In the total destruction of the Jewish community in
Lithuania, is a chapter of the great "Action" in Kovno
Ghetto, the high point of the Jewish tragedy, October 28,
1941 the day of the big "Action" is not to be forgotten. The
surviving Jews of Lithuania who are scattered all over the
world commemorate that day in various commemorations. That
day is to honor the memories of the Lithuanian Jews.
He was an
only son, they gave him the name Abraham, his mother and
father used to call him Avramke, when they used to ask him
when he was knee high, what's your name he answered Emke,
and so he grew up with that name, that he gave himself. With
that name he went to study in the "Yiddish Komertz Gymnasia"
name he went with his parents to the Kovno Ghetto.
Abe Malnik helping build the
Kovno Ghetto fence, 1941
Kalman Malnik, was a barber and in his youth a volunteer
fireman. Therefore in the ghetto he became a fireman also,
in the ghetto fire department. The ghetto prisoners age 12
to 55 were forced to work. Because of Emke's young age (13)
his father got him a job at the Fire Department as a courier
functions of the young boys was to carry messages to the
elders of the various community depit in the Ghetto. On the
28th of October 1941, the Germans issued an order that the
entire Jewish population of the Ghetto should assemble at an
empty field in the ghetto. This field was called "Democratic Platz."
On that field the Germans announced that they would conduct
a survey of the ghetto Jews. The Jews went into the "Platz" to be counted like sheep. There they put everybody
in columns according to their place of work. Emke and his
family were in the Fire Department column; all the fireman
wore armbands with the lettering "Judische Ghetto Fuerwehr"
(Jewish Ghetto Fireman).
Ghetto Police together with the Lithuanian Police Battalion,
their was Major Kazi Schimkus, kept order. The Lithuanians
Police from this particular Battalion called themselves
"Partisans Liberators of Lithuanian," who had already
accomplished to kill all the Jews of Lithuanian Provinces
and a third of the Kovno Jews.
now to continue their bloody work in the Kovno Ghetto. This
battalion was organized and initially supported by the
provisional Lithuanian Government and Prime Minister Yosas
Ambrazavitius and unfortunately there is a street named
after him in Kovno in the vicinity of the 4th fort where on
the 18th of August 1941 they filed 534 Jews of the
intellectual "Action" with the usual German punctuality at 9
in the morning, the German murderer Helmut Rauka, started
sorting (not counting) the Jews on that field. The Jews did
not understand what was happening.
column was composed of the Jewish Ghetto leaders and their
families; the second column was Jewish Police Force and
their families. Rauka immediately motioned for these two
columns to move aside from the rest of the columns. The
Rauka started sorting the fireman and their families. Emke
and his parents, grandmother, and his hunchbacked aunt stood
in on row of that column. As soon as Rauka saw his
grandmother and his aunt he waved his hand and sent them to
the right. They still did not understand what's going on or
what was happening. They went where Rauka pointed. But
Emke's heart told him something was wrong. This 13½-year-old young boy felt that a tragedy was about to occur. The
Lithuanian police surrounded them with pointed guns and
drove them in the direction that Rauka pointed at. Emke's
mother did not lose her composure. She begged Emke's father
to escape and maybe later he'll be able to rescue them.
Emke's father would not hear of it, our fate is together but
the mother insisted and with tears in her eyes begged him,
Kalmanle, "escape now" there is not much time left. They
were getting close to the small Ghetto*, which was also
fenced in and separated from the large ghetto. They were
assembled like sheep. As they were driven by the Lithuanian
Police with guns pointed the father slowly started to move
away from them. Because he was a Fireman his armband was
similar to the Jewish Police armband, therefore the
Lithuanian police did not pay much attention to him and he
was able to blend in with the Jewish police.
family understood that their fate was preordained, the
outcome was already set, but didn't understand the scope of
*The Germans had established a
large ghetto and a small ghetto; the two ghettos were
connected with a bridge. The small ghetto contained a
hospital and the overflow of the large ghetto was housed in
the small ghetto. The Germans had already planned without
the people's knowledge, that when the big action occurred,
they planned to eliminate 10,000 people as a holding area
before taking them to the ninth fort to be executed. On
October 4th, they surrounded the small ghetto, burning down
the hospital with doctors and patients still inside, and
transported the residents of the small ghetto to the ninth
fort where they were exterminated.
