FAMILY NAME : ELPERN
FIRST NAME: Ruth
BIRTH DATE: Aug 31st 1936
BIRTH PLACE: Tel Aviv
FATHER’S NAME: Calel Bezalel ELPERN
MOTHER’S NAME: Hodes Hadassa ELPERN nee PILITOWSKI
ERETZ ISRAEL BEFORE WORLD WAR TWO
Around 1934 – 1935 two new immigrants met each other in Eretz Israel and married.
They were Calel Bezalel Elpern, an engineer born in Alytus in Lithuania in 1908 (or 1902?), and Hodes Hadassa Pilitowski, born around 1912 in Lazdeij in Lithuania.
In 1936 their only daughter Ruth was born in Tel Aviv.
Bezalel worked for a building company that did projects both in Europe and in Eretz Israel, so he was going back and forth.
In the end of 1938 the young family went to Lithuania to visit the grandparents and to look for work, as the economical. situation in Eretz Israel at that time was difficult.
CAUGHT IN EUROPE WHEN THE SECOND WORLD WAR BROKE OUT IN 1939
In September 1939 the Second World War broke out and the Elpern family was not able to return to Tel Aviv.
The family stayed in Kaunas (Kovno) under Soviet rule from September 1939 till the summer of 1941.
In the summer of 1941 the Germans occupied Kaunas, and quickly established what is often referred to as the Kovno Ghetto. Before the ghetto was established, Grandfather Elpern was murdered by Lithuanians.
In August 1941, Ruth, her parents and paternal grandmother were forced into the ghetto.
The family managed to survive inside the ghetto till the summer of 1944.
In March 1944 there a Children’s Action took place in the Kovno Ghetto. It is not known how Ruth survived this.
At some point Ruth’s parents managed to smuggle Ruth out from the ghetto, but soon after she had to be brought into the ghetto again.
RUTH SMUGGLED OUT OF THE GHETTO
A second attempt to smuggle her out of the ghetto was successful. This happened two weeks before the ghetto was destroyed in July 1944.
In the middle of July 1944 the Kovno Ghetto was destroyed.
According to survivor Sally Ganor, some of the survivors were evacuated to a camp near Danzig (Stutthof) by barges for four days starting July 8th 1944. Among those who tried to hide out in the ghetto fearing this evacuation, around two thousand survivors were discovered. These, including whole families with children and even some older people, were gathered at the Varniu gate. In groups of hundred, the survivors marched over the Viljampole Bridge, surrounded by heavily armed guards. Behind them the ghetto was burning and explosions could be heard.
The survivors walked for around two hours, reached a railway junction, and were then packed on to cattle cars so tightly, they had to stand up. After a terrible journey they arrived at a station called Tiegenhof. Most of the families were separated at this point, women and children to one side and the men to another.
THE PARENTS AND GRANDMOTHER TO STUTTHOF
Another short train ride on a narrow gauge railway brought the group to Stutthof. The next day in Stutthof, the last families were also separated.
Four days after the arrival by train, those brought by barges from Kaunas arrived in Stutthof.
We do not know if Ruth’s parents and grandmother were brought to Stutthof by barges or by train.
On July 20th 1944 an attempt was made to assassinate Adolf Hitler in Germany, and in Stutthof the rumor spread among the prisoners that Hitler was dead, creating some optimism for a very short time. Unfortunately it quickly turned out that Hitler was only wounded. After this many of the Kaunas prisoners were deported to other camps.
Sally Ganor tells in his book “Light One Candle” that he himself was in a group deported by train from Stutthof to Kaufering ( a subcamp of Dachau) in the middle of August 1944.
THE FATHER TO KAUFERING, A SUBCAMP OF DACHAU
Bezalel Elpern arrived in Kaufering on August 1st 1944.
The women in Stutthof stayed behind, and this is probably where Ruth’s paternal grandmother died.
Ruth’s mother may have managed to stay alive till the end of the war, but then died of typhus, according to what Ruth has been told lately/
HER FATHER’S TRANSFER TO LEITMERITZ, A SUBCAMP OF FLOSSENBURG
Her father stayed in Kaufering for some months and in January 1945 was then transferred to Leitmeritz, a subcamp of Flossenburg. Leitmeritz is not very far from Theresienstadt.
Her father Bezalel Elpern died in Leitmeritz in January 1945.
RUTH AFTER THE WAR
After the war, Ruth was in an orphanage in Kaunas for some time, before being sent through Vilnius, to the Zionist Koordynacja children’s home in Lodz, Poland.
