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Diary of Aharon Pick

Pik, Aron Diary 1941
Courtesy of the Lithuanian State Archives, Vilnius

On the eve of World War II,  over 150,000 Jews were living in Lithuania. By 1941, the Jewish population reached 250,000 as Soviet forces ceded the occupied Polish city of Wilno (Vilnius in Lithuanian; Vilna in Yiddish) to Lithuania and Jewish refugees from German-occupied Poland poured into the country. In the months following the German invasion in June 1941, German forces and Lithuanian auxiliaries murdered more than 80 percent of the Jews living in Lithuania, confining the survivors to ghettos in a few larger cities.1 

Dr. Aharon Pick2 was a well-established physician living in Šiauliai (Yiddish: Shavli) with his wife and son when German forces invaded the country in June 1941. The featured pages of Pick's diary describe how the Šiauliai hospital and the lives of its staff were affected by the Soviet takeover in summer 1940 and the German invasion the following year. Pick records how Jewish doctors were not only dismissed from their posts, but also subjected to rituals of public humiliation.3

In September 1941, the Picks and the other Jewish residents of Šiauliai were forced to move to the ghetto, where Pick worked in the ghetto hospital. He died in the Šiauliai ghetto in June 1944 after falling ill. After Pick's death, his son Tedik (later David) buried his father’s diary. He then escaped the ghetto and joined a partisan unit. Pick's widow Dvora was deported to the Stutthof concentration camp and died there. After Soviet forces liberated Šiauliai, David Pick returned and recovered his father’s hidden writings.

To learn more about the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania, see Yitzhak Arad, "The Murder of the Jews in German-Occupied Lithuania (1941-1944)" in The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jews, ed. Alvydas Nikžentaitis, Stefan Schreiner and Darius Staliūnas (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2004); and Robert Van Voren, The Undigested Past: The Holocaust in Lithuania (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011). For more primary sources on the Holocaust in Lithuania in Experiencing History, see Oral History with Avraham Tory and USC Shoah Foundation Oral History with Robert Ness.

The spelling of Pick's name takes different forms in various sources on his life and writings, including Pik (from the Yiddish) and Pikas (from Lithuanian). Postwar documents suggest that the family spelled it Pieck. Pick is used here to maintain consistency with most archival holdings.

For a full translation of the diary, see Dr. Aharon Pick, Notes from the Valley of Slaughter: A Memoir from the Ghetto of Šiauliai, Lithuania, trans. by Gabriel Laufer and Andrew (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2023). View scans of Pick's diary in the digitized collections of the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum. 


"The farce is over."

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For sixteen and a half years, I was the director of the internal and contagious diseases division of the city hospital [...]

[But] despite my sympathies for [the Bolshevik regime], it suddenly created great unpleasantness for me. One of the reasons was that I had a mark on me, of which I was long unable to cleanse myself. That is: my official membership in the Zionist party and my occupying the post of Vice Chairman of the Shavli organization of general Zionists. Firstly, it was decided under the Bolshevik regime to remove me from the hospital, and the mayor had already informed me officially about the decision. After sixteen and a half years of work in the hospital, to be a "former" person, superfluous, this made a very difficult impression on me, even in this period of surprises and unexpected events. Fortunately, this decision was not immediately executed, thanks to an order from the health ministry that all doctors should for now remain at their positions. And so I remained a whole four months in the hospital, hanging between heaven and earth, and waiting each day with fear and anxiety for unpleasant news. This very matter ended in a completely unexpected fashion. One morning, I receive an official announcement from the health department that I am designated as the director of the central city policlinic—and Dr. D., who was considered a leftist because he was not a Zionist, replaced me in the hospital. And in this way, instead of being removed from public medicine and pushed into the legion of the "former people" and loafers, I received a very honorable position, with much responsibility, and I was entrusted with the supervision of the whole ambulatory-medical care of Shavli.


The arrival in Shavli of a great mass of [German] soldiers immediately affected my situation as the director of the policlinic. With no formalities, the German medical-surgical division broke into the policlinic, and their chief physician immediately began to "set up house," as if he were at home. His first act was to make the policlinic Jew-free. At that time, Dr. B-n, Dr. V. (dentist), and nurse L-n were in the policlinic, all with typical Jewish physiognomies, with brown hair, made in the true image of God—and he went up to each of them and ordered them to make off as quickly as possible: "You are Jews, go off and disappear, I should not have to see you any more." [...]

It will not be redundant to record an episode that sheds light on the German chief physician mentioned above and illustrates the relationship between the German intellectual, if we can call him such, and the Jews—almost colleagues of his. This very "bearer of culture" did not satisfy himself with driving the Jews out of the policlinic—suddenly, he remembered the dentist V., and sent a Lithuanian nurse to his home with the accompaniment of a German soldier, in order to bring him back to the policlinic. And when the dentist V. arrived, the chief physician ordered him to go clean the street around the policlinic, to carry water, and other such "honorable" work for a whole day [...]

I soon met Dr. V., the dentist, and after him Dr. B., who ran to me out of breath and very upset, in order to let me know what had happened to them and what was generally happening in the policlinic. Hearing this news, I, of course, considered it a foregone conclusion that the "noble" chief physician would "honor" me, too, with this type of welcome, and I decided to remain at home and finita la comedia.1 In this fashion, my management of the policlinic, which lasted about eight months, ended.

Now I sit at home idle, without work, and have free time, over and beyond, to write out in greater or lesser detail my unhappy memories. In any case, one is afraid to go out in the street, to distract oneself a little, unless there is an important reason to go—in order not to run up against the hatred of our propaganda-filled masters, the Lithuanians [...]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Lithuanian State Archives, Vilnius
RG Number 26.014M
Date Created
June 27, 1941 to April 27, 1943
Page(s) 5
Author / Creator
Aharon Pick
Šiauliai, Lithuania
Document Type Diary
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