Nationality: Russian. Born: Vilna, Lithuania, 10 December 1927. Career: Member, Pioneers youth organization, division of the Komsomol (All-Union Leninist Communist League of Youth). Forced into the Vilna ghetto, 1941-43. Died: Murdered, Ponary Forest, October 1943.
Yomano shel na'ar mi-Vilnah: Yuni 1941-April 1943. 1968; as The Diary of the Vilna Ghetto, June 1941-April 1943, 1973.* * *
Born in Vilna on 10 December 1927, Yitskhok Rudashevski was the only child of Rose and Elihu Rudashevski. He was known to his family members as Itsele. His father was from a small town and had gone to Vilna to work as a typesetter for the publisher of the well-known Yiddish newspaper Vilner Tog. His mother, a native of Kishinev, was a seamstress, a job she continued to hold in the Vilna ghetto. Yitskhok enjoyed a comfortable childhood and a loving extended family. Growing up in Vilna, he was in the middle of a world center for Jewish and eastern European culture, and he took every educational advantage of it. He completed a year of study, for example, at the Realgymnasium, a Vilna secondary school noted for its academic excellence, where he was a good student and excelled in literature and history. He was not religious, however. In fact, he belonged to the Pioneers, a youth organization that was a subdivision of the Komsomol (the All-Union Leninist Communist League of Youth).
When the Germans invaded Lithuania on 22 June 1941, Yitskhok was just 13 years old. With ample cooperation from the Lithuanians, the Germans immediately set about the task of persecuting the Jews of Vilna. Within a month of their arrival they had taken 35,000 men, women, and children some six miles into the Ponary forest and murdered them. Soon Ponary had become one of the most notorious killing sites in eastern Europe. Sensing the gravity of the historical moment, Yitskhok began keeping a diary when the Germans were advancing toward his native city. The first entry of the diary is dated 21 June 1941, with the last entry dated 7 April 1943.
When Yitskhok's family was forced into the Vilna ghetto on 6 September 1941, the boy was traumatized by being separated from his maternal grandmother, to whom he had always been close. She was soon murdered by the Nazis. The Rudashevski family remained in the ghetto until it was liquidated on 23 September 1943. Throughout his time Yitskhok secretly continued to attend school, and he participated in various clubs and literary societies. Among his most important activities was the gathering of tales, testimonies, and other materials documenting the history of the Vilna ghetto.
When the ghetto was liquidated and the last of its Jews were sent to be murdered at Ponary, Yitskhok and his parents went into hiding with his Uncle Voloshin, who had a residence on Disne Street where five other people were also hiding. On either 5 or 7 October the Rudashevskis were discovered and sent to the killing field at Ponary. Among those whom the Nazis discovered in the hiding place was Yitskhok's cousin, a young woman named Sore Voloshin. She was the one member of the group who managed to escape into the woods. She joined a partisan unit, and when she returned to Vilna with the partisans in July 1944, she found a city bereft of Jews. But she also discovered Yitskhok's diary in the house on Disne Street, where they had hidden together. She entrusted the diary to the care of the partisan poet Abraham Sutskever, who saw to it that the diary reached the archives at Yad Vashem.
See the essay on The Diary of the Vilna Ghetto, June 1941-April 1943.