Flights of Spirit

Syringes on a Tray

The most dramatic event in my life happened in the summer of 1944. I was sixteen years old and I was facing my death. In wartime, death can occur at any time. But today, death would come not from the hand of my enemy — it would come from the hand of my beloved mother.

I was hiding in a basement with my mother, my father, my three uncles and my aunt. We had covered the entrance to the room with an old cupboard and we sat there listening to every sound coming from outside. We had all agreed that we would rather die here than be captured and shot on the killing fields of the Ninth Fort in Kaunas, Lithuania.

My mother, who was a surgical nurse in the ghetto hospital, had been given the task of arranging our communal suicide. She had filled several syringes with a potent heart drug. The plan was to inject an excessive dose of the drug in our veins and cause a heart attack.

I watched my mother as she prepared a serving tray covered with a clean white cloth. On the tray, there was a bottle of medical alcohol and beside each syringe lay a ball of cotton wool. I thought this was funny, so I reminded my mother that as this was a final injection it did not have to be a clean one. Everyone laughed, except my mother; but she took away the cotton wool.

It was very boring to sit for days on end in that dim basement. I had a lot of time to think and I had many questions: How does it feel to die? Does the brain go on working for a time after the heart stops? My mother was a strong woman and I trusted her but would she have the strength to give me, her only child, the first injection?

I tried to imagine my mother injecting the six of us and then, finally, herself. Then I tried to imagine the seven of us lying on the floor waiting for the drug to kick in. What would we say to each other? Would we laugh or cry? Would it be painful? As I tried to picture the scene, I decided it would be good to go first — I did not wish to see it.

I will now try to describe the circumstances that would make a woman like my mother ready to kill her son and her family. That suicide pact came after we had spent three years, from 1941 to 1944, in the Kaunas ghetto — which became the Kauen concentration camp — in Lithuania. My story can only be understood after knowing what was happening in the Kaunas ghetto during those three years.

Flights of Spirit (Traduction française à venir), Elly Gotz

Alors qu’il a 16 ans, Elly Gotz se cache avec sa famille dans un sous-sol du ghetto de Kovno (Lituanie). Ils sont décidés à mourir plutôt que d’être capturés par les nazis. Après avoir survécu près de trois années au Ghetto, où ont péri des milliers de leurs coreligionnaires, Elly et sa famille refusent d’être les prochaines victimes des nazis. Mais la liquidation du Ghetto durant l’été 1944 scelle leur sort : ils sont pris. Elly et son père sont déportés au camp de Kaufering, une annexe particulièrement dure du camp de concentration de Dachau. Après la guerre, alors que sa famille cherche désespérément à fuir l’Allemagne et son passé, Elly est bien décidé à retrouver sa jeunesse perdue et à reprendre ses études interrompues par la guerre. Tout au long de son parcours, Elly fait preuve d’une motivation et d’un esprit d’entreprise qui lui apportent le succès et lui permettent de prendre son envol.

Préface de Rami Neudorfer

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En bref
Ghetto de Kovno
Camp de concentration de Kaufering
Allemagne d’après-guerre; Norvège; Zimbabwe; Afrique du Sud
Immigration au Canada en 1964
Offert en format audio
Ressources éducatives disponibles: Elly Gotz (anglais)
Tranche d'âge recommandée

240 pages

À propos de l'auteur

Photo of Elly Gotz

Elly Gotz est né en 1928 à Kovno (Kaunas) en Lituanie. Elly et ses parents ont émigré en Norvège en 1947, puis au Zimbabwe. Il s’est installé à Toronto en 1964, où il a fondé plusieurs entreprises et concrétisé son rêve de devenir pilote. En 2017, alors âgé de 89 ans, il a réalisé une autre ambition: effectuer un saut en parachute.

Photo par Hasnain Dattu.

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