Baras (Wolpe), Mashe

Baras (Wolpe), Mashe

Kovno (Lithuania), Stutthoff

Baras was born to a very wealthy family in Kovno, Lithuania. Her father was involved in community organizations and founded the school she attended. The family had maids, a cook, a vacation villa at the ocean, and a chauffeured car. When Russia invaded Lithuania in 1940, she recalls, everything was suddenly lost.

The Germans then entered Kovno in 1941 and the family was forced into the Kovno ghetto. All five members of Baras’s family lived in one room. Each day Baras went out of the ghetto with the work crew, hid her yellow star, and searched for food. Because of her appearance (she was very tall, blonde, with non-Jewish features), she was able to supply her family with food in the ghetto. Her father was member of the Kovno Judenrat.

In June 1944 Baras, her mother, and her sister were sent in cattle cars to Stutthoff in Poland. She later learned that her father and brother went to Dachau, where both perished. In Stutthoff, Baras endured cruel treatment and vividly remembers the daily roll calls during which one waited to be chosen for death. When typhus struck the camp, Baras’s mother died, but Baras and her sister survived the outbreak.

In April 1945 the Russians were approaching Stutthoff and the Germans began to retreat. She and her sister were among those put on a boat to retreat to Germany. As the Allies neared the boat, the Germans pushed all the prisoners into the water. Baras’s sister drowned, and she only remembers awakening on the beach, one of the only survivors. The British found her and sent her to a hospital. She weighed 89 pounds.

Baras eventually walked from Poland to Italy, where she remained for five years until she was allowed to join an uncle in the United States. She is the only survivor of her family.

Interview Information:
Date: April 25, 1988
Interviewer: Esther Weine
Length: 55 minutes
Format: Video recording