Oral History

Aron (Dereczynski) Derman describes escape from a train during deportation from Grodno in 1943

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.


I'm at the railroad station, packed with some other people. They put me in a boxcar, filled up with the boxcars maybe sixty, seventy people packed in the boxcar. The doors are shut, I'm inside. You can't even move around, people can't relieve themselves. Hungry from the few days where they were laying in different places, and here I'm between. Still have a piece, a ray of hope: I see a small little window, in the boxcar. And with my other two friends, we were all together, from when we were working together, and I say, let's see if we can jump out from the boxcar. So some way we had a hard time to push through--this how packed it was--to push through in the boxcar and come to that window. We came to the part where the end of the boxcar, where the window is, we stood on top of each shoulders and we start with all our strength to pull the bars, the metal bars. Sure enough, we pulled the metal bars out, because the strength what you have that time is like Samson with the pillars. We could...we probably could break a piece of iron. We pulled out the bars and we start jumping out. I wasn't the first one to jump. I jumped out the second or the third one, and by that time I thought, I'm a good athlete, I know how to jump out. The train is going. I'm already figuring out what I'm going to do. I'm going to jump out with the train the way it's running. I'll jump out, I won't get hurt. Sure enough, it didn't happen that way. I jumped out and I fell down, and probably on the head or whatever, I don't know, and I was unconscious and the only thing is I remember, is being awakened by a guard, the ones who were watching the railroads. The German guard picked me up, put me back on the truck, took me back inside the ghetto. Inside the ghetto they put me right for the small little room and they left me there in the small room because they didn't know what to make the decision.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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