“We have to stick together, and whatever happens, we will try to die together, so that none of us should be left alone. But this was the only dream we had; if we have to die, that we should die together.”
Nechama Shneorson spoke these words as she recalled a conversation with her family during the period when they were incarcerated in the Kovno ghetto. Nechama's is one of thousands of testimonies that the Institute is trying to share with teachers, young adults, and students in its effort to combat prejudice and intolerance.
Nechama was born to Yaakov and Ethel Santocki on May 29, 1929, in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, one of four daughters born into an observant Jewish family. She recalls a childhood filled with family traditions and music. Her childhood changed in 1941 when German soldiers forced the family into a ghetto in Kovno, where Nechama’s sister Ina was murdered. The remaining members of Nechama’s family were eventually deported to a concentration camp. Nechama was taken to Stutthof, a concentration camp in Germany, and later transferred to Thorn, one of its sub-camps. During a forced march in January of 1945, the Germans abandoned Nechama and many other victims in a forest where they were found and liberated by Soviet soldiers. Shortly thereafter Nechama learned that her mother and youngest sister Genya perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau and that her father died of starvation in Dachau. Six months after her liberation, Nechama was reunited with her oldest sister, Zlata, something she refers to as “the most beautiful moment” of her life.
Following the war, Nechama spent several years moving from displaced persons’ camps to the homes of both friends and family before moving to Israel, where she served in Israel’s air force during the 1948 War of Independence. Nechama met her future husband in the Israeli army. After thirteen years in Israel, she, her husband, and their daughter moved to the United States in 1964 and reunited with Nechama’s sister Zlata and her family.