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Chapter Six


World War Two

A complete change occurred everywhere. There were communist cells in every place and in every country and there were such cells in our city. Communist people immediately occupied all dominant positions in the government, in the city and in the corporations. All large businesses were confiscated. Larger houses and apartment buildings were taken over as well. The managers and directors of the companies were replaced mostly by workers of the same outfit.

Without waiting I moved mother into my own apartment. Soon after her suite was occupied by Soviet officers. A family was also placed in our place with us. Our four-plex was nationalized. Luckily, I was allowed to remain in my suite but I had to pay rent. Many had been forced to move from their homes. All valuable currency was supposed to be delivered to the bank, especially gold articles and coins. The whole thing was a terrible upheaval.

Now we were faced with the problem of hiding our valuables. But no matter where we put them, the place seemed to be insecure the next day. There were searches of the houses daily.

In the tannery, a new director was appointed, a man called Shumkauskas. He had worked a short time in our factory as an apprentice. Shumkauskas was a local boy. His father had a printing shop a block away from us and one day the father had come to me and told me that his son had just graduated from university somewhere abroad and that he was looking for a job. We had several foreigners working as foremen who we were supposed to dismiss as soon as possible. We were to train local citizens to replace them. I therefore engaged Jacob Shumkauskas to work with a German foreman, Weithase, in the finishing department. My instructions to him were to concentrate just on this finishing department. The system in the tannery was set up in such a way that the overall operation and the formulas were kept secret. Every department had its own code and only I had access to all of them. Once, when Jacob approached Jocas and asked about details of boiling lacquers, Jocas told him that according to instructions from me it was none of his business to even be there. It seems that this offended Shumkauskas very much and he retained an animosity in his heart towards me. When he became the director I could feel his unfriendly attitude. It is by luck that everyone felt that without me the factory could not run. Besides the fact that I had the code, the workers and the public generally respected me. Consequently, Jacob did not even try to fire me. Thus, while at the start I felt quite subdued, later on I felt once again more confident.

Many changes occurred in the tannery. One of the first orders of business was to bring back all the workers with complaints against the old management, especially those who had been fired. Jocas was one of them. He was appointed to the workers' committee of the factory. I was scared to death that now he would seek his revenge. Nothing happened, however, though I continued to live in fear of him.

We were forced to introduce the "plan system". Every unit and department had to work according to a certain government approved plan. Converting everything was quite an exacting but interesting job. A new workers' club and cafeteria was built. Great parties and celebrations were everyday occurrences. Cultural pursuits were promoted, a factory newspaper was established and meetings of the workers were held often to discuss local and general problems.

I got involved in the newspaper. Not much knowledge was needed. The main thing was to praise the communist ideas and, especially, Father Stalin. I was quite interested in this job of bringing out a paper every week. In the course of my involvement with the paper I found out that in the rank and file of workers there were some interesting people working in various parts of the plant who had good ideas and talent. It brought me into contact with people who I would not even have noticed before the change--like Alexandrovitch, a man who operated the shaving machine, Masiulis, the watchman, and others. They became very good friends of mine.

There were parties and parades--New Year's and October Revolution parties, First of May celebrations--and I had to participate in all of them. Thus I was now very much in contact with the laborers. Before, the laborers and I had lived as though we were in two different worlds. Now, when they lost their fear of me (which I had been unaware of before), I found out about many things that used to happen in the factory. I found out that the real rulers in the departments were the foremen. Some of them used to take bribes, some of the young girls had to share their beds with the foremen. Naturally, the worst of them were dismissed immediately.

Through all this I found that, generally speaking, the laborers were my friends. Even in regards to firing Jocas (who was by now re-hired under the communists), the general opinion was that I had done the right thing - the thing I had to do.

At home a new style of life developed. Gita took a job in court and for a certain time she worked there as interpreter--interpreting from Russian to Lithuanian and vice versa. She used to go to work about the same time as I did. I sold my motorcycle and used to go to the factory by bicycle but the bicycle itself was finally stolen by my own maid. I was afraid to say even a word about that. My mother stayed at home but she still had help all around from the nanny and from Ona, the wife of the caretaker.

The new neighbours from across the hall turned out to be very nice men. One of them, Michael Senkoff, who was at that time a captain of the air force, later became the Commandant of the airport. The other officer was Shavdya. He was from the Republic of Georgia where Stalin came from. Shavdya had an important job in the supply department for the Red Army. These two turned out to be very fine men and liked to have a good time. They liked us very much, especially my mother. Quite often, when they came home and decided to have a drinking party, they wouldn't start to drink before bringing my mother to the party, even waking her from sleep at times. Mother was probably in her late sixties then. Our relationship with these men was good and we felt good when we were at home. Even after they left and moved to bigger houses the friendship between us continued and they would have us join them for their get-togethers and at meetings in the Officers' Club. At one of these meetings Senkoff drank so much that he collapsed on the table and we had to carry him, half-dead and half-alive, to his apartment, undress him and put him to bed.

It was quite a mixed up life for us. During the day we were at our jobs. Sometimes, in the evenings, we attended meetings with officials or visited with our new Russian friends. Quite often we went to parties with our old friends like the Goldbergs or Tante Hanna and Uncle Solomon and their group. We had quite a close relationship with Chaim Hirshovitz, with Dr. Savich and with the Schwartzes and the Nurocks. Ours was a small town and we all lived within a couple of blocks of each other and were in daily contact.

As soon as the Russians came to Shavli we noticed a big change in the stores. All the merchandise disappeared almost instantly. As a matter of fact, when the Russians came and saw the stores full of all kinds of goods they could only conclude that these goods were there because the working classes were not able to buy anything. Within a week's time all the shelves were empty. The Russians changed the lit to the ruble and bought everything. Prices skyrocketed. Soon it was impossible to get anything of value except on the Black Market. Sometimes it was necessary to go to the larger cities, like Kaunas, to get something appealing.

I remember one trip that Gita took together with Savich's wife, Etale. They went to Vilnius and spent all their money buying a couple of beautiful things. Gita brought back a red and white imported handbag and a pair of felt boots which she considered the most beautiful in the world. Everybody was busy in this illegal buying and selling.