the first to be driven into the small ghetto, along with
other Jews, which included Emke's aunts, cousins, school
friends, gymnasium teachers, neighbors and many other
they were among family and friends they were more hopeful
and optimistic. They encouraged each other, clung to each
other like sheep and were hopefully that the Germans would
give them work and they would still be useful. But this mood
of hope soon dissolved, as they saw with what ardor the
Lithuanian police were beating the incoming Jews in the
small ghetto with their rifles, and to see the broken heads
and bones of the old and weak people.
by the side and watched with horror and disbelief at the
hate emanating from the Lithuanian police and how could they
possibly do such a thing. Among the people who were brought
in to the small ghetto, were young and productive people but
most of them were the elderly and the sick, and Emke with
his childish mind, came to the conclusion, that this is
going to be the end. As the Malnik family were the first to
be brought to the small ghetto and as Emke was the only male
left in his family, he told them they must fund a house for
the whole family. Since all the houses in the small ghetto
were empty, due to the October 4th action. So the twelve of
them, eleven women and Emke, the only male, they moved into
a large story house. They occupied the first floor; those
who came later took up the second floor. The situation
became one of panic, Jews were running around looking for
housing, people fought and cursed, they were fighting for a
place and a roof over their heads. The Jews lost their
minds. Broken morally, depressed, torn apart from their
families (as some were separated when the sorting took
place) so they needed an outlet to vent their anger, the
situation was very chaotic and made unbearable by the
cursing and beatings of the Lithuanian Police. The whole
burden to protect the family of women fell upon Emke's small
and slender shoulders, on that day Emke became older.
the heaviness and responsibility for his family.
windows of the house in which they were staying faced the
barbed wire fence, around which the Lithuanian Police stood
guarded with guns pointed. As if a voice from above said to
Emke, "Emke, this is not a house for you," his mother and
grandmother and the rest of his family had already settled
in, there were no chairs in the house, so you were forced to
sit on the floor or iron beds which were still there. Emke
stood in the middle of the room and pronounced in a loud
voice "that he did not like this place, the house is too
close to the barbed wire fence, we must leave this place."
At first they would not hear of it, they were laying there
tired, broken and beaten. Emke did not stop talking and
pleading, finally they decided to leave the house. Evening
fell and houses were hard to find, all twelve of them were
walking and looking where to put their heads down.
Everywhere houses were already filled up. All were sorry
that they had left the first place. How long they walked
Emke can't remember, but when they did finally find a little
broken down house at the end of the Ghetto it was already
night. Hungry and thirsty dirty from the dust, they all
stretched out their bones wherever they could on the floor,
there were not beds and they all fell asleep on the floor
middle of the night Emke's father risked his life. He gave a
gold piece to a Lithuanian guard to let him in through the
barbed wire fence, in order for him to find his family. He
was running through the small Ghetto and calling the name of
this family. He wanted to rescue them. Unfortunately he
couldn't find them and had to return to the large Ghetto.
his family woke up in the middle of the night to shooting
and screaming. Emke does not remember how long he slept, but
when he awoke for the bullet's exploding penetrated the dark
night. The Lithuanian Police were shooting all night long in
the air, which caused a fright among the Jews. This was to
warn them not to leave the houses and try to escape from the
Ghetto. The continuous night shooting around the Ghetto was
always a warning to the Jews of an upcoming German action.
