Women of Valor: Partisans and Resistance Fighters
Evelyn Kahn - Part I
Soon we were put in a ghetto.2 There were three families living in one house. Since I was very little and didn't need very much, it seemed to me that it was quite adequate under the circumstances. I remember that people were optimistic, but there was a lot of news coming into the ghetto, about killing of Jews elsewhere. No one could quite believe that they were killing them is such proportions. It was just rumours. Nobody was really sure. Finally, the first sh'hita3 occurred. The Germans were pretty clever. They decided that they will leave people alive who were useful to them. Labourers were given first priority. Because my father and uncle were not longer with us, my grandmother, my mother and I had no choice but to follow the orders to go the marketplace. Perhaps we should have hidden at this point, but nobody really knew what was in store for us as yet, as it was the first time.
The three of us went hand in hand. I was in the middle. My mother on one side, my grandmother on the other. We were walking with hundreds and thousands of people. It seemed like there were so many because we were squeezed into such a small area. Finally, they pushed us onto a very small path so no one could escape. Along that narrow path thousands of people were passing, almost on top of each other. It was getting difficult to breathe. I was so small and taller people in front and in back of me were squeezing me to death. I didn't know what to make of it. I was always so protected and so loved.
My mother had a premonition that what we were about to witness was bad. I will remember what she said then as long as I live. I said, "Mame, zei dehrshtick'n mihr" (Mama, they're suffocating me) and I remember my mother replying to me, "S'iz besser dikh tzu dehrshticken vie ikh zoll dikh zehn mit meine eigen vie men shist dikh" (It's better for you to be suffocated than for you to be shot before my eyes). As crowded as it was, I tried to look up, into her eyes. My mother was an exceptionally tall lady, and I remember staring at her face and asking her if it hurts when you die. I remember my mother answering me with a very straight sad face, "No, it is not difficult to die at all. It's as easy as a bird chirping." Even during those circumstances, I felt the protection of my mother. They pushed us further onto the marketplace, which was an open field, and that's when the "fun" began. They started to divide people to the left and right. The people on the right side were the people who did not have any Scheinen, any certificates, proof that they were useful citizens. The people on the right were going to the ditches, to their destiny. My mother got desperate as she was witnessing what was happening. She understood the handwriting on the wall and she was desperately trying to save me. I started to go to the right side, knowing that my family didn't have certificates, but my mother grabbed me with such force. She said to me, "You are not going there. If we are going to be killed it will be right here on the marketplace because some Jews will still be left to bury us in a Jewish cemetery." I hope you can understand the logic of it, how important it was. My mother noticed a dear friend from a distance who was a mechanic.. She hollered his name, and I remember him telling the German soldier that we were part of his family, and then my mother started to run with me, pulling me with her towards the side of the living. We ran through hundreds of people. My grandmother, who was an elderly lady, also had the wisdom and the courage to run through the Germans. They were standing hand in hand, making a chain, so that the people from my side couldn't get to the other. My grandmother had the same feeling as my mother.
Finally, the three of us were together again. We didn't know where we were going, what they were going to do with us. We only saw the other people moving away. One of my dearest girlfriends was taken away with them. I was told that she was a very brave little girl. She was very pretty and one of the officers said to her that she can go back, that he will save her life. But she told him if her family cannot be saved she doesn't wish to be saved either. They shot all of them and that was the end of her.
I remember the date because it was a very important date. It was 13 days in Iyar4, the day that my mother had Yahrzeit for her father. To this day, my mother believes that it was my grandfather's "z'khut" that saved us from the first massacre. My mother, since the age of 10, has fasted a full day on her father's Yahrzeit. When we finally went back into the town, going into some stranger's home, they offered my mother water to drink because she was crying so much. I remember my mother thanking them. She said, no, she cannot have any water, because she is fasting today in memory of her father.