Simcha, the only child of Nicholas and Zila (Oster) Frumkin, grew up in Kovno, the capital of Lithuania. In 1939, approximately 40,000 Jews lived in this important Jewish spiritual and cultural center. In 1940, Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union. Kovno's large Jewish educational system, with its social and cultural organizations, was shut down. Simcha's mother and father had both attended university. His mother had spent two years studying at the Sorbonne in Paris, and his father had earned a degree in engineering. Mr. Frumkin made a good living for his family as an automobile salesman before the war.
Kovno was occupied by the Germans on June 24, 1941. Even before the German invasion, bands of Lithuanians seized Jews on the streets and murdered them. The Germans took charge of the massacre after seizing control of the city. Ten thousand Jews were immediately murdered.
Simcha and his family, along with the remaining 30,000 Jews in Kovno, were forced to move into a closed-off ghetto. Conditions were horrendous. There was little food, no heat, horrible overcrowding, and disease-carrying vermin were everywhere. The Germans murdered 12,000 ghetto residents over the next three months. Most adults were put on forced labor, and Simcha's father was in charge of the ghetto warehouse where the property of the murdered was sorted.
On July 8, 1944, as the Russian Army was approaching Kovno, the Germans began transferring the ghetto population to concentration camps in Germany. Many went into hiding, but the Germans used bloodhounds, smoke grenades, and firebombs to force the Jews out into the open. Fourteen year-old Simcha was taken with his father to the Dachau concentration camp.
Sent to work as slave laborers, moved to different camps in order to escape the Allied advance, Simcha and his father struggled to survive under horrendous conditions and with little food. Unable to walk, Simcha's father was sent to the barracks that served as a hospital where he died. Two weeks later, American troops entered the camp and fourteen year-old Simcha was liberated.