Abba Kovner
The FPO continually pleaded with the Jews of Vilna to join the partisans in a popular uprising. Realizing Vilna’s Jews would not rise up before the final destruction of the ghetto, Kovner sent the majority of the partisans (about 300) into the forest. Those who stayed, including Kovner, took up positions in abandoned buildings and briefly fought the Germans before escaping the destruction.

Kovner led the remaining partisans to the Rudnicki Forest where the "Avengers" earned a distinguished record, destroying over 180 miles of train tracks, 5 bridges, 40 enemy train cars, killing 212 enemy soldiers and rescuing at least 71 Jews. Kovner was convinced that Jews could gain self-respect through fighting, and that Jews must fight as Jews. He refused to be absorbed into Lithuanian or Russian partisan groups.

Kovner and the partisans returned to Vilna with the Red Army on July 7, 1944, recapturing the city from the Germans on July 13, 1944.
Abba Kovner    Photo 2
Following the war, Abba Kovner helped surviving Jews reach mandate Palestine. He also formed a new organization with 50 other partisans, reportedly attempting to poison thousands of Nazi and SS prisoners in a Nuremberg POW camp. Accounts differ as to how many Germans were injured or killed. Soon after, he and fellow Vilna partisan Vitka Kempner were married and smuggled into mandate Palestine.

In 1961, Kovner testified at the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann. Kovner continued to inspire people with his writing, and won the “Israel Prize” in literature for his poetry in 1970. Abba Kovner died in 1987.
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