The leather industry was reorganized in such a way that all the tanneries were lead by the so-called "Leather Trust" which was located in Vilnius. This Leather Trust was supposed to supervise and modernize the industry. I was called to Vilnius as advisor on this task. A couple of times I met with the top brass and they offered me a contract which seemed at that time to be a very lucrative one. On weekdays I was supposed to stay at home and on weekends or free days I was to supervise the modernization of the plants in Vilnius. I liked the idea not only because of the money but because it was a very prestigious endeavor. The final meeting to sign the contract was to be held on Monday, June twenty-third, 1941. In the meetings I had in Vilnius, I used to stay in a hotel. I would phone ahead to make reservations.

On Saturday, June fourteenth, a week before this meeting was to take place, I got up early to go to work and Gita was getting ready to go to court. We were ready to leave when the telephone rang. It was Gita's cousin's next door neighbour. She was very excited and told us that Gita's uncle, Ore Shifman, and her aunt, were moved out of their home in the middle of the night. It was not very clear what had happened and, in any case, we couldn't stay home. We had to go to our jobs.

By the time I reached the factory--I had to cross the whole city to get there--I had noticed many people who were excited, some of them in tears. A terrible thing had happened during the night. A great number of families--Jews and non-Jews alike--were just moved out of their homes and put into cattle wagons that were assembled at the station. From among my acquaintances this happened to Uncle Ore Shifman and his wife and Chaim Hirshovitz and his family. Thousands of people were just removed. They were of all kinds--rich men, bourgeoisie, working people, doctors, engineers like Chaim, merchants like my friend Shilianski. There were laborers, prostitutes--a whole mix-up without any rhyme or reason. Somebody just knocked on the door in the middle of the night, woke the people up, told them to take the minimum of necessities with them - only what they could carry - and transported them to the station. This procedure continued for several days. Nobody knew in advance whose turn it was next. Only a few people--those with very good connections--were released before sundown. The trains moved out at night--nobody knew where they were headed. The only one I knew who was released was Chaim. The Building Trust decided that they couldn't function without him. The majority of the deportees were Lithuanians but a good number were Jewish, mostly from the richer families. We had our suitcases ready because we expected to be picked up at any time.

This same action was begun simultaneously in all three Baltic Republics. The reason for it may have been to eliminate subversive elements from the population in case war broke out. If so, their judgement as to who represented a "subversive element" was not too accurate. The action was organized in such a way that nobody had any idea that this would happen. It must have been planned well ahead of time nevertheless because thousands of trains were involved in all cities and towns.

The tension was terrible. The Lithuanians blamed all these things on "Jewish provocations", disregarding the fact that many Jews were amongst the deportees. I am sure that to this day some of them still believe this.

I had to stick to my agreement with the government to go the next Monday to the meeting in Vilnius and on Friday afternoon, June twentieth, I phoned to the head man of the factory to ask him to make reservations for me. I found out that he had been deported along with many others. All this contributed to the sense of insecurity and the anxiety. I had to consider the meeting was cancelled and could only wait and watch for new developments. I didn't have to wait long.

There was a feeling in the air that war was imminent, but nobody had any idea when it would start. The Russian radio and newspapers were very quiet about it but the whole world around us was heating up under the pressure of the aggressive policies of the Nazis. Just before Hitler invaded Poland, Germany and the Soviet Union signed the infamous Stalin-Hitler non-aggression pact, allowing Hitler to fight anywhere he wanted with the Soviet Union supplying him with needed goods. Probably, the Russians felt that this pact would not last forever, thus tension was always in the air. In the year since the pact had been signed, the number of Russian troops in our area had been growing steadily. Tanks and artillery (under camouflage) were all around and all of us felt that a catastrophe was bearing down upon us. Yet there was no word against Germany from the Russians. As far as they were concerned, they were at peace with Germany, that was secured by this non-aggression pact. On our powerful radio at home, though, I could hear the war news from London that the Germans were concentrating tremendous numbers of troops at the Russian border. Tanks and artillery and armored vehicles could be seen everywhere and were gradually increasing. Still, we were not too badly worried as we did not feel anything would happen for awhile.

I liked to sleep in on Sunday mornings. On Sunday, June 22, Gita got up to get ready for a picnic which she was going on that afternoon with her colleagues from court. Around ten o'clock Gita woke me up and told me that, according to the radio, the Germans had started the war against Russia. I couldn't believe it and continued to sleep until a bomb exploded a couple of blocks away. I didn't need any more proof.

None of this build-up towards the war was ever in the Russian newspapers or on the radio. Up to this day no one knows why. In any case, our whole world was engulfed in war from early morning, June 22. Only at noon did the official Russian radio acknowledge the fact that the Great Fatherland War had started. It was Molotof, Russia's Minister of Foreign Affairs, who transmitted this message to the world.

Thus began a new chapter in our lives and, actually, in the life of the whole world. What to do? Outside in the streets there was a panic. There were already some refugees from the border town of Taurage who had witnessed the first approach of the Germans and were able to escape. People were lining up at the bakeries. Some people tried to buy medications. It was not a big bombardment--only two or three bombs--but it was enough to make everybody understand what was happening.

I did not get in the bread lineup but at the drugstore I bought two things that I thought were important. I bought an old fashioned razor because I felt there would be a shortage of blades. It was quite superfluous since, somehow, there was never any lack of razor blades during the war. I also bought diphtheria serum for my girls. It turned out that these saved Ruth's life later on.

As we were afraid to stay in the city that night in case of night bombardment, we went to Gita's parents' farm in the country--a place called Violka. This place was actually only a couple of kilometers from Shavli. We stayed overnight in the open field. It was a very warm and beautiful night with no signs of war.

In the morning we returned home and, naturally, each of us, Gita and I, ran to our jobs. Nobody expected that the danger was near or that our city could fall very soon. However, around ten in the morning we noticed that the party officials in the factory were starting to disappear and the rumour spread that the communist party was moving out of its headquarters. I went there personally to check the news and it was clear to me then that the brass was moving out very quickly. They seemed very nervous.

When I went home I found Gita there already. It was already obvious that the Russians were abandoning the city. We didn't know at that time how bad the Germans would be later. Not many people, and especially the Jewish people, were ready to leave. Many even preferred Germans to the communists after the events of the previous week and year.

I, personally, had good reason to try to run away because for the last eight years or so, ever since Hitler had come to power, I had boycotted all German goods and chemicals when I was buying for the tannery. During these years many representatives of the German chemical and machine industries had come to us as we were old customers but I had refused to deal with them. That would be, for them, a good reason to put me on the black list. Consequently, I decided we had to move out as soon as possible. My father-in-law, Moses Shifman, gave us a wagon and a horse. As I was not too well acquainted with operating this vehicle a Polish refugee who lived with my father-in-law joined us with his wife. It must have been a grotesque sight. There we were, the wagon filled with all kinds of household goods and, seated on the wagon amidst all this were my mother, the nanny and the two children. The rest of us, Gita, the refugees and I, were walking behind. With that kind of a load the horse could hardly move.

