Oral History

Alisa (Lisa) Nussbaum Derman describes going into hiding in June 1942 during roundups in the Slonim ghetto

Lisa was one of three children born to a religious Jewish family. Following the German occupation of her hometown in 1939, Lisa and her family moved first to Augustow and then to Slonim (in Soviet-occupied eastern Poland). German troops captured Slonim in June 1941, during the invasion of the Soviet Union. In Slonim, the Germans established a ghetto which existed from 1941 to 1942. Lisa eventually escaped from Slonim, and went first to Grodno and then to Vilna, where she joined the resistance movement. She joined a partisan group, fighting the Germans from bases in the Naroch Forest. Soviet forces liberated the area in 1944. As part of the Brihah ("flight," "escape") movement of 250,000 Jewish Holocaust survivors from eastern Europe, Lisa and her husband Aron sought to leave Europe. Unable to enter Palestine, they eventually settled in the United States.


My father, my little brother, and I remained in the house. And my father, the three of us tried to hide in the house. Where were we hidden? The kitchen had a old-fashioned oven where before, for baking bread. To the side--it was a deep oven--to the side was a little opening for three people just to squeeze in where, uh, wood was, was kept in normal times, in normal times wood was kept; of course we didn't have any wood in the ghetto. The kitchen was wallpapered, and it was really shreds, sort of hanging. When they used to come to take people on slave labor my father used to hide in this spot. How, how did he hide there? He had a, a piece of cardboard, um, that he held almost, held from, from the inside, that matched the rest of the wallpaper in the kitchen, torn the same way as the rest, to conceal this entrance into this little place next to the oven. And my father said the three of us, run and hide there. We, Monday morning, when we heard the shooting already, in the house we ran in to hide behind this oven in this little space that was open. They came in, they, they, the killers came into the house, they searched the house, they knocked on the walls. They never came to this spot. "Raus! Raus! Raus!" [Out! Out! Out!] And then we heard cries and we heard shooting, and we realized that the people in the, next door were discovered. We remained in this place, frozen, there was no place to move. For one of us to make a turn, all three of us had to move, to be able for one of us to make a turn. My little brother was a child, it was so hard on him. It was very hard on all three of us. We stayed there the day, we survived the day. At night, my father said that we cannot stay there, it's not safe, we'll be found there, we must hide somewhere else. We did not hide anymore in this place that was open, because we couldn't cover it. It was all open, the part that covered this entrance were broken. So we went in the, in the, in the yard there were shacks on the side, and as we went out of the house in the shacks we realized that the ghetto is burning. While we stayed in the house we didn't know, hidden in the house. We didn't smell anything, we didn't know. All of a sudden we went in, in the yard, and we saw that the ghetto is burning. But we had no alternative, so we went, the last shack, the last shack, there were a row of shacks, the last shack we walked in and we saw that there was a ladder and there was a trapdoor, and we crawled up the ladder and we opened up the trapdoor, it was a loft that hardly you could squeeze in. We found two old Jewish men, the old Mr. Margolis, and Mr. Fink. And we asked them, "What, what, what, where are all the rest of the people?" They said that they did not hide in with the rest of the people because they knew they couldn't breathe there, they, they, they were coughing, and they didn't want to endanger the other people, so they did not hide with the rest of the family, they were hidden in this shack. And we came to this shack. We walked up, we threw the ladder away so it wouldn't be a sign that some people are hiding in the, in the shack, there on top in the loft. And we stayed there. We stayed there; we didn't have any food at all, daddy went at night and he brought water. He found--he could not find any bread in the house, nothing was in the house, he brought water, so we had, still we had water. And we stayed there, Monday night, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and we watched the fire, the ghetto burning. I do not know how was it possible that the shack did not catch on fire. I do not know. But it didn't. And we survived in this shack.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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