Rescued Jewish Children

Ruth Kron-Sigal

The Fate of Two Siters Ruth and Tamara Kron

Meyer Kron and Gita Shifman married in 1934. Their daughter Ruth was born in 1936 and Tamara in 1939. The Kron were living in the town of Šiauliai. Meyer Kron was a chemistry engineer in a leather factory. During the war, in August 1941, the Kron family were put in a ghetto together with the remaining Jewish population of Šiauliai.
The ghetto where the family stayed was enclosed by a barbed-wire fence and guarded by German soldiers, therefore the issues of food and heating shortage were rather hard to sort out. Hunger and cold were constant companions of the family. Meyer Kron was an expert of his field and continued working in the factory. Later he was joined by his wife Gita. Gita’s father, Moses Shifman, was also staying with the Kron family in the ghetto.
In January 1942, on his way from the ghetto to the factory, Meyer met his former co-worker Jonas Jocas. He was a man who had always taken care of the Kron family and could be fully trusted. He was the only one to have promised to hide one of the Kron girls, but the Kron family hesitated to take this opportunity as they could not decide which daughter should be saved. Ruth was a quiet girl even under the ghetto conditions, while Tamara, on the contrary, was agile and jumpy. She would wake up at night and weep loudly.
5 November 1943, up to 13-year-old children were taken from the ghetto to the Auschwitz concentration camp and all invalid adults were exterminated. The four-year-old Tamara Kron also perished during this roundup. Both girls had been hiding at the home of Wulf Peisahavich – the ghetto’s doctor and Gita’s cousin. At night, when the things got quiet, the girls went out. In the streets, they were spotted and captured by German soldiers. Doctor Wulf Peisahavich managed to rescue the seven-year-old Ruth. The doctor persuaded the SS officer Hans Förster that Tamara and Ruth were his natural daughters and that he had to help them. Doctor Volfas Peisachovičius had saved the life of this SS officer several months ago and expected him to return the favour. The officer said that the older girl Ruth might stay as she was big enough to work. However, the four-year-old Tamara could not be saved.
Now the parents did not have to make the decision on which daughter should be saved. Moreover, they had a feeling that the loss of Tamara was not the last of all disasters to come. Therefore, the very next morning, Gita Kron hid Ruth in the crowd of people headed for the factory. Surrounded by workers they safely passed the guards at the gates of the ghetto.
In the factory, they hid behind the sacks of glue and chemicals and stayed there for several days surrounded by terrible stench and rats. Then one night, Jonas Jocas came and took the girl to his home, while the mother returned to the ghetto. The next morning, Jocas took Ruth to the doctor Domas Jasaitis. Later, documents were forged and the girl was taken by Ona Ragauskienė to Amaliai village, Kužiai neighbourhood, where her husband Antanas Ragauskas was working as a primary school teacher. The Ragauskas family had their own daughter Gražina who was almost of the same age as Ruth.
Ruth spoke Lithuanian well, but her accent was obvious. The girl was hid from the other people for a month or two. Later, when her language improved, a touching story was conceived about Ona’s sister in Kaunas, who had got seriously sick and whose daughter had to be brought to the village. Ruth was very intelligent and smart – the kids used to reach maturity very fast in the ghetto. If strangers addressed the girl, she would only answer when urged by the Ragauskas family members.
Meyer’s and Gita’s daughter Ruth and Gita’s father Moses Shifman were in hiding and more or less safe, so the couple decided to try and escape from the ghetto too. 8 July 1944, the Germans started liquidating the Šiauliai Ghetto. Everyone was anticipating this horrible moment and various guesses were made: some believed they were going to be taken to the camps in Estonia like some of the prisoners from Vilnius and Kaunas Ghettos. Others said they might be taken to work in Germany. And some said they would be exterminated on spot. Gita and Meyer were at work when the liquidation started. In the midst of the turmoil they removed their yellow stars and decided to flee. The subsequent events were later called the three miracles by Meyer in his memoirs: silently we tried to reach the street through the factory gate. At the very same moment a boy threw a ball at the soldier who was guarding the gates. He turned away to throw the ball back allowing us to escape the narrow gates of the ghetto unnoticed. When we were walking down the street, one of the factory executives, a German, drove by in his car, but pretended he did not see the fleeing Jewish couple. The third miracle was that Jocas accidentally ran into us when hurrying across the fields in his carriage upon hearing the gunshots.
The Kron family successfully escaped the ghetto, found a safe shelter near Šiauliai and managed to survive until the coming of the Russian army, which reached the city on 27 July 1944. Now Meyer and Gita had to get their daughter back, who had become a Catholic during the period of hiding and did not want to have anything in common with her real parents: being a Jew was dangerous to me at that time. I only agreed to go with them if I was allowed to go to church. The reunited family moved from Germany to Canada in 1951.
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