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Oral history interview with Aba Gefen

Oral History | Digitized | Accession Number: 1995.A.1272.387 | RG Number: RG-50.120.0387

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    Oral history interview with Aba Gefen


    Interview Summary
    Aba Gefen, born in 1920 in Simna (Simnas), Lithuania, discussed the small village of Simna; his traditional family life in a mostly Jewish community; his father’s fabric store and many non-Jewish clients from the surrounding villages; his three younger brothers Binyamin, Yosef, and Yehuda; his early education at the local elementary Jewish school; later studying in the Jewish gymnasium in Marijampolė, Lithuania; his university studies in Kaunas, Lithuania, where he lived for a year until the Soviets arrived; speaking Yiddish, Russian, and Lithuanian at home and learning Hebrew at school; his membership in a Zionist youth organization, Betar, the lack of antisemitic incidents before the war; how Lithuania was known as “Little America,” in stark contrast to what he heard was happening in Poland; helping refugees as a university student in Kaunas until the NKVD ordered him to desist; life under Soviet rule during which there were many deportations to Siberia; the German invasion and subsequent roundups and killings of Jews; Lithuanian collaboration in the persecution of Jews; being taken prisoner along with several thousand Jews by Lithuanians and being marched to the 7th Fort to be killed; the actions of Lithuanian “Shaulists” or “shooters” (a paramilitary organization officially known as the Union of Lithuanian Riflemen or Lietuvos Šaulių Sąjunga; also referred to as šauliai); being one of seven spared from the killing by his association with a former coronel in the Independent Lithuanian Army; his return to Simna, where Shaulists were in charge of deportations under German authorities; the deportation and deaths of his father and second brother; avoiding deportation; the actions of Lithuanian collaborators, including Gedraitis, who was the principal of the Lithuanian school where his brother studied; fleeing with his brother after the third round of deportations; living in hiding on various gentiles’ farms; the execution of the remaining Jews of Simna in a nearby forest; recording the events of his wartime experiences, including the names of antisemites and Lithuanian collaborators in a journal; being identified as a dangerous person among Lithuanians who thought he would use the journal to extract vengeance on them after the war; his position as a contact for refugees who came to Simna from Kaunas; arranging safe passage and hiding for 10 Jews who managed to escape; the names of individuals who hid him and his brother despite the great risk, including the family of Vytautas Šiupienis (see USHMM interview RG-50.473*0130); his liberation and decision to head to the front with this brother; witnessing the last battle between Soviet and German forces; working with Soviet forces in a counterespionage unit; providing the Soviets with the names of Lithuanians who collaborated with the Nazis, thus starting his plans for revenge; being assigned by the NKVD to the local police force; being sent to Alytus, Lithuania, where he was appointed as principal Investigator of the district; bringing collaborators to Alytus, among them the “Shaulists” and those who were with the Independent Lithuanian Army; recognizing the former principal Gedraitis who tried to flee but was shot to death before he could be interrogated; being accused by his superiors of killing Gedraitis himself and having to flee in August 1945; being considered a war criminal among Lithuanian nationalists because of his participation in a battle that killed 14 collaborators; his continued mission of revenge after the war despite admonishments from survivors in small villages in Lithuania; his opinion of many Lithuanians who maintain that they had nothing to do with the persecution of Jews during the war; his registration of his rescuers as “Righteous Gentiles” at Yad Vashem; and the importance of educating teachers in the lessons of the Holocaust.
    Mr. Aba Gefen
    Nathan Beyrak
    interview:  2011 October 17
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, courtesy of the Jeff and Toby Herr Foundation

    Physical Details

    1 digital files : MPEG-4.

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    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Gefen, Aba.

    Administrative Notes

    Nathan Beyrak, project director for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Oral History Branch, conducted the interview with Aba Gefen on Oct. 17, 2011.
    Funding Note
    The production of this interview was made possible by Jeff and Toby Herr.
    The cataloging of this oral history interview has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 08:16:34
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