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The Shadow of Death

The Holocaust in Lithuania

Harry Gordon

Publication Year: 2013

" Holocaust survivor Harry Gordon recalls in brutal detail the anguished years of his youth, a youth spent struggling to survive in a Lithuanian concentration camp. A memoir about hope and resilience, The Shadow of Death describes the invasion of Kovno by the Red Army and the impact of Soviet occupation from the perspective of the ghetto's weakest and poorest class. It also serves as a reminder that the Germans were not alone responsible for the persecution and extermination of Jews.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

To say that our understanding of the Holocaust has undergone a drastic change in the half century since the Second World War may at first glance seem obvious. Does not the collective perception of any historical event change with the passage of time, as bits and pieces of information begin to accumulate, as documents and memories gradually sharpen our insight into what...


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pp. xvii-xviii

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1. Before the War

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pp. 1-8

My grandfather's name was Moshe Ganckewitz. I lived with my mother and father in his apartment house at 23 Preplaukos Kanto in Kovno, Lithuania. My grandfather and grandmother (my mother's parents) shared the first floor with us. When I was younger, my mother's two younger sisters, Golda and Celia, ...

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2. The Russian Invasion

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pp. 9-21

One Saturday afternoon-it was in June 1940-we were going for a walk as usual down the main street of Kovno when suddenly we heard loud noises. From all sides there appeared military tanks. They came across the two bridges over the rivers, moving fast. They were closed so we couldn't see anyone...

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3. The War Begins

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pp. 22-36

During the last year, when we were living under Russian Communist rule, some things remained the same. My father was still at the textile factory and had even gotten a promotion. Uncle Borach worked as a commissar, supplying the Russian army with food. And Uncle Yenchik was still in the cattle business. I...

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4. The Purge of Slobodka

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pp. 37-40

Slobodka was a suburb of Kovno, connected to it by a bridge. It was at that time the home of the pious, strict Jews, the important rabbis and students of the Torah. Many scholars came from there. When you mentioned Slobodka, the name rang all over the world. It was identified with the Yeshivot (the Orthodox...

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5. Moving to the Ghetto

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pp. 41-42

The moving of the Jews to the ghetto started in the middle of the week. The sky was covered with very small white clouds through which the sun's rays beamed brightly. Our community started to move as soon as the order was issued. We could see caravans of disheartened men, women, and children. They were...

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6. In the Ghetto

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pp. 43-45

The ghetto fences were locked and no one could leave at all. There were a lot of people who didn't have any rooms to move into, so many people were lying in the streets and many families were living all together in one room. But the Jews didn't lose hope. Everybody thought this was not for long, that we would be...

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7. The Collection of Valuables

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pp. 46-49

We had hoped to hold onto what little property we had, but at the hidden valuables. If they found any at all, they would shoot not only everyone in the household but everyone on the whole block. clouds and that was how everyone felt at the time. Everyone was everyone not to hide anything but to give it up voluntarily. Each ...

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8. The First Practice Massacre

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pp. 50-54

September 17, 1941, was a sunny but cold morning, and the roofs were covered with a thin layer of frost. We were still in our beds when we heard on the street past the fence the marching of Lithuanian partisans singing the Lithuanian national anthem. The tramping of boots and the singing scared us to death...

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9. The Airfield Work Brigade

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pp. 55-58

When the Germans started the war with the Russians, they bombarded the airfield with the Russian planes, completely destroying it. Now the Germans wanted to repair the fields for their own use, so they would be able to land, fuel up, and take off...

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10. The Liquidation of the Little Ghetto

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pp. 59-62

Saturday, October 4, 1941. The ground was covered with a silvery coating of snow and the sky was overcast with grayish clouds. The whole city around the ghetto was still in a deep sleep. The little ghetto was surrounded by Gennans, Lithuanian partisans, and Ukrainians who had joined the Gennans when they...

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11. Life in the Big Ghetto

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pp. 63-64

The displacement to the big ghetto started a new life and new troubles for us. The Germans had taken us from the small ghetto without even a shirt. Even though life was miserable, one still needed a bed, a shirt, and socks, a pan to cook with. We had to go to our friends, to borrow from anyone who had a little extra. We had left our house in the little ghetto with only what we...

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12. The Big Liquidation

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pp. 65-68

On the twenty-eighth of October 1941, ten thousand innocent people were taken from the ghetto to the Ninth Fort. It was a Tuesday. I was standing in line waiting to go to work. It got lighter and lighter, but our guards still did not come to pick us up. We were supposed to go out at six, but at eight they still...

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13. The Workshops and the Small Brigades

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pp. 69-72

The Gennans decided that, as long as they were feeding the Jews, they might as well try to get the most work possible out of them, at least until the Jewish question was settled. This is why they started building a big factory in the ghetto with many...

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14. The Jewish Police

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pp. 73-74

There were two groups of police. One kept order in the ghetto and the second, the fence police, stood by the ghetto fence with the Germans and Lithuanians, waiting for the incoming Jewish working brigades to inspect what they brought in in their knapsacks, to see if there was anything not allowed. Earlier in the...

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15. New Life and New Work

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pp. 75-87

After the massacre my whole family and I saw that there was no hope of crawling out of the lion's claws. It was only a matter of time. The moment would arrive when the bloodthirsty animal would tear us apart as it had torn apart ten thousand other Jews. We had no choice but to wait for death. We had no valuables...

