Rescued Jewish Children

Ada Leibzonaitė-Kantorovich and Dovydas Leibzonas

My name is Dovydas Leibzonas and before the war, I lived in Kaunas with my parents Mina and Efraimas Leibzonas and my sister Ada. Before he came to live in Kaunas, my father worked in Tauragė as a headmaster of a gymnasium. In Kaunas, my dad worked as a chemical engineer at “Silva” factory, my mother was a teacher at a gymnasium, and my sister Ada went to school. When the war broke out and Jewish pogroms started in Kaunas, we would not come out of our house in Vilijampolė until July, when we were forced to move to the ghetto. There, we lived in a tiny room of a one-storey wooden house. My parents went to work at an airport every day. When they came back home in the evening, they would brings us a can of watery soup with a few cabbage leaves and pieces of bread in it. Life in the ghetto was hungry and cruel. Often, we would witness the so-called “actions” when they would take a portion of people out of the ghetto and to the 9th Fort and shoot them. During the actions, we would hide in dugouts under our houses, the so-called malina, and survived from one action to another. I was only 5 or 6 years old, and had a friend called Shlioma who was my playmate in the backyard. Sometimes, ghetto residents would organise concerts. Once, I asked my mother why people were crying while listening to the music. There are some good memories too – I will never forget the day when my mother, who worked at people’s houses, brought us a huge sandwich that took me and my sister about a week to eat. I can still see a colourful detailed picture of that sandwich in my mind. After the Great Action on 28 October 1941, when all the ghetto residents were obliged to pass Helmut Rauca, Hauptsturmfürer SS, who would raise his hand to “sort” people to the left, which meant to the 9th Fort to be shot, or to the right, which meant back to the ghetto, the number of ghetto inhabitants decreased considerably. In those days (28-29 October 1941) as many as 10,000 people were killed at the 9th Fort in Kaunas. One day, there were rumours of the preparation of the Children’s Action, so the parents decided to save their children at all costs. Risking her own life, my mother removed the yellow stars from her clothes and went to her ex-colleague, teacher Zofija Simokaitienė to ask her for help. Zofija and her husband Juozas resolved to save us. One winter night, during a blizzard, all of us – my mother, my sister Ada and me – went out of the ghetto gates in a column of workers and ran away to the city, to our saviors Zofija and Juozas Simokaitis. The Simokaitis found us places to hide at their relatives’ houses in the countryside. I and my mother were taken to a village in Samogitia to live with Zofija Simokaitienė’s parents, the Boguslauskas, by Zofija’s brother Antanas Boguslauskas. In our trip, we went through many dangers, but finally reached the Boguslauskas isolated farmstead in Žemalė village, Mažeikiai county.
In the village, my mother worked at a farm, and sewed clothes, while I had to become a shepherd. It was not so simple, for I did not know how to speak Lithuanian, I was closed in a room like a sick person, and had to learn Lithuanian quickly. I perfectly realised that and often I would even wake up at night to ask my mother a Lithuanian word for one or another thing. In the long run we would, of course, go through many dangerous situations, and often I would ask my mother if it was the end and if we would die soon. However, with the help of good people, we all survived. Juozas Simokaitis took my dear sister Ada to live with his sister Petronėlė Zasimauskienė. Ada became a nanny of Petronėlė and Stasys Zasimauskas’ little daughter, who was just a few months old, and the family took care of my sister until the end of the war in Lithuania. My father managed to escape from forced labours on the days of ghetto liquidation. He was helped by the Simokaitis and Juozapas Želvys, a dean at St. Anthony church. All of us finally met in Kaunas when Lithuania was liberated from the German army. Our house in the ghetto had been burnt down; in the basement, we found the remains of all our neighbours, including my friend Shlioma. After the war, we lived in Kaunas, where I went to school and later studied at a university. When I finished my studies, I lived and worked in Vilnius. My parents Mina and Efraimas Leibzonas are buried in Kaunas, and my sister Ada Leibzonaitė Kantorovich lives in Israel.
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