Oral History

Aron (Dereczynski) Derman describes deportations from the Grodno ghetto in November 1942

Aron was born to a middle-class Jewish family in Slonim, a part of Poland between the two world wars. His parents owned a clothing store. After studying in a technical school, Aron worked as a motion-picture projectionist in a small town near Slonim. The Soviet army took over Slonim in September 1939. War broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union in June 1941. Aron returned to Slonim. The Germans soon occupied Slonim, and later forced the Jews into a ghetto. Aron was forced to work in an armaments factory, and was able to smuggle arms into the ghetto. After helping his family escape when the Germans destroyed the ghetto, Aron worked in Grodno until he was arrested. While being deported from Grodno, Aron jumped off the cattle car. He eventually managed to escape from Grodno and join the underground outside Vilna. After the war, he and his wife (whom he had met in the Slonim ghetto) immigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago.


They decided to close the ghettos. It means from now on, the Gestapo took over the ghettos. If you had to go in or out, you had to have orders from the Gestapo, and it was getting on the same order what Slonim was, from before. So, we are caught now with a population, only one difference was, I'm an experienced person in people with, who have no idea what, uh, what killing means, or what destruction means. I'm here, kind...I felt myself I'm...I'm experienced, young and experienced, maybe I'll have a chance, find some other ways. When they blocked up the ghettos it was hard to go out for work, you had special permissions. People went out to work and it didn't take too long, they're asking for two...transportation. "Resettlement" started. And the name was--taking them "out to work." And the places will be much better, because here already hunger started. A lot of people ran out of anything to sell or any valuables to, to be able to barter, to change out. They had to live only on the rations what they were getting, and that wasn't much. The rations weren't too great, too big, too...too much. And, uh, they were, they ordered to get two thousand Jews for resettlement. So they put out, officially, signs--I don't remember [whether] with names or no names, but they would say, take your best clothes, take your warm clothes, might be cold, take your toothbrushes, take your, uh, food for two days with, and take as much as you can carry in the suitcase or whatever it is. They made you believe that they are taking you to a resettlement.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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