Zionist Vitka Kempner-Kovner helped found the United Partisan Organization (FPO) in the Vilna Ghetto and struck a blow for freedom by blowing up a Nazi train. Kempner joined the militaristic Zionist Betar group as a teen before switching to Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir, which focused on training youth for settlement. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Kempner moved to Vilna, where she helped Ha-Shomer ha-Za’ir leaders hide to avoid arrest. It was there that she met poet and partisan Abba Kovner and helped found the United Partisan Organization (FPO) in 1942. She led the group’s first attack on the Germans by hiding explosives on train tracks and blowing up a military train. In 1943 the Vilna Ghetto was liquidated and Kempner led sixty fighters out through the sewers to the forest, where she commanded a patrol that handled intelligence, combat, and sabotage. When Vilna was liberated in 1944, she was awarded the highest badge of courage in the USSR. She and Abba Kovner made Aliyah to Palestine in 1946 and settled at Kibbutz Ein ha-Horesh, where they married and had children, but Kempner was unsatisfied by domestic life and began studying clinical psychology at Bar-Ilan University, becoming a pioneer of art therapy for special-needs children on the Kibbutz.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Vitka Kempner-Kovner." (Viewed on February 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/kempner-kovner-vitka>.