The only direction away from the Germans was the highway north towards Latvia. It was crowded with both Soviet military vehicles and private citizens. Travel was quite slow, especially for our family, as we were walking. It is amazing how inexperienced we were and how little we felt the danger. Instead of all of us sitting in the wagon and getting rid of the goods, we found that we could not part with these things we thought precious.

After we had continued walking a certain time we noticed that all the soldiers had disappeared from the main route and moved into the ditches that bordered the highway on both sides. Then we heard the bombing a couple of kilometers ahead of us. It became impossible to move ahead so we turned off the highway and stopped near a barn a little off the road. From there we saw the German stukas coming in. Suddenly, I noticed one airplane heading straight for the highway in our direction. All of us lay down on the ground but I watched to see what would happen. I saw a plane coming directly toward us and when I lifted my eyes vertically I saw its bombs dropping directly at us. I was sure that these were the last moments of my life. It turned out that the bombs flew, not vertically, but in a curve and they missed us and dropped directly on the highway where so many people were crowded. Some soldiers and civilians were killed and a terrible panic broke out in the area. People abandoned the highway and moved across the fields to a parallel country road.

This country road led to a small town, Ligum, towards which we moved with our wagon along with everyone else. It was getting dark by the time we arrived and the little town was already full of refugees. However, there was a Jewish farmer there who opened his house and treated everyone who came with tea and milk. We decided to stay at his farm until dawn and then continue on our way, but by the time we were ready to start out the next day we heard from people who had gone ahead of us that it was not safe. They had turned back because the road was full of Lithuanian partisans wearing white bands around their arms arresting and killing every Jewish person they found. We couldn't do much about this and, after discussing it, we decided to head back home.

I can still remember how forlorn we felt in the several hours away from home. We had no protection--nothing. It was a terrible feeling which I can't forget up to this day. It was now Tuesday, June 24, and by the time we had travelled the thirty kilometers back to town that area looked altogether different. The town was dead--there was no movement at all. Patrols were stationed at the intersections and wouldn't let anybody through. We were stopped at a corner and the only reason we were finally allowed to pass was because I had my documents with me. When the patrols found that I was a head of the tannery they let us pass.

We were about a block or two away from the factory. When we disembarked it was very quiet all around. We could hear only the noise of the approaching front. The cannonade could be heard a long way off.

The factory was abandoned. Just a small group of the laborers' committee was there to keep an eye on things and we went home. By the next day it was clear that the front was approaching quite fast. Only a few people remained in town. I still managed to go to the headquarters of the Building Trust in hopes of seeing Chaim. When I arrived I found him loading his family, as well as other workers who wanted to move, onto a truck. They wanted to take me with them too but the majority were not willing to wait while I gathered my family. Chaim told me later on that, when passing through Riga, he got in touch with Yaakov and offered to take him and his family with them to Russia, but Yaakov refused. It is too bad that Yaakov was so optimistic. He stayed in Riga, but not very long. The Jewish ghetto in Riga had a very short life. Yaakov and Eva and their son, Zali, as well as Eva's brothers, perished together with all other Jews in Kaiserwald near Riga. They were all killed in 1941.

By Wednesday afternoon it was evident that it was dangerous not only to be outside, but also to stay in our houses. We went, therefore, to Gita's cousin's house, the home of the Peisachovitzes. They had a cellar-like structure which we considered more or less safe and we stayed there the whole night. We could hear the cannonade as well as the cries of the wounded soldiers, especially the burned soldiers in tanks who had been trapped inside. Their moans still appear from time to time in my dreams.

Along with us in the Peisachovitz's home were other members of my family, Wulf Peisachovitz' brother, Chaim, and Chaim's girlfriend, Rachel, who is now living in Montreal. Chaim died several years ago in New York and Rachel has remarried. She married a man called Lapidus. We are in continuous close contact with her. There were a couple of neighbours with us that night as well, but Peisachovitz's mother, Gita's aunt, did not want to stay with us in the cellar-like house. She stayed in her own home and took care of the cows and baking just as if nothing were happening. Late in the evening Wulf Peisachovitz appeared. He was working at the hospital at the time the Germans approached, but he managed to pass through the whole city to join us despite the danger. He had seen the first German cyclists moving through the city and had observed the arrival of the bulk of the Wehrmacht.

The next morning there were a lot of dead Russian soldiers on the streets. On the corners there were large public notices requiring everybody to be quiet and to proceed with their daily work. I was prepared to follow the instructions. However, somebody came running with a message from Shifman's farm. Gita's mother had been hit by a bullet. It turned out that the farm had been in the path of the advancing German patrols and there had been some shooting. The father had been arrested and might have been charged had it not been for the intervention of a German officer who recognized him as an old neighbour.

The officer had previously had a farm in the neighbourhood of Violka but he was a Volksdeutsche (a German national who lives in a foreign country). He had moved to Germany a year earlier to become a Nazi soldier. He recognized Shifman, however, and let him go.

Gita's mother was somehow delivered to the city hospital where she died a couple of days later. At first her injuries did not seem to be too bad. However, being a very sick person she could not withstand the pain and the shock.

Some actions against the Jews started immediately in an unofficial way. Any Jew who was met on the street was taken outside of the city to bury the dead. I wondered what to do about my job. Gita looked like a gentile so she took courage and went to the German commandant who sent her, with a guard, to the factory. There she received a document stating that I was entitled to go to the factory. When I went back the next day the workers' committee was still in charge. From then on they would not let me travel alone in the streets because, not only were there Germans to worry about but, before the Germans initiated any aggressive actions against the Jews, the Lithuanian partisans grabbed any Jews they saw in the street. They also went to Jewish houses and arrested the adult Jews. First the lawyers, the doctors and the rich people were arrested and put in jail, then the others. During these couple of days the partisans grabbed several hundreds of Jewish people before the Germans did anything at all.

Two days later an official representative of the Germans occupied the factory and started to make preparations for resuming work. It turned out that most of the Jewish workers from the tannery had been arrested and only a few were left. As a result, when I was called in to see the German commissioner I told him that we couldn't do anything without getting back the arrested workers. I presented him with a list and around one hundred people were released from prison at his request.

