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Partisans of Vilna (1986)

Roberta Wallach , Abba Kovner , Joshua Waletzky  |  NR |  DVD
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Roberta Wallach, Abba Kovner
  • Directors: Joshua Waletzky
  • Writers: Joshua Waletzky, Aviva Kempner
  • Producers: Aviva Kempner
  • Format: Black & White, Color, Dolby, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: New Video Group
  • DVD Release Date: April 26, 2005
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0007GP6YW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,739 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Partisans of Vilna" on IMDb

Special Features

  • Bonus CD and songbook with lyrics in English and Yiddish: Partisans of Vilna: The Songs of WWII Jewish Resistance
  • Study guide with historical background and questions for discussion
  • Exclusive photo gallery
  • Filmmaker biographies and statement

Editorial Reviews

An enormously riveting and inspirational tale of WWII and the Holocaust like no other, PARTISANS OF VILNA is the first documentary to chronicle the amazing endeavors of the Jewish resistance fighters, who courageously staged a sabotage offensive against the Nazi army in the Polish city of Vilna. Co-written with passionate devotion by director Josh Waletzky and producer Aviva Kempner, the film has been lauded as "rich, poignant, terrifying and even ennobling" (L.A. Times).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The battle for Vilna May 7, 2005
Format:DVD
This is the most thorough film of the resistance movement in Vilna, made in 1986 but only now getting widespread release on DVD. The documentary is told in retrospect by the survivors of the holocaust in Vilna, which resulted in the killing of over 90% of the Jews in what was regarded as the Jerusalem of Lithuania. For centuries Vilna had been a safe haven for Jews, a center of religious scholarship and a vibrant Yiddish community. As one survivor noted, Vilna isn't Vilna without its Jewish culture.

The film deals with the very troubling aspect of the Jewish police, or Judenrat, which was used by the Germans to keep the ghetto in line. Jacob Gens essentially served as the constable of the Jewish community during the German occupation, turning over members of the resistance with the false hope that this would spare the community at large. This led to horrible divisions within the crumbling Jewish community, which were painfully retold by the survivors.

The partisans took to the woods outside Vilna, joining up with Russian, Lithuanian and Polish partisan forces, and mounting a very effective resistance to German occupation until the Soviet tanks rolled in late in 1943. It was a tragic victory for the Jewish partisans, caught up in the wave of euphoria surrounding the defeat of the Germans, but having to bear witness to the destruction of the once proud Jewish quarter in Vilna.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent documentary on tragically unknown subject October 16, 2006
Format:DVD
The well-known Warsaw Ghetto uprising was going to be producer Aviva Kempner's focus when she went to Israel to interview survivors, but a recommendation by a museum director turned her attention to a lesser-known partisan movement. In the Jewish-quarter-turned-ghetto of Vilna, the partisans -- mostly Socialist, Communist and Zionist youths -- unified and slowly came to the realization that the Nazis meant to exterminate the 20,000 Jews left.

Partisans of Vilna tells the story of these courageous men and women, many of whom fought and fought for years only to be rewarded with the fact at the end of the war that 20,000 Jews had dwindled to 3,000. They had no national army to back them and were even faced with antisemitism from their Russian, Polish and Lithuanian partisan tallies in the cold Eastern European forests. Their hardest conflict, however, came against the local Jewish police, who tried to appease the Nazis by letting them take small numbers of Jews to the death camps in order to save the majority. That was a hopeless idea, but the film demonstrates that a hope that time would save the Jews was not ridiculous and eventually made sure more of Vilna's Jews chose not to join the armed insurgents.

DVD Extras: Accompanying this 20th-anniversary edition are plenty of educational bonuses. An audio CD of Yiddish songs from the film, mostly inspired or written by the fighting partisans themselves, is accompanied by a 10-page Yiddish and English songbook with voluminous notes. Also here is a 29-page study guide, with historical background, questions for discussion, a timeline and a stellar bibliography that will be perfect for those whose curiosity is sparked. Commentaries include a filmmaking-focused one from director, co-writer and narrator Joseph Waltezsky, and another by producer and co-writer Aviva Kempner, who gives greater historical context and reveals tidbits of information about the people and places that didn't make it to the film.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lost history July 5, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
There is not nearly as much of this kind of material as there could be available. I feel this dvd did a good job of showing that the Jwish community in Vilna put up a heroic resistance even with the local community and he Soviet Union putting roadblocks in their way. To many people can only look to Sobibar or Warsaw when this shows how wide spread the desire was to fight back.

The educational materials, the CD of partisian songs with translations make this an outstanding resource for teachers as well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jewish Resistence in Vilna During WWII September 19, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This film is in both Hebrew and Yiddish. It should have been in English and Yiddish, but it was clearly made for an Israeli audience. The Yiddish speakers probably emigrated to the U.S. while the Hebrew speakers emigrated to Israel. It has English subtitles. Before WWII Vilna was a center of Jewish learning and housed major rabinacle colleges, libraries and synagogogues. Lithuanians were anti-Semetic for centuries before the holocuast so they really didn't help their Jewish brethren who were persecuted and killed by the Nazis. The Nazis rounded up all the Jews of Vilna. Many were driven or marched to Polnar a site in the forest where about 100,000 Jews were gunned down and buried in pits. This could only have happened in an anti-Semetic country. Once the remaining Jews were in the ghetto, the Nazis murdered their leadership placing a man named Gens in charge of them. He had married a non-Jew and lived on an estate outside Vilna, but perhaps even erroneously he thought he could save some Jews by cooperating with the Nazis. Of course, he was wrong. But other members of the populace agreed hoping that they would be in the portion spared. Some of the people who were mostly teenagers believed they were all going to die. They vowed to resist and take as many Germans with them. Their organization was poorly coordinated in part because of the interference by those in power which prevented them from meeting in a group. Some did resist and escape into the forest where they fought with Lithuanian and Russian partisans. Even among the partisans with a common enemy there was antisemitism. The Jews had to be split between the other brigades at least in part because they were more successful as a group and the others were jealous. Read more ›
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