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elvira kohn

I attended public school, the regular elementary and high school in Vinkovci. There was no Jewish school. There were pupils of all kinds of religions and nationalities in this school and my friends were Jews and non- Jews alike. In my class in particular, there were 30 pupils, of which 13 were Jews, around 10 Eastern Orthodox because there were many Serb villages around Vinkovci, and the rest were Catholics and maybe some Evangelic.

Although there was no Jewish school, there was Jewish religious instruction, which was obligatory. Every Sunday we had religious classes and received grades; it was part of the school curriculum. We had a religious instructor whose name was Pollak. He taught us Hebrew, the Talmud, the Torah, some Jewish history and traditions.

On Saturdays we didn't have to attend classes in school, but we had to go to the synagogue. We also had to obtain a written statement signed by Rabbi Frankfurter saying that we were at the service on Saturday morning, and we had to bring this statement to school. It was like a confirmation that we were in the synagogue instead of being in class.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

My daughter went to a secular Jewish school, first to a vocational hairdressing school and then to a high school.
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Mico Alvo

Grandfather Haim loved all his children. Grandmother had a preference for my father and Olga, who was born just after him.

Their eldest son, Joseph Alvo, first went to school at the Talmud Torah and later on, I think, he also went to the Alliance school [7]. I don't know why he and my father were in the same grade at school despite the fact that Joseph was two years older. I could never figure this out. Did his parents send him to school later than the rest? Was he perhaps sickly and that's why they didn't send him straight away? I really don't know.
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My paternal grandfather was called Haim Alvo. I don't remember when he was born. I think he died when he was seventy years old, in 1937 or 1938. He went to both a Turkish and a Greek school, and the religious school where rabbis used to teach. It was called Talmud Torah. He spoke Turkish fluently.
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My maternal grandfather was called Daniel. I think he died around 1949 and he was about 80 years old then. His first wife was Rosa. Her maiden name was Gattegno. Rosa died very young from kidney problems, when my mother was around 15 or 16 years old. It must have been around 1913-1914, at the beginning of World War I. His second wife was Rosa's sister, Mathilde. There was a big age difference between Rosa and Mathilde. They were nine siblings. Rosa was the third one. Mathilde was the eighth one. Mathilde was about my father's age. She died in Canada, in 1973. Her daughter had immigrated to Canada and she followed her.

Grandfather Daniel Saltiel went to school. He went to a Turkish school, but he probably learned more in the Jewish school.

Daniel's first business was to sell and place windows. He used to say that he had fit all the windows of the warehouses at the old railway station. He then changed his profession and became a lumber merchant. That was when I was around ten years old or maybe even younger.

When he grew older, he said that he couldn't carry glass and climb up anymore. So he started as a lumber merchant and did really well. He mostly brought wood from Romania and Yugoslavia, and the top quality wood they were bringing from Sweden.

Grandfather wasn't the first one in the business, but he was good. He worked hard; he would travel for business especially around eastern Macedonia. Many times he also went to Balkan countries for supplies. He would travel to Romania and Yugoslavia very often. His employees were an accountant and a porter. They were both Jewish.

He first opened a shop on Aggelaki Street. That's where his shop was. That area is where the brothels were, but also the wood suppliers. When Aggelaki Street changed and became a busy street, all the wood suppliers moved from that area to the old railway station.
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Krystyna Budnicka

I stayed there until I was six, when I started school. The school was located on Barokowa Street, next to Krasinski Park, and it was a Jewish school with instruction in Polish. There was a religious studies class, and I remember a gentleman who was probably grade tutor and wore a smock frock and oversleeves; he must have taught all the subjects. I remember a handbook for the religious studies class, it was called Little Biblical History. I don't recall whether only girls or both girls and boys studied at this school. I was there for just one school year.
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Janina Duda

I started going to school when I was six years old. The school was Gutman’s gymnasium [lyceum] in Bialystok. I even remember how we exercised standing on the desks. And one girl peed on that desk, she couldn’t stand it, we were laughing so hard. This school system looked like this then [in the 1920s]: a sub-elementary level, then elementary, then eight grades of gymnasium and the 8th one was the one when you took final exams. So there were ten years of schooling in total before the final exams. Then, in the 1930s, this system was changed, but it’s hard for me to say what it looked like later. So when we came to Lublin there was this issue of what to do with my education. I was then ten or eleven years old. It was in the middle of the school year, so probably I’d have to repeat a grade, I don’t remember which one, 2nd or 3rd grade of gymnasium.

