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Oral history interview with Dr. Joel Elkes

Oral History | Accession Number: 2005.604.6 | RG Number: RG-50.641.0008

Dr. Joel Elkes (son of the Kaunas Ghetto Jewish Council leader Elchanan Elkes) describes the experiences of Dr. Jack Brauns, including the Russian occupation in Lithuania; conflict between Zionists and Yiddishists; the transportation of many Jews to Siberia; remaining with his father in Kovno; his father’s work with Bikur Cholim Hospital; the flow of refugees into Lithuania in 1939; a family friend who Chiune Sugihara helped get to the United States; his father’s return from Vilnius in June 1941 after the end of Operation Barbarossa; the departure of the Russians and arrival of the Germans; being able to stay in their apartment because his father spoke German having studied medicine in Cologne; how his family was protected by the Wehrmacht until they had to move to the ghetto; feelings of betrayal by the Lithuanian people; the two hospitals in the Kovno ghetto; the “Little ghetto;” how the ghetto had 29,000 inhabitants but no running water or sewers; how his father Dr. Moses Brauns was in charge of the contagious diseases hospital which the Germans burned down because they had been falsely told that some of the patients had leprosy; the reality that the ghetto had a low number of contagious diseases; forts in the ghetto which were used as execution sites; how 200 Russian Jewish army officers were sent to the forts to dig up graves to destroy evidence of killings; his work in one of the Werkstatten (workshops) in the toy department where the artist Esther Lurie painted some of the toys; how the toys were sent to Berlin by the authorities for German children; how the Council of Elders tried to appease the Germans, but also bought guns for those who wanted to join the partisans; how Jews stole uniforms and dressed as Germans to help them escape; how the Jewish Police and Council had contacts with the partisans; hiding in the ghetto during its last days; being found and deported to Dachau; working in an airplane factory in the sub camp of Dachau- Kaufering from July 13, 1944 until his liberation on April 29, 1945; his desire to record events with help of Avram Tory a young lawyer in the ghetto who was on the Jewish Council; how after the war three of the five crates of hidden documents were dug out and taken to Israel; and how papers given by Jack’s father were part of that documentation.

Interviewee
Dr. Joel Elkes
Interviewer
Herb Krosney
Date
approximately 1997  (interview)
Language
English
Genre/Form
Documentary films.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, acquired from Herb Krosney
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Record last modified: 2018-03-20 10:49:15
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn44265