Wednesday, May 28, 2014

V5.21 - Emanuel’s Story part 3

From Ms Rachel…continued… If I am right, this is Emanuel’s story:

Emanuel was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, in about 1938. His parents were Sender and Chaja Mines. Emanuel’s sister, Miriam, was five when he was born. Sender was a shoemaker, and Chaja stayed at home and looked after her husband and children. About a year after Emanuel’s birth, his parents took him to have his picture taken. They didn’t have much money, and studio photos were expensive, but Emanuel’s father was proud of his first-born son, and wanted to show him off to his family in far-off America. He sent one photo to his brother Ben in Birmingham, Alabama.

Emanuel spent the first few years of his short life in peace. Then, on June 23, 1941, when he was three years old, German troops invaded Lithuania. Beatings and murders of Jewish citizens began immediately. By July 10, the Jewish citizens of Kaunas, Emanuel and his family among them, were forced into the ghetto, a slum area of poor wooden houses without running water. Around this area a fence was built, and no one was allowed in or out without permission from the Nazi authorities, on pain of death. The ghetto was horribly overcrowded, food was scarce, and the first winter was one of the coldest on record, made even worse by a severe shortage of firewood. Emanuel and his sister Miriam were cold, hungry, and dirty. Even worse, that winter Sender and a group of others was deported for forced labor in Latvia. The children never saw their father again.

The children and their mother lived in the ghetto for almost three years. Despite the constant hunger, fear, and misery, the Jewish citizens of the Kaunas Ghetto managed to maintain a social and cultural life, including clandestine schools. In one of these schools, Emanuel may have learned his first letters. His mother, like the other adults, was pressed into forced labor, and Emanuel would have been cared for by Miriam and possibly his grandmother, Rode.

Then, in a two-day period, March 27-28 1944, while the adults were at their places of forced labor, the Gestapo entered the ghetto and rounded up everyone remaining – mostly children under 12 and adults too old to work. The people were dragged from their homes and hiding places, and taken to the nearby Ninth Fort in Kaunas, where they were shot. Emanuel, Miriam, and Rode were among them.

No one alive now remembers these three people. They have disappeared from history. The only trace remaining is – maybe – one studio portrait of one child, probably my brother Emanuel, taken in about 1939, in Kaunas, Lithuania. Emanuel is dressed in a fancy gown and sits on a Taylor-Tot look-alike. The camera has captured him in one of the proudest and happiest moments he and his parents will ever know.

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