At home, German officers moved into mother's suite. They were pretty good fellows. They took some of our furniture, including the radio and the piano, but offered us a nominal payment for them. In the end, they served as a kind of protection to us. The Lithuanians were afraid to do anything with them around. One night, I remember, I heard some people going in the other suites and picking up our neighbours--Grozdienski and his two sons and Brint and his older son. When they started up the stairs to my suite I heard somebody say, "Don't go here! Here is a good Jew." I never saw any of those who were arrested again.

In the meantime Gita got the message that her mother had died. I couldn't take a chance to go and make arrangements for the funeral. Besides, it was impossible to get a horse and any other type of transportation, but a neighbour of my father-in-law who used to be a driver of a droshka offered his services. It is still not known where in the cemetery Gita's mother is buried. Anyway, it wouldn't make much difference now because, later, the Soviet leaders of the city uprooted the Jewish cemetery and no graves were left, including those of my mother and father.

Everyone was terrified. The Jewish people tried to hide or otherwise remove their families from the path of the storming Lithuanian partisans. Then the Jewish population started to organize and to get in touch with the city officials, Lithuanian as well as German. A Lithuanian who, before the war, was a socialist and a good friend of the Jews, became the new mayor and the first assistant of the German occupiers. Under him, a special department was set up in the city for Jewish affairs. The head of it was a man called Stankus. The rules and regulations from the Germans went via his office. The first thing that we had to do was to wear the yellow stars front and back. Next, we were not allowed to walk on the sidewalks, weren't allowed to buy in the stores, and so on and so on. That, however, was insignificant compared with the ingenious ideas the Nazis were developing behind closed doors--namely, how to arrange for the complete destruction of the local Jewish population.

A committee was finally organized by a number of Jewish leaders who were in contact with the city officials and the German leaders. Heading this committee (or Judenrat) were Mendel Leibovitch, Gita's cousin, and Sartun, a neighbour of ours and a partner of Shifman's. This committee of men undertook the very responsible and dangerous job as go-between for the Jewish population and the German occupiers. Their position was like being between the hammer and the anvil. They carried their assignment out with great courage during the days of the ghetto - right up until their last days. None of them survived. Each perished in his own way.

These things began to happen in July, 1941. Both the Lithuanians and the Germans appeared to be operating quite briskly. Naturally, the Jews were confused during these first days and had no idea what was going to happen to them. Officially, the Jews were first turned over to Stankus. From him all the decrees of the Germans regarding the Jews were passed on to us. There were some plans to evacuate the Jewish population to Zagare not far away from us. The official reason given for this was that the Jews would be more comfortable there. The real reason was that they planned to bring all the Jews together and kill them. The German military was probably interested in keeping some Jewish people in the city because they wanted the economy to continue functioning normally and because they were very interested in keeping the tannery in good condition. The final verdict regarding moving the Jews was that a certain number would be kept in the city and they would be moved to one or two districts which could be segregated and kept under control. Thus ghettos were organized in the districts where the poorest part of the population used to live. They were moved out and the Jews were moved in. One ghetto was called Kavkaz and the other Traku. Both of them were adjacent to the tannery--only a block or two away. Groups organized by Stankus visited Jewish homes with an order for them to move into the ghetto. Atrocities continued every day and some had the impression that it would be safer to move to the ghetto as soon as possible. They were right because finally there was not enough room for everybody in the little houses. People were piled like herring in the ghetto and still there were more people for whom more place had to be found. The left-over people were finally transported to Zagare where, on a certain day at the end of July, they were surrounded and destroyed by machine guns.

All this going back and forth took about two months. By August 31 the ghettos were closed. We were put in a little house in Traku which had two rooms and a kitchen. In one room were Gita, the two children, myself, Wulf Peisachovitz, and a young girl. My father-in-law, Moses Shifman also lived with us. In the other room were a family of four--a tailor, his wife and their two grown children. My mother stayed in their room. Mother was sick at that time and had to stay in bed. Her sickness started in July when we were still in our house. Mother came down with a high temperature and we called Wulf. He examined her thoroughly and said she had a cold and that it was nothing serious. However, when he was through he called me out of the room and told me he had found she had cancer of the liver. This cancer was the size of a pea but Wulf found it without the help of X-rays or anything. Mother never properly recovered and stayed in bed in the ghetto until the cancer enveloped her intestines. She was in terrible pain. Again, I was the one who treated her to the last. She died on the Saturday before Passover, Shabbat Haggadol, in 1942. We managed to arrange a proper funeral and mama was buried next to my father. Later, as I said, the graveyard was destroyed. Chaim Hirshovitz, whom I met in France this summer, said he was in Russia at the time the graveyard was destroyed and he decided he would try to move his father's grave. He was given no assistance and had to remove the remains bone by bone himself. It was a terrible experience for him.

The luckiest Jews were the ones who worked in the tannery, as they had some protection against both the Nazis and the Lithuanians. There were also other places in and around town where Jews continued to work. We all used to go to the ghetto gates each morning and from there, groups accompanied by guards would fan out to these different places. We were led in columns to and from work, walking not on the sidewalks but down the middle of the street. This was to demonstrate our inferiority as well as to make it easier for the Germans to guard us.

I was still afraid of Jocas. I thought, "Now that the Germans have come he will take his revenge." Still nothing happened. We were led back and forth to work as usual and I did not see him.

That winter was very cold. One day in January of 1942, while we were being led to the factory, the column stopped and there, on the sidewalk next to me, was Jocas. He asked how I was doing. I said I was not doing very well, that there was nothing to eat and I was very cold. He told me not to worry and said that he would help me but I thought, "the best way you can help me is to forget about me."

The ghetto where we lived was surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by German sentries. Food was very scarce. We were cold and hungry. Then one day in January Jocas sent a message to me telling me to wait for him near the barbed wire that night at eight o'clock. I went. It was a bitterly cold night but I waited and, when the sentries were some distance away, Jocas came with a sleigh and began throwing things over the barbed wire. There was meat, butter and all kinds of food we hadn't seen for months.

This food kept me, Gita and our children alive and lasted for a long time. After that, at certain intervals, Jocas would bring more food, despite the fact that this was dangerous for him. Much later, in 1942 or 1943, I met Jocas himself and had the opportunity to talk to him. I told him then of how I had been afraid of him because I had been the one to fire him from the factory. He replied that I had had a good reason to do so. "But I never forgot what you did for me by hiring me when I was in need," he told me. We established a way at that meeting to contact each other as Jocas, since shortly after the German takeover, was no longer at the factory.

