Rescued Jewish Children

Gita Zimanaitė-Grinmanienė

Gita Zimanaitė-Grinmanienė

From “With a Needle in the Heart”, Memoirs of Former Prisoners of Ghettos and Concentration Camps

I was born on 2 November 1939 in Kaunas. My father, Joseph Zimanas, was from Vladislavov (now Kudirkos Naumiestis). His mother was Khaya Bliuma, his father – Meyer. My father had two sisters and a brother; I know nothing about their fate. Neither do I know anything about the fate of my paternal grandparents.
My mother Rashel Zimaniene-Krigerytė was born in 1906 in Vilkija, in the family of Gershon and Gitel Kriger. My grandmother and grandfather died before the war. My mother had three sisters – Sara, Miriam and Basia, and six brothers – Hirsh, Elijah, Faivel, Abram, Bencel and Chaim. One brother died of tuberculosis before the war.
Before the war, my mother's sisters and brothers lived in Kaunas. Sara was married and lived separately with her husband Lozer Fugler and their children. They had a son, Meishe, and a daughter, Leah. Elijah also had his family. As far as I can remember, he had a daughter. I don't remember the names of his wife and his daughter. They have been dead for a long time.
Before the war, my parents lived together with my mother's unmarried sisters and single brothers at 37 Laisves Avenue.
When the war started, my aunt Sara's children were in a pioneer camp in Palanga. My aunt was told that all the children from the pioneer camp were evacuated to Kirov region, and she and her husband left for Russia in search of them. Other members of the family stayed in Kaunas and, like all the Jews of Kaunas, became inmates of the ghetto.
Soon my aunt Sara's children joined us. It turned out they were not evacuated to Russia like everybody thought, but somehow managed to get back home.
On 30 September 1941 my brother, Monia Meyer (Michael) was born in the ghetto. My father, mother's sisters and brothers would go to work. My mother did not work. A 'malina' was prepared in the flat where we lived (12 Liutauro Street), and we children were frequently hidden in it. I do not know how they managed to save us during all the 'actions'; anyway, my father succeeded in carrying my brother and me from the ghetto – one by one in potato sacks – just before its liquidation. He probably worked outside the ghetto.
Somebody in Vilijampole took my brother. We do not know who. I was taken by the Juškaitis family in Kaunas. They were childless, but fearing their neighbours might denounce them, passed me on to Antanas and Ona Vokietaitis who lived in Marijampole. They had three children. Their eldest daughter Stase was fifteen-years-old; their sons Algis and Vytautas were younger. I was called Genute and was passed into the care of Stase because the parents had to work. Their neighbours had very likely realised what I was, but did not denounce the Vokietaitis family. I remember Germans coming to the Vokietaitis' yard; they would give us children chocolate. I was forbidden to talk to anybody, but once I answered the Germans in Yiddish. I was punished for that. Fortunately, the Germans did not react to it.
When retreating, the Germans liquidated the ghetto. All the inmates were told to leave their homes and hideouts. Then they were taken to concentration camps. The houses in the territory of the ghetto were set on fire. Those who disobeyed the orders of the German authorities died in their houses. My mother with my family, and my aunt Sara's children were among them.
In mid-July of 1944 Kaunas was liberated from the Germans. Father found my brother and me, and we settled in Kaunas. Later, aunt Sara and her husband returned. They were terribly upset at not having found their children and relatives, and soon moved to Vilnius.
In 1946 I started going to a Jewish school. At the school there was also a children's home and a kindergarten. Many children were left orphans during the war. I finished four grades in that school. Later, when all the Jewish schools were closed, I went to a Russian school like all the children from our courtyard, whose parents – Russian officers with their families – lived in our house.
In 1951, aunt Sara took me to Vilnius. In 1957 I finished secondary school; and in 1960 the college of electro-mechanics. Then I started work at a special design bureau of the precision machinery plant. In 1964 I married Chaim Grinman. Our son Grigori was born in 1965. I entered the evening department of Kaunas Polytechnic Institute and graduated in 1972. After graduation I worked a the factory of electrical measurement equipment. I retired in 1995.

Vilnius, 2002

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