Menachem & Zeitel Daich were confined in the Kovno ghetto with eight of their nine children. Menachem and his sixteen-year-old son Shmuel were sent to forced labor. One day, when they returned from the night shift, there was an Aktion in the ghetto. Menachem, who understood the approaching danger, decided to divide his large family into smaller groups so that they would go through the selection separately as he quoted: "At least one group should remain" (as learned from the biblical story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 22: 8-9).
Eighteen-year-old Shmuel and seventeen-year-old Chayke were together with their two-year-old brother Itzik and together they managed to get through the selection. "Be a father to the children," Menachem asked of his son Shmuel before he was deported with Zeitel and the rest of the children to their deaths. From the large family only three remained – Shmuel, Chayke and Itzik.
Shmuel took it upon himself to fulfil his father's parting request. He took care of both his siblings and even managed to save his baby brother from the infamous "Children's Aktion" that took place in the ghetto. Still, the task of saving the boy became a formidable task as survival in the ghetto at all became increasingly difficult.
Finally, encouraged by his sister Chayke and his uncle, Rabbi Shmuel Marok, Shmuel decided to escape the ghetto to the forests, hoping that in this way perhaps a remnant of the large family would survive:
"During our Sabbath meal, a partisan’s courier arrived with a note saying, 'At nightfall leave the ghetto by way of the fence next to the Christian cemetery and spend the night there.' I recited the Sabbath afternoon prayer, I washed in a tub and changed my clothes, and then my sister surprised me, bringing me my most valuable shirt and showing me that she had embroidered the "Tablets of the Law" on it, and within them the initials of my name. She helped me dress with tears in her eyes and said:
'The two Tablets of the Law will be close to your heart… you’re joining the Red Partisans who are fighting religion as well.' Chayke was very worried and said, 'This will be a talisman, so that you won't be influenced by the anti-religious propaganda that you'll be exposed to.' I left the ghetto with a pistol in one pocket and my Tefillin [phylacteries] in the other."
Shmuel never took the shirt off during the time that he fought as a partisan in the Kazlų Rūda forest.
He saw his siblings one last time when he returned to the ghetto while on a partisan mission. Ultimately, Chayke and Itzik were murdered and Shmuel was the sole survivor of his family.
After the war Shmuel immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine), joined the Haganah and fought in the battles for Jerusalem during the War of Independence. He changed his surname to Ben Menachem (son of Menachem), after his father.
At his wedding ceremony, he wore the shirt that Chayke had given him under his dress shirt. When his sons married, they wore it too.
"…when Yad Vashem – the Artifacts Department – asked for it [the shirt] I was very ambivalent. Maybe I should keep it wrapped in paper in a box in my cupboard… On Wednesday 4 June 2008 they are come to pick it up. As I prepare to part with it I remember the beautiful tear-filled eyes of my sister Chayke of blessed memory, who dressed me in the shirt."
Yad Vashem Artifacts Department
Donated by Shmuel Ben-Menachem (Daich), Hadera, Israel