Abba Kovner
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"Jewish youth! Do not trust those who are trying to deceive you. Hitler plans to destroy all the Jews of Europe…We will not be led like sheep to the slaughter! True, we are weak and defenseless, but the only reply to the murderer is revolt! Brothers! Better to fall as free fighters than to live by the mercy of the murderers. Arise! Arise with your last breath!"

With these words on December 31, 1941, Abba Kovner galvanized the divided factions of the Vilna ghetto resistance to join together and fight back against their would-be murderers. Three weeks later, the FPO (United Partisan Organization) was born.

Kovner would go on to command the FPO, lead the famed "Avengers" partisan unit, help found the
 
Abba Kovner    Photo 1
State of Israel — becoming one of its most honored poets — and reputedly continue to hunt Nazis after the war.

Born in 1918 in Sebastopol, Russia, Kovner spent his high school years in Vilna, Lithuania — the 'Jerusalem of Europe' — where he joined the Ha-Shomer ha-Za'ir youth movement. Hearing rumors of killings and mass graves in nearby Ponar, Kovner and his youth group friends self-organized as partisans. They snuck out of the ghetto to execute sabotage missions, manufactured bombs, trained fighters, and acquired weapons which were smuggled into the ghetto in false-bottomed coffins or through the sewers.
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