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Oral history interview with Aba Gefen

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

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.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Mr. Aba Gefen
Nathan Beyrak
interview:  2011 October 17
1 digital files : MPEG-4.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, courtesy of the Jeff and Toby Herr Foundation
Record last modified: 2023-05-24 11:57:27
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