Sender Mines, born Skuodas March 18, 1909. Photo by Skaist, Skuodas
My father, Sender Mines, was born in Skuodas on March 18, 1909, the youngest of the nine childred of Mayer and Rachel (nee Aizen) Mines. The family was poor, and my father told me that at the age of eight he had to leave school to work on the family farm (most likely not an actual farm, but a smaller plot of rented land on which the family grew food for itself and maybe to sell at market). The only photo we have of Sender as a child shows him with two older men, whom he once identified to me as his uncle and his oldest brother, Joe:
Note the impeccable footwear; perhaps the uncle pictured above was Yosef Mines, who, with his son Michal, owned one of Shkud’s largest shoe factories. Sender was a shoemaker – more specifically, a cutter and stitcher of uppers, an important distinction in those days – and it’s very likely he learned his craft in the family shoe business.
As a young man, my father played football; I remember him telling me that his team did not play on a football field, but in the streets, and I remember him pointing out the team photo in his copy of the Kehilat Shkud Yizkor book:
The “Maccabi” board, Shkud; 20.8.1928 – For the departure of member M. Urdang: Bottom row (right to left): Yosef Fisher, Tzvi Tzimbler, Leib Elishuv (now in France). Second row: Abraham Natanson, Shlomo London, David Rodner (now in Israel), Moshe Urdang (now in the USA), Harry Yudelman, Kalman Cohen (now in the USA). Third row: Alexander Pinta (now in Israel), Ephraim Tzisling (now in South Africa), Leib Cohen, Aharon Cohen, Alexander Mines (now in the USA) [my note: actually, Canada] (Photo Kehilat Shkud 24)
In about 1936, perhaps together with his mother and other family members (his father had died in 1931), Sender moved to Kaunas, then the capital of Lithuania, probably to find work and better opportunities. The next year, he married his cousin Chaja, the daughter of Yosef, the shoe-factory owner. The marriage took place in Kaunas, and the couple lived in that city until the outbreak of war.
Translation: Book for Marriage Records for 1937 of Kaunas Jewish Registry Office (Lithuanian State Historical Archives, F. 1817, Ap. 1, B1116, L. 19). Record of 15 February. Groom Sender Mines, single, boot-leg maker, born 1909 Skuodas, resides in Kaunas at Vilnius str. 35, Jewish, son of citizens of Lithuania Mejeris and Rochele (nee Aizin) Minesas. Bride Chaja Mines, single, housekeeper, born and resides in Skuodas, Jewish, daughter of citizens of Lithuania Joselis and Rode Minesas.
Although Chaja’s 1937 marriage to Sender is recorded as her first, she had a daughter, Miriam, born in 1932:
Translation:Subsidiary Book of Birth Records for 1938 and 1939 of Kaunas Jewish Registry Office (Lithuanian State Historical Archives, F. 1817, Ap. 1, B120, L. 1) Record No. 23, March 31, Mirjam Mines. Mirjam, daughter of boot-leg maker Sender Mines and Chaja (nee) Mines, resides in Jonavos str. 15 in Kaunas, Jewish, citizens of Lithuania. Born on 9 October 1932 in Kaunas. Other notes in Notes section: Certificate issued on 9 October 1939, no. 1909. The record made referring to the letter of the Education Ministry No. 4822 on March 7, 1938.
In May 1938, Sender and Chaja’s son Emanuel was born:
Translation: Book of Birth Records for 1938 of Kaunas Jewish Registry Office (Lithuanian State Historical Archives, F. 1817, Ap. 1, B120, L. 76) Record No. 188, May 6, Mines Emanuelis. Emanuelis, son of boot-leg maker Sender Mines and Chaja (nee) Mines, residing in Kaunas at Jonavos str. 15, Jewish, citizens of Lithuania. Born on April 23, 1938. Name of person in circumcision procedure: Izaokas Levitanas in Kaunas at Misko str. 19. Date of circumcision: May 1, 1938.
This photo was found among Sender’s papers after his death, and though he never identified it as such, it may be a photo of Emanuel:
On June 25 1941, Kaunas fell to the Nazi invaders. The Jewish population was forced into a ghetto in the Slobodka area, a slum area of old wooden houses with no running water. A fence was built around the ghetto, and no one was allowed in or out without permission from the Nazi authorities, on pain of death. The ghetto was horribly overcrowded, with 30,000 people crowded into a few city blocks, and food was rationed and scarce. All people over the age of 16 were forced into labour brigades.
