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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMOIRIST:                      NORA LEWIN

INTERVIEWER:                 SARA GHITIS

DATE:                                 DECEMBER 5, 2005

LOCATION:                        ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)

Biography

Nora Lewin was born in East Prussia but she was raised in Shavl, Lithuania. Her father, Michel, was an accountant and her mother, Masha, ran a clothing store. She had a younger sister, Mira, and a brother, Yitzhak. Nora went to business school and before the war started got a job as a secretary in the Jewish Central Bank. In 1940, she met and married her husband, Joel Lewin. When the war started Shavl fell under Russian occupation and she lost her job when the bank was nationalized. In June 1941 the Germans returned and the Jews of Shavl were pushed into a ghetto and put to forced labor. Nora was pregnant and she had a son, Gideon, in the ghetto. Nora and her family were deported from the ghetto in October 1943. During the roundup, Nora gave her baby to her mother. Her father had long since been taken away and executed. She was put on a transport to a labor camp in Estonia and her mother and child disappeared - probably taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Nora was sent to the Ereda labor camp and Joel was sent to another labor camp called Kivioli nearby. Ereda wasn't ready to receive the prisoners and the women had to build their own barracks. They were marched for miles to their work sites on the road system every day in the snow. Nora was sent to another nearby camp Goldfield, where she got typhus and was put on a selection list back to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where the sick and dying were murdered. Joel, however, managed to secure her release form the hospital and got permission for her to come to Kivioli. Nora recovered. As the Russians neared Kivioli the prisoners were put on a train and shipped to Stutthof concentration camp in Germany. She was marched out of Stutthof in January 1945 again ahead of the Russians. Nora and some of her friends escaped from the death march and a few days later were liberated by the Russians. She went to Lodz, Poland/Ukraine trying to find any living relatives and then returned to Shavl. She found that her sister and brother had survived as well. She left Shavl and went to Vilna, Lithuania and then on to Germany, where she was reunited with Joel in Munich. In June 1947 Nora and Joel arrived in the United States with their two sons. They lived in New York, then Florida and finally Atlanta, Georgia. Her husband built his own automobile servicing business and was very successful.

Scope of Interview

Nora discusses her life during the Holocaust beginning with her family’s move into the Shavel Ghetto. She explains life in the ghetto, specifically as a pregnant woman, and how she delivered her children and protected him from the Gestapo when pregnant women and children were especially vulnerable.

From Shavel, she is transferred with her mother and son to the Kovno ghetto where her husband was. In the liquidation of the Kovno ghetto, she was transferred to Ereda concentration camp where she spent only a few weeks before being transferred to Goldfields concentration camp. It was there she recounts how her husband found her there and brought her to his concentration camp: Kivioli. She tells the story of how she caught typhoid in Kivioli and survived a air raid there when a bomb fell into her room.

From Kivioli, the couple was transferred to Stutthof where, after a number of days, Nora was transferred to a women’s subcamp called Bydgoszcz. She tells her story of forced labor in the camp with the other women and her eventual escape with these women during a death march to Germany. She celebrates liberation by Russian soldiers in their found home in the abandoned Polish town they escaped to though she does tell stories of the Russian soldiers raping the women.

The rest of her story concerns finding her way home and reconnecting with her husband and other surviving family members after the Holocaust. She also discusses being part of some of the trials against the Nazis. After that, she recounts moving to the United States and her life there.

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