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elvira kohn

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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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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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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Jankiel Kulawiec

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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nisim navon

Our family did not change its name
officially, but the "-ovic" ending was added by the school authorities when
they enrolled in school. We now use both Navon and Navonovic.
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Mico Alvo

My grandmother Alvo was either a cousin or an aunt of David Florentin, who was a Zionist. [Editor's note: David Florentin was a leading Zionist functionary in Thessaloniki. In the late 1920s he purchased land from Arabs and settled in Palestine.] The first people that left from here and went to Palestine, left with him. In fact there is an area in Tel Aviv that is called Florentin. We knew each other. He sometimes went to visit my grandmother. I would hear my parents talk about him in the house. But my father had a completely different opinion. The Community was then divided between the Zionists and the assimilationists. My father totally swore to assimilation. But he was never involved with the administration of the Community. He was well known, he used to help out - mainly financially - but he was never involved with the Community.
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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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Rafael Genis

We had a good life. There was an air of trust and understanding. There were no conflicts. On the weekend our friends came for a cup of tea. We talked about life. We celebrated mostly birthdays and the New Year. During the Soviet time there were no religious traditions in our life.
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My elder brother was a member of Betar [3] and enrolled me there. I didn't attend the meetings of Betar, where the methods of foundation of the Jewish state were discussed. Our Grandpa made brown shirts for me and my brother. I became a member of Maccabi [4], we often arranged all kinds of sports game and contests. We still celebrated Jewish holidays and Sabbath at home and we did it not to hurt our parents. On holidays I went to the synagogue with my father though I didn't believe in God at that time.
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Krystyna Budnicka

My name is Krystyna Budnicka, my true family name is Kuczer, Hena Kuczer. I first used my Polish name when Mr. Budnicki, a Pole, who had been looking after me, handed me over to some nuns who ran an orphanage as we were leaving a burning Warsaw after the Uprising [Warsaw Uprising] [1] in October 1944. When the nuns asked my name I didn't hesitate for long. Krystyna Budnicka, I said. And it stuck.
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Janina Duda

And Mother’s family was also, in a sense, assimilated. All the sisters, although they had Jewish names, used different names in everyday life. They were very Russified. Perhaps because they attended Russian schools. This community was different from those Hasidim [10], with sidelocks, deep in prayer, dancing etc. Those were secular people, who abided by the rules of their religion, but other than that, it has to be said, they assimilated.
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And my closest cousin lives in Lodz, but she married a Pole, like all of us did, and her family is completely Polish. Her son even got married in a church… that’s the end, as they put it, that’s complete assimilation, quite simply.
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Magdalena Berger

Most of my friends were Jewish but I had a few non-
Jewish friends. Once the war started the non-Jewish children in the school
would no longer socialize with the Jewish ones. I would pass other kids
from my class on the street and they would not say hello. However, even
during the war I maintained friendships with two Serbian students from
school.
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