As thousands of refugees streamed into Vilna in the fall of 1939, a humanitarian crisis ensued, with neither local authorities nor the local Jewish community capable of providing for the throngs of refugees. The situation was especially acute for the many impoverished yeshivos who had found refuge in neutral Lithuania. Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski was the revered leader of the Torah world and in his capacity as head of the Vaad Hayeshivos, personally shouldered the responsibility for their welfare. He turned to his trusted student Rav Eliezer Silver in Cincinnati, who in turn established a rescue organization on behalf of stranded Torah scholars stuck in Lithuania, which eventually came to be known as the Vaad Hatzalah.
The Mir Yeshiva had by this time settled in the Lithuanian shtetl of Keidan, and for the next seven months attempted to return a sense of normalcy within the growing mayhem surrounding them. Over the summer of 1940, the Soviets occupied Lithuania and all illusions of that country remaining a safe haven were dissipated. The subsequently dispersed among four shtetls in the Lithuanian countryside, and it was from there that they visa search continued in earnest.
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