Following the commemoration of Holocaust victims at the Ponar Memorial Complex outside Vilnius on Yom haShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, on April 28, a screening of Julius Dautartas’s film Getas [Ghetto] took place at the Lithuanian Jewish Community.
This feature film is based on true events. The location is the Vilnius ghetto set up by the Nazis. It tells the story of the ill-fated, illegal and completely unequal love between Austrian SS officer, amateur musician and true psychopath Bruno Kittel who was placed in charge of the Vilnius ghetto and later the Kaunas concentration camp, and Jewish songstress Khaya. It is claimed that the theater which was established in the Vilnius ghetto was the result of Kittel’s love for Khaya.
Hermann Kruk in his Vilnius ghetto chronicle records some of the consternation ghetto inmates felt about the creation of the new cultural institution in their place of torment. Kruk records the phrase “whistling in the graveyard,” meaning while mass murder was taking place, the people were distracted with the spectacle of plays and drama.
The idea overcame resistance, however, and the cultural life of the Vilnius ghetto became a force for resistance and ultimately survival.
Full interview with the director in Lithuanian here.