"The first story that
Nina told me of her time in the Kovno Ghetto was about the selections made
near the IXth fort on Oct. 28th, 1941. All the Jews were told
to report there, but Nina’s mother was too ill to go so she decided to put
a note on the door that the people who had been there had left. Nina and
her grandmother went to the selections and were saved. When they returned
to their rooms, Bertha was not there so they searched for her.
Finally someone told them that the Nazis came and took her mother away,
She was found dead in the square and was buried there. That is how Bertha
Levine died. Nina’s grandmother, Helena Rabinovitch Lewin, used to tell
Nina that she was young and would survive the war. She did, but Helena
Lewin died in her sleep on Jan. 21, 1942 at approximately eighty-three
years of age from exposure and hunger. Nina recorded the deaths of her
mother and grandmother at Yad Vashem in 1974.
In the ghetto, Nina was working in a sewing room where
women were taking apart German soldiers’ uniforms so that they could be
made into clothes for civilians. While there, the Nazis came around
looking for a volunteer who spoke German, Lithuanian, and Russian, which
she did. Nina said that she learned never to volunteer, because the
Germans would come around looking for volunteers, for example doctors, and
they would take them all and execute them. This time however. Someone volunteered Nina, but this may have saved her life because she
went to work for a German officer, whose name was Matthias I think, and he
was a decent man who treated the Jews very well. For the rest of her life, Nina
hated anything to do with sewing.
While in the ghetto, Nina worked
for the underground, but she didn’t talk very much about that. Gita
Abramson has written about her experiences with Nina and how they escaped
together to spend the last few weeks of the war with the Partisans. They
were saved by Mania Lishinzke, who risked her life and the life of her family
members, and she is now listed as a Righteous Gentile in Yad Vashem. While
with the partisans, they spent much time hidden in underground shelters to
hide from the Germans. As they liquidated the Ghetto in July 1944, the
Germans burnt the Ghetto, as well as the underground hiding places, and
some people were burned alive. Nina said that the smell of the burning
flesh was something that never left you. Since that time, I think that she also suffered
A name that Nina often mentioned
was Peter Simonellis. I believe his family helped her at some point. In
the 1980’s the family lived in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, and I know that Nina
used to visit them and often spoke of them with gratitude."
Isaac Kot, the
son of another partisan, visited Kovno with his father in 1995, and was
told by his father then about the selection process.
"In 1995, I went to Kovno with my father. One of the places we went to was
a field about a mile or so away from the IXth fort. The field was called
Democratic Place. Under the rouse of a census, every Jew in the Ghetto was
required to come to Democratic Place at 6 a.m. The people stood there
almost all day. Finally, in the late afternoon everyone was marched
before two Nazi officers. My father always mentioned that one of the Nazis
was eating a sandwich while deciding who would live and who would die that
day. As the Jews walked by they were told to go to the right or left. One
side was to be taken to the IXth fort, the others back to their homes in
the Ghetto. Approximately 12,000 of the 36,000 remaining Jews in the
Ghetto were murdered that day and the next. My grandparents and their
siblings and most of their families were killed on October 28, 1941."
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