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elvira kohn

We were first taken to the hotel Vrek in Gruz, a few kilometers from Dubrovnik. There we stayed for two months and at the beginning of January 1943 we were taken to Kupari. There were around 1200 Jews.

Kupari is about twelve kilometers from Dubrovnik and there we were interned in a Czech hotel that was situated on the seaside. It was a large hotel that was delimited with wire. We were only allowed to walk within the wired fence. The Italian soldiers were all over; there were also Italian guards who kept their eyes on us all the time.

They didn't allow us to go beyond the fence or to the coast because they thought that someone might swim away. So we had to stay inside the hotel or walk just a little bit around it. We received food but I rather not recall that: it was dried vegetables in oil and a piece of bread.

Then we had to cut this piece of bread in three parts, one for breakfast, the second for lunch, and the third for dinner. A friend of mine from Zagreb sent me a package with some food; we were allowed to receive one package per month. But even the food she sent me had to be dry so that it could be preserved.
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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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I recall well one event in Dubrovnik: in April 1942, the NDH was proclaimed an Independent State of Croatia [5]. On this occasion, a great ceremony and celebration took place in Dubrovnik. All the high-ranking officials of the NDH came to Dubrovnik and requested that this ceremony be photographed.

Apart from me, there were two more men in Dubrovnik who worked as photo- reporters; however, that day they were already busy working elsewhere. By then Jews already had to wear a badge. Everywhere else in Croatia, Jews had to wear a yellow star but in Dubrovnik we wore on the left side of the chest a brass-like yellow badge within which was the black letter 'Z' [Zidov=Jew].

My boss told the officials that other photo-reporters were busy but that signorina [Italian for Miss] Elvira - that's how they used to call me in Dubrovnik - was available to take photos. 'If you don't mind that is. You know, she is Jewish', my boss said to them, and they replied that they didn't mind as long as the whole event was photographed.

The main ceremony took place in front of St. Vlaho church, and all the officials stood on the stairs of the church. Professor Kastelan and his sister were among the officials and many other functionaries and deeply religious Catholics. The ceremony began and I started to take photos. I had a Leica then. I stood there and took photos with my Leica on one side and the badge on the other.

After a short while, I noticed that the sister of this Professor Kastelan whispered something into his ear and they both looked at me. They stared at me for some time, and, as I noticed this, I slowly started to move back towards the crowd.

I wanted this to be unnoticed, and I moved slowly and disappeared into the crowd. Soon the sister came down the stairs, walked through the crowd, came straight up to me and asked me to stop taking photos immediately. At her request, I stopped and left the event.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

That was at the time of that famous law in the Sejm about the ban on ritual slaughter [8]. So the Jews started killing their animals on the quiet. And there were these 'confidants' [people who collaborated with police in searching for underground slaughterers], who went around looking out for that. One of them came upon a butcher who was actually in the middle of slaughtering like that. And the butcher knifed him, which set off an incredible pogrom.

There was a similar event in Losice, only I don't remember in which year. [Editor's note: this pogrom, provoked by a butcher named Kabrilok and his gang in 1938, was averted at the last moment by Russian military troops, invited from Siedlce by two Jews. The story below is an exaggerated version of the facts.] The Jews in our town had all sorts of dairies and similar businesses, and in connection with that they used to go round the villages to buy up milk or livestock. Two Jews had gone to one of these villages, and it was at the same time as a recruitment drive for the army. So the recruits attacked them and hacked them into pieces, and their horses dragged their bodies back to Losice. I vaguely remember that they put all the pieces together in the synagogue and they lay like that for about two days [the aninut usually lasts a day or two], I think. The police even came and investigated the case.

Another time some students studying in Warsaw and Siedlce came for their vacation, and set up anti-Semitic pickets outside Jewish shops. If a Pole went in, they would stick a paper pig to his back. And it even escalated into a running battle between those lads and the farmers who'd come to buy things from the shops.
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Isroel Lempertas

I do not know anything about my maternal grandmother. She died long before I was born. I do not remember any tales about her. I do not even know her name. When the World War One was unleashed, Jews from frontier territories, namely Kaunas province, including Mazeikiai which was part of that province during Tsarist times, were exiled to the remote districts of Russia. Anti- Semitistic tsarist military authorities deemed that propinquity of Yiddish and German and vast difference of Jewish appearance and mode of life from the rest of peoples, inhabiting that territory, would incline Jews to the espionage. Many Jewish families from Baltic countries turned out be exiled. My mother's family was exiled to Berdyansk, warm Ukrainian town on the coast of the Sea of Azov [1000 km to the south from Kiev]. When Lithuania gained independence [1] almost all Jews came back to the motherland. The family of Faivush Levinson also returned. I cannot say whether my grandmother was alive. As far as I remember grandfather Faivush lived in the house of one of my aunts. He died in 1933. He was buried in Mazeikiai Jewish cemetery in accordance with the Jewish rite. I was not present at the funeral. It was not customary for Jews to take children to the funerals of the relatives.
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jerzy pikielny