He used to go to the country to get meat and other foods to sell--at good prices--in the city. This is how he survived, though his activities were illegal under the Germans. He was, as it turned out, a man I could trust. In fact, this man turned out to be a very wonderful person who was devoted to our family and was ready to sacrifice even his own life for us.

Everyone felt that to be secure he had to be attached to a job. Due to my position in the tannery I had no problems, which was my good luck. The German directors respected me. I had permission to go to the director's office at any time. The first director appointed to head the tannery was a man by the name of Mueller - a very handsome man who couldn't have cared less about politics. His only ambition was to make money. Many of our Jewish co-workers ingratiated themselves with him and made him whatever he wanted - leather suitcases, handbags, etc. Due to this supply of leather, Mueller became a powerful person in the city since the Germans had a very great admiration for all things leather, especially in war time. High ranking Nazis and German officials had to go to him for leather goods.

As a person, Mueller was very likeable and a straightforward businessman. One day I just happened to be in his office when somebody came running with a message that the ghetto was surrounded. Trucks were entering through the gates and men had begun pulling people out of their homes indiscriminately and loading them on the trucks. Mueller picked up the phone immediately and called Gewecke who was the Gebiets Commissar (area commander) and told him he wanted to talk to him immediately and to wait there for him. Then he took his car and went to the leather warehouse and picked up a quantity of high boots. He left there immediately. When he came back to the tannery he told me he had gone first to the gates of the ghetto and had given a pair of boots to each of the guards and drivers and told them not to move until after he returned. Then he went to the Commissar and gave him all the rest of the boots on condition that he stop the removal of the people from the ghetto immediately. He explained to Gewecke that many people in the ghetto were members of his workers' families who needed protection. He promised to supply him with a list of their names. Mueller told his secretary to get the names of family members of all his workers and ordered special certificates to be given to them so that these people would be under the protection of the tannery. Naturally, everybody's families grew suddenly larger. Friends and relatives were thus put under the protection of the tannery for a time, which stopped the extermination of the ghetto. Without Mueller's actions everyone would have died right then.

Later on, after the war, Gewecke was arrested and charged for his atrocities in the ghetto. He was charged for an incident when a Jew of Shavli, one of our neighbours, was hanged in public because he was found carrying a couple of packages of cigarettes. I was called as a witness to Lubeck about ten years ago. My testimony turned out to be the decisive factor in his sentence. All witnesses were actually Jews--prisoners of the Germans. They had no access to the high offices and had no way of knowing who was the person who gave the order to hang Mazavetzky. However, my story about the fact that Gewecke stopped the evacuation of the ghetto was proof that he had the power to stop the hanging as well. I later received a copy of the court's ruling and there it was stated that my testimony was the reason for the sentence. The sentence was a mere four years in prison but he could have escaped retribution altogether.

Mueller didn't remain as director of the tannery for very long. Two others were appointed in his place, Reinert and Kaiser. These men were in charge until the Germans had evacuated. A man called Siegel was appointed as technical director. I did the work, but he was officially the superintendent.

As a superintendent, Siegel's main duty was to get enough help and supervise the workers. At the beginning, most of the workers were the old-timers--Lithuanian people. Being excited about the German occupation, about the handling of the Jews by the Germans and by the fact that the money paid was decreasing in value, they were not too interested in their jobs and their production fell from day to day. This was good for the Jewish population in the ghetto because they were needed in large numbers. They didn't have to be paid and they needed the protection that being useful to the tannery gave them. As a result, there were Jews all over the place. They were, naturally, not interested in producing too much and had to be supervised very strictly in order to get them to do their work. Siegel was the one who was after them. He used to go from one department to the other and beat up the guilty ones but he didn't kill anybody. We had telephones in all departments and I was always watching Siegel so I could phone ahead to warn the workers what direction he was going in.

Siegel was a slim, agile man in his forties. He had a small mustache that made him appear similar to Hitler. My relationship with him was very good because I did everything he wanted. He had the idea that he was a great scientist and tried to introduce new methods of tanning which he thought would save millions of marks for the Reich. He used to discuss these new methods with me first and Isya Shapiro and I used to have to analyze the results of the experiments. We had enough worries without that so we didn't bother with them. Knowing in advance what Siegel expected, we used to present him with the results he wanted. The alcohol we saved was used to prepare Vodka and other drinks for us or to swap for food.

Siegel had good relations with the German high echelon and one time I had the opportunity to prove it when Burgin, the second in command of the Judenrat, was suddenly arrested. The Judenrat had no way to get to the top so they called me and wanted me to try the influence of Siegel. They gave me two diamond rings, one for Siegel to try to free this man and the other for the man who handled Burgin's case. The next day Burgin was free.

Siegal could have looked back on the period he spent in Shavli with a clear conscience but he showed his real character on the eighth of July, 1944, when, during the unrest at the factory, he shot two Jewish boys and two Jewish women. It was not his duty, as technician, and was not necessary. Had he been engaged by the Germans as a guard it might have been excusable: it would have been his duty because the four Jews were trying to escape. However, as a technician he didn't have to kill the innocent. Later on, when I was a free man in Germany, I set myself a goal--to find Siegal and to have him put in jail.

One of my protegÈs at that time was Isya Shapiro, a school friend of mine who now resides in Israel. I met him in the ghetto. He was very worried about what to do. I took him in as a laboratory technician.

The Jews in the factory did not get any pay. Officially, the ghetto committee was to be given some food but it was very little so everyone had to fend for himself. Everybody had to look for a source of income. Many managed to steal some leather and swap it for food. This food had to be smuggled out of the factory and into the ghetto. Everybody was searched at the gates when leaving the tannery and again when entering the ghetto.

There were some guards who were not so bad and who would take bribes. These were the good guards. There were some who were Jew haters by conviction. These were the most dangerous ones. Some people used to throw their packages over the barbed wire when these guards were on duty. This was all very risky and no day went by without its victims. If anyone was caught with food he was sent to jail right away without any chance of returning.

My "source of income" was alcohol. I convinced the directors that I needed five liters of pure alcohol a month for analytic purposes. This was approved by the higher echelons of the Wehrmacht. Not one drop of it was used for analysis. It was very well used to make Vodka and liqueurs which were held in high esteem by my Lithuanian colleagues. They used to trade meat, bread and butter for my product. Isya, being a pharmacist, had very good recipes for liqueurs and we used to actually drink quite a bit ourselves at that time. We felt, at that time, very much subdued and nobody knew what the next day would bring. I had no appetite and couldn't eat anything. Gita was the one who suggested first that I have a good drink in the morning as that would give me an appetite.

