// William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

DATE:                       DECEMBER 15, 1995

Transcript (PDF)

Betty Grossman Goodfriend was one of nine children born to Bella and Mordechai Grossman in Vilkija, Lithuania, in 1927. When she was a baby, her family moved to Klaipeda, Lithuania. When the area around Klaipeda was ceded to Germany in 1939, the family returned to Vilkija. Vilkija fell under Soviet occupation in 1940. Betty was sent to the city of Kovno to attend school. She lived with a brother, sister-in-law, and a sister. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1944, Betty and her siblings tried to flee to the Soviet Union but were quickly overrun by the rapidly advancing German troops. The siblings returned to Kovno and were soon confined to the ghetto.

The siblings survived a series of actions in the Kovno ghetto, but quickly learned the rest of their family had been killed in Vilkija. Betty was sent to work in a German hospital laundry. While there, she managed to smuggle guns brought in by the wounded soldiers to Partisan fighters in the nearby forests. In the summer of 1944, Betty was sent to the Stuthoff Concentration Camp. As the Allied Forces advanced in the winter of 1944-1945, Betty was sent with other prisoners on a death march toward Germany. 

During one of the stops along the way, 17-year-old Betty and a handful of other prisoners slipped away. Betty survived the last few weeks of the war by falling in with the advancing Russian army, where she worked as a nurse. When the war ended in 1945, she found herself in Berlin where she met and married Isaac Goodfriend. Betty and Isaac eventually immigrated to the United States and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. Betty and Isaac had three sons. Betty died in 2008.

Scope of Interview
Betty shares where she grew up and how she came to be in Kovno, Lithuania when the Germans invaded in June 1941. She describes being confined to the Kovno ghetto and the atrocities she witnessed. Betty explains how she was sent to work at a hospital outside the ghetto, where she managed to smuggle guns to the underground. She recalls being transferred by train to Stutthof when the ghetto was liquidated. In Stutthof, Betty recounts the living conditions and how she was put to work digging trenches. She remembers the death march she and her sister were sent on. She explains how they managed to escape from the death march. Betty describes how she spent the final weeks of the war travelling with Russian troops, working in a field hospital. She discusses why she decided to escape from the Russians and went to Berlin, where met husband. Betty closes by counseling future generations to be kind to one another and never forget.  

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