn tomorrow
In the heart of the ghetto, in the square,”
“Men and women and children
Healthy, ailing, young and old,”
Terrible fear and terror stare from every eye
What happened? What is today in particular?
Here come the Jews to the square
Each one soothes and comforts his neighbor:
Don’t be afraid, don’t worry – nothing will happen
They only want to count us, that’s all.
The sun is rising, everyone can see the other.
What will happen? The question echoes in space...
Suddenly they see the square is filled with
Murderers who surround the city square.
The hour strikes ten. The Germans are here.
They march back and forth, observing everything.
In despair, their hearts tremble within
From every eye, fear and pain peer out.
Here the ghetto police are sent away
Also officials of the Council and the Labor Exchange
They were led aside, placed somewhere apart
Their place is not with the community.
Here a new column arrives from somewhere
Women and children, elderly and ailing-
But why are they led separately
But why are they set aside, those poor things.
Look, Jews, this is an action.
Like a slave-dealer, an arrogant German stands
“To the Right, to the Left” – with his thumb
Deciding the fate of his victims.
In terror and panic they pass before him,
Living beings – but he continues
“To the Right, to the Left" – his little finger moves
But not a muscle in his face.
Bitter tears and cries from both sides: he tears families apart
Divides and separates a mother from her child,
And children bewail their mother.
Will this wound ever heal?
There on the good side, a question is posed:
“What will happen to those over there?”
And suddenly there’s a spark of hope:
For they are being sent to the small ghetto.
Like hunted wild beasts, the people run
They run to the warmth of houses yearned for all day...
And on the ground corpses are strewn
That will not move, will not rise again.
The morning in the square is still there.
Only the dead are lying here and there.
At the top of the hill, the selected stand
To the Ninth Fort they’ll be dragged.
World. The voice of the blood of men and women,
The old and the ailing, cries out to your conscience.
And in the Ninth Fort – a communal grave of lonely
and orphaned people Until their day comes.
In the bitter summary of the events, the Great Action can be seen as the peak of the tragedy of the Jews in the ghetto, in which the Jewish Council played a not-insignificant role, a role defined by helplessness and perplexity.
The helplessness experienced by the Jewish Council led them to approach the ailing and aged Rabbi Avraham Shapiro, who arrived at his decision on the basis of similar precedents which took place in the Middle Ages and according to traditional law, were dealt with in the following manner: that it was necessary to sacrifice part of the community, in order to save whoever can be saved. But that sector which was being sacrificed should have no knowledge of the fact. For if this were so, the “better” and “the innocent” may, Heaven forbid, be sacrificed. And they, that is the “better” Jews, protected themselves via the special signs displayed in Demokratu Square: the Jewish Council and their family members and friends, neighbors, the police, working groups of the Gestapo and Jordan – all these were certain that they would be the last of the “good” Jews.
In all the discussions with Rauca, no member of the Jewish Council seemed to have thought it necessary to pose the following questions:
1) After the Jews are transferred to the small ghetto, who will be responsible for them? In the main ghetto, we look after them.
2) Who will see to their internal affairs? Has a council been set up? Or a police force? In the main ghetto we do this.
3) Do you really want to transfer large numbers of Jews without any leadership?
4) What will they eat there tomorrow?
5) What will happen to their belongings which have remained here?
Why did none of the members of the Jewish Council present Rauca with these questions? They were evidently too frightened to discuss the subject, lest Rauca take it into his head that one of them should join the Jews who were being transferred in order to look after them. The logical conclusion was that the Jewish Council was well aware of what awaited those Jews.
This attitude on the part of the “leaders” of the Jewish Council created a barrier between the people in the ghetto and the Jewish Council. The Jews realized that they had only themselves to rely on. They soon understood that these “leaders” of the ghetto were the direct or indirect executors of the wishes of the German murderers.
Did the Jews of Kovno really go like sheep to the slaughter? No! Their leaders led them consciously like sheep to the slaughter!