Survivor STORY

“Survivors are dying […] You would be surprised at how active [the second and third generations] are, very active, which is good. We should never forget. And I mean, this kind of work is very important because little by little, survivors are dying.

Ann Klug was born as Hannah Rosin in Vilna (now Vilnius), Lithuania, in 1924. Her parents, Noah and Hilda, were fairly wealthy; Noah owned a factory, and Hilda was a housewife. Ann and her older brother Velvo enjoyed a happy childhood. Ann participated in ballet, skating, and skiing. She attended a Jewish day school before graduating and attending a vocational high school.

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Soviet forces were stationed in Lithuania, due to a mutual defense treaty. On June 14, 1941, the Soviets demanded that their armed forces be allowed to enter Lithuania and form a puppet government. Unable to resist due to the large presence of Soviet forces already in the country, the Lithuanians capitulated, and the country’s government was overthrown. For Ann Klug, life under Soviet hardly differed from previous conditions with the exception of fearing deportations to Siberia. However, Lithuania was occupied by the Germans after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The Lithuanians initially viewed the Germans as liberators; they were now free to regain control of their government from the Soviets. However, harsh realities set in because the Germans viewed the Baltic peoples as racially inferior.

Ann and her parents were thrown into the ghetto; Velvo was captured by Russians and ultimately moved to Israel. One day Ann returned from her job in a garden, and her parents had disappeared. She never saw them again. Ann later learned that they were taken into the woods outside Vilna and shot. Now alone, Ann could only depend on herself to survive. She found a new “job”—mending clothes in a German military hospital.

In September 1943, the Nazis deported 7,130 Jews from the Vilna ghetto (Ann among them) to Estonia. Throughout her incarceration in several Estonian concentration camps, Ann was forced to dig trenches for German soldiers to use against the advancing Soviet army. She survived typhus before being sent to Ochsenzoll, near Hamburg, Germany, and working in a munitions factory making grenades and anti-aircraft for the German Wehrmacht .

Ann remained in the munitions factory until early 1945, when the Germans decided to relocate her. She was thrown into a cattle car with dysentery-infected prisoners and transported to Bergen-Belsen. After spending three months in Bergen-Belsen, Ann was liberated by British and Canadian forces on April 15, 1945. Afraid of returning to Lithuania because of the new communist regime, Ann remained in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp and met a fellow Lithuanian survivor named Jonah. They married, had a daughter, and moved to a German town on the Swiss border. They lived in a room in a former Jewish retirement home. Swiss Jews would and rabbis would cross the border to help the Jewish refugees.

Jonah’s maternal aunts and uncles had previously moved to Syracuse, New York. He made contact with an uncle, who arranged for Jonah, Ann, and their daughter to immigrate to the United States in 1949. Ann lived in Syracuse and gave birth to a second daughter before moving to Atlanta. Jonah opened a Kosher meat store called Katz’s Meat Market. Jonah died in 1968, and Ann remarried to a Polish survivor named Mendel.

Despite her traumatic experiences during the war, Ann remained a faithful Jew, remarking that she would always “be Jewish no matter what.” Ann and her husbands kept Kosher and gave their daughters a Jewish education. Now widowed, Ann still lives in Atlanta. She believes Holocaust remembrances is very important and stresses that we must never forget.

Explore themes found in this biography:

  • No themes
Ann Klug