Well, and you’d have to pay for that. So it was decided that I’d go to a public school. And I went to a school, whose principal was Mrs. Mandelkernowa. It was a very good school, on Lubartowska Street. When I graduated from this school I went to a humanities gymnasium in Lublin. It was also a gymnasium, where nothing was taught about Jewry. There were public gymnasia in Lublin, government officials, officers sent their children there. Wealthier people, who could afford to pay, rather wealthy. Jews also attended these gymnasia, but there were very few. These were also private gymnasia, Polish ones, and many Jews attended them, for example Czarniecka’s gymnasium or Arciszowa’s gymnasium for girls, Staszic for boys. And there were two Jewish gymnasia [in Lublin]: Szperowa’s, where my sister went, and the humanities gymnasium which was operated by some Jewish association, it wasn’t a private school, so it was less expensive.

I studied a lot of Latin then, a lot of history, the standards were indeed quite high. I also took French then. It was an obligatory foreign language and, I have to say, these basics which I learned at school were very solid, I can still speak French fluently. But I didn’t get my diploma then. Father was unemployed, you then had to pay for tutors, to be well prepared for the finals. So I decided: I can’t take the finals, because I don’t have enough money. I told Mother and Father. Especially Father was very saddened. He used to say, ‘My children, my daughters, what can I leave you but an education.’ At that time you wouldn’t say ‘Dad’, but ‘Papa’. So I would answer, ‘Papa, but all I do is sit on the other side of the door [the pupil that could not participate in the lessons without paying tuition sat in the hallway, on the other side of the classroom door, where she could at least hear the lessons], you have to pay for everything and you don’t have the money for that.’ And I explained, ‘I will still have time to study if I want to.
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avram sadikario

The Jewish community in Skopje existed before World War II, but the Jews left [and were killed]. In 1945-46 we re-established the Jewish community in Skopje. I was one of the founders. The president was a very good man, also a partisan fighter, named Blajer. He was in favor of us establishing a Jewish community. And we, the remaining three hundred Jews, did it. We came from different places: partisans, refugees, who had been in Albania, etc. In 1948 many of them went to Israel, only about 50-60 remained: those of us who were not allowed to go. [Editor's note: Soon after the creation of the State of Israel, the Yugoslav authorities permitted Jews to emigrate there freely if they so desired. At first, doctors and other professionals were discouraged from leaving, but later they too were allowed to go with their families. Source: Harriet Pass Freidenreich] Doctors, like me, were not permitted to go because there were not enough of us. And then inertia set in and we stayed here, we complained, but we stayed. I regret that I didn't go to Israel. I wanted to.
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There was a state-run elementary school where the Jews went. There was one Jewish elementary school and many others. There were four grades in the elementary school. The elementary school was called 'La skole de la Zudios' which means Jewish school [in Ladino]. All the Jewish kids went there, but the teachers were Macedonians, that is Serbs. All Jewish kids went to this school. There were no non-Jewish students. [Editor's note: The territory of today's Macedonia was attached to Serbia as a consequence of the Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the Slavic-speaking Macedonians, as a pretext, were considered part of the Serbian nation by Belgrade.] Serbian was taught in the school. In elementary school all the subjects were in Serbian. Nothing was in Macedonian. The Macedonian language was forbidden. It was forbidden as a language. It was forbidden to speak it. If a teacher heard someone speaking Macedonian, he would reprimand the person. It was forbidden because it was understood that Macedonians were Serbs and should speak Serbian and not Macedonian, a gypsy language.
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There was Lumdei Torah [Editor's note: This school was called Lumdei Torah or Torah Learners, it was established by Yitzhak Alitzfen (1870-1948), the chief rabbi after WWI (1920s-1932). The institution was similar in function to a Talmud Torah but had a strong Zionist focus. Source: Mark Cohen]. In the mornings I went to [elementary] school and in the afternoon to Lumdei Torah. When I was ten, maybe younger, and until I was 12-13, Musa Safan taught me religious lessons at the Lumdei Torah. I went there for four years. This was a special building next to the main temple, Aragon. Here I learned the whole Torah and the history of the Torah. He knew this very well. He had a talent for teaching: he spoke so nicely that we remembered everything he said. He also taught us Hebrew. He didn't know it exceptionally well, but he taught us what he knew.

He was an old man, with a beard. He was about 56-57 and we considered that to be old. I went every day for two hours in the afternoon after school. It wasn't obligatory, not everyone went. Whoever wanted went. He was a perfect man. Like all hakhamim he wore a black robe, down to his feet, and not a fez but a special Jewish cap.

