Bearing Witness: Stories Behind the Artifacts in the Yad Vashem Museum Collection

Chess set – The only remaining item from the Rennert family home

Chess set that teenager Aaron Rennert took with him when his family was deported to TransnistriaChess set that teenager Aaron Rennert took with him when his family was deported to Transnistria Leib and Perl Rennert with their children, Aaron (on the right) and Baruch Leib and Perl Rennert with their children, Aaron (on the right) and Baruch Yona Rennert, who died of typhus in TransnistriaYona Rennert, who died of typhus in Transnistria Aaron Rennert and his wife Rika in IsraelAaron Rennert and his wife Rika in Israel

In 1941 the Rennert family was deported from the town of Vijnita (Vishnitz), Bukovina beyond the Dniester River. The arduous journey through Transnistria began with a journey to the city of Mogilev on a train jam-packed with deportees.

From Mogilev, the Rennerts and their three children - Yona, Baruch and Aaron – traveled to the town of Yaruga where they lived in extremely crowded conditions together with other families in abandoned homes. The Rennerts traded the few belongings they had managed to bring with them for food. The oldest son Yona took charge of supporting the family in assorted ways until he became ill with typhus and died. After his death, Yona's father fell into a deep depression from which he never recovered.

Fifteen-year-old Aaron had taken the chess set with him when leaving the family home in Vijnita. Throughout the war, Aaron and Baruch played chess whenever they had the chance, between chores, the hours of searching for firewood and the attempts to bring food home. The family sold off every possession so as not to starve, but the chess set had no value in the eyes of the Ukranian farmers in the area who were not familiar with the game.

After Transnistria was liberated by Soviet troops, Baruch was drafted to the Red Army. Aaron was also called up but he decided to evade the draft and managed to hide despite the intensive searches conducted to find him.

When news reached the Rennerts that the deportees could return home, they chose to go to Romania rather than returning to Vijnita, which was still part of Soviet territory. The chess set was Aaron's sole remaining possession from his childhood home.

Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Donated by Aaron Rennert, Israel