Veisiejai (Lithuania), Kovno Ghetto, Dachau
Mr. Jack Lowenthal was born in Veisiejai, Lithuania in 1918. There were two hundred and fifty-eight Jewish families in his town and the Jews attended concerts, theatre, lectures, Maccabi sporting events and supported the Jewish Library.
Mr. Lowenthal’s father was a locksmith and had a small hardware store. He had four brothers and two sisters. His brothers worked for ORT, where many learned trades.
The Jews had a good life and the country’s president was a good man who later escaped to the United States.
At four in the morning on June 22, 1941, war broke out. Mr. Lowenthal and his brother, together with his wife and three and a half year old daughter, tried to escape, but his wife and daughter were taken away on a train. His wife was never seen again, but in 1970, Jack and his long-lost daughter, Rochelle, were reunited.
The men tried to escape, but there wasn’t any transportation. Books and the Torah were thrown out of their synagogue and Jack tried to escape through the woods. The Germans caught him time and time again.
Mr. Lowenthal remembers that the Lithuanian Partisans were beasts. The Germans promised them their independence. They took away their belongings. Mr. Lowenthal escaped once again to Kovno, where the Germans made huge graves for all the Jews.
Mr. Lowenthal came upon a man who helped him by pretending that he was taking Mr. Lowenthal to jail. He and his brother waited for the Ghetto to be formed, thinking it would be safe, but it was not so. Thirty-five thousand people crowded into the space, thinking the same thing, but the Partisans robbed and killed many of them. The Kovno Ghetto was in a small poor neighborhood and the Ghetto was crowded. The Germans said they wanted the strongest people to help them, but killed them instead.
A hospital was formed in the Ghetto, where doctors and nurses were brought in, surreptitiously to help, but the Germans set fire to the hospital and the Jewish staff. Supposedly the Germans told the partisans to carry this out. Mr. Lowenthal’s house held fifteen people per room and there was no heat. They ate one slice of bread and some watery soup each day.
Mr. Lowenthal dug ditches at the airport and also did welding.
The Germans brought in buses and took all the children away, threw them in ditches, covered them with dirt and buried most alive. Escape was impossible. Ten thousand were killed in one day!
Later, in Lager 2 of Dachau, men and women were separated and in 1944, Mr. Lowenthal worked in an airfield in Bavaria. He was not tattooed but was given a number: 82445. When he worked, he saw other hungry prisoners and brought them potatoes if he found them.
The Germans began to mistreat the Russians and the Latvians and took the prisoners from lager to lager and finally on the march. Mr. Lowenthal was weak, but remained on his feet, watching the fallen get shot by the SS.
They were eventually liberated by the Americans. The Mayor of the village took the sick prisoners to the hospital and put them in the basement, giving them soup to eat. Mr. Lowenthal prayed to live in order to see the murderers punished. He asked a German woman for shoes and she took him to her home and saved his life. He stayed with Mrs. Snyder for the next two months.
Mr. Lowenthal came to the United States in 1949.
Date: July 27, 1982
Interviewer: Gordon Mork and Dennis Noble, Department of History at Purdue University
Length: 42 minutes