Q. How old was he?
A. Seven – seven and a half. He would close the chest
over his head and ask whether he could be seen; he would
enter a cupboard, close it, look through the windows to
see whether he couldn’t see a German. This fear of the
children who experienced these two days and who knew what
was going on, who knew that their friends had gone or that
their neighbours had gone, and the difficulties of keeping
the children in the ghetto, became unendurable. And then,
naturally, the parents who had previously thought of dying
together with their children, they too sought ways of
taking them to the other side of the fence.
Attorney General: Did you succeed in particular cases?
Witness Peretz: We succeeded in particular cases and a few
dozens of children were also saved in this way.
Judge Halevi: Who was Dr. Boehmichen?
Witness Peretz: He belonged to the SS and so to speak
dealt with the medical affairs of the ghetto. Altogether,
this whole approach to matters of medicine and health in
the ghetto – we always used to ask ourselves, as indeed we
hear the questions today: What does this mean – they
killed you en masse and yet worried about your health?
This was one of the characteristics of this regime – to
care; one person took care of the shooting and the killing
and another took care of bread and another took care of
hospitals. And when they subsequently gave us orders to
open hospitals again in the second ghetto – this seemed
very strange to us: Why hospitals? People were constantly
being killed. But this is how it was, although the
hospital was useful to us, we were able to set up a
temporary operating theatre, to perform operations under
better conditions, organized in a better way. This
Boehmichen didn’t take a practical interest in whether we
had medicines, whether we had instruments to work with or
not – this didn’t concern him. He would merely enter,
shout and give orders that had no relevance to his medical
Judge Halevi: Was he a doctor?
Witness Peretz: Yes.
Q. And he participated in the “action” against the Jews?
A. Yes. He took part in the “action” against the
children. We came across such doctors on more than one
occasion in our experience, especially in the
Attorney General: Dr. Peretz, you mentioned the Jewish
police. I understand that in Kovno the Jewish police were
also not hated by the populace.
Witness Peretz: The Jewish police in Kovno were not hated
by the populace. For in most cases these were boys whom
we knew, and these boys even helped the partisan movement
which developed at the end of the days of the ghetto –
they assisted them to get out, as much as they could. I
wouldn’t say that there weren’t also a few low types
amongst them, but not the majority. Some of them actually
paid with their lives.
Presiding Judge: Mr Hausner, why don’t you sit down?
Attorney General: As long as the witness remains standing,
I will also remain on my feet.
Presiding Judge: That doesn’t matter.
Attorney General: [to the witness] One day did Jews from
other countries arrive in Kovno?
Witness Peretz: At the end of 1941 an order was received
to vacate a zone of the ghetto for Jews who were expected.
Of course, the entire ghetto was in suspense to see who
were these Jews coming to us in the ghetto. This zone
remained vacant. But from time to time we saw columns of
Jews passing through the main street of the ghetto which
led to the Ninth Fort. These Jews, when they saw fellow
Jews on the other side of the fence, would ask: “Ist noch
weit der Lager?” (Is it still far to the camp?), for they
had been told that they were taking them to a camp. We
knew where this road led to.
Q. Where did it lead to?
A. To the Ninth Fort, to the pits. This fact was
subsequently confirmed conclusively by the brigade of Jews
who worked for the Gestapo. Their task was mainly to sort
out the personal effects of the Jews, and they brought
with them the possessions of the Jews from foreign
countries. Amongst these possessions they found papers,
for example a summons to report to such and such a railway
Q. Do you remember the towns from which they came?
A. They were from Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt-on-Main, but
Dutch and Belgian Jews also arrived at the Ninth Fort. We
also heard indirectly that they seemed to have refused to
undress and that they struggled with the Germans. There,
in their suitcases and amongst the personal effects they
brought with them, they even had notices warning them to
prepare for a hard winter, since they were bound for the
“East.” They even took along small stoves and warm
clothing. On their suitcases the word “Israel” was
written for a man, and the word “Sarah” for a woman,
something which had not happened with us. We knew
precisely – according to their effects- that they were
from Western Europe. They had been told that they were
being taken to work in the “East” and they were brought to
Q. What did you do internally in order to strengthen
Jewish life – the Jewish spirit?
