- A young boy who is a member of the Eshel (Irgun Le-Shmirat Ha-Ganim) garden guards, poses outside in the Kovno ghetto.
- George Kadish/Zvi Kadushin
- Kaunas, Lithuania
- Variant Locale
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of George Kadish/Zvi Kadushin
- Event History
- Approximately 10,000 children and youth below the age of 20 moved into the Kovno ghetto in August, 1941. Within a few months almost half of them (4,400) had perished in the "Great Action" of October 28, 1941. After the Germans issued a decree in July 1942 making pregnancy illegal and punishable by death, few children were born in the ghetto. During the fall of 1941 the community organized schools for children, but on August 25, 1942 educational instruction was formally banned. Limited elementary education continued clandestinely in private homes, and German authorities permitted the continuation of vocational schools for teenagers. In these schools Hebrew and Jewish history were taught in addition to crafts. Most children, however, did not go to school. They worked either in labor brigades or at home caring for younger siblings and keeping house. Originally, only children 16 and above were conscripted for slave labor. However, during the last year of the ghetto, all able-bodied teenagers over the age of 12 were registered for work. Those too young for forced labor often sold their services in order to bring in extra food for their families. These illegal workers were called "malokhim" or angels. In November 1943 fear for the safety of the remaining children in the ghetto mounted after word was received of a special "Children's Action" that had taken place in the nearby ghetto of Shavli (Siauliai). For the first time parents actively sought hiding places for their children outside the ghetto. The Kovno ghetto "Children's Action" took place on March 27-28, 1944. During the two-day action German troops and Ukrainian auxiliaries went from house to house and rounded-up the ghetto's remaining children who were below the age of 12. The 1300 victims of the "Children's Action" were either shot at the Ninth Fort or deported by train to an unknown locale, where they were killed.
Eshel, the Kovno ghetto garden guards, was organized by Chaim Nachman Shapiro, head of Culture and Education for the Jewish Council, to serve two purposes: to make sure no one unlawfully removed produce from the ghetto gardens, and to provide a venue for clandestine education for the children. In his words the goal of the organization "besides vigilance, includes Hebrew education and study."
See Also "Kauen Main Camp" in Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos Volume 1 Part A.