Itzhak Rudashevski was born in Vilna into a middle-class Jewish family. When the Nazis entered Vilna (June 1941) he started to write a diary in Yiddish which was continued until 6 April 1943. Rudashevski and his family were killed in Ponary in the autumn of 1943. His cousin, the partisan Sara Voloshin, found the diary, which was later received by Avrom Suskever and deposited in the YIVO Institute in New York. The diary was partly published in Yiddish and later fully edited and translated into Hebrew and English. This youthful record is one of the best documents on the struggle for survival and the cultural resistance of the Jews in the Vilna ghetto. It is testimony to the high level of studies and of the extracurricular activities that were somehow maintained in the ghetto school.
Among the school activities are two mock trials that the ‘Jewish History Circle’ organized, in which King Herod and Josephus were formally tried. Rudashevski played an active role in the organization and presentation of both. Herod’s trial discussed the complexity of his character, the problematics of Roman domination, and the danger of an open revolt. For Josephus’s trial, Rudashevski assumes the character of a witness for the prosecution, John of Gischala, who had been one of the most important leaders of the rebel movement in the Jewish War and an opponent of Josephus.
The detailed and dramatic description of the two trials shows that the community in the ghetto (institute teachers, historians, and common people) participated actively. The account testifies to some of the acute issues of existence there, above all the role of the Judenrat and the dangers of insurrection (against Rome, i.e., Germany), as well to the importance of Josephus’s books as a source of inspiration.
Rudashevski, Itzḥak, ‘A Diary from Ghetto Vilna’, Di Goldene Keyt 15 (1953): 18–53 [Yiddish].
Rudashevski, Itzḥak, Yomano shel na‘ar mi-Vilna (‘Vilna Teenager’s Diary’), trans. Abraham Yavin; ed. with notes by Zvi Shner. Tel Aviv, 1968 [Hebrew].
Rudashevski, Yitskhok, The Diary of the Vilna Ghetto: June 1941–April 1943, trans. from the original [Yiddish] manuscript and redacted on the basis of the Hebrew edition with revisions and additions by Percy Matenko. Tel Aviv; Loḥamei Hagetaot, 1973.
Patterson, D., ‘Rudashevsky, Ytskhok’, in: Encyclopedia of Holocaust Literature, ed. D. Patterson, A.L. Berger, and S. Cargas. Westport, Conn., 2002: 166–67.
Sznol, S., ‘Reading and Interpreting Flavius Josephus in the Vilna and Warsaw Ghettos (1941–1943)’, in: Josephus in Modern Jewish Culture, ed. A. Schatz (forthcoming).
JRA entry contributed by Shifra Sznol