"Stay Together"

The Fate of Jewish Families in 1944

The Zalkind Family

Vilna, Lithuania

Ethel and her sons were liberated in the summer of 1944
Aron (right) and Eliezer Zalkind, summer 1939, Pospieszki (a small forested village in the suburbs of Vilna favored by the wealthier residents of Vilna as a holiday resort)

Vilna after the liberation.  From left:  Aron and Eliezer Zalkind and their cousin Avraham (Avremke)

Ethel Zalkind and her two sons, Aron (center) and Eliezer Łódź, 1946

The teachers and children at the Jewish school in Vilna after the war, 1945

The Zalkind family – Chaim, Ethel (née Katsav) and their two sons, Aron (b. 1934) and Eliezer (b. 1936) – lived in Vilna. They owned a grocery store, and Chaim would ride a horse-drawn wagon, buying the local farmers’ produce to stock his store.

In June 1941 the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and on 24 June, Vilna was occupied.  Chaim’s mother Toybe Zalkind was killed in the shelling that accompanied the Germans’ arrival.  In one of the first aktions in late July 1941, Chaim was taken away and murdered in Ponary.  On 6 September, Ethel and her two sons, 7-year-old Aron and 5-year-old Eliezer were sent to the Vilna ghetto.  They were permitted to take with them only what they could carry.  Many of their relatives were murdered in the aktions that raged until the end of 1941.

In the ghetto, Aron was registered as the son of his uncle Avraham Kamenman, who worked at the HKP factory for military vehicle repair, located outside the ghetto.  Aron and his uncle Avraham were thus able to live in the ghetto “legally”, but Ethel and Eliezer were forced to hide there, as they were considered illegal residents.  In September 1943, just one week before the ghetto's liquidation, Ethel and Eliezer  managed to join Aron in the labor camp the Germans had set up for HKP workers. Ethel’s mother, Mere-Leah, was caught trying to leave the ghetto, and was shot to death.

In March 1944, an aktion was carried out in the HKP camp, in which 200 children and teenagers were murdered. Aron and Eliezer managed to hide. In July the camp was liquidated, and the remaining Jews were taken to Ponary and murdered.  A few dozen Jews survived in hiding within the camp, among them Ethel and her two sons. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, the three stayed in a village close to Vilna until the Red Army arrived, assisted by local farmers they had known before the war.

After the liberation, his mother made a living in trade, and Aron and his brother went to the Jewish school.  In the summer of 1946, the family moved to Lodz together with the few relatives who had survived.  Aron and Eliezer lived in the “Ko’ordinatzia” children’s home and studied at the Hebrew school.

In 1950, the family immigrated to Israel.

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