The Chanoch family – Shraga-Feiwel, Frida and their three children, Miriam, (b. 1924), Uri (b. 1928) and Daniel-Dani (b. 1933), lived in Kovno, Lithuania.
On 24 June 1941, the Germans occupied Kovno, and in August of that year, the Chanoch family moved into the ghetto that had been set up there. The thirteen-year-old Uri began work as a messenger for the German Work Office. He was recruited into the underground movement and risked his life stealing work permits that enabled many people to escape the ghetto and join the partisans. During the children’s Aktion, Uri hid his 9-year-old brother Daniel in a hiding place, and despite suffering severe beatings did not divulge his brother’s whereabouts, thus saving his life.
On 8 July 1944, as the Red Army approached Lithuania, the Germans began to evacuate the ghetto. The few Jews who had survived the Aktions were deported to Germany. The women and children were let off en route at the Stutthof camp, and that was the last time that Shraga, Uri and Daniel saw Frida and Miriam. The men were taken to the Landsberg-Kaufering labor camp in Dachau. Several days later, 131 children from the Kovno deportation were sent to Auschwitz, including Uri’s brother, Daniel.
Due to the oppressive work, starvation and beatings, Shraga’s health deteriorated, and in October 1944 he was sent to Auschwitz. Left alone in Kaufering, Uri tried to assuage his gnawing hunger by eating salt and drinking water. As a result, his body swelled and he weakened, losing the will to live. At roll call, he stepped forward, knowing full well that this meant certain death. The Jewish assistants to the camp commander who recognized him from the ghetto intervened on his behalf; the commander ordered Uri removed from the line and assigned him the job of cleaning the office. In April 1945, the remaining camp inmates were placed on a train to Dachau. During the journey the train was blown up, and Uri managed to jump off and flee to the forest under a hail of bullets. He hid in the forest until he was liberated by American soldiers.
Dani arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau together with the group of children, and worked dragging the carts filled with victims’ clothing from the ramp to the storerooms. Survivors from the group of 131 children were sent to Mauthausen. Daniel was eventually liberated from the Gunskirchen camp.
Some three months after he was liberated, Uri discovered that Dani had survived. The brothers were reunited in Italy, and immigrated to Eretz Israel illegally in 1946 on the ship “Josiah Wedgewood”.