Oral History

Alisa (Lisa) Nussbaum Derman describes her escape from Slonim during a roundup in 1941

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. The Germans established a ghetto in Slonim in late 1941, following the massacre of thousands of Jews—especially those who could not prove that they worked. Lisa escaped from Slonim and joined the anti-Nazi 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.


There came, uh, armies in, in black uniforms, uh, with, with sort of, um, sleeves and, and with certain insignias on their sleeves that were Ukrainians, there were Latvians that served the Nazis--not all, but in, in great number--Estonians, some. Uh, and a panic started in the ghetto--what are all these armies invading, coming to do in this, in this town? And on the very same day, on Thursday, some people returned from work and they received a, uh, uh, it was called, the German called it a "Schein." Um, it means really a passport, a tiny little card, an I.D. card that had the person's name and number and a stamp from the Gebietskommissar [regional commissioner], which would be equivalent, uh, to the, to the governor. And a panic started. Only very few, very quote-unquote "desirable" people received it, the rest of us didn't have it. My family didn't have it. And my mother, before we went to the ghetto, first spoke to our Christian neighbor, that if there is trouble in the ghetto she wants to send her girls to her, would she take her girls if there was trouble? And the woman said, "Yes, send them to me." When mother visualized that there was danger, she really wanted to save her girls. In a haste we were dressed, she took us to the barbed wires. And you know it was loosely yet, they were not charged with any high-voltage electricity, and anything of that, of that sort. Mother took us to the barbed wires. It was November 13, 1941. I was not quite 15 years old. My sister and I took off our yellow stars. Mother lifted the barbed wires, we snuck out. There were always guards around the barbed wires. All of us already had to wear a marking. In Slonim the first marking we wore was a round yellow patch, a round patch, in the front of the garment and in the back of the garment. And, um, we took it off, naturally. Mother lifted the barbed wires, she stood inside, in the ghetto, the barbed wires. We stood on the outside. I turned my head back, and that was the last time I saw my mother.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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