The loud banging of the rifle butts on the doors of the
houses and yelling they should get out, was an announcement
that the murders had arrived.
little pity on the Jewish victims and sent sunrays that
illuminated but not warm their souls; they were frozen from
fear of death. The march from the small ghetto started with
the typical German efficiency. The victims did not know
what's happening up front, they all came in a small line
from the house onto the sidewalks and next to them walked
the Lithuanian with rifles pointed.
everybody move ahead, he was standing as if a magnet held
him back, he held back his family until everybody passed
him. They were the last 100 people left. Emke was learning
against a wooden fence, standing next to him was his mother,
grandmother and aunt, in front of him in a couple of rows
was the rest of his family. All of a sudden as if the sky
opened up, Emke heard a loud scream, "Feiga, Kalmale is
coming." Like lightening, tore away from the row- his father
walked fast, his top coat open, his hair disheveled from the
wind and with fire in his eyes was searching the rows. This
was the last column of the 100 Jews and his family was
standing in the rows of this column.
his father was walking a German officer. The officer was
walking fast, but his father was walking faster. In his
heart Emke knew that his father would come, he ran to him
and embraced him, the German looked saw the resemblance of
father and son and asked is "this your son?" "Yes" answered Emke's father.
"And where is your wife"? Emke's father
pointed to his wife, Feiga. "Heraus" shouted the officer.
They all three held hands with tears in their eyes. From
fear they did not turn around to look for the last time at
their beloved family. This was the last two minutes before
the liquidation of the Jews. The rest of the people were
taken by truck to the ninth fort. With that was the final
emptying of the Jews of the small ghetto from the "Big Aktion." With broken hearts the three of them returned to
the large ghetto. There Emke had enough courage to turn
around and see how the last truck departed on the road to
Hell-The ninth fort.
all realized what a terrible tragedy befell the family.
Emke's mother Feiga, fainted and his father Kalman Malnik
cried with bitter tears. Every one of us Jews-Emke wrote-had
his own fate and how he survived life in the Ghetto.
when a German officer went to check with the Lithuanian
Police who were guarding us. As I recall it was
approximately 10 minutes before noon. Because at 12 noon,
the small ghetto where the 10,000 Jews were kept before
being transported for liquidation in the ninth fort was
already the last group to be taken to the truck for
transportation. As the German officer passed by our group,
he recognized a woman who used to work for him, he ordered
her to step out and follow him the large ghetto. When she
reached the large ghetto she realized that she had left her
child with our group and she fainted. As fate would have it
my father happened to be standing next to her, he tried to
revive her and succeeded. When she opened her eyes, he asked
in a trembling voice, maybe you saw my family there? Yes she
answered in a weak voice, they are still there. As he heard
that he started begging the same German officer to save his
family. The head of the Jewish Ghetto Police (Michael
Kopelman) happened to be standing next to them, and also
started to pleading with the German officer. Telling him
that my father was a good fire fighter, and when the German
officer asked my father who do you have there?
did not lose his composure due to his experience from the
previous day. Because of my elderly grandmother and my aunt
who had a hunchback, we had all wound up in the small ghetto
and destined to die-so his answer was only my wife and son.
As the German officer was looking at my father begging on
his knees, he barked out" come on follow me." As I was
standing in the last group to be taken away, all kinds of
thought went through my mind. I was in a row with my
grandmother, aunt and my mother. I was leaning against a
fence in from of us were more members of my family,
aunts-cousins. My mother also recognized the principal of my
school, whom I knew most of my life, but I couldn't
recognize him, because in the past 24 hours he looked 20
years older, he became an old man.
All of a
sudden I heard screaming, Feigele, Feigele (my mother's
name) Kalman is here. To me it was if an angel from the sky
or the Messiah had arrived. I ran out from the row and I saw
my father running towards me with the German officer behind
him. His hair was disheveled from the wind and his eyes were
looking for us. As we approached each other I jumped on him.
The officer observed all that and in a harsh voice while
seeing the resemblance between us, yelled out "is this your
son?" "Yes my Herr" said my father. Then he said. "Take your
wife and follow me." The words of my mother still ring in my
ears. "Kalmale can you save my mother and sister" My father
told her "don't even turn around, I can save only you"
And this the miracle of how
we survived the liquidation and murder of the 10,000 Jews
which was called the "Big Aktion" of the Kovno Ghetto,
October 28, 1941. Reference of this tragedy written by me
can be found in Yad Vashem.