Oral History

Henny Fletcher Aronsen describes living conditions 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.


We got married, uh, on a Saturday. Must have been because we worked on Friday, and we, uh, and I moved in, actually I couldn't move in right away with his family. His family consisted of his mother, a brother, and a sister-in-law, and they lived in one room. His mother was in the corner in an, I remember, iron bed. She was a semi-invalid. She had arthritis, very bad case. She was in bed most of the time. And, uh, my husband used to sleep on a cot, and then, um, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law slept in a corner in a bed. And when we decided to get married my husband decided to build a second--uh, what do you call it?--a bunk, you know, above my brother-in-law's bed. And he built a very good one, even, he even cut in the wood a step for me to get up on top. So, it took him a while to build it. So then, eventually, I moved in with my husband, on the upper deck, and he built a little shelf so I could bring my dowry with me, which my mother gave me before I left the house, she gave me about, I would say, excuse me, a pound, excuse me, a pound of hard sugar, which was very valuable, moreso than diamonds. Because, I don't know how she kept it and where she kept, but, when I brought my dowry up there on the second, on the shelf, distributed it amongst.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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