Later she was brought through Dornstadt, Germany and Marseille, France to Eretz Israel.
She arrived in Haifa aboard the ship Patris on her eleventh birthday Aug 31st 1947.
SUBJECTS RUTH WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT HER FATHER
When exactly did her father arrive in Eretz Israel the first time?
When did he meet Hadassa Pilitowski and when and where did the couple marry?
How many times did Ruth’s father go back and forth between Eretz Israel and Europe?
From Sally Ganor’s testimony, it seems like Bezalel Elpern also stayed in Stutthof for a short time. Can this be confirmed?
In which of the Kaufering subcamps of Dachau did he stay? Unfortunately the Dachau Archives had no answer to this.
Did any of the survivors of Leitmeritz mention him in their testimonies?So far, it does not seem so.
When exactly did her mother arrive in Eretz Israel?
What did she do before she met Bezalel Elpern? Where did she live?
When exactly did Hadassa and Ruth go to Europe in the end of 1938?
After the Kaunas ghetto was destroyed and Hadassa was sent with her mother–in-law to Stutthof, what happened to her in Stutthof?
Did she die in Stutthof? She might have died of typhus after the liberation, but where and when?
Did any of the survivors of Stutthof mention her in their testimonies?
THOSE WHO SAVED RUTH IN 1944
Who took in Ruth after her parents managed to smuggle her out of the ghetto in June/July 1944? How long did she stay with this family?
When did they give her to the orphanage in Kaunas after the war?
MATERNAL AUNT SHLOMIT OR SHULAMIT PILITOWSKI
Hadassa’s sister Shlomit Pilitowski was born in Lazdej.
After finishing high school in Europe, she traveled to Jerusalem where she studied at the Hebrew University.
As the Second World War approached, Shlomit/ Shulamit decided to leave the university in Jerusalem and go back to Europe to her parents.
As far as known, after the German occupation in the summer of 1941, Shlomit /Shulamit was staying in Vilnius where she was killed.
Can Ruth learn more about her aunt through any of her aunt’s friends who are still alive or through documents from the ghetto in Vilnius?
RESEARCH JOURNAL JANUARY 2008
Danuta Drywa from the Stutthof Museum in Sztutowo wrote a book in 2004 called “The Extermination of Jews in Stutthof Concentration Camp 1939-1945”.
We want to study this book closer, in particular regarding what happened towards the end of the war.
Lately Ruth’s cousin has told her lately that after the war a woman visited the cousin’s family in Haifa and told them that Ruth’s mother had died of typhus after the liberation.
This triggered Ruth’s memory: Just after the war when she and her aunt were living in Muenchen , Germany in 1946-1947a woman came to them and told them that Ruth’s mother had died in her arms.
Ruth now assumes that there was one woman who
1. stayed with her mother in Stutthof,
2. was evacuated with her mother towards the end of the war
3. was with her mother when she died
4. was in Muenchen at some point after the war , around 1946-1947
5. visited Ruth’s aunt and uncle in Haifa
Who was this woman? Is she still alive? What can she tell Ruth about her mother?
RESEARCH JOURNAL FEBRUARY 2008
Stephen Morse is a remarkable man whose search engines in genealogy have been a blessing for so many.
Now he has added 160000 Dachau prisoners to his own website, again with a search engine.
Here we found Ruth’s father:
Last Name: ELPERN
First Name: Calel
Birth Day: 10
Birth Month: Aug
Birth Year: 1902
Birth Place: Alytus
Residence (town): Kauen
Prisoner Number: 84 640
Date of Arrival: 01 Aug 1944 Kauen
Disposition: üb. 07 Jan 1945 Fl.
Disposition (translated): transferred. 07 Jan 1945 Fl.
Category: Sch. Lit. J.
Category (translated): prisoner. Lithuanian. Jew.
So far, Ruth has thought 1908 was her father’s birth year, so August 10th 1902 gives something to check out.
We know that after Calel Elpern was transferred to Leitmeritz, a subcamp of Flossenburg, he died in Leitmeritz. towards the end of January 1945.
RESEARCH JOURNAL OCTOBER 2009
By what seemingly was a coincidence, we happened upon a Polish blog called Soulside story where Marcin tells the story of how he and his family lived in the Polish Borderland , close to the Lituanian border, through texts in Polish and English and beautiful photos. Imagine our surprise when suddenly Ruth’s aunt Shulamit Pilitowsky showed up on a photo of an orchestra for the sport club HaKoach in Lazdijai in 1930.
Just roll down the page till you get to the photo, though reading this whole entry, and many others , is certainly worth it.