M.K.

'On a day In early April of 1945 we were all ordered to get into formation and leave the camp by foot. We knew the Germans were close to defeat. As soon as the gates were opened four of us stepped out of line and started walking away. At this same time the guards started running away themselves. We soon found a burned out house and hid in the basement which fortunately for us was filled with burned potatoes from the fire. We lived on them for about ten days . We were liberated by the American Army on 17 April 1945.'

 

M.K. was a child, living with his parents and siblings in Dvinsk, Latvia when in June 1941 the German army invaded the city. He recalled: ‘ Within days of the German occupation of Dvinsk  all Jewish men between eighteen and sixty, including my father,  were ordered to report to the market square. Within a day or two they were all killed in the railway park behind the jail.’

By 15 July 1941, all remaining Jewish inhabitants  were relocated to a newly created ghetto. The families were allowed to bring only what they could carry in their hands. There was no food, no furniture, no heat and the men and women (everyone over 14) were separated.  The total population was estimated to be 23,048.  The selections and killings started immediately.  By 5 December 1941 the census showed 962 prisoners.

‘The final liquidation came on 1 May 1942, when both my siblings were killed. Everyone except those who were at forced labor outside the ghetto was killed. Only my mother and myself were left from our immediate family. After 1 May only about 487 prisoners remained alive. By the end of the war there were thirty-nine survivors of the Ghetto and a few hundred Jews who returned from Russia. ‘ recalled M.K. Following the final liquidation of the ghetto on 1 May 1942, all the remaining Jews were moved to the labour camp and after that to the Kaiserwald concentration camp. ‘By the fall of 1944, with the Russian army fast approaching, those of us who had managed to survive were placed on ships and sent across the Baltic Sea to Danzig and the death camp of Stutthof. I do know that my mother and I were together at Stutthof for some period of time but always separated by a barbed wire fence. I’m not sure how long I was in Stutthof but it was more than a few months. It was probably one of the most hostile environments and conditions of any of the concentration camps. Even the water was not fit to drink. At some point in mid-1944 I was in a group of 600 to 700 men  selected to go by train  to Magdeburg, not too far from Stutthof. I had to leave my mother behind and never saw her again. All those still alive in Stutthof in April of 1945 were sent out on a death march. I don’t have any record of the details or date of my mother’s death.’- wrote M.K.

He was liberated by the American Army on 17 April 1945. 'On a day In early April of 1945 we were all ordered to get into formation and leave the camp by foot. We knew the Germans were close to defeat and were confused as to what to do about the approaching Allies. As soon as the gates were opened four of us stepped out of line and started walking away. At this same time the guards started running away themselves. We soon found a burned out house and hid in the basement which fortunately for us was filled with burned potatoes from the fire. We lived on them for about ten days before liberation'- he recalled.

After liberation M.K.moved to a DP camp which was established in Feldafing and later to Weilheim.‘I took the ORT course to be a Medical Laboratory Technician, completing it on 11 November 1948. With the assistance of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society over many months I made arrangements to leave Europe and go the US. I arrived in New York City in 7 May 1949. On the very same day I was put into a cab and taken to Grand Central Station and put on a train to Atlanta, Georgia. HIAS had given me 5.35 dollars for expenses for the trip but I met an older Jewish man on the train who spoke Yiddish and he very generously treated me to all my meals. So I arrived in Atlanta with the money still in my pocket: my first savings account. After arriving in the United States and being able to finish high school, I was lucky enough to get a job in a large hospital washing glass ware in their medical laboratory. I worked so that I could start my college studies. Many very helpful people started teaching me more and more, including many of the doctors and the Chief Pathologist and I was eventually hired to work in the lab in the evenings while I continued college during the day.’

M.K. graduated from the medical college and spent the rest of his professional life working as a successful doctor.[1]

 

[1] Source: World ORT Archive: MK interviewed by Katarzyna Person, May 2009