Rescued Jewish Children

Alik (Peretz) Dvoretz

The Potato-Sack Siblings

Alik (Peretz) Dvoretz, told by his wife Guta Vinniskaya-Dvoretz

From: Yakov Zilberg and Solomon Abramovich “Smuggled in Potato Sacks”, 2011

Alik's grandfather, Yosef Dvoretz, was persuaded by his relatives to return from Denmark, where Alik's father, Shimon Dvoretz, was born, to Zarasai in Lithuania. He was told that he had inherited property and money there. Yosef did not find any fortune in Zarasai, and died before the war, leaving behind children and a wife, Shimon's stepmother.
Two of Shimon's sisters emigrated to Israel before the war; Shimon moved to Kaunas. After he settled there, he invited his bride and friend from childhood, Chaya Pen, to join him. They were both professional tailors and did very well.
During the first days of the German invasion, all the remaining members of the Dvoretz family and the extensive Pen family were killed by Lithuanians in Zarasai. Shimon and Chaya tried to escape to Russia, but were caught by Lithuanians together with many other refugees. Men and women were separated, and both groups were led to the forest to be executed. Chaya was in the sixth month of a pregnancy.
At the very last moment, when they were sure they were going to die, a German officer appeared and ordered the Lithuanians to let the prisoners live: men were taken to an unknown destination and the women were imprisoned in a barn, kept there like cattle for several days and then sent back to Kaunas.
Fortunately Chaya found her husband in Kaunas. Their baby was born on 13 October 1941. A Jewish doctor, most probably Reiza Galah-Zisman, attended at the birth, and the child was given the name Peretz, in memory of his maternal grandfather who had perished in Zarasai.
Shimon had excellent manual skills and the German officer who was his superior in the workshop very much valued him. During one of the round-ups, Shimon was caught. Feiga Abramovich saw him being led to the Ninth Fort and immediately informed Chaya, who ran to the same officer who then ordered the Lithuanian policeman to release Shimon. His life was saved once more.
The underground representative informed the Dvoretz family that Peretz was next in turn to be smuggled out of the ghetto. He arranged a meeting in Kaunas between Chaya and Peretz's future adoptive parents. Chaya concealed the yellow Star of David on her coat with a big shawl, slipped out of the ghetto and went to meet a Lithuanian man to make all the necessary arrangements for smuggling Peretz out. While she hurried along the street, a strong gust of wind revealed the Star of David on her coat. Suddenly a stranger grabbed her and whispered, 'Are you mad! You could be caught and killed.' It was Mr Svigris, the man she had arranged to meet.
The childless Svigris family agreed, for some reward, to take Peretz. Dvoretz's neighbour, Aaron Muller, a member of the partisan detachment, took on the mission. After Peretz was given a shot of Luminal, he carried him out of the ghetto in a potato sack. Aaron Muller managed to smuggle his daughter Masha to the orphanage of Dr Baublys in the same way. After the war Aaron Muller called them 'the potato-sack siblings'.
Peretz had blond hair, and was not circumcised, but from the age of 10 months already spoke only Yiddish. For the first three months he cried a lot. Mr Svigris' brother served in the Lithuanian police. He visited his brother and suspected some- thing, but Mr Svigris told him they had adopted a retarded child. They even undressed Alik to prove he was not Jewish. Persuaded or not, the policemen did not report his brother. Peretz was baptized and called Arnoldas Svigris, and this is why he came to be known as Alik, the name he used for the rest of his life. From this period Alik remembered two episodes. He recalled kneeling every night to pray, and once being led to a grave, where, he was told, 'very bad people' called Jews were buried.
Following the liquidation of the ghetto, Alik's parents were sent to different concentration camps. After liberation, they knew nothing about each other's fate. Shimon and Chaya each made their way to Kaunas. They somehow made contact and met amid the chaos of post-war Poland, reached Kaunas together and found Alik.
When Chaya spoke with him, Alik said, 'I do not like Jews, but you are OK.' Mr and Mrs Sviris let them take Alik without any resistance; Alik's parents moved to Vilnius. Mrs Svigris died soon after the war ended. Mr Svigris used to visit the Dvoretz family there, but for some reason Alik did not like his visits and always avoided meeting him, but he was however invited to Alik's wedding. Interestingly, Alik did not know that his real name was Peretz until he was in the seventh grade of high school.
Alik graduated from the Kaunas Polytechnic Institute in 1964. In 1972 we emigrated to Israel. Alik passed away in 2003, when he was only 62 years old, leaving two sons and three grandchildren.

Bat Yam, Israel, 2009
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