Oral History

Henny Fletcher Aronsen describes a roundup in the Kovno ghetto

Henny was born into an upper-middle-class Jewish family in Kovno, Lithuania. She and her brother attended private schools. In June 1940 the Soviets occupied Lithuania, but little seemed to change until the German invasion in June 1941. The Germans sealed off a ghetto in Kovno in August 1941. Henny and her family were forced to move into the ghetto. Henny married in the ghetto in November 1943; her dowry was a pound of sugar. She survived several roundups during which some of her friends and family were deported. Henny was herself deported to the Stutthof concentration camp in 1944, when the Germans liquidated the Kovno ghetto. She was placed in a forced-labor group. The Germans forced Henny and other prisoners on a death march as Soviet troops advanced. After Soviet troops liberated Henny in 1945, she eventually reunited with her husband and moved to the United States.

Transcript

I wasn't working at that time. I was off that day, and my brother-in-law, my husband's brother, was not, was also home. So the two of us were home with my husband's mother. And suddenly the loudspeaker started screaming, all the people and children out. And my mother-in-law, as I said was a semi-invalid, a wonderful woman, an exceptional lady, she used to teach me how to make gourmet dishes. She was a fabulous cook. She was a, um, pharmacist by education, intelligent, a wonderful lady. And, uh, we didn't know what to do. We knew she cannot walk, so I looked at my brother-in-law, and he looked at me, and I said, let's hide her someplace. But before we had a chance to do anything, they just broke into the room--as I told you, we were in one room, all of, all five us--and they said out to her from bed and I stood in front of her and I said, "She can't go, walk." So they gave me a slap. "She can't walk? So you carry her." So I said all right, I said to Misha, my brother-in-law, let's put something on her. She was wearing a nightgown, you know, whatever. Anyway, they wouldn't let us do anything. They made us, they made my brother-in-law grabbed her by the shoulders, and I had to grab her by the feet. I tried to pull down her dress--it would break my husband's heart--her, her, uh, nightgown, that was a.... And we carried her out, and the street was a nightmare because all you could see were young people carrying these old people like animals. And we carried her to the place where the buses were stationed, and he told my brother-in-law, one of these--yeah, I mean, they were so young, it's, it's unbelievable, such...the milk was still on their lips--to stay, and I'm the one who should carry her up. Now she was a frail woman, I must have picked her up, and I walked up on the bus, and I figured that's the end of me, too. But, and there was no seat, so I had to put her in the aisle, and I covered her up. And they looked around to find a seat for me, and there was no seat. So they pushed me down the stairs and said, "You get out of here." That was my memory of this particular day.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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