Szmuel Kapinsky, who was born in 1914 in Belarus, was too modest to talk about his heroic exploits in saving 120 Jews from the Vilna Ghetto during World War Two.

Instead, he showed me several volumes in Russian, Yiddish and Hebrew which recounted how in September, 1943, when the Germans were closing in on the Vilna Ghetto, he was able to find a way out for 120 people because of his knowledge of the sewers and underground water canals. Later, they joined with the partisans in the forest outside of Vilna.

After the war, Szmuel returned to his job at the water department. It was his experience there before the war that had given him the knowledge that permitted him to lead so many people to safety. Szmuel was very welcoming and served sliced buttered bread with strips of white fish. As I approached the door to leave, he insisted on giving me several apples to take with me.

Photos © 1998 Laurence Salzmann

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