Rescued Jewish Children

Julius Neumark

My Playmates Were a Cat and a Hen
Julius Neumark

From: Smuggled in Potato Sacks
Fifty Stories of the Hidden Children of the Kaunas Ghetto

Solomon Abramovich and Yakov Zilberg

After the First World War my grandfather, Leon (Leib) Neumark, together with three Jewish partners had founded ‘Nektaras’, the company consisting of two breweries, a spirit factory and a yeast factory, built on an estate which my grandfather had bought from a Polish noble. The name of the estate was ‘Antanavo dvaras’; this estate also had a small castle and a park of twenty-two hectares. Grandfather died before the German invasion of Lithuania. His second wife, my grandmother, Pauline (Pesa) Neumark, née Grossmann, was murdered in the Kaunas Ghetto in March 1944.
My father, Philipp (Shraga) Neumark, was born in Telsiai, where he attended cheder until he was about 10 years old. Then he studied in the Hebrew Shwabe School in Kaunas. He was a member of ‘Beitar’, a Zionist World Movement, and in ‘Hachschara’, a Jewish youth leadership and education programme. He studied in Berlin and in Vienna, where he graduated from the University of Economics. He met my mother in Vienna and married her in 1936. From 1936 to 1940 he was employed as manager at Grandfather’s company. After the occupation of Lithuania in 1940 by the Soviets, Grandfather’s property was confiscated, but my father remained as a manager.
I was born on 19 July 1940 in Kaunas about three weeks after the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. My mother, Gisela (Gittel) Neumark, née Neumann, was a bookkeeper. My maternal grandfather had been a soldier in the Austrian army during the First World War. In 1938 he escaped from Vienna to Lithuania, and was murdered in March in the Kaunas Ghetto.
My family’s attempt to escape to Russia in June 1941 failed, and we found ourselves in the Kaunas Ghetto. Father, a member of the Jewish police, was in contact with the underground movement. Mother worked most of the time at the airfield in Aleksotas. She was able to hide me during one of the ‘actions’. While Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators searched the houses, my mother put me into the toilet while sitting on it, pretending she had diarrhoea, and she behaved as if she was ashamed when somebody opened the door.
When I was 18 months old I was put to sleep with barbiturates and my father smuggled me out of the ghetto. By means of connections with a Lithuanian priest, Father found a couple who would hide me in their home. The names of these foster parents, very loving people, were Jonas and Elena Beliaevas (Belaev).
I have memories, typical for a small child, of their home where I was hidden in the attic. My playmates were a cat and a hen and I looked every day to see if the hen had laid an egg. If so, the egg was cooked and I was always allowed to eat it. Since I was hidden all the time and nobody in the neighbourhood knew that I existed, besides a friend of my foster mother, Agnes Zylaitis, they did not need to change my identity. I also remember that I never wore shoes in the hiding place, because after liberation when I was given my first shoes, I refused to put them on. I could not walk in them.
My mother, grandmother and father with his colleagues had escaped shortly after his mother and father-in-law and many elderly Jews were killed. They lived on a farm and whenever a stranger came, they were hidden in a deep ditch covered with hay and branches. My parents came immediately after liberation to pick me up from my foster-parents; we remained in close touch with them all the time until we left Lithuania in 1946. My foster-mother died shortly after liberation. I remember the funeral and how my mother told me at her grave that now Elena would sleep for a long time.
We moved to Vienna, because my mother was entitled to be repatriated from Lithuania to Austria as an Austrian citizen. From 1946, owing to the political situation of Stalinism, we had no contact with Jonas Beliaevas until about 1965. Then I got in touch with him and regularly sent him parcels until he died.
After the liberation my father obtained a job with the new government of Lithuania, but he decided that we had to leave as soon as possible, because of his history as the son of a ‘capitalist’ and member of a Zionist movement. With false papers he was able to join us in Austria. Father lectured at the university, wrote a thesis about the economy of Lithuania and became a Doctor of Economics in 1947. He was a member and at one point in charge of ‘Beitar’, a chief editor of a Zionist newspaper founded by Theodor Herzl, ‘Die neue Welt’ until 1949, and a manager in different Jewish organizations. Father died in August 1986 and my mother on 1 February 2008 in Vienna.
I graduated from the University of Vienna Medical School, certified in anaesthesia and intensive care medicine at the University Hospital of Vienna. In 1992 I became the chairman of the Department of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care and director of the operating centre of a new hospital, the SMZ-OST.

Vienna, Austria, 2009

First published in 2011 by Vallentine Mitchell
London, Portland, OR

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