During the winter of 1941-42, Sender and a group of other prisoners were deported for forced labour in Riga, Latvia. Chaja and the children remained in the Kaunas ghetto until the spring of 1944. Then, in a two-day period, March 27-28, while the adults were at their places of forced labour, the Gestapo entered the ghetto and rounded up everyone remaining, mostly children under 12 and adults too old to work. The people were dragged from their homes and hiding places and taken either to the nearby Ninth Fort in Kaunas, where they were shot, or to Auschwitz, where they were gassed. Emanuel and Miriam were among those taken.
Meanwhile, Sender endured forced labour in the Riga ghetto until its liquidation in November, 1943, when he was transferred to the nearby Kaiserwald concentration camp. There he met my mother Jennie for the first time, though years later, neither of them remembered having spoken to each other at that time.
By the summer of 1944, the German army was in retreat and the front was moving closer. Nazi authorities began planning the evacuation of Kaiserwald and the transfer of prisoners to labour camps in Germany. On August 6, 1944, Kaiserwald was evacuated, and Sender, among others (including my mother) was transferred by boat to the Stutthof concentration camp, near present-day Gdansk, Poland. In Stutthof, Sender’s prisoner number was 56 524:
Enduring terrible hardships, both my parents (independently of each other) survived Stutthof until the spring of 1945, when the camp was evacuated in the face of the advancing Russian Army. On April 25, with the Russians surrounding the area of Gdansk, about 5000 prisoners, including Sender and Jennie, were loaded onto barges en route to unoccupied Germany. The prisoners were at sea, without food or water, for ten days, during which about half of them died.
On May 3, the barges, now abandoned by their accompanying tugs and SS guards, drifted onto the beach at Neustadt in Holstein. Surviving prisoners waded ashore only to be shot at by German soldiers. Many were killed. A few hours later, the Neustadt harbour came under aerial attack. Ships in the harbour, some carrying concentration camp survivors, were fired on and sunk. But British troops were closing in. At about 4:00 that afternoon, surviving prisoners, including Sender and Jennie, were liberated by the British army.
A former submarine training school in Neutstadt was quickly established as a Displaced Persons Camp under control of the British military. Sender and Jennie, among many others, were hospitalized.
Translation: Sender Nines [sic] from Skuodas, Lithuania, Landes-Hospital of the Province Shleswig-Holsteind, Neustadt/Holstein, House 9, seeks Benzel Eisen (Birminham Ala.) and Meir or Sundel Eisen (New York). Ad in Aufbau, March 1, 1946, p. 27, in the column ‘Das erste Lebenszeichen.’
Jennie (who was a Canadian citizen by birth) was repatriated to Canada in March 1946. But Sender remained in Neustadt until he voluntarily renounced his DP status in 1949.
On December 28, 1951, Sender emigrated to Canada. He arrived in Montreal in January 1952, and a month later, found a job in a shoe factory. He also reconnected with my mother-to-be, Jennie, and they were planning to marry.
In a strange twist of fate, Sender’s first wife, Chaja, also survived the war. She had remarried (probably assuming Sender to be dead), and with her second husband emigrated to Montreal, where she, her second husband, Sender, and Jennie discovered each other.
Sender and Chaja were legally divorced in June 1952, and my parents, Sender and Jennie, were married in March 1953.
In 1954, Sender and Jennie moved from Montreal to Vancouver. They bought a house, in which Sender happily worked in the garden, as he had learned on his family’s garden plot in Shkud. They opened a restaurant and raised three children. Sender lived in Vancouver until his death in August, 1982.
Yad Vashem provides the following information about Sender’s first family:
Miriam Mines was born to Chaia. She was a child. Miriam was murdered in the Shoah. This information is based on a Page of Testimony submitted by her mother [Chaja Babikier]. http://db.yadvashem.org/names/nameDetails.html?itemId=8684682&language=en
Emanuel Mines was born to Chaia. He was a child. Emanuel was murdered in the Shoah. This information is based on a Page of Testimony submitted by his mother [Chaja Babikier]. http://db.yadvashem.org/names/nameDetails.html?itemId=8684683&language=en