The words that she said I’ll never forget. Mama said, “My child, the trucks are here.” Trucks mean deportation. Deportation means separation of families.
Over 60 years after the Holocaust, hatred, antisemitism, and genocide still threaten our world. The life stories of Holocaust survivors transcend the decades and remind us of the constant need to be vigilant citizens and to stop injustice, prejudice, and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.
This podcast series presents excerpts of interviews with Holocaust survivors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s public program First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors.
In today’s episode, Nesse Godin talks about life in the ghetto in Siauliai, Lithuania. She recounts the day of November 5, 1943, when her father, along with many others, was rounded up and deported from the ghetto.
You know I could stand here and talk to you for hours and hours, but I choose to share with you one single day in the ghetto of Siauliai, Lithuania. November 5, 1943, I was already 15 and a half years old. I had already a job outside of the ghetto. Every morning to line up and go to work. Why was it so good to go to work outside? Well you were not inside when they were grabbing people to be killed. But when you worked outside, you worked with many Christian people, Lithuanian people, and they brought you something to eat; an apple, a half a sandwich. Maybe that saved my life.
On that particular day of November 5, 1943, when I came to the gate to go out to work, I saw trucks outside of the ghetto. We were told we are not allowed to go to work that day. I remember running back to the little room that I shared with nine people, two uncles, two aunts, my parents, my brothers, myself…I remember Mama putting layers of clothing on me, bread in my pocket. The words that she said I’ll never forget. Mama said, “My child, the trucks are here.” Trucks mean deportation. Deportation means separation of families. It was such a chaos in the ghetto.
Some people said we should hide in the hiding places. See, everybody had a hiding place in the little room beneath the bed, a double wall, up in the attic. Other people said no use hiding; the Nazis dynamite the area after they take out the people.
But a little bit later, orders changed. We were told a mistake was made. We should go to work. So I left the ghetto that morning. All day long we wondered what were those trucks doing there. Were they delivering food or taking someone out?
That evening as we were coming back from work, as we were coming closer to the ghetto, we heard cries. Such cries I hope no human being will hear. What happened that single day of November 5, 1943, in the ghetto of Siauliai, Lithuania. SS, Gestapo, and Ukrainians joined the evil cause. You know now I see them on the History Channel. Old men saying, “Everybody was doing it. Well, so we did it. We had to obey orders. We had to do this, that.”
My dear wonderful people, especially you young people: Don’t do what everybody is doing. Check out before. Make sure you are not in trouble, that you don’t join an organization that is evil, killing others, abusing others. Yes, now they are sorry. As a matter of fact, I heard today in the news that Mr. Demjanjuk was shipped off to Germany. He had an excuse, he’s 89 years old. My father didn’t live to be 89. He was 47 when he was taken that day from the ghetto of Siauliai, Lithuania.
I didn’t ask a question about thousands of people, millions of people. I asked a question about one human being, my dad. He was a kind man, he was a good man. Why was he killed?
You have been listening to First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors, a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Every Wednesday at 1 p.m. from March through August, Holocaust survivors share their stories during First Person programs held at the Museum in Washington, DC. We would appreciate your feedback on this series. [Please take our First Person podcast survey and let us know what you think.]