Born: ca. 1876, Vilna, Poland
Rachel, born Rachel Karpus, was born to a Jewish family in the northeastern Polish city of Vilna. At the age of 16, Rachel married Reuven Galperin, a typesetter for a Jewish newspaper in the city, and the couple subsequently had 16 children. Only nine of the children lived to the 1930s.
1933-39: In addition to caring for her children, Rachel also operated a small grocery on Nowigorod Street. In 1938 Rachel's husband died. One year later, on September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland and 17 days after that the Soviet Union invaded from the east, splitting Poland in two. Vilna lay within the Soviet zone, and in October the Soviets decided to cede the city to Lithuania.
1940-41: On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and within two days the Germans reached Vilna. Soon after, Rachel and numerous members of her immediate family were arrested and taken six miles southwest of Vilna to the resort area of Ponary. During the Soviet occupation, the Soviets had begun excavations for installing a fuel tank there. The Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators used the pits for a mass execution site. The victims were herded through a narrow circular passage, then shot and dumped in mass graves.
Rachel and many of her family members were murdered at Ponary. The exact date of her death is unknown.
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