Jack Kagan

This is the moving story of Jack Kagan. Jack was ten years old when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. He was born in Novogrudok, which at the time was Poland but is today in Belarus. He and his family were put into a labour camp. Day by day, there were fewer Jews in the camp as they were rounded up and taken to be shot. A few courageous prisoners decided that they would tunnel their way out of the camp.

(Public Domain)

Jack escaped and reached a brigade of Jewish partisans, where he learnt how to fight and fend for himself. Only one of Jack’s family members survived the war. The rest were killed.

Years later, Jack and his cousin Dov published a book about their experiences, Surviving the Holocaust with the Russian Jewish Partisans. There were pictures of family members featured in the book, and it raised the question of how those pictures managed to survive, if all other family possessions were either stolen or destroyed?

By asking Jack, we discovered that he hid family photographs in his hat. A hat that he managed to keep with him in the labour camp, the tunnel escape and in the forest as a partisan. In this way, he was able to keep the physical memory of his family alive. He passed the pictures to the next generations by publishing them in his book. Jack Kagan passed away in 2016.

Thank you to Michael Kagan for letting us use his father’s pictures.