I had another source of income. It was Methylene Blue, a dye stuff used to make ink. One Lithuanian manufacturer in town needed this dye badly so I used to order this through the management of the factory and a good friend of mine would exchange it for a good price. Thus I had my own private income.

The next question was: "How to bring the butter and other articles into the ghetto?" From a certain point in the factory we could see our attic window in the ghetto. When it was time to go home and a "good" guard was on duty at the gate, Gita would appear in the window in a white kerchief to let me know it was safe. When a bad guard was on duty, she wore a red kerchief. Thus I had more or less of a warning. Even so, as time went on, I didn't feel very happy about carrying these things into the ghetto, so I made a deal with a friend of mine, Fabelinsky. We divided the proceeds fifty-fifty - half for me for procuring it and half for him for carrying it in to the ghetto. Fabelinsky is now living in New York.

Now these "earnings" were not a steady source of income and every day we had to devise new ways of getting food. One of the devices was to trade our clothes, furs, jewelry, etc., with the Lithuanians living in town and get food in return. When the time had come to move to the ghetto, most Jews left their more valuable belongings with their Lithuanian acquaintances in town and hoped to get the things back from them in case of need. To do this we had to get into town to pick the stuff up. That was Gita's job. She had to get out of the ghetto unnoticed by the guards, take off her yellow star and walk on the sidewalk as a Lithuanian. That was very dangerous and Gita was very courageous. She did this quite often. Sometimes she came back with what she had wanted to get or else she exchanged it immediately for food. She had a coat with a fur band down the front and from time to time she would fill this band with eggs. Some of the Lithuanians were very kind people and when Gita went to collect something they were friendly to her. Some, however, threatened to call the Gestapo and she had to run away. The pharmacist, Aksenavicius, who had my mother's and father's fur coats and silver, never let Gita in. Probably, he and his family are living somewhere in America now.

The columns of workers were searched not only at the gates of the ghetto but were often stopped in the middle of the street before ever getting there. These searches were carried out mostly by high-ranking German officials. It was in one of these cases that Mazavetzky was arrested and hanged for having two packages of cigarettes. It was a public hanging and all of us were forced to watch.

It was a terrible time and there was not a day without bad news. The Germans constantly put new requirements on the ghetto inhabitants. Sometimes we were told to give them all copper and other metal dishes, sometimes they demanded all gold savings. Each order was accompanied by searches and arrests. Several times our identity cards had to be exchanged and during this process some sick and elderly people were removed. Some small factories were liquidated and the Jewish workers who were employed in them were left without protection. Sometimes new groups were created and removed from the ghetto to work in other places like the airport, a new glass factory or a brick factory. In this respect, I was in a good position compared to the others. My job saved me. Because of it, no one was allowed to touch me. Later on Gita was also attached to the factory and we used to go to work together and return together to the ghetto at night. My father-in-law and the two girls stayed at home.

For a certain time it looked as if the situation had stabilized and some kind of normal situation had been established. Still, every day, there was something to worry about. On one occasion there was real danger to me when a number of people in the factory and the city were poisoned with methyl alcohol.

To get chemicals for the tanning process we used to write orders to the central warehouse for the materials we needed. One day I needed a drum of sulphuric acid and I wrote out a requisition to the chemical warehouse. By mistake they sent methyl alcohol and when the workers opened the drum they were surprised that it had a pleasant smell similar to Vodka. They forgot about the sulphuric acid and immediately concentrated on ways and means of getting hold of the precious liquor. To get it out of the premises they had to put it in pails, one of which they gave to the guard at the gates. The rest they smuggled into town where they sold it on the Black Market for a good price. The result was tragic. Twenty-two people died of poisoning and several became blind. I was frightened because of this incident because I was the one who had written the order. It would have been easy to accuse me of the whole thins. Fortunately, I didn't have any personal enemies who would have thought to point to finger at me. I was lucky this time too.

In 1943 the occupying Germans were at their most vicious. During the interval between the time the Germans occupied Lithuania and the year 1943, the whole war situation changed very much. The Germans were at that time in retreat after the tremendous debacle at Stalingrad. Previous to that time they had occupied a great part of Russia up to the Caucasus. Now they were in complete retreat on all fronts. At that time it was already known that they had hundreds of concentration camps where prisoners--especially Jews--were put to death. It became more and more clear that Hitler was determined to realize his dream to exterminate all the Jews the way he visualized in his book Mein Kampf.

At that time the SS took over the management of the Jews and we started to hear rumours that in other ghettos terrible actions had taken place--a lot of shooting and, worst of all, so-called "children's aktions". We heard that in some places they surrounded the ghetto and took away all old people and children. We were very worried and began to look around for places to hide Moses Shifman and the girls. Gita arranged a place for her father. A neighbour of his, a middle age woman named Barbara who lived in a farmhouse together with her brother, Pranas, promised, in case of need, to accommodate him in exchange for his farm. He did not go there immediately, however.

It was very hard to find a place for the girls because the Jewish police had strict control of the population. They were threatened with punishment themselves if anyone left and, naturally, it was a big risk for the Lithuanians to hide Jewish children. They could pay with their own lives.

Ruth was a quiet girl but Tamara was nervous and excitable. She often used to wake up in the middle of the night crying out loud. Jocas was the only one who said he would accommodate one of them. However, we were scared to take the chance.

In the meantime I thought about arranging a hiding place for the girls in the ghetto. I figured that the only place for this purpose would be our woodshed. In the evenings, when nobody was around, I moved the chopped wood in the shed away from the wall, leaving a space behind it that could just accommodate the girls. I planned, if necessary, to give them sleeping pills to keep them quiet there. Of course, I would have to be around to be able to hide them

On November 3, 1943, the worst day of all arrived. The morning of that day began normally. Everyone was ready to go to work but, for some reason, the gates opened one half hour later than usual. This was a sign that something was happening. We couldn't even imagine the great tragedy that was arriving. After the gates opened, Gita and I left with the column to the tannery while the two children stayed with their grandfather.

During the following hours the news was spread that the ghetto was surrounded and something was happening there. Only later in the day was it established that the children were being removed from every house. A terrible stupor descended on everybody. We moved as though under hypnosis, knowing that we couldn't do a thing about it. We tried to get Reinert to intervene with the high authorities but he refused.

