"With All Your Heart..."
Shmuel Daich was born in 1924 in Kovno, Lithuania. His maternal grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Melzer, headed the Slobodka Yeshiva in Kovno. Shmuel’s father, Menachem Mendel Daich established the Yeshiva in Janova, a town 30 km distant from Kovno, and moved there with his wife Zeitel and their nine children: Josef, Shmuel, Chaya- Fruma, Moshe-Aaron, Perl, Teiva, Yakov, Sara and Yitzhak. The eldest son, Josef, married before the war.
In September 1939, when Kovno was annexed to Russia, the Yeshiva in Janova was closed and Menachem Mendel and Shmuel became shoemakers and opened a workshop in Kovno. When the Nazis bombed Kovno in 1941, Shmuel & his father fled to Janova to be together with the family. When the the Nazis entered Janova the next day, the family escaped together back towards Kovno only to encounter Lithuanian gangs terrorizing the Jews. Unfortunately Shmuel and his brother Moshe Aaron were caught by the thugs and Moshe Aaron was taken with other local Jews and murdered. Shmuel managed to escape.
The Nazis proceeded to set up a Ghetto for the Jews of Kovno in the Slobodka district. The Daich family moved in with the grandfather and other family members.
Shmuel and his father worked together at forced labor building an airport for the Nazis outside the Ghetto. One evening, as they returned from work they saw that the residents of the Ghetto were gathered together in two lines in the city square. Menachem-Mendel quickly divided his family into three groups who stood separately so that at least one group should remain (as learned from the biblical story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 22: 8-9). Sixteen year old Shmuel found himself in charge of his sister Chaya Fruma and his two year old brother Yitzhak. Menachem Mendel, sensing the future, asked Shmuel to be a father to his siblings. Shmuel, his sister and brother returned to the Ghetto alone. The rest of the family was sent to the “Ninth Fort” where they were murdered.
Shmuel managed to find protected employment as a shoemaker. He joined the “Shomer Hadati” youth movement and the underground “Zionist Alliance” that were active in the Ghetto supplying the Partisans that were active in the forests around Kovno. In spite of the responsibility he felt for his remaining siblings, with the encouragement of his sister and uncle he decided to leave the Ghetto and join the Partisans. In order to facilitate this he joined the communist underground. Ultimately, Shmuel was the sole member of his family to survive.
In his testimony Shmuel relates how he left the Ghetto: “ During our Sabbath meal, the Partisan’s messenger arrived with a note telling him that at nightfall he was to leave the Ghetto by way of the fence next to the Christian cemetery and spend the night there. As he was leaving his sister surprised him with a gift, the shirt upon which she had embroidered the Ten Commandments and within them his initials "ש" "ד" . Her parting words were “ the two tablets of the Law will be close to your heart… you’re joining the Red Partisans who are fighting religion as well.” Shmuel left the Ghetto with a pistol in one pocket and Tefillin in his other pocket.
When Shmuel was injured during a Partisan ambush of the Lithuanian police, he was hidden by Antonus Koncaitis, a Lithuanian forest ranger until liberation by the Red Army. Koncaitis was eventually recognized by Yad Vashem as a Righteous Among the Nations.
Shmuel wore the shirt throughout the time he was with the Partisans and even later, when he escaped to Romania he kept it on, as an expression of his adherence to his Jewish heritage.
Shmuel immigrated to the Land of Israel and participated in the battles of the War of Independence. In time, when he married his wife Rivka, he wore the shirt under the canopy as an expression of his identity. Shmuel and Rivka have two sons, seven grandchildren and one great granddaughter.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Shmuel Ben-Menachem, Hadera, Israel