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elvira kohn

Because she married a non-Jew, she converted to his religion and became Eastern Orthodox. No one in the family opposed. Jovan's father was an Eastern Orthodox priest and he was the one who baptized Olga.

I remember that someone once told me the following anecdote: Jovan's father, while baptizing Olga told her, 'Even though you are now accepting another man's faith, never forget who and what you really are.' Olga survived because she converted. She died in Belgrade around 1990. She had no children.
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In general, I have great respect for the citizens of Dubrovnik in how they treated the Jews during the war. They were very fair to us. I never hid the fact that I was Jewish. There's a well-known Croatian actress from Dubrovnik whose name is Marija Kohn.

Her father married a Catholic woman and converted to Catholicism but didn't change his name. For this reason, the name Kohn was well known in Dubrovnik and when someone heard that my name was Kohn, they automatically considered me a Catholic as well. I always emphasized that I was Jewish though.
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In our house in Vinkovci where I lived with my grandparents, my brother and my mother, the family respected Jewish customs and traditions. We weren't very religious, but there were certain elements of the Jewish religion and traditions that we respected. There was no pork in the house; that was strictly forbidden. We never had pork.

Otherwise, the meat we ate wasn't kosher; at least I don't think it was slaughtered according to the strict kashrut rules. My grandmother and mother cooked on Friday for Saturday so we didn't cook on Saturday. They prepared challah for Friday night and for Saturday. We lit candles Friday night and had a festive meal, usually fish, chicken soup and chicken. We had red wine.

On Saturday, we always ate cholent, which was prepared the day before. Most of the food was kept in the well in the backyard because otherwise it would have gone bad. We had a young servant girl named Ivka from Brcko who didn't live with us, but occasionally came to help my mother and my grandmother. She wasn't Jewish so she mostly helped us on Fridays and Saturdays. For example, on Saturday she went to the well where the cholent was kept, brought it in and heated it up for us for lunch.

We also lit candles on Chanukkah. For Pesach, we ate matzot, and I remember that my grandmother made delicious matzot cake. We had a seder dinner. Of course, we celebrated all the holidays, like Rosh Hashanah, and we always had a nice lunch or dinner. We fasted on Yom Kippur. It was more of a tradition than strict religion in my family. Like it is said: the customs have kept Judaism, and not the prayers.
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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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My grandfather wanted us to speak German in the house since that was his mother tongue. My grandmother spoke Croatian with us and he was displeased when we spoke Croatian and didn't speak German. However, we mostly spoke Croatian in the house. For Jewish expressions we used the Yiddish pronunciation; for example, we said Shabos [Sabbath] barhes [challah], matzos [matzah].
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Jankiel Kulawiec

All the children knew of my background, and had a similar attitude to it as me - traditional.
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On the television there was a report from some mass meeting at the Ursus factory [a large agricultural plant works, famous in the Polish People's Republic for anti-government demonstrations by employees], and they showed this banner, 'Down with Jewish nationalism.' I got riled, and said to them that I didn't see the difference between Jewish and Polish nationalism.
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Mama's surname was Mokobocka - untypical [for Jews], but I think it was a Polonized surname [3]. There were two brothers from her family - the Mokobockis - living in Losice: Ilja and Mordko, or Mordechaj.
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Mico Alvo

My mother was born in 1901 in Thessaloniki. She went to the Gattegno school, I think, or to the Alliance, or both. Maybe she went first to the Alliance and later to the Gattegno. She went to elementary and secondary school for twelve years. Maybe high school was fewer years back then - I don't know if it was six years then or three. She knew Ladino, French and Greek very well. She spoke French very well. She learned Greek by practicing it. Maybe they did learn some Greek at school.

I remember that we always had Greek maids. I think that their fathers trusted the Jewish housewives very much, more so than the Christian ones, for their girls to become maids. They trusted them in the sense that they wouldn't let them take the wrong direction, as we had very strict principles and they were treated fairly.
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What the Greeks really didn't like at the time was that the Jews would speak Spanish and French to each other. And they used to say, 'But you are Greeks, why do you speak in another language?' And they couldn't understand that this is how they were brought up. They weren't Greeks; they suddenly became Greeks. They lived in Greece but Thessaloniki was then Turkish, it wasn't Greek, which the others couldn't understand. And the truth is that the Jews didn't know Greek. Since they hadn't been taught the language, how could they have known it? This brought some friction between them at the beginning.