The Jewish workers pretended to work but everybody was absorbed in his own thoughts. No attempts were made to break out of the factory. Everyone was thinking about his own family and hoping that his children would somehow be spared. The hours dragged endlessly until, finally, the whistle sounded that the working day was over.

On coming back to the ghetto in the evening, we found the Nazis at the gates. They grabbed some Jewish children who were mixed in the column. It was a dark night for all of us. Eight hundred and twenty-three children were removed. Gita and I rushed breathlessly to our house. There we found Gita's father and with him, miraculously, was Ruth. There was no Tamara.

The story was as follows: in the morning the ghetto was surrounded and the Ukrainian collaborators of the Nazis started to check every house and to remove the children and the old people. My father-in-law took the two girls and hid them in Wulf's house under a bed and told them not to move until he came to get them. He himself hid in another place. Maybe because of the fact that the house was Wulf's and he was a bachelor nobody went there to search. So the whole day passed and nobody found the girls. When they heard later on, around four or five o'clock, that the ghetto had become quiet they decided to leave the house. The streets of the ghetto were empty at that time and they just walked on the street. The sentry on the tower of the jail not far away noticed them and notified the Germans about the two girls walking around. They were picked up immediately and taken to the gates where the last truck was ready to pull out. The officers grabbed both of them and put them in the truck. However, both girls were removed again from the truck and an argument ensued between Wulf Peisachovitz who, as ghetto doctor, was present there, and the Nazi Commandant, Foerster. Finally, Ruth remained outside and Tamara was put back in the truck and removed with the other children.

Wulf was known as the best doctor of the city. He used to treat the ghetto patients but, in serious cases, he was called to Lithuanian or German patients as well. The authorities frowned on this, but in certain cases allowed him to leave the ghetto. A couple of months earlier this same Foerster became very ill and nobody could help him so they called Wulf and, by some miracle, in a couple of days Foerster felt better and soon recovered. He was grateful to Wulf and told him that, if in need, Wulf should call on him. Now, at the truck, when the doctor saw the two girls being brought to the gates, he approached Foerster and reminded him of his promise. He told him that the two children were his illegitimate daughters and asked him to keep them alive. Foerster finally agreed to leave Ruth out of the truck because, "She is old enough to work," as he said. But Wulf didn't manage to save Tamara.

Very few children managed to escape the Nazis. One of the lucky ones was Ruth. She was then seven years old. Tamara was was four.

All night long we could hear wailing from every house. Each was powerless to express his grief and was completely forlorn. We were just sitting there, our working boots, dirty with the mud through which we had walked from work, still on our feet.

Now the question arose about what to do about Ruth. We had a feeling that all was not over yet and decided that the first thing to do was to remove her from the ghetto the next morning and hide her until we found a place for her. We managed to take her next morning to the factory. Several adults surrounded her so the sentries did not notice her. We arranged a hiding place for her between piles of sacks of various materials in the building next door to the laboratory. It was a stinky place because some of the materials stored in the sacks were plates of glue. We built a hiding place with sacks and Ruth and Gita stayed there for several days until we found another place for Ruth. There was no shortage of rats, but that didn't bother them.

We tried to contact Jocas but he was somewhere in the country. Miraculously, we found another place for Ruth quite fast. It's too bad that this was a result of somebody else's tragedy, that of the daughter of an acquaintance of ours, Zilberman. This girl's parents had secured a place for her to hide, but they didn't arrange to remove her from the ghetto soon enough and she was grabbed by the Germans. Felia told us who the woman was who had agreed to hide her. Her name was Ona Regauskiene and she agreed to take care of Ruth.

Ona was a schoolteacher in a country school situated not far away--about ten kilometers from the city. She was of outstanding beauty. She had lovely large eyes and long brown hair that was braided and curled about her head. Her whole personality exuded a wonderful charm. She treated what she did for Ruth as though it were an everyday occurrence. We asked her what we had to pay her but she didn't want anything. She lived in a house with her husband, Antanas, and their daughter who was approximately the same age as Ruth, Grazinute. Ona's husband was also a schoolteacher. They were very religious Catholics and it seems they did what they felt every Christian should do.

Before parting, we gave Ona the address of my sisters in Moscow and those of some of our relatives in the United States, as well as the address of Gita's sister, Blimrit, in Israel. We did not expect to survive the war and asked Ona to get in touch with these people if Ruth survived. We gave her some valuables, gold and diamonds, that we had available. She didn't want to take them, but said she would keep them for Ruth. Later, when we had survived the war, she wanted to return these to us, but we wouldn't take them.

Ona's home was very close to the highway. The process of transferring Ruth from the factory to her place was quite complicated. It wouldn't have been possible without the help of Jocas, who, in the meantime, had come home. He smuggled Ruth out of the tannery and kept her overnight in his house, then brought her to the home of Dr. Jasaitis. From there Ona picked her up as her daughter who was at the doctor's house as though she had been a patient. Gita arranged all these things by going several times to Jasaitis' and also contacting Ona.

Ruth spoke Lithuanian pretty well but she still had a Jewish accent because we talked Yiddish at home. As a result, Ona, on bringing the girl home, couldn't keep her in the open and kept her hidden in a clothes closet for a good couple of months until they improved her accent. Finally, when they decided that the time was right to appear in the open, Ona devised a way to introduce Ruth in the house and to the neighbours. The story she told was that she had a sister somewhere in Saunas who was very sick and Ona had decided to take her girl to her house. Then they--Ruth and Ona--left the house under cover and came back later on in a droshka with Ruth officially as her niece. Ruth understood all this and kept still and was treated as an equal by everyone. Ona and Antanas, who is very ill now, still live in Shavli. Through all the years since then we have had intermittent contact with them and still have at the present time.

It took a long time before the ghetto settled down a little after that tragedy. We didn't want to believe that the children had been taken to an extermination carp. The question was only, "Where did they take them?" Apparently somebody noticed the children in train cars with the name Auschwitz written on them, a name we hadn't heard before. Then the speculation started. What kind of place was Auschwitz? The official version was that it was something like a camp or colony.

A wave of mysticism came over the ghetto after that. Many people tried to invoke spirits of ancestors by various means. The more popular way of talking to the unknown was talking through "the table". For this purpose, which I participated in myself, a small wooden table with no nails was needed. Four people would sit around the table and put their hands on it. First the table was asked simple questions like, "Do I have three marks in my pocket or four?" or, "Do I have one brother, two brothers or three brothers?" The table answered by tipping. If the answer was two, for instance, it would tip twice. Having established the table's reliability by these simple questions which could be answered immediately, we would ask the major question. It is amazing how the table always gave correct answers to the simple questions. All answers to our questions about Auschwitz were optimistic and that gave us a little relief. The truth was much different. We found out the real truth only later on when Auschwitz was captured from the Germans by the advancing Red Army.

