Actual People Represented in the Play

VILNA is an historical fiction. The scenes in the play are entirely fictional but are based on historic events, situations and people. A substantial number of the characters in the play were actual people and the author hopes he has memorialized them respectfully. Some of the prominent characters based on actual people are described below.

Motke Zeidel was one of the Jews forced to exhume and burn bodies at the Ponar killing pits. He, and others escaped by digging a tunnel from a pit to the outside perimeter of the killing grounds. A YouTube video of him recounting his experiences can be seen at


Yudi Farber was a civil engineer before the war and played a critical role in designing and digging the Ponar escape tunnel.

Jacob Gens is one of the central characters in the play. There is a substantial amount of literature written about Gens containing conflicting accounts and opinions about his role as the Chief of Police and ultimately the appointed leader of the Judenrat in the Vilna Ghetto.


Josef Glazman and Abba Kovner were leaders of the The Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatsye (FPO)  resistance organization in the Vilna Ghetto that engaged in armed resistance and sabotage against the Nazis. Glazman was able to do this at the same time he was a member of the Ghetto Jewish police assisting Jacob Gens.


Martin Weiss, and Bruno Kittel were Nazi Officers directly responsible for the eradication of the Jews of Vilna, and regularly engaged in acts of violent brutality. While their Superior Officers were responsible for the orders directing the eradication these individuals carried out those orders with enthusiasm.

Chayele Rosenthal and Fania Lewando – Chayele Rosenthal was a widely acclaimed Chanteuse who sang in Ghetto cabaret shows and Fania Lewando owned and operated a renowned vegetarian restaurant in Vilna.