World War II partisan Vitka Kovner dies at 92

Vitka Kovner participated in sabotage operations against German forces along with her husband and other Jewish partisans.

February 17, 2012 03:30
1 minute read.
Vitka Kovner (R) with Jewish partisans.

Vitka Kovner and Jewish partisans 390. (photo credit: Yad Vashem Archives)


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Vitka Kovner, a Jewish partisan fighter during the Second World War, passed away on Wednesday at her home on Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh. She was 92 years old.

Kovner, who grew up in Kalisz, Poland, was the widow of poet and partisan Abba Kovner, and participated in operations against German military targets with the United Partisan Organization (FPO – Fareynigte Partizaner Organizatsye in Yiddish), which was formed in January 1942.

“Vitka Kovner’s story is one of struggle, courage and determination, not only to survive but to triumph, not only to save her own life, but to be with the Jewish people during its most difficult hours, even when that meant that her own life would continue to be threatened by the Nazis,” Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said in a statement issued by the Holocaust Museum following her death.

Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Kovner fled to Vilna, then part of Soviet- occupied Poland and still a free city. After the German occupation of Vilna in June 1941, Kovner and other partisans from the FPO smuggled weapons through the sewer system and participated in sabotage operations against German forces.

“I joined the team that was responsible for attacks outside the [Vilna] ghetto, and my first and important mission, together with Yoske Maskovitz, was to detonate a bomb on the railway in order to damage the train that transported equipment to the front,” Kovner told the Yad Vashem quarterly magazine in 2001.

Vitka was awarded a Soviet medal of valor for her participation in the bombing of the German train.

Following the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto in September 1943 and a failed uprising, Kovner and other partisans escaped to the Rodniki Forest 40 kilometers south of Vilna where they conducted raids and ambushes against German forces, commanded by Abba Kovner. FPO partisans also participated in the liberation of Vilna by the Soviet army and the Armia Krajowain Polish resistance movement in July 1944.

Between 20,000- 30,000 Jews formed or joined organized resistance groups, according to the Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation in San Francisco.

Vitka arrived in mandatory Palestine in 1946, and settled on Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh where she married Abba Kovner. She was buried on the Kibbutz on Thursday and is survived by children and grandchildren.

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