Truth – Legends / Vladislav Blum
Polish-born Vladislav Blum, left Warsaw after the German invasion on September 1, 1939. He joined the stream of refugees trying to leave the country and reached Lithuania. He was an attorney by profession and the Kovno committee for refugees arranged a position for him as an accountant in one of the local enterprises.
When the Germans invaded Soviet Russia and overran Lithuania, Blum was living in Kovno with his Polish wife. He did not go into the ghetto intended for the Jews, but hid with his wife.
In October 1943, he was caught by the Gestapo and brought to the Ninth Fort. His wife and twelve-month-old daughter were left in peace by the Germans. When Blum was taken to the fort, he was thirty-five. He was put into Cell Number 6 and dispatched as a prisoner in chains to the “battlefield” together with all the corpse-burners.
During the escape from the Ninth Fort, he was in the third group, which went to hide with relatives or acquaintances. He took with him Jashka (Jacov Bruchankin, from Leningrad), the former tank crew member who was wounded in his leg and had a stumbling walk. Blum was supposed to accompany Jashka to one of the farmers in the village where he had worked for some time. Blum did not manage to hide: the Gestapo were after him. He decided to go into the Kovno ghetto and from there he was transferred to the Aleksotas labor camp near the airport. And in this way, the Gestapo, which was looking for him in March, lost track of him.
The labor camp in Aleksotas was established for 1500 Jews from the ghetto who were moved there on November 30, 1943. On January 3, 1944, there were 1491 Jews there, of whom 459 were men, 779 women and 253 children. The camp’s regime was very strict. The commander of the camp treated the Jews cruelly. He would have them beaten at every possible opportunity and for the slightest of pretexts.
During the escape from the Ninth Fort, he was in the third group, which went to hide with relatives or acquaintances. He took with him Jashka (Jacov Bruchankin, from Leningrad), the former tank crew member who was wounded in his leg and had a stumbling walk. Blum was supposed to accompany Jashka to one of the farmers in the village where he had worked for some time. Blum did not manage to hide: the Gestapo were after him. He decided to go into the Kovno ghetto and from there he was transferred to the Aleksotas labor camp near the airport. And in this way, the Gestapo, which was looking for him in March, lost track of him.
The labor camp in Aleksotas was established for 1500 Jews from the ghetto who were moved there on November 30, 1943. On January 3, 1944, there were 1491 Jews there, of whom 459 were men, 779 women and 253 children. The camp’s regime was very strict. The commander of the camp treated the Jews cruelly. He would have them beaten at every possible opportunity and for the slightest of pretexts.
On March 27, 1944, when all those who were able to work were at their workplaces, a truck entered the camp and took out all the children up to the age of eleven and all the elderly, and massacred them. The tragedy had a terrible effect on the parents when they returned from their work and did not find their children. Vladislav Blum describes the scene: “I saw the most heartbreaking, horrifying sights: the Germans snatched the children from their mothers and sent them to some unknown destination. Many children were shot together with their mothers."
The Jews in the camp went on strike. The camp’s prisoners refused to eat and did not go out to work for three days. All the measures taken by the commander did not succeed in getting the inmates to go out to work. On July 6, 1944, when the evacuation of the Aleksotas camp had begun, Blum fled.
The Soviet army freed Kovno on August 1, 1944. And Vladislav Blum was also one of the Jews who had been released in the city. Later on, he met with some of the escapees from the fort: Berl Gempl, Pinia Krakinovski and Israel Gitlin.
When the announcement was made that Polish citizens were to be evacuated, Vladislav Blum left Lithuania with his wife and child.
As to the fate of Jacov Bruchankin, “Jashka, the tank crew member” from Leningrad, I did not succeed in finding out anything at all.