Early evacuations

Between spring and autumn 1944, the SS carried out several lethal camp evacuations in the occupied east, emptying Majdanek and camp complexes in the Baltic region (Riga, Kovno and Vaivara). Most prisoners were deported before the Soviet troops arrived, often under terrible conditions. Others became victims of last-minute massacres. Among them was the Polish Jew Hershl Kruk, murdered with other prisoners of Lagedi (a Vaivara satellite camp) in September 1944. In a diary entry, written two months earlier in the Klooga satellite camp, Kruk expressed his fears and hopes as freedom seemed within reach.

104 – Diary entries by Hershl Kruk on prisoner hopes for liberation, 1944

Warning sign at Klooga satellite camp, Vaivara complex (1944)

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Esther Ancoli-Barbasch

14 July 1944
[…] Evacuation is impossible. No place to go. Will they [the SS] leave us [here]? – who knows? … So we stand, perhaps more than ever before, on the boundary between life and death. […] The Germans themselves are terribly depressed and confess that they are jealous of the Jews. “Soon you will be liberated. And our lot is bad. They will slaughter us with no mercy.” Nevertheless, the regime here goes on as if nothing had happened. They build, they chase to work as before, and make plans for the future.

23 July 1944
[…] Since the latest events on the Eastern Front, the assassination attempt on H[itler], since Estonia and the entire Baltic has been surrounded, our situation seems to be coming to a head. We are so upset, our nerves choke us, and every day is superfluous. Everything is more and more irritating. We count not just the days, but the hours and minutes: any minute we can get out of hell. When I write about it, I can hardly believe it …

Source: B. Harshav (ed.), The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania (New Haven, 2002), pp. 693–4, 698