Selected Topic

220 results

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.
See text in interview
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.
See text in interview
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.
See text in interview

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.
See text in interview

nisim navon

The first Germans arrived in April 1941. The Albanians liked the Germans.
They came down from villages to welcome them and kiss their boots. Right
after the Germans came, the Jews were ordered to wear a yellow band with
the word Jude, and form a brigade of 200 adults from Kosovo to work at the
stone pit. When the Nazis first rounded up the Jews in Pristina, they came
with a truck to our house and took away everything from us, 10 kilos of
gold, family jewelry which we had had for four generations. Five bags were
all that were left, one each for my father, mother, sister, grandfather and
me. They made our father carry all of the family's belongings out of the
house onto trucks, the whole time beating him on the spine. His back never
recovered from these beatings and he never regained his strength. Rukula
and our mother were both operated on in 1946 for respiratory problems that
developed during the war.

We thought that the Germans wouldn't take my grandfather as he was old, so
we gave him everything we had. But my grandfather was taken to prison
immediately and killed. Soon after grandfather was murdered, my grandmother
died of sorrow and lack of medicine. My two uncles and I were put in labor
camp where we worked at the stone-pit 12 hours a day. My sister, together
with another 40 Jewish women, had to clean streets and public buildings
that belonged to German organizations in the city. They worked 12 hours as

Six months later, two policemen, one Italian and the other Albanian, took
me to be shot in the village of Milesevo, 6 km away from Pristina. A
Gestapo chief asked me if I was a communist. I answered that my family was
capitalist. He thought for some time and released me. When I came back, the
Italian police put me and my cousin in prison in Pristina. I was in prison
from October to December. I was in the room with 40 prisoners, mostly Serbs
expelled from villages by the Albanians. We had to work and we were beaten.
I still have a scar on my arm. In December the Germans transferred me into
a prison in Tirana, where the living conditions were better. I stayed there
till January. In the meantime I didn't have any information about my
family. While I was in Pristina they were moved to Elbasan, Albania. In
February I was removed to Elbasan, but still didn't know that my family was
there, as I was in another part of the prison together with thieves and
criminals. My family was with six other Jewish families. Later I found out
that we were in the same prison. We were there until the end of August
See text in interview
In 1937, I enrolled in the Economics Faculty of Belgrade University, but
my studies came to an abrupt end with the passing of the Numerus Clausus
laws restricting the number of Jews allowed to enter certain professions. I
was in Belgrade once or twice before that, when I escorted my father to
Vienna where he had a throat operation. I enrolled in the Faculty in 1937
and stayed until 1940. I lived with my cousin in a part of the city called
Zvezdara. Students whose fathers had been in World War One could remain at
the university. I was among those students, as my father had fought against
the Bulgarians in World War One.
See text in interview

Magdalena Berger

My stepmother and I were deported
to Austria, were we were held in a labor camp. In 1944, while in the camp,
my stepