Oral History

Aron (Dereczynski) Derman describes the German destruction of the Slonim ghetto

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.


Five minutes to seven, we were there and Miller takes us out, and walking out from the ghetto, not going even maybe one block, we could see that the destruction of the ghetto is coming, because we saw like a, like a front line. Germans with, uh, with machine guns all surrounded the area what we are passing, all pointed to the ghetto. Like you see a regular front line. Now what is that for? And then we walked out for another short while, a few minutes later, we hear a shot and the Aktion started, exactly seven o'clock. By that time, uh, the Judenrat was number, was a man of one. His name was Quint. And the minute they start coming into the ghetto, he ask him, "Where are you taking our Jews, where are you taking my, my Jews?" So, he was killed right, right by the entrance. Quint was killed right there by the entrance. I found it out later, I didn't see it. And I, but I could hear the shooting and then small little tanks immediately you could see, because we saw little tanks and trucks with uh, with uh, filled with, uh, with all different kind auxiliary forces, were standing in the trucks, and you could see they are getting ready. And in fact, one comes out on the way when we were walking, uh...one high German officer comes out from the, uh, uh, from a jeep and he stops us and he says, "Where are you taking the Jews?" In fact if I'm not remember if he maybe he called him even Miller. He said, "Where are you taking the Jews?" So he say, "If you're not giving me the Jews, you won't have any food," and "Heil Hitler," and they let us go. And where did they take us? To the Verpflegungsamt [rationing center], that was approximately one mile away and, um, we came back to the Verpfleg...we came to the Verpflegungsamt, and in the Verpflegungsamt you could already, uh, see the fire...the...you could hear the shooting and the killing was going on, and before the evening came they put the ghetto on fire.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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