He taught the ten or fifteen of us to be little hakhamim. He took us to the temple where we sang. I sang a little better than the others; they sang, but some didn't have good voices, so they gave me more verses to sing.
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Lily Arouch

My grandchildren in Athens are less involved in Jewish life, as they live far from the center, although their parents are active community members. My granddaughters are not very religious or traditional but it doesn't bother me, as parents are the ones to judge what is best for their own children. All my grandchildren attended the Jewish elementary school.
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There was a very active Jewish community in Thessalonica. When I say active I mean it had many charity institutions to help the poor; as the community was so big, it had people from all social classes. There were lots of poor people, entire neighborhoods, and I know that the community would take care of them. It had institutions, old people's homes, orphanages, institutions for poor girls. There was also a big hospital named HIRS that was built by Baron Hirs, who was known throughout the Balkans. It was a big hospital and I think it still exists. There was the Mair Aboav; I think that was the name of the orphanage, Matanot Levionim [8], the Saoul Modiano care home.

I don't know how many rabbis there were in Thessalonica, or if there was a shochet or chazzan. There were Jewish schools, but my sisters and I didn't go there, so I don't know how many Jewish schools existed.

I don't remember the political atmosphere so much as I was too young. Before I was born there was a fire in Cambel. This group that was called 3E [9] had burnt a whole area but that was either before I was born or when I was really young.
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I had two daughters with my husband: the first one, Aliki, was born in 1955 and the second one, Nelly, in 1959. They both went to the Jewish Elementary School of Athens. I believe that the fact that they went to the Jewish school was an essential part of their education, not to say that my husband and I didn't contribute.

As long as my daughters were still young and went to the Jewish school their friends were mainly Jewish. In high school they started having friends of different faiths but always kept in close contact with their old friends. We both talked a lot to them about everything we were interested in and read a lot.

We always bought new books and took our children to the theater; I believe we had a very close relationship with them. We both spoke to our children about their Hebrew background and as they were at the Jewish school they knew a lot about Jewish traditions already.
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Henrich Kurizkes

After getting married, my parents rented an apartment in the house owned by Sweetgauer, a Jewish man. My father worked and my mother was a housewife. I was born in 1924, and I was the only child in the family. Shortly after I was born my parents moved to Raua Street, near where their parents lived. We lived there until the town authorities decided to build a fire station on that site. The house was to be removed, and my parents rented an apartment nearby. We lived in this apartment until the very start of the Great Patriotic War [11].

We spoke Yiddish and Russian at home. My parents mostly spoke Russian to me, but it took me no time to pick up some Yiddish. Children are good at languages.

The Tallinn Jewish gymnasium [12] was located not far from our home and my father wanted me to study in this school. However, I fell very ill when I was six. I had an inflammation of the ear which led to complications with a blood infection. There were no antibiotics at the time, but the doctors managed to cure me. Having spent a while in the hospital, I couldn't attend the Jewish kindergarten where children studied the basics of Hebrew.

The director of the school refused to admit me to the Hebrew class without my knowing Hebrew. He suggested that I went to the Yiddish class. I knew Yiddish well, but my father was against it. Maybe the Yiddish class, in my father's opinion, was associated with Yiddishists [13], and he quite disapproved of them. So I went to the private Russian school.
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tili solomon

I studied Hebrew at the ORT school. In that period my father was no longer with us, having been sent to forced labor, and my mother was sick. Taking care of two children on her own wasn't easy; she didn't supervise me enough, so I got a failing final grade in Hebrew. I was supposed to get a prize for handiwork: they gave separate prizes for each subject. Because of my failing grade in Hebrew, when they called out the prizes, they said, 'Herscu Tili, prize for handiwork', but, in fact, they didn't give me anything: neither the diploma, nor that little piece of fabric which was given to us in recognition of our merit. I cried all the way from school to our house. My eyes were swollen. 'What happened?' they asked me at home. 'My friend Molca got a prize for handiwork and I didn't!' My problem wasn't that I hadn't got the prize, but that she had gotten it and I hadn't. I had to take private lessons. There was this young lady who taught Hebrew, a very nice young woman who did pro bono work for our school. I think she emigrated to Israel right after the war. She worked without compensation to help the Jewish community. My mother went to see her with tears in her eyes; she told her about my situation and that I wanted to continue my education. The lady recommended to us a girl who was two or three years older than me and I took some lessons with her that summer. I was able to pass my exam and enter the next grade. However, the fact that I didn't get that prize is something I'll always remember.
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