Until 1940 relations between Christians and Jews were a bit tense. Not between the children, because the children that were going to school then started learning Greek anyway. The teachers were proud that the Jews were learning Greek. Then they started getting jealous because they would learn Greek better than the Christians. However, most of the tension was created by the generation of my parents. I could feel it. Many times on the tram I could hear two men speaking to each other in French and someone saying to them, 'Why are you speaking in French? Aren't you Greek?

You couldn't make them understand that when they grew up this wasn't Greece. My father spoke about incidents like that with my mother. There was a time when anti-Semitism grew, especially here in Thessaloniki. Not so much in other places in Greece, but mostly here in Thessaloniki. When the events took place. When Metaxas [32] came, everything stopped.
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He would vote in the Community's elections. I don't know if he was with the Zionists or with the assimilationists. I don't know this because he never spoke about politics at home. I don't think that he would have been with the Zionists; he was probably with the ones in favor of assimilation.
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Grandfather gave money for the house, but he didn't give easily, he was strict and would check how it was spent, he wouldn't just give away money. He didn't participate in Community affairs. He was only at the B'nai B'rith. When they would organize some gatherings, he would also go. When such a gathering was organized a personal invitation would be sent to him, and it said 'Personal' on it, so no one else was allowed to open it. That impressed me, because I was thinking, 'Why is it personal, why?'

"Ah," he would say to me, 'this is from the committee, it's for a B'nai B'rith meeting.' You see, not everyone could join the B'nai B'rith. It was very strict. You had to be somebody in society. It didn't have to do with politics. It was rather an organization like the Freemasons.

I think that Grandfather Daniel voted in the Community's elections. He voted not the leftists, not the Zionists, but the liberals that were in favor of assimilation. I'm not absolutely certain, but I'm pretty sure that he supported them. At the national elections they would always vote for Tsaldaris [17], the Laikoi [Populists].
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My grandmother was completely illiterate but had a practical mind. She had a great impact as the head of the family. In Jewish families the women were really the mater familias. They would run the place. Rachel knew a few Turkish words and Ladino [1]. That was it. She later learned Greek because she had maids that were Greek. And she picked it up from her maids. Rachel started having a maid when she got too many children.
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They have been celebrating the Remembrance Day [the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust] in Thessaloniki for many years now. All the authorities would come, the representative of the Metropolitan Church, of the 3rd Army Force, of the Navy, the Police Force, the Fire Department and many others. The synagogue is full, I must say. There is not enough space either on the ground floor or on the balcony.

This is what used to happen at the first anniversaries after the war. There were some authority representatives but not as many as there are today. But we always had some people representing the authorities. At least the municipality would always send someone. On the Day of Remembrance they first recite a Kaddish for the 65,000 local Jews that were killed. Then we light the six candles for the six million that got killed, one candle for each million. It is usually someone that was in the concentration camps that lights them up. Then someone holds a speech. Most of the times a Christian Orthodox holds the speech. In the evening they go to the cemetery and they put flowers on the monument.

One of the first people that comes to attend the Day of Remembrance is the German Consul. I He always comes to the cemetery, too. What I can see is that as time goes by we have more non-Jewish people from the authorities coming than we have Jews.

In the beginning they completely ignored the role the Jews in Thessaloniki had played in the city. They didn't even say that they existed. People don't know about it. They ask me, 'Alvo, where do you come from?' So I reply, 'Maybe your father came from Drama, while my ancestors have been here for 500 years.
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We never tried to convert Didi. We thought that it wasn't correct. She went to church-events at school. Since we knew that she was Christian Orthodox, we knew that she would go. We didn't want to do things in an unacceptable way. She never expressed the wish to be more religious, to read or say a prayer before she went to bed. We never thought that it would happen, because we weren't religious with regards to Judaism either.

Didi knew when it was a Jewish holiday. For example, at Passover, the family would come and we would have dinner together and she participated, too, but nothing more than that. It was more of a social event rather than a religious one. We still keep gathering at Passover and Socrates and his children come, too, and we read through the Exodus. Socrates has been living with Didi for many years now. He has two children, a boy and a girl. They all live together but he and Didi are not married.

Didi would ask us about our lives. Sometimes we would have conversations like that. We told her about the concentration camps from a very young age. We had conversations about it when she was in Lyceum. Later when she had come back from Switzerland, where she studied, we didn't have a lot of spare time. Lately, she has been thinking of converting to Judaism. After all these events took place and the Holocaust issue became a movie subject and popular talk, we talked a lot about it. She is a member of the Council of the Association Greece-Israel and everybody there loves her very much. She is very active.
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