Concentration of Refugees in Vilna on the Eve of the Holocaust
Three periods may be defined between September 1, 1939, when World War II broke out and June 22, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The first is short and lasted until October 28, 1939, when Vilna was transferred from Poland to Lithuania. The second, independent Lithuanian rule in Vilna continued to June 1940 and thousands of refugees began to arrive in the city including community and resistance leaders and members of youth movements who left Soviet-occupied Poland for Vilna. The third, Soviet-ruled Lithuania ceased with the German invasion on June 22, 1941. The Soviets had closed the border in November 1939, but many continued to cross illegally. In October, riots took place in Vilna, mainly because of economic hardship and Jewish shops were pillaged. Many of the 15,000 refugees lacked permits, were unable to work or even remain in the city, and were forced into the countryside. During the third period under Soviet control, all organizations except for the Communist Party were banned. Some groups went underground. The Soviets prepared lists of all undesirables and began mass deportations a week before the German attack. Around 30,000 were deported including 6,000–12,000 Jews. The Nazis entered the city and put an end to Jewish Vilna.