“What now?” That was the question for Vitka Kemperer, a 19-year-old Polish girl who had escaped the invading Nazis and found her way safely to Vilna in Lithuania. “Run? Hide? Go into the ghetto with everyone else?” Or do what seemed impossible… fight? Girls in 1940 weren’t supposed to be fighters; in fact, they weren’t even allowed to join many resistance groups. But Vitka wasn’t just any girl – she was a quiet girl, reserved, and well-mannered, but she had other qualities as well – strength, bravery, and power. She allied herself with other fledgling partisans and quickly became a leader.
And then came that week in 1941 when the Vilna partisans would attack the Germans for the first time. It was Vitka who would hide the pipe bomb, almost three feet long, under her coat as she left the ghetto for work. After all, who would suspect a mere girl? It was she who would spend three days and nights alone in the forest, scouting the train track for a perfect location. It was she who would hear the ominous rumbling as the train approached in the dark and who would place the bomb on the track. And it was she who would see the massive fireball as the supply train exploded into a thousand pieces! She had done it! One girl taking on the mighty Nazi war machine!
Two and a half years later, Vilna was liberated by Soviet troops, and as a show of respect, the Russians asked the partisans to lead them into the city. Vitka walked proudly with her fellow resistance fighters on that glorious day! She and her compatriots had managed to destroy five bridges, 180 miles of track, 40 rail cars, and the electric grid and water supply to Nazi-occupied Vilna. They had also rescued hundreds of fellow Jews.
Vitka Kemperer would say later in life that there was a divine sense of duty to fight back. It didn’t matter if it changed the course of history or not, she said – the point was to fight against evil! What a role model for us all.