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16. Koshedar

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pp. 88-98

It was October 1942. My second furlough ended on Tuesday night; I planned to go get an extension on Wednesday morning, but Wednesday morning turned out to be too late. At five in the morning two Jewish policemen came to the door with an order in hand for Hershke Gordon...

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17. Back in the Ghetto

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pp. 99-105

Here I was in the ghetto, but I was afraid to go home, feeling that a disaster awaited me. Whatever would be, I could not stay in the and saw the little gray door, I came to a standstill. I could not hesitate at the door but opened it right up and walked into the house. The little kitchen where I used to sleep looked dark and ...

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18. Escape from the Ghetto

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pp. 106-114

At the ghetto fence, all the working brigades were already standing in line waiting to go to work. I got into my brigade and waited nervously. We heard the cry that the airfield brigade should go through the gate. I moved quickly to the front lines as we marched through the gate. I asked the person in back of me to...

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19. A New Work Brigade

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pp. 115-117

As I came through the gate I could see Uncle Abraham waiting for me. He was so happy to see me, so impatient, that he couldn't wait until we got home to start asking me questions.
"Hershke, why did you come back to the ghetto so soon? What happened? Did the Lithuanian throw you out?" I explained my...

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20. Red Plantation

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pp. 118-121

On April 15, 1943, an order came from the Gestapo to the Jewish up, scared, and asked who was there. We thought it might be the we should open the door. They came in, took out a list, and asked but he didn't say it. He was thinking, "It wouldn't be so bad if parasites on someone else's blood." But if he had said anything, ...

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21. The Obersturmbannführer

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pp. 122-125

By the time I got home from the hospital, it was already dark. I me, he cried out emotionally "Hershula is here!" As he told me to sit down and take off my jacket, he realized that my left sleeve pened. You have come back alive, back from the dead, alive! You should do a lot of praying." He also said that I looked so worn out ...

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22. The Liquidation of the Helpless

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pp. 126-130

On the morning of Monday, March 27, 1944, all the working brigades went to work at the airfield, in the workshops, and in the city and the ghetto. The only ones left home were the people working night shifts, the old people, the sick, the young, and some mothers. When all the brigades were out at work, about...

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23. The Partisans in the Woods

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pp. 131-134

A few days after the liquidation, everything that had happened to the police in the Ninth Fort came out. One hundred and thirty policemen had survived. Mr. Kittel kept forty in the fort and let ninety go back to the ghetto. The forty he kept were the higher ranking police, the captains and sergeants. They were eventually...

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24. Kazlu Ruda and Escape

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pp. 135-138

The situation in the ghetto worsened every day as the German losses on the Russian front grew and the Germans took out their disappointment on us. Rumors began to spread in the ghetto that the Germans would take the whole ghetto and put us in isolation, making us wear striped clothing like prisoners. When...

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25. Deportation to the Concentration Camps

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pp. 139-142

After they brought us into the ghetto, the Gennan leader took us out onto the big field next to the Gennan commandant's headquarters, where I had worked earlier. Already on the field were many Jews from the ghetto or from other working camps outside the ghetto. We had to wait until they had the right...


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pp. Plates 1-Plates 8

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26. Auschwitz

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pp. 143-146

The sorting of the people took between four and five hours. They didn't just consider age; they looked into the face and at the body to see if they could get a little more work out of it. Again, the finger pointed to life or death. A lot of young men fell into the face or any such thing, you could be put in that group. I fell into ...

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27. Dachau, Camp Number One

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pp. 147-151

In the beginning of September 1944, I was deported with a group of people to Dachau. It was also surrounded with a high electrified fence, but the barracks weren't as big as at Auschwitz. These barracks had fewer people, fifty to seventy-five, but they were excavated into the ground. Each had one little window, and...

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28. The Sick Camp

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pp. 152-156

We were moved to Camp Number Four at the end of January 1945 on a cold, overcast day. The commandant gave the order for us to march to the new camp, which was about twenty miles. The road was very bad and covered with snow. People started falling from hunger and cold. Uncle Borach and I tried to pick some up...

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29. Liberation

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pp. 157-161

After the epidemic, the hunger became so fierce that, no matter how much grass I put in myself, hunger still cut my soul. The ration of bread was now two pounds of bread for fifty people, and there was no soup. During the last month before the liberation the Germans didn't give us any bread at all, only a quart of...

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30. In the Hospital

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pp. 162-165

Even with my uncle's help, I had to stop every five steps to catch my breath. On the one hand, I felt the pain in my stomach, but on the other hand, I felt great happiness that we were now free. Tears flowed from our eyes, and our hopes were so high as we reached Landsberg that we thought we would find our families

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31. The DP Camp

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pp. 166-170

As soon as I moved to the DP camp, I went every day by train to there would be a new list telling who was still alive and where somebody from my family. There would be long lines of people at the offices waiting to hear some news of their families. To our disappointed. In spite of this, I didn't give up hope. Every day I ...

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32. The Voyage to the United States

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pp. 171-172

We boarded the boat on a Monday evening. There were about three hundred DPs in all. The women were put on one floor and the men on the floor beneath them. On the top floor were the captain and crew. After assigning us to beds, we were taken to the dining area, where there were tables set up, and told to sit...

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33. The New Life

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pp. 173-178

My uncle never met us. As Jean and I sat on the pier waiting for relatives and friends. Long hours passed. I began to feel anxious that Uncle Jack had not arrived. We waited into the evening. All the other DPs had left by then. I went to the Red Cross worker in charge and told her we were still waiting for my uncle. She took ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813143590
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813117676

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2013