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[Page 255]

Chapter 23

After the Ghetto

Question: Our group, we were sent from Ponevezh to Siauliai, another city, where we met a group. Then they were starting to send us to Germany, to Stutthof. So we were in those cattle wagons, and-probably from Schindler's List, you know this part-somehow a group of wagons were held and sent back. One part went to Auschwitz, and apparently I was in the wagon that wasn't. So again, we were in the little tents in the fields, also working, digging the ditches for the Germans. The war was going on, and they needed, for the soldiers to hide, ditches. That's what we were used for. So every day, we were gathered and checked; everybody was checked. It's close to Danzig, which is part of Poland. We didn't know the day, and we didn't know the place. We knew nothing. We had no connection to anything.

Question: Was this near the end of the war already? Were the Germans starting to retreat?

Question: They started to retreat already, and they needed shelter for the soldiers. So that's what we were digging the ditches for. If you stopped to rest, the question was “Willst du nicht, oder kannst du nicht?” “You don't want to work, or you don't know how to do it?” If you didn't want, they gave you a reason so you wanted. So I'm making it short because....

Question: What are you leaving out?

Question: I am looking in my mind where I am there. That was going on for months, a few months. It was the winter months. We dug the ditches, and the snow came in, a big snowstorm. The food was just a little soup with whatever you'd find: a piece of potato, a piece of bread. And then one day, they started to liquidate again. The Russian front

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was coming closer. So I had a friend, Henne, a woman friend, and we decided-we already knew somehow what was going on, where they were taking us. So we decided that we would escape. There was a big barn, where you keep the hay. When we were supposed to go out, myself and Henneleh, we hid; and instead of going with the group, we remained, and we started on our own. And that's a different chapterhow we survived, the two of us.

Question: Okay, go ahead. How did you escape?

Question: In Stutthof when we arrived, you had to undress and leave your clothes, and they sent you for a cleaning. You have to have a shower, a bath. And when they sent us to the showers, they also checked everywhere that we didn't hide any gold. The men were doing it. When we came out, they gave us a bundle of clothes. A woman that was tall, she got the clothes from a little woman. I got a coat from a man, a warm coat. And they also cut the hair off some of the women. When we looked at ourselves, no matter what, we laughed. That coat was a great help to me. Henne was a dressmaker, so she made little boots from the stuffing. We had those coats, and we had the yellow star on the back. She also cut out that star, and she turned it around to the inside, so when the two of us escaped, we said we were not Jewish-she was very dark, a real Jewish type-and that we were Lithuanian refugees, and we were running with the crowd. So that's how we escaped.

The two of us left the barn on our own. I did not have any shoes at all. So we stopped at a farm, and they gave us something to eat. When we walked out, there were some boots in the hall, and so we stole the boots. [Giggles] Henne stole one, and I stole the other one, so I would have something to wear on my feet. It was the winter, and the ice was slippery. So anyway, we stole the boots, and the two of us started wandering by ourselves. When we stopped in a few places, the war front was close. There were already a lot of Russian women and soldiers. We hid in a barn among the cows, and suddenly, we heard the Russians shouting that if there was somebody alive in the barn, to get out before the barn was destroyed. So we went out, and we were with the Russians. We met a group of Russian women. You know the soldiers-we were brought to

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a certain place, and the soldiers were so anxious, you know. Even if they saved you, they had their personal desires. So there was a big Russian woman who just covered me. [Giggles] Then with Henne, they...

Then a bomb hit that particular place, and Henne and I lost each other. After a few days, somehow we met again. We were together again. In some of the places, we stayed with the Russian women. They had us working in the hospitals, like peeling potatoes or something, whatever they needed for the hospital. There was a group of women, and one day I was sitting, and the women among themselves, the Russian women, were talking that there was a Jewish woman. The Germans took her out, and they killed her.

Question: They didn't know you were Jewish?

Question: They didn't know. I spoke Lithuanian. We said that we were Lithuanian women, and that we were running with the crowd. And then I met another woman, and she was from the same section and the same area ofLithuania where I came from. One day, we heard that the war had ended. This woman knew Jack; she knew about him from the gymnasia. So we decided to go back to Lithuania.

The liquidation of the whole Jewish population of Abel was in 1941, on August 25. The place was Antanose, three miles behind Abel. I was there after the war, coming back from the concentration camp. My desire was to find out if there were any survivors from my family. I came back to Abel. I walked in our house. I looked around the house. The pictures on the wall, the big dock, the furniture-everything was the same as when I was growing up. However, a family of Lithuanians were the new owners! I did not identify myself I ran out of the house. I cried like an ox. When I woke up, I found myself in the house of our maid with cold-towel compresses on my head. I left Abel and came to Kovno.

When I came to my brother's house in Kovno, I saw the same picture. Lithuanian murderers lived in the house and in the rental stucco building where I lived with my brother in Kovno when I went to gymnasia. I knew the section so well, on top of a hill with a view of the city.

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Now the Lithuanian murderers were the new occupiers of my brother's property.

One day in Kovno, as I was walking on the street Laisvess Aleja, a soldier stopped me and asked, “Are you Golda Chaitoviciute?” He said, “Don't you recogonize me...”

I said, “No.”

“I am your teacher Yakov Rassen, Jakobus Raseinas. I am coming back from the woods to find someone I knew. My family and children were liquidated in the Dvinsk ghetto in Latvia. I am the only survivor of my family and, I think, of my birth town, Pumpyan. I am on my way to Pumpyan to see if anyone survived-our home and our properties.”

These were the words of my husband. He took my hand and took care of me from the moment he met me until the day he died.
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