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elvira kohn

I didn't feel much anti-Semitism in Dubrovnik before the war. Perhaps right before the war started, anti-Semitism was felt more individually than collectively. My boss, Miho Ercegovic, had one partner named Gesel. This Mr. Gesel told my boss that he must fire whoever was Jewish. He knew I was Jewish.

So my boss, who was very inclined to me, had to fire me but he did so only officially so that he wouldn't get into trouble. He still let me work 'unofficially' for him and I continued to do my job and take photos and that way I could earn my living. This was just when the NDH was proclaimed a state and the Ustashas came to power.

We were forced to wear a badge since the NDH was proclaimed in 1942. There were other discriminating laws implemented against Jews: in addition to wearing the badge, we were forbidden to work in state and public services, and we were deprived of the freedom of passage. We were allowed to go to the beach or to the market only until a certain time of the day; a curfew was imposed on us.

In Dubrovnik, the state power was in the hands of the Croats, i.e. of the Ustashas, and the military power was in the hands of the Italians. It was our luck that the Italians were in power there. The Germans, in collaboration with the Ustashas, tried to take us to their concentration camps, but the Italians made clear to them that they were in power in Dubrovnik and that it was Italian right to do what they wanted to do with us. And because the military power was greater than the state power, we were, in a way, put under the protection of the Italians.

The Jewish community informed all the Jews living in Dubrovnik, the Jews who by accident happened to be there, and the Jews who came to Dubrovnik to run away or hide, that on a certain day in November 1942 we would be taken away and that we could take with us what we thought was necessary. I was with my mother. We were taken aboard a large Italian passenger ship and many people of Dubrovnik came to see us off.

Among them was my boss Miho Ercegovic. When I saw him, I approached him and returned his camera. And he said, 'No, you keep it, and whatever happens will be captured on film.
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My older brother Aleksandar completed a trade academy in Osijek. My father's sister Olga Cvjeticanin, married and living in Belgrade, had no children. She and her husband loved my brother very much and they invited him to come and live in Belgrade.

They helped him find a job as an accountant with a British company called Konac in Belgrade. After the first month of probation, my brother was accepted to work in the company full time, as they were very satisfied with his work. He received his first salary and sent 100 dinars to my mother. Very shortly after that, my brother had an accident and died.
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baby pisetskaya

We had good salaries and bought new furniture, a TV set and a fridge on installments. When I went on business trips I always bought books: in the 1970s and 1980s there were better supplies of Russian fiction and books by foreign authors to provincial towns.
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My parents bought a one- bedroom apartment on the second floor near the railroad spur in the center of town. There was a stove stoked with coal and wood. There was a table and chairs in the center of the room, a big wardrobe with a mirror by the wall and a desk where Shelia and I did our homework. There was also a nickel- plated bed on which my parents slept. There was a screen and two beds behind it where Shelia and I slept. My father was the first one in town to learn to make permanent wave and I remember that his clients - the most elegant women of Kursk - came to our house to have their hair done before holidays.
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To be able to buy medicines and more food for me, my parents took their silverware to the Torgsin store [15]. My father had to give his barbershop to the state. He couldn't keep it because of the high taxes.
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We all lived in Grandfather Menachem's house. Daughters and daughters-in- law helped my grandmother with the cooking, and my grandmother also had housemaids to help her around the house. I remember one called Nastia and another one called Asia; they were Ukrainian girls.
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Grandfather Menachem was a wealthy man. When my father returned to Uman my grandfather gave him money to buy a barbershop in Sadovaya Street in the center of Uman.
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My grandfather bought a big and beautiful house with columns in the center of the town and opened a garment shop. His clients were wealthy ladies. There was a big room in the front part of the house where my grandfather received his clients. It also served as a shop as such; there were assistant tailors sitting at their desks, mannequins and two sewing machines in this same room.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

When I was in the 5th grade, because of the increasing financial problems at home, I had to quit school and go out to work permanently.
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Mico Alvo

My grandmother's sister Mathilde was the same age as my father. My father was born in 1889, she must have been born either in 1890 or in 1888, sometime around then. There was a big age difference with Daniel. Mathilde had a daughter from another marriage.

Grandfather was widowed, she too, and so they got married. It was then a custom to marry the sister of your wife, if both of you were left widowed. And even the Jewish religion suggests doing so. The religion says that if your brother dies and his wife becomes a widow, someone from the family should marry her in order to maintain her.

Mathilde Gattegno spoke Ladino really well and French fluently. She also spoke Greek, but not as well. She couldn't write in Greek, but she spoke it, especially because most of her maids were Greek. She didn't speak any Turkish. She went to school at the Alliance where she learned French.

Before she got married, during World War I, when the allies were here, she opened, or rather the family opened, a shop for her in which she sold souvenirs for the soldiers. And it did really well. She was pretty and she spoke French, which was something that the soldiers couldn't find everywhere.

At the time of World War I, many women started working out of necessity. They would sell things like that; they would do the easy work. After she became a widow, and maybe also before she got married, she worked at her brother's school, the Gattegno.

Mathilde used to speak about World War I while my mother didn't. I remember that they had in their house all sorts of flags, because once the English would come around, then the French, then the Italians, and then the Romanians.

