Oral History

Brigitte Friedmann Altman describes a roundup of children in the Kovno ghetto in March 1944

World War II began in September 1939. Brigitte and her family moved to Kovno, hoping to secure visas and passports for travel to North America. In July 1941, Brigitte and her family were forced to move into the Kovno ghetto after the Germans occupied Lithuania. Brigitte's family survived the "Great Action," but her mother died of illness in the ghetto. After a roundup targeting children in March 1944, Brigitte escaped from the ghetto with the help of a former employee of her father. Soviet forces liberated Kovno in August 1944.


These trucks bode no good, I mean especially for the little girl. Because at that time there were very few children left in the ghetto. Frantically, the grandmother had put the ch...little girl into the bed that was shared by all three, and had heaped all the blankets and quilts. Well, actually, she had made it so it would look that it was just a made up bed. So first of all this...one of the soldiers or officers confronts me and wants to know why I'm not at my workplace. Fortunately I was dressed. I showed him my work permit but what I said to him I do not re...I don't know. I was stunned, petrified, and my heart was racing. I am sure it could be seen through, through what I was wearing. I think at one time it actually stopped beating. He left me alone. He gave the grandparents a stern look. Perhaps he admonished me not to stay home anymore, that, that this could carry grave consequences. But I really don't remember but he spoke to me sternly, then shoved me away, or out of the way. Grandparents, he left...said something in a harsh language to them, left them alone. And started tearing up the room. I think all three did that, they tore up the room and it didn't take them any time to tear apart the bed clothes, to come upon the little girl. And dragged her out. When they made sure there was nobody else hiding and nothing else was to be found, they dragged her out, towards this truck. And the grandmother...the grandmother ran, ran after them...fell down, fell down to...fell on her knees, begged, pleaded, cried, wailed, followed, followed them out to the truck, to the curb and one of the soldiers either used his gun or a club and hit her and she fell to the ground, she fell down in the street. The truck took off and she was left behind. They took the little girl, there were other children on the truck. I could see that from the window. After I had seen that, I didn't want to see any more.


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