In 1939 I was due to start gymnasium. But the Germans closed all the schools. They also banned Jews from crossing Piotrkowska Street, except at the two ends [Piotrkowska Street is Lodz's longest street, 4 km long]. Later there was a school in the ghetto for some time, but my parents wouldn't let me go there. I was home schooled.
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In 1938 we went to Orlow [now a district of Gdynia]. We went to Sopot to see the people we had stayed with a year earlier. They already had very few guests. Jews were only allowed to use the part of the beach right next to the toilets. It was an area the size of an average room. There were 'Juden verboten' [Ger.: Jews forbidden] signs everywhere.
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Edit Kovacs

I started working after graduation in 1933 and worked in three needlework
shops until they had to close down because of the anti-Jewish laws. I was
first an assistant, then a salesgirl and finally a shop manager. In all
three shops, the proprietor was Jewish and half the employees were too. On
the high holidays, the Jewish employees did not have to work, but we did
not have to close the shop because our Christian colleagues were ready to
keep the business going.
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bella zeldovich

She had problems being admitted to the institute, which, I believe, was due to her nationality. She had to take entrance exams, although she had a silver medal. But she passed them and entered the institute.
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Anna Ivankovitser

After the Revolution the Soviet authorities started a struggle against religion [8]. They closed many churches and also closed the synagogue in Shargorod.
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Miklos Braun

By that time I was working as an unskilled worker in the factory where Vera worked. I had been fired because of the anti-Jewish laws in 1944 and I entered the manual labor staff of the factory and became a semi-skilled worker. I balanced revolving engine parts on machines.

But let’s go chronologically. I was drafted in January 1942 and I got back home in November 1943. I had been at the Don River Curve (not far from Stalingrad in Russia) and all kinds of “good places”; my best friends died, and I survived by chance. For a year we were in Sianki, on the Northern side of Polish Carpathians, which was Polish territory. When we went there, we still had our uniforms. Then in October 1943 an order came that civilian clothes should be sent to us from home. We were not soldiers any more, we were simply prisoners, slaves, or whatever you want to call it. I was able to survive only because I was transferred from the work company to the motorized unit because I could drive trucks. When the front at the Don River Curve was broken through, we towed the truck away with a tractor, and after an adventurous journey in it we arrived in Kiev. 

Then, in May 1944, I was drafted again. There was a motorized-unit army post on Ezredes Street and I was sent there. I went home regularly from there to 40 Sziget Street, a yellow-star house that my whole family had been transferred into. Once I wanted to cross Margit Bridge and I was caught at the gate by a filthy sergeant major and he ordered me back. Ten minutes later the bridge blew up. When Governor Horthy came, we believed everything was going to be all right, but the Arrow Cross (Hungarian Fascist, or Nyilas) men came in the evening and the army post was closed. Then we were put in trains, crammed in wagons at the railroad station of Jozsefvaros. We had to get off at Pozsony Ligetfalu and we went to dig tank traps. From there I escaped with a friend of mine, and after a few days’ illegal loafing around we got into a printing shop called Ervin Metten. The pay-books for German soldiers were printed there in some twenty languages. We obtained illegal papers there but we were caught and imprisoned. From there I was taken to the Lichtenwort concentration camp and I was still there when the Soviet troops arrived. 

When there hadn’t been any news about me for months, my wife said to herself, “If he is alive, he’ll come back on our first wedding anniversary.” That was on the 15th of April. I had had typhus at the time and had just recovered, more or less, and it wasn’t until the 16th of April that I staggered into Sziget Street, frightfully thin.
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danuta mniewska

Then, when the boycott of ritual meat [13] came, I was already a teenager, I may have been twelve years old, so I understood certain things.
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anna schwartzman

I think that the Doctors' Plot was a provocation premeditated by his enemies. If these doctors had still enjoyed their freedom, it would have been possible for Stalin to survive, that they would have saved him. This was all masterminded by those, who tried to take his place. After all, anti-Semitism didn't cease after Stalin's death, which suggests that someone wanted to keep it that way. Of course, I grieved when Stalin died. I was petrified by the thought of what would come after him.
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We were very much affected by the Doctors' Plot [6]. There was an outburst of anti-Semitism. I remember a boy who approached me on the street and said, 'Soon you will go to Siberia'. But the brunt of all hostility was endured by the doctors. The best medical scholars were called killers and fired from work.
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arkadiy redko

In 1939 the government issued an order to close Jewish schools in the USSR. I had finished eight grades before then and continued my studies in a Russian school. There was no anti-Semitism in this new school. I also had all excellent marks there.
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