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Jankiel Kulawiec

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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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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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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Rafael Genis

Even though I was almost blind, I worked for many years. I retired in the early 1990s. Though since 1945 I have been getting a pension for the disabled, it is miserable. All those years my wife and I had been going to the places where Jews were executed to commemorate them. I thought of how to mark those places and put the monuments there. Besides, I couldn't feel indifferent towards those Jews, who survived the war, and now are scraping through. I decided to found a Jewish community in Telsiai and went to Vilnius to see the chairman of the United Jewish community of Lithuania, Alperavichus. He supported me. The community was founded in 1993 with me as a chairman.
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Then there was an unpleasant incident, which ended up having no consequence. Soldiers from Russia often asked me how I was living in capitalist Lithuania and I honestly and straightforwardly told them that we had a good living - we had a lot of food, abundance in goods and no oppression. I was called to the party organization several times and accused of anti-Soviet propaganda. I tried to explain that I didn't concoct anything. I was arrested and kept in custody for 14 days along with other 'anti-Soviets' - the wardens of the liberated villages etc. We were put in a guarded cart. They gave us no arms and no explanations. Finally, they either clarified things, or didn't have time for that, or my proletarian origin worked, I was released all of a sudden and sent to the regiment. I will never forget those two weeks of fear and consternation.
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Krystyna Budnicka

And anti-Semitism within the Church? That saddens me greatly. But I believe that the Pope's teachings are being increasingly taken to heart. After all, after 2,000 years of anti-Semitism within the Church, it's not easy to change the Church in a very short time. But I believe it will change. I have a dilemma too, not a problem, because I don't find it a problem, but a dilemma, when people ask me to define who I am. Because I am a Jew - that is my nationality, my background, and a Christian - that is my religion - and a Pole - that is my culture. I can live with the problem of my identity, it doesn't worry me. And other people needn't concern themselves with it.
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Janina Duda

My husband wasn’t nationalistic at all. For him, everyone was a human being first.
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He himself couldn’t say if he was Polish or Ukrainian. Because there was no [national] consciousness in the countryside yet.
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I had an exceptional husband, Teodor, who was completely free from any kind of nationalism.
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Lily Arouch

When we left the house we were hiding in, we only had a little suitcase with very few clothes, and as we had nowhere to go we went to a hotel. We went back to our old house and there was nothing. There were some refugees living there already, the house was empty and there was nothing in it.

My father went and bought five plates and five forks and a couple of knives so we could sit and have something to eat. We stayed in that hotel and then moved to a better one, which was called 'Modern.'

On the second day my father went out to see what was going on in the town. His shop was completely empty, there was nothing left. Everything had been evacuated by the Germans. Our house had been completely emptied of our things, so we really didn't find anything.

Many refugees had come in from the provinces around. While we were hiding the rural areas were severely suffering from the Germans. It was these people that had occupied our apartment. They were moving into any empty house or apartment they found.

My father, probably out of anxiety for the future, or sorrow, or both, went through a paralysis. He was unable to move and so stayed in the hotel room for a while. Everyone said it was psychosomatic stress he was going through. It was probably a combination of the fact that he had been lying down for nineteen months in the house that we were hiding in, and then he suddenly started walking and moving, and the chaotic situation when we came out. We didn't find anything, neither our house nor our furniture nor the shop and its merchandise. Thank God he recovered in the end.

On our return from hiding the reaction of our neighbors was mixed. There were those who were happy to see we had survived and those who had a peculiar attitude saying, 'oh, so you were not taken away, were you?', as if they were happy to have got rid of us.
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Eva Ryzhevskaya

In 1948 the state of Israel was founded. It was a real joy for me. I was happy that the USSR was one of the initiators for the foundation of the state of Israel. Though, later on the relationship between the USSR and Israel was harmed. The USSR deemed Israel to become its satellite, one of the countries of the socialistic camp, ?nd Israel decided to follow its own way. The Soviet government could not forgive that. However, we followed the events in Israel and were concerned. I took such pride in Jewish people when they gained victory in the Six-Day-War [38] and Yom Kippur War [39]. Jews knew how to build their country and how to protect it as well.
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Isroel Lempertas

I dote on Lithuania. Now I like things, which I could not accept at once- crushed communistic regime was like a breath of fresh air, something which was necessary for our country to exist, but there are things in Lithuanian politics, which I disapprove, i.e. getting away with everything, connected with the USSR. I do not think it is the right thing to do. I do not like a negative attitude toward the victory over fascism. Here many people think that we should have fought with Hitler against USSR. I am strongly against it! Hitler captured half of Europe, enslaved and exterminated millions of people. I was in the lines and I know: because of our combined efforts we gained a victory over fascism and we should always keep it in mind. I hope that my country would get over the difficulties with growth.
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I was demobilized only in 1947. I was happy. The only thing for me to do was to find a job and go to the institute. The real hardship in my life started. At that time in Lithuania, as well as in the rest of the USSR, anti- Semitism [Campaign against 'cosmopolitans'] [24] was thriving. I came across it when I was seeking a job at the institute. I finished one year and a half in the period of time when most people did not even manage to finish 10 classes. It was enough to find a job. Besides, I was born in Lithuania, a front line soldier with the awards, the member of Communist Party, which was rare. I wanted to be a lector. I had that experience in the regiment and got along with people. Nothing happened. First, I addressed the "educational agency" Znaniye [Znaniye all-Union society, a public educational agency supporting spread of political and scientific knowledge.]. I was offered a job as an accountant. I had not experience in that. Then, the second secretary of the Central Komsomol Committee of the Republic, the fellow soldier, recommended me for a position of the aide of the first secretary of the Central Komsomol Committee. Of course, I did not succeed. I addressed other organizations. First I was welcomed as I did not look like a typical Jew, but when it was the time to see my last name during processing of my documents, the head of HR department found any reason to refuse me. Of course, they never said that the true reason was my Jewish origin. Finally one good fellow soldier helped me get a job as a literary worker at the paper 'Sovietskaya Litva'. [Russian language Lithuanian newspaper.
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There were Lithuanian guys in the class up till 1938. We got along with them. In general, there were very few anti-Semitists in Lithuania. I think, Lithuania was one of those countries, there anti-Semitism was rather weak as compared to the other countries, especially by the middle 1930s. Before 1924 there was a 'golden age' for Jews in Lithuania. Jews were not oppressed in any way. There were Jews in parliament [8], when in 1926 there was a coup d'etat in Lithuania [9] Tautininki came to power, there was an end to democracy. Communist party, 60% consisting of Jews, was banned. Jews were driven out from parliament and from leading positions in the state. But, that was not it. Dictator Smetona [10], came to power and he thought that Lithuanians should be leaders and the rest should keep quiet and help Lithuanians make a happy state. Though, Smetona treated Jews pretty well and we practically felt no anti-Semitism. Of course, in every day life anti- Semitism was displayed in different ways. I remember that once Lithuanian guys in elementary school tried to put some pigs fat on the lips of Jewish guys. But it was childish unmalicious prank. It was as if guys did not understand what they were doing. I came across with a real anti-Semitism in late 1930s. By that time I did not have any particular political interests. I paid attention to the conversations of my father and friends and later on I understood that father belonged to any party- neither communist, nor any other. He had his own views, 'left' views. There were Zionist organizations in the town, including Betar [11] and Maccabi [12]. I did not go deep in the politics I joined «Maccabi», where I played ping-pong and communicated with people of my age.
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