Aron (Dereczynski) Derman
Born: 1922, Slonim, Poland
Describes events that took place upon the German invasion of Slonim, Poland [Interview: 1994]
Later, around nine, nine, ten o'clock, we were ready to go to sleep. And it didn't take too long--before I even had a chance to fall asleep--we hear like crackles on the roof. We hear...first thing, we hear shooting, shooting in our yard. I lived in that small courtyard. And it's shooting going on, and one after the other, and it's getting stronger, the shots are getting more, more often. And here I hear crackles on the roof. So I was thinking, "Thank God, it's raining." But it wasn't rain. The house was on fire. It was a wooden house, and it caught, the...it caught, the house caught on fire. So we were forced to get out...now that's about one or two o'clock in the midnight, and it was...only thing you could see is from the moon, moonlight. It was...you could see everything what's happening. So some way we ducked out from the house and we are in the yard, and here in the middle of the fight is going on between the Germans and the Russians. What happened is, a group of Russians, well they were left over. The front was already far, far away, but they didn't know, the Russians didn't know there's no more front in here and some way a fight was going on. So we are coming out in the middle of the night and we are immediately arrested by the Germans. And, uh, they put us in one place, and we were approximately, I would say, about 15 or 18 men, and women, so they made women, they pushed them aside, but men they took and they made everybody, if anybody had a cap on, they made everybody to take off their caps. And anybody who did not have hair, they put them in one place and they shoot them. They shoot them in our back yard. So here, I'm a young fellow, lost my home, I've lost my home, and I'm witnessing a terrible massacre of maybe eight or ten men. By luck, they didn't take me because I had hair, I wasn't in the army. The reason they looked for bald hair is they thought maybe it's Russians, [who had] changed their clothes. So they, they took the people...and my father didn't have much hair, but he was probably looked older, so by chance they didn't take him either. But I know the reason why they didn't take me. So they killed them, and we had to dig a big, uh, graveyard, a big hole, in our yard. And we buried, uh, the people there.
Aron was born to a middle-class Jewish family in Slonim, a part of Poland between the two world wars. His parents owned a clothing store. After studying in a technical school, Aron worked as a motion-picture projectionist in a small town near Slonim. The Soviet army took over Slonim in September 1939. War broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union in June 1941. Aron returned to Slonim. The Germans soon occupied Slonim, and later forced the Jews into a ghetto. Aron was forced to work in an armaments factory, and was able to smuggle arms into the ghetto. After helping his family escape when the Germans destroyed the ghetto, Aron worked in Grodno until he was arrested. While being deported from Grodno, Aron jumped off the cattle car. He eventually managed to escape from Grodno and join the underground outside Vilna. After the war, he and his wife (whom he had met in the Slonim ghetto) emigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum - Collections