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Oral history interview with Rita Frank

Oral History | Accession Number: 2014.12.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0743

Rita Frank, born on March 18, 1933 in Kaunas, Lithuania, describes her early childhood and growing up in Šiauliai, Lithuania as the only child of a Jewish mother (Lidia Shapiro) and Lithuanian father (Jonas “John” Frank); her mother’s debilitating illness in the 1930s; the prosperity of both her mother’s and father’s families; her memories of the first Soviet occupation in her city and how her father was forced to wear a Soviet uniform; how her father was arrested by the Soviets on June 14, 1941, deported to Siberia, and eventually died in 1944; being sent to live with her aunt and uncle, who became her adopted parents, and the destruction of all the documents that said she existed as Rita Frank; being renamed Rita Žilinskaite; how her mother was bedridden and looked after by a housekeeper until she died a few years after the war; the recognition of the housekeeper, Anelė Skirvainytė, as Righteous Among the Nations because of her efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust; an unsuccessful attempt by the Gestapo to get information from her about her uncle helping Jews; leaving the city with her aunt and uncle to their country estate, where they thought it would be safer; taking in another Jewish girl, Lucy, who escaped the ghetto and was her mother’s first cousin; fleeing in 1943 with her aunt, uncle, and cousin westward with the imminent return of the Red Army; going to Dresden, where she attended school; being close to a phosphorus bomb explosion, being ill for the following week, and how her eyes are still sensitive to light; how her uncle remained in Dresden as she, her aunt, and cousin fled; witnessing the bombing of Dresden in February 1945 from a train; settling in Gortbild, Germany; being forced labors on a farm and “Gasthaus”; the anti-Hitler sentiments expressed by the villagers; being forced to join the Hitler Jugend when she began attending school; being liberated by the French; her aunt’s status as a United States citizen; finding her uncle in a U.S. military hospital; and leaving for the U.S. in a ship called the USS Marine Flasher in May 1946. At the end of the interview Rita reads a translation from the memoirs written by her adopted father, Jurgis Žilinskas, wherein he describes what he saw happening to Jews in the streets of Vilnius, and also how he agreed to shelter Rita's first cousin. Some photos were filmed as well.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Rita Frank
Ina Navazelskis
interview:  2014 February 20
interview:  2014 May 05
creation: Silver Spring (Md.)
1 digital file : MPEG-4.
1 digital file : WAV.
Record last modified: 2023-11-16 08:04:36
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