Oral History

Rochelle Blackman Slivka describes the formation of the Vilna ghetto

The Germans occupied Vilna in June 1941. In October, Rochelle and her family were confined to the Vilna ghetto, where her mother died. Her father, a Jewish council member, was killed in a camp in Estonia. When the ghetto was liquidated in 1943, Rochelle and her sister were deported--first to the Kaiserwald camp in Latvia and later to Stutthof, near Danzig. In 1945, on the sixth week of a death march that forced the sisters to protect their bare feet with rags, the Soviet army liberated them.


In '41...right before...they used to...the Jewish holidays. They...the SS decided to make a ghetto in our town, in Vilna. And there was a poor section where a lot of Jews used to live there. And, uh, the Jewish home for the aged was there, and the biggest synagogue of the city of Vilna was there. The orphanage. The Jewish hospital was there. And a lot of poor Jews lived around this section. And one night, the SS, with the help of the Ukrainian police with the Lithuanians, they came in and took out all the Jews from there and they drove them to a place, Ponary, outskirts of Vilna there, and they shot them all there. We heard screaming and yelling and crying during the night, but we weren't allowed to look out of the window, because those who looked out were shot. We didn't know what was going on anyway until the next day our neighbors told us what was going on. We had a lot of relatives there. My mother's cousins lived...all of...all of my mother's relatives lived there. And a couple of weeks later they rounded up all the Jews from the city and the suburbs and they put us all in this ghetto, in this...and surrounded us with walls, and with guards, and we had to live in one...in an apartment, two to three families in a two-room apartment.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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