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Punishment for sassiness today might earn a child a slap on the bottom or a few minutes in timeout.
For Jewish children who mouthed off to the Nazis or their collaborators, the consequences were much more severe.
“A boy, maybe 10 or 12, talked to the guards and sassed them,” Arthur Pais recalled. “They shot him.”
Pais is a survivor of the Kovno Ghetto and the Dachau Concentration Camp. The young boy being shot is among his most vivid memories from the Holocaust.
“I still can see his face,” he said. Pais shared the horrific story and others with members of Kingston First Baptist Church. He was the guest speaker for a pot luck lunch held in the church’s Family Life Center on Monday.
Pais was born in 1927 in Ukmerge, Lithuania. He now lives in Knoxville and travels the state sharing his story of the Holocaust.
“Last year I started keeping track,” he said. “I probably spoke at 40 schools during the year.”
The Holocaust, as defined by the Tennessee Holocaust Commission, was the systematic destruction of 6 million Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators from 1933 to 1945.
“Look what hate does,” Pais said.
Pais said the Nazis set up the ghetto to hold the Lithuanian Jews.
“There was an edict that the Jews had to move into a ghetto,” he said. “They took a slum area and just put barb wire fence and guards and all the Jews had to move in there.”
Pais said the Nazis armed Lithuanian partisans to control the ghetto.
“Before the ghetto closed, there were probably 2,000 to 3,000 just killed on the streets by the Lithuanians,” he said.
After about three years in the ghetto, Pais said he, his brother and father were sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany. Pais would remain there for almost a year before he was liberated by the U.S. Army at the age of 18.
“Out of the Lithuanian Jewish population, about 250,000, less than 5 percent survived,” Pais said. “So I’m one of the few lucky ones.”