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Letter from Elkhanan Elkes

First page of the ethical will of Elkhanan Elkes, the chairman of the Kovno ghetto Jewish Council. Elkes wrote the letter between October 19 and November 11, 1943, and had it smuggled out of the ghetto to his two grown children, who were living in England at the time.

First page of the ethical will of Elkhanan Elkes, the chairman of the Kovno ghetto Jewish Council. Elkes wrote the letter between October 19 and November 11, 1943, and had it smuggled out of the ghetto to his two grown children, who were living in England at the time. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, donation of Dr. Joel Elkes

October 19, 1943

First page of the ethical will of Elkhanan Elkes, the chairman of the Kovno ghetto Jewish council. Elkes wrote the letter between October 19 and November 11, 1943, and had it smuggled out of the ghetto to his two grown children, who were living in England at the time.

Elkes writes: "I am writing to you my beloved children...in the Valley of Tears, the Kovno Viljampole Ghetto...I am writing this in an hour when many shattered souls, widows, and orphans, threadbare and hungry, are camping on our doorstep imploring us for help. My strength is ebbing. There is a desert inside me. My soul is scorched. I am naked and empty, and there are no words in my mouth...The Germans killed, slaughtered, and murdered us in complete equanimity. I saw them; I was standing in their presence as they were sending many thousands of men and women and children and infants to be butchered...I embrace and kiss you and say to you that I am your loving father to my very last breath. Elkhanan."