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INTRODUCTION

When the Kovno ghetto was liquidated in July 1944, thousands of Jews were sent to the camps, among them children who had survived the "Children's Aktion" [roundup] in the ghetto. The women and children were taken off the train at the station in the vicinity of Stutthof concentration camp. This was a short and cruel parting from their mothers, brothers and sisters. A number of boys with great pain decided not to get off the train. In fear and terror they and their fathers continued on to Landsberg camp.

 

After a week in this camp, during one of the morning roll calls the 130 children were separated from their fathers and the other adults and penned up in an enclosure. The older brother of one of them sneaked into the enclosure to watch over his younger brother, and that is how the group of 131 was formed.

 

Confused and shocked from the separations that had been forced on them, the children were brought to Dachau camp, where they spent about a week. While they were there, the older brother began to consolidate the group pf children who were strangers to each other into a group. He decided to do this through order and discipline drills which were essential for their survival in the camp. Thanks to his maturity and his leadership ability, the children accepted his authority and became a consolidated group.

A week later the group was loaded into railway cars and sent to Birkenau death camp. During the trip two children jumped off the train; one was killed and the other survived. On their arrival at the camp on August 31, 1944, the group of children was taken off the train to the ramp. While waiting they began practicing their order drills under the instruction of the older brother. For some unknown reason which remains a mystery to this day, they were not immediately sent for extermination.

 

Several weeks later, 90 of them were sent for extermination in two selections on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur 1944. The 39 remaining boys in the group were left hurt, shocked and frightened. They spent five and a half months in Birkenau under dreadful conditions and in constant hunger. When the Russian front drew near, the children were taken along with other prisoners on the "death march" to Mauthausen camp in Austria, and were liberated in Gunskirchen on May 5, 1945. Two were lost on the way and their fate is unknown. Several of them were taken to Buchenwald in Germany and liberated there on April 11, 1945.

 

Every year on the anniversary of the liberation the survivors hold a kind of "class reunion" and recall memories. In September 1999 eight of the survivors went back to the route of death, to Kovno, their native city, and to Stutthof, Landsberg, Dachau, Birkenau, Mauthausen and Gunskirchen. They were joined on this journey by a youth delegation of twelfth grade students from Har Vagai School.

 

You are now in the group's memorial website, the group of 131 boys from Kovno. The site commemorates the unique story; the memories of those who did not survive the journey and the stories of those who survived and live in Israel.