Of all the horrific stories of the Holocaust, the fate of the Jews of Vilna - tens of thousands of whom were executed by the Nazis - is one of the worst. Many more Jews were forced to cover up evidence of the executions, leading to some of them undertaking a daring escape - digging a tunnel with only spoons and their bare hands. The Jerusalem Post's Daniel K. Eisenbud reports that those brave prisoners' handiwork has now been found:
For the first time since the end of World War II, the famous tunnel dug by Jewish prisoners of Ponar, near Vilnius in Lithuania, to escape from the Nazis, has been located using new state-of-the-art technology for underground predictive scanning.
Approximately 100,00 people, of whom 70,000 were Jews originating in Vilna and the surrounding area, were massacred and thrown into pits in the Ponar forest, near the Lithuanian capital during the Holocaust.
With the retreat of German forces on the eastern front as the Red Army advanced, a special unit was formed in 1943 with the task of covering up the evidence of the genocide. In Ponar, this task was assigned to a group of 80 prisoners from the Stutthof concentration camp.
At night, the prisoners were held in a deep pit previously used for the execution of Vilna’s Jews, while during the day they worked to pen the mass graves, pile up the corpses on logs cut from the forest, cover them with fuel, and incinerate them.
As they worked with their legs shackled, all the prisoners knew that upon finalizing the morbid task they too would be murdered by their captors, resulting in some of the workers deciding to escape by digging a tunnel from the pit.
For three months they dug a tunnel some 35 meters in length, using only spoons and their hands. On the night of April 15, 1944, the escape was made. The prisoners cut their leg shackles with a nail file, and 40 of them crawled through the narrow tunnel...