The Russian army occupied the place during the offensive and they found out, and informed the whole world of the fact, that this was an extermination camp where millions of Jewish people—men, women, and children--were put to death in gas chambers and their bodies burned in the furnaces. It was hard to believe these stories and we still clung to the hope that Tamara was alive.

I contacted, first by letter, the Russian writer and broadcaster, Ielya Evenburg, who, at that time, had great influence in high communist circles. I asked him to arrange permission for me to go to the front to investigate.

Later on, when I was in Moscow in 1945, I visited him personally. As well, I visited the leader of the anti-fascist committee, the poet, Mechoels. By that time, both of them knew the whole truth. Neither was in any position to arrange a permit for me and both, moreover, discouraged me to go. They knew the tragic truth and that there were no survivors.

All evening during this period most of the houses were half dark as people tried to invoke the spirits and the next morning the conversation was about what the table had told us.

Even in her improved situation Ruth's life didn't go too smoothly. Sometime in the winter she got sick and, as they were afraid to call an official doctor, they called a Jewish doctor who was hiding in a neighbouring place with a Catholic priest where he worked as a farm hand. The doctor established that Ruth had diphtheria and needed the serum--only that would help her.

When Antanas brought us the message about the diphtheria I had the medicine handy, hidden in my place. That was another miracle. A couple of times Gita took off her yellow star and went to see Ruth and I also was there to bring them supplies like medicine that I was able to get through my connections.

Our next problem was to move Gita's father to his hiding place. This problem was getting more and more urgent because the general situation of the war had changed dramatically. In 1943, after the Battle of Stalingrad, the German army started to retreat. The front was still thousands of miles away from us, but we were hopeful that they would finally be defeated. Officially it was forbidden to us to have any radios or to listen to a radio. But there were still some hidden in the ghetto and many Jews heard the latest news from their Lithuanian colleagues at work. Also, people who cleaned and repaired the houses of the Nazis used to bring the news directly from BBC. Every day we got the BBC news somehow and every day we knew the situation. Now, as Ruth was more or less secure, Gita and I had to look for a way to, first, get her father out of the ghetto and, second, escape ourselves. We couldn't go away and leave her father. He was not too anxious to move because he had already gotten used to the situation there but he finally consented to go to Barbara's, a former neighbour of his, as soon as we found a way to get him there.

After that we started to look around for a place for ourselves to hide. We did not actually make any decision where to go. The only thing we decided was to take the first opportunity to run away from the ghetto. It was not a simple matter because the authorities threatened that, if anyone ran away, they would shoot the members of the family remaining and all the people who lived together with those who ran.

After the children's action we left the previous house and went to a neighbouring one where we had new roommates. There we lived in one room with several others. Doctor Camber slept in the bunk above us and Doctor Ganbin was in another bed with his wife - all five of us in one tiny room. In the next room was Meishele Shapiro and his wife and sister-in-law as well as Doctor Rosenthal and Doctor Feinberg and his wife. In the kitchen were my father-in-law and a refugee from Poland, Levazer. Most were old friends and we had a great time in relaxation. We played gin rummy and poker, with a look-out being constantly on watch to see if the police were coming to check. (It was against the law to gamble.) Gita and I were anxious to run away. However we could not do so as this would cause suffering to these friends of ours. But we decided to be ready at all times to make an escape if there should be a general riot or upheaval. That way we would involve no one else. We could just disappear in the middle of a riot. With this plan in mind, we divided our "assets"--some gold, some jewelry, some money--between us and kept it on our bodies day and night - at home or at work. It turned out to be a good idea as will be apparent later.

A great impression was made on all involved by the V-Day news of June 6, 1944, that the Allied Forces had started a second front with the Germans. They had crossed the channel from Britain to occupied France under the command of General Eisenhower. It was an invasion involving thousands of ships, tens of thousands of planes, tanks and landing equipment and millions of men. Meanwhile the Russians continued their offensive in the east.

As you know, Germany was not alone in the war. She had allies. It was a world war which actually involved the whole planet. Hitler had two allies, Italy and Japan. Italy, operating in North Africa and Southern Europe, was not successful at all and was defeated by the British first in Africa and then in Europe. Actually, Italy was a burden to the Germans. Japan, on the other hand, was very successful. It started the war with the United States in December, 1941, by the attack on Pearl Harbour and, after that, Germany declared war on America. Thus the war spread everywhere.

For the first two years Germany was unbelievably successful. It occupied with its Blitzkrieg (literally translated, "lightening war") all of Europe and all of Russia up to where the German army was stopped close to Moscow. It surrounded Leningrad and moved south to the Caucasus with its oil fields. There, at the Volga, a great confrontation with the Russian army, under Commander Zukov, took place near Stalingrad. In the Battle of Stalingrad, several hundred thousand Germans perished and about three hundred thousand German prisoners were taken. With that, and with German defeats in Africa, the tide turned. That was the situation on the Eastern Front. On the Western Front there was very little activity to compare with that of the east. At the beginning of 1943 the whole burden, in terms of loss of human life, was on the Russians while the United States turned its whole economy into producing war machinery. They supplied the majority of war materials, including food, to the Russians.

England was only involved in bombings. Daily and nightly hundreds of planes used to leave British territories and bomb cities in Germany and in occupied countries. Stalin was very upset with the inactivity of his allies and insisted that the Americans and British open another front directly on German-occupied soil. Not before June 1944, however, did the big V-Day invasion of France, involving America, Britain and their allies, finally start. From that moment on Germany had to fight both east and west and that accelerated the advance of the Russian troops and the liberation of their homeland.

We followed the happenings of the war very closely and in the spring of 1944 we felt it was time for papa to move. With the help of Fabelinsky, a close friend of mine, we arranged to get papa out. Fabelinsky knew all the ins and outs of the tannery and arranged for papa to leave the ghetto territory and go to a hidden corner of the factory grounds where Barbara waited. It was not too dangerous for papa to travel because he looked like a farmer and spoke Lithuanian perfectly. By July the front appeared to be very close to our area and the tension was great. The situation in our ghetto became very tense and everyone was afraid that some drastic measures by the Germans were on the horizon.


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