Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Miriam Brysk - February 7, 2004

Life Under German Occupation

Um, the Germans came in.

The Germans came in and very quickly--they, they asked first that most of the intellectuals and the learned people, you know, come and, and face them. Which--and they promptly rounded them up and shot them. And after that they picked uh, I think he was a teacher or principal--one of the men to, to become head of the Judenrat. This was very--within a couple weeks after, after they took over.

Do you remember a name?

I have it written down somewhere.

That's okay. They overlooked your father.

My father was not in that category. He was, he was in the hospital. [pause] Anyway, yeah. Uh, they entered Lida um, "In 1940 the Jewish population of Lida was fifteen thousand." [pause] "School teacher named Kalman Lichtman," he became the first head of the, of the Lida Judenrat. And they had the uh, the soldiers of the--what they called the Einsatzgruppe B, which was the groups, as you know, I mean, being in this area that most of the Jews in the Soviet occupied territories like Belarus, Ukraine, and, and the Baltic countries were mainly killed in graves at the edge of town, very few were actually sent to camps. Only the remnants finally were sent to camps.

Did they come and, and ask for--they came and asked for the intellectuals first?

What's that?

They came and asked for the intellectuals first?

For what?

For the intellectuals.

Yeah, they killed those, they killed those right away. There were uh, some ninety somewhat people that came.

And how did you hear about the shooting--that they were shot at, sorry.

It was, you know, it was...

Common knowledge.

Common knowledge, yes.

Did they come on a regular basis and ask for...

Well, after they formed the Judenrat, then all the orders were then automatically transmitted through the Judenrat.

And the Jewish Police.

Yeah, and the Jewish Police, which was established. And very quickly after they came in they established in an area--what's the name of it, again? I don't remember all these things. Uh, near Stoniewicze. Stoniewicze is the place where, where they murdered those Jews. It was also the place where--I get to it later--where when they had, they had the ???, you know, the slaughter was also done in, in that area.


Anyway, so, everybody was told to take as much as they can carry in a bag, and they were sent into the, the ghetto. And it was very crowded because several families were assigned to one room and they were mostly in a dilapidated part, unlike--even though Lida was a city, and not like uh, it, it wasn't like Warsaw. Parts of it were still shtetl-like, you know, with very uh, it was an industrial city so there was a lot of, there were a lot of buildings, but the place where the ghetto was, was kind of dilapidated small houses. And we were moved into uh, into this house. And the only people I remember in our house in the ghetto--and the reason I do is because, it was an engineer and uh, his wife and they had a daughter uh, named Tuska who was also my age and we became in effect ghetto friends and playmates. And, uh...

Were you wearing the star?


Did people wear the star?

Yes. Some people wore the star, other people wore just a yellow piece of fabric. And uh, you know, it was the, the kind of thing--I mean all sorts of ordinances were enacted: you couldn't have contact with non-Jews, you couldn't walk in the streets, you had to walk in the gutter. You couldn't--sometimes when the Germans walked they want you to bow down to them. Uh, the uh, the amount of food that was allocated to the ghetto was very, very uh, it was like a bowl of soup and a piece of bread a day, so people were pretty hungry. And, uh...

Long lines?

They also forbade the Jews from, from eating meat or butter or other kinds of uh, sugar. And not too long after we got to the ghetto they took away all, all furs and then they wanted all gold jewelry and other gold things. So my parents did what all the other Jews did: they buried them. [laughs] And uh, and there was a barn in the back of the house because it was like a little--like a garden, in fact there were some vegetables growing in the garden at the time. And uh, my father was, of course, assigned immediately to work in the hos...in municipal hospital where he was at the hospital where he was performing surgeries on wounded Germans. And uh, he would never take a chance if there's an officer but occasionally when there's a, a real bitchy Germany uh, and he was a nobody, a knife would slip. Or he wouldn't go out of his way to, to necessarily save him. And uh, my father made an interesting observation when, when we were in the ghetto and I don't know if this is true in elsewhere. But he, he said the remarkable thing is people were not dying in the ghetto of natural causes. Hardly anybody died of cancer or heart disease. It's like the will to live was so big that those things did not get a lot of people. People died of hunger, they died of infectious disease, but they did not die of the common kind of chronic natural causes. Uh, that was an interesting observation on his part.

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