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Ghettos: A Lithuanian Woman Doctor on the Jews in the Kovno Ghetto

(October 15, 1941)

Announcement in the Lithuanian language:

"Although sensible people, and they include the very great majority of the Lithuanian people, avoid contact with Jews, it can be observed that the Jews who leave the ghetto daily for work and return there succeed in establishing contacts with individual Lithuanian citizens. Therefore: 1. It is hereby forbidden to non-Jewish residents to maintain any form of relations whatsoever with Jews, even any simple conversation between a non-Jew and a Jew. It is forbidden to sell, exchange, or make a gift of any foodstuffs or any goods; it is forbidden altogether to trade with Jews. 2. The German Police and the Lithuanian Auxiliary Police have ordered that all contact between non-Jews and Jews be cut off. Any person contravening this Order will be severely punished." A threat to think about. Thousands of people humiliated, without any protection, worse than animals, and all that because they have "other blood."... October 30 Again (10.28), 10,000 people have been taken out of the ghetto to die. They selected the old people, mothers with their children, those not capable of working. There were many tragedies: there were cases where a husband had been in town and on his return he no longer found either his wife or his four children! And there were cases where they left the wife and took away the husband. Eye-witnesses tell the tale: On the previous day there was an announcement that everybody must come at six in the morning to the big square in the ghetto and line up in rows, except workers with the documents which were recently distributed to specialists and foremen. In the first row were the members of the Council of Elders and their families, behind them the Jewish Police, after that the administration officials of the ghetto, after that the various work-brigades and all the others. Some of them were directed to the right – that meant death – and some were directed to the left. The square was surrounded by guards with machine guns. It was freezing. The people stood on their feet all through that long day, hungry and with empty hands. Small children cried in their mothers’ arms. Nobody suspected that a bitter fate awaited them. They thought that they were being moved to other apartments (the previous evening there had been arguments and even quarrels about the apartments). At dawn there was a rumor that at the Ninth Fort* (the death Fort) prisoners had been digging deep ditches, and when the people were taken there, it was already clear to everybody that this was death. They broke out crying, wailed, screamed. Some tried to escape on the way there but they were shot dead. Many bodies remained in the fields. At the Fort the condemned were stripped of their clothes, and in groups of 300 they were forced into the ditches. First they threw in the children. The women were shot at the edge of the ditch, after that it was the turn of the men... Many were covered [with earth] while they were still alive... All the men doing the shooting were drunk. I was told all this by an acquaintance who heard it from a German soldier, an eye-witness, who wrote to his Catholic wife: "Yesterday I became convinced that there is no God. If there were, He would not allow such things to happen...."

Y. Kutorgene, "Kaunaski dnievnik (Kovno Diary) 1941-1942," Druzhba Narodov ("Amity of Nations"), VIII, 1968, pp. 210-211.

* The Ninth Fort – the place where the Jews of Kovno were killed.

Sources: Yad Vashem