She got married to Grandfather Daniel after the Great Fire. They were already married when I was born, because I remember they left me with them when I was one year old, and that they got married before my uncle and before my father. I think that my father was already married in 1920.
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Beniko Saltiel was the son of Grandfather Daniel's elder brother. Beniko was the first timber merchant of Thessaloniki, the richest and most successful one. He was in the fifty-member council of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Thessaloniki. He knew my father very well. They had a good relationship. They had built a house together at the Androutsou bus stop, and when he stopped living there, it became the Yugoslavian Consulate.

My father didn't do business with any of his relatives. He had a different job than anyone else. All of them were in the lumber business. But this was a great business then because after the Great Fire, the whole of Thessaloniki was being rebuilt, so they needed thousands of acres of wood. And there weren't that many traders. At the new timber area there were about four or five timber shops.
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My grandfather Haim Alvo started from scratch. He had a cart in Fraggon Street [one of the oldest commercial streets in Thessaloniki] and he used to sell various tools like screwdrivers, pliers, hammers. All kinds of iron tools. He continued working at my father's shop after 1913.

He used to come to the shop until about 1938. He would go around the shop and watch what the employees were doing. Whenever he would see someone lazing about, he would pat his back and ask him, 'What time should I wake you up?'

We had customers who used to come from Thrace, Turks. They usually sat cross-legged. I remember Grandfather with one of them, his name was Halil and he was from Komotini [city in the region of Thrace, 270 km east of Thessaloniki]. They both wouldn't sit on chairs, but on the counter, and they would order coffee and tell stories.

My father was in the office. He was occupied with the sales mostly, and less with the customers. His older brother would deal with the customers and, later on, when his other two siblings joined them, they were at first like employees with shares on the earnings.

Simon and Haim didn't intrude in each others affairs in the business. Haim wasn't involved with my father's part of the job. He would simply watch. He would watch, he would meet a couple of customers, when he would come down they would chat, but that was it. They loved him at the shop.

They used to call him 'tio' - uncle in Spanish. Tio Haim, tio Haim. This is how the employees would call elder men: Tio. Not only the employees would call him Tio, but also some customers and generally other people he knew.

Haim, like many others, didn't even know what entertainment meant. He didn't go to the 'kafenio' [café]. Maybe he would play a game of cards or backgammon. Backgammon had its glorious days then. My grandfather had six children. How could they bring them all up? There wasn't any time left for fun.

They would open the shop at 7 in the morning and shut it at 9 o'clock at night. They would work non-stop, except on Saturdays. But they also worked on Sundays. They didn't have enough time. The family would get together only on holidays.
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I don't remember traders in the market to be regularly in the black market. Whoever was wasn't doing it all the time. The regular traders couldn't do such a thing, because there was also a market inspection. And they were after you and one had to be very careful. In what price you are selling etc. There were the jumpers as well. The kids that would jump in the German cars and unload them. They would throw the sacks from the top of the truck. The black market was basically for the ones that were in great need and had no other choice.

The shop worked with the goods that it had. It couldn't get any new supplies so it was selling stored goods. It was selling every day. There was money, but it couldn't get exchanged. Because the traders couldn't replace the goods and bring new ones and they were trying to turn their assets to sovereigns. Something that was forbidden but one could find some in the black market. I don't know any names of the black market traders. Because everything was very secretive.

At the time they had also brought from Italy the 'nylon' sovereigns that weren't authentic. These ones, even though they had the same quantity of gold, they sold cheaper. They sold them and no one would buy them. Even the Bank of Greece when they were getting them, they were saying they were nylon and that they were not real sovereigns. They had Queen Victoria or King Edward on them and the right quantity of gold, and they still called them fake. And they used to do this other trick; they would put them in acid and lower the weight.

My father was trying to turn all his assets to gold sovereigns. All the traders did, too. Because the drachma was loosing its value. Day by day it would drop lower and lower. When they gathered us, the downfall started. From there on, every day was a new drop.
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When I came back, I was mostly in the shop rather than the factory. I remember many officers coming by: from the revenue office of war material, the 9th car division etc. I was writing the invoices. And my brother was studying alone for his baccalaureate. He had taken my books and he was reading them by himself.

We weren't going out at all at night. We would meet up with friends, but earlier and at 9 o'clock we would be at home. We would talk about how many alarms there had been the night before. When there was an alarm we would go to the shelter and many others from the neighborhood would come. Sometimes they would arrive earlier than us. The shelter had a corridor to get in, which was like a maze. It didn't have a direct exit; this was in order to avoid that a bomb thrown outside the shelter, would get in. When we heard the bombs falling, even though we were in the shelter... We would hear a bang and the whole house and the shelter would be shaking.

As soon as the war started, the factory started working for the army. Day and night. And they had exempted all the workers from the army service. There were 35 workers. They released them all. Because they were in need of our products and the whole production was going to the army. The barbed wire, the chains for the cars, the hinges, the nails; they needed everything.

My father had some goods that had to go through the customs in order to have some supplies. And he was trying to have them go through customs. It was really rare at the time to have goods sent to you because one couldn't bring anything in. We were very lucky to have the goods arrive at the time.
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