A. To this end much was done. But I wouldn’t say that it
was all done in a planned and organized manner. With all
us, and especially with the Lithuanian Jew, who has great
vitality, we tried to preserve both spirit and soul.
After the decrees of 1942 to hand over all books and to
close the schools, not to instruct, not to teach –
needless to say, even after such orders Jews were studying
clandestinely. There were Jews who went out with the
brigades in order to secure a little food, and instead of
food they used to bring in their sacks some books which
they found in ruined houses.
Q. Did you organize relief enterprises?
A. We also had relief enterprises which were organized by
the supreme council. In particular we took care of
thousands of lone women – for in the ghetto, generally
speaking, they first used to take the men and a large
number of women were left on their own. Every woman was
in greater danger than a man, for she had nobody to
protect her. They were taken care of in various ways.
Q. Did you provide education for the children?
A. There was education. We opened a so-called vocational
school, and under this guise, of course, children were
also being taught. I must tell you that the image of the
Jewish God was not lost to us even in the most terrible
times. In particular this manifested itself later on,
when we were in concentration camps.
Q. Do you recall a particular incident concerning the
Q. What happened?
A. The lawyer Lurie, he and his wife and son – in the days
of the liquidation of the ghetto, when it was clear that
they were going to remove us, and if they removed us, it
was clear to us that this meant death – he decided with
his wife to commit suicide. He poisoned himself, his wife
and his son – his only child. But a great misfortune
happened to this poor man. The dose of poison, which was
sufficient for the child, did not suffice for him and his
wife; both of them awoke the next morning and found the
child dead in bed. He decided that he obviously could not
go on living in such a situation. He and his wife went up
to the fence where guards were posted – they ran forward
as if to break out and were killed at the fence by the
guards. This took place before the ghetto was liquidated.
Q. Describe the liquidation of the ghetto.
A. In the last year, the Russian front was approaching
and, of course, operations began on the Western front, and
with both fronts coming nearer, the hopes of the Jews
rose. For our entire situation was one of gaining time –
perhaps only in this way we would also gain our lives.
And then we began digging below the ground. We were
somewhat naive. We thought that it would be possible to
dig ourselves in under the ground or to lie hidden in the
attics and to overcome this crisis and be saved. Hence
dozens of the Malines were dug out, some of them quite
well constructed, and we resolved that, at the moment when
the liquidation would begin, in other words when the front
line approached Kovno, we would go down into these
cellars. A part of the population decided not to hide and
to go wherever they were
taken. And, indeed, the entire Council of Elders was
taken away. In the very last days Jews still tried to
force their way through the fence. Eleven persons died
through deceit; seemingly the guards took money, as if to
allow them to leave, but, somewhere there, two Germans
with a machine gun had concealed themselves and shot them
to death. After this incident, Jews no longer tried to
leave. Then they began removing the Jews from the ghetto
to the railway station. It was not known where they were
bound for. I personally, together with my family, went
into the bunker. We did not expect to die, but to be
saved. However, the Germans knew about this and, during
their hardest days, when the Russians were already at the
outskirts of Vilna, they still found time to search for
all the Jews who were hiding inside the Malines.
Judge Raveh: What period are you speaking of now?
Witness Peretz: I am talking of July 1944, approximately.
They first of all began looking for Jews and those
discovered were brought to one large building, and placed
inside a large wooden building. They blew up the Malines
and following the explosion people emerged, naturally
wounded and stifled by smoke. Until a certain moment, the
Germans went on taking these people out.
2I was among those groups who were found a few hours
before the last transport was taken to the railway
station. All the remaining bunkers, which they were
unable to discover easily, were blown up in the course of
time, and then about 2,000 people were killed inside these
bunkers; people emerged alive from only two of the
bunkers. Oshry, (incidentally he wrote a book) who was
inside one of the bunkers, remained alive. But they were
few. Most of the bunkers were blown up and many died when
We were certain that we – the many thousands of people who
had been gathered into this wooden building – that our end
had come. We were already indifferent and had reconciled
ourselves to it. They took us out on to the road and
arranged us in rows. At that moment members of the SS
passed by and removed individuals from the lines. These
individuals totalled several hundreds. They were older,
wounded from the explosions when they had been found in
the bunkers, little children, women, old people, ragged,
and they lined them up on one side. When they took them
out and stood them on the side, a glimmer of hope arose
again with those who remained in these ranks. And I
remember a scene such pictures remain engraved in one’s
memory for a lifetime. I remained in line and a nurse who
had worked with me for a long time stood at the side of
the road. She was a midwife and had her little boy with
her; they had been removed from the ranks and they stood
outside. This was after the rain. There was a puddle of
water, and she bent over to give the child some water from
this puddle. In the middle of this scene we were ordered
to move. We passed through the streets of Kovno. A few
attempted to run away from the ranks. But neighbours were
in the area who immediately informed on them and caused
these people to be sent back to the ranks.
A. Yes. They brought us there to the railway station in
Kovno and loaded us on to freight cars. We knew that the
Red Army was nearby and we hoped that possibly they would
block the way. But these waggons moved off and brought us
to Germany, and our suffering continued for almost another
When we left the ghetto, it was all in flames. We saw
groups of people who had gathered at the ghetto cemetery
where they had dug ditches and buried the people whom they
had found dead. All the ghetto was full of broken
fragments, feathers, furniture and desolation.
Attorney General: Dr. Peretz do you know how many of the
Jews of Kovno survived?
Witness Peretz: In Kovno there were over 40,000 Jews.
There remained alive approximately – I cannot say exactly
– about two thousand persons.
Q. Is there anything special that you would like to add
about the holocaust scenes in Kovno?
A. Naturally, as I have said, the most horrible scenes for
us were those concerning the children. There was one
other large “action.” This was on 28 October, when they
took 10,000 people to the Ninth Fort. There was a
Q. What was the selection like?
A. Two days before they had put up a notice that on 28
October at six o’clock in the morning all the inmates of
the ghetto, without exception, had to gather at such and
such a location. Whoever was ill and couldn’t move had to
put up a notice on his door to the effect that he was at
home and ill. This was an autumn day and at six in the
morning it was still dark. From all the lanes of the
ghetto the people poured forth to the appointed place,
ordinary Jews, women with prams. A light snow was falling
at the time. All of them gathered together – one sought
the other. 27,000 people assembled on this field at the
time. They told the Council of Elders that they merely
wanted to select the working people in order to give them
better food rations, and those remaining – those who were
not workers – would be housed in another place and would
receive different food rations. Needless to say, after
the previous “actions” people weren’t so credulous. But
it was in the nature of man and also part of our nature to
believe each time that we would be left alive. 27,000
persons were assembled on this field and waiting, without
knowing what their fate would be. Suddenly, a car arrived
and out stepped an SS man, Rauko, who was known in the
ghetto, and he took up his position on a small rise. He
was tall – he looked like a pedigree horse – and the Jews
started passing by him. We didn’t know what his game was.
We stood some distance from the focus.
Presiding Judge: What do you mean by “focus”?
Witness Peretz: The centre. But gradually we understood
what his game was. He was separating the people with his
finger to left or right. We saw that to the left side
were passing the fitter people and the younger ones, fewer
children. Jewish policemen from the ghetto were also
taking them and accompanying them to this side. To the
other side passed people who were more burdened with
children, old people, ragged ones, those more weary and so
on, and they were being received instead by the Germans
and the Lithuanians who were beating them up – the
attitude to them was quite different. We understood that
the one side led to
death and the other side to life. This was the power of
this regime that could immediately separate the people
into groups, and of course by this means all resistance
was lessened, since each one hoped to remain alive after
all. This section that went to its death was placed in the
small ghetto which had previously been emptied of all
people, and they slept there, and also on that night
everyone sought a better place, a better corner. They
believed that they would remain there, but at four o’clock
in the morning columns of people began ascending the hill
that led to the Ninth Fort.
Attorney General: How many were there?
Witness Peretz: 10,000 went on that day. Some tried to
escape from the columns. I was called to a neighbour’s
house, near the fence. Three women were lying there who
had received dumdum bullets while attempting to escape.
Q. What day was that?
A. It was 28 October 1941, when 10,000 people went.
Presiding Judge: Dr. Servatius, do you have any questions
to the witness?
Dr Servatius: I have no questions.
Judge Raveh: Do you have an idea how many children were
saved by being taken out of the ghetto?
A. I must admit that I do not have any statistics. I
estimate that there were only tens and not hundreds.
Presiding Judge: Thank you, Dr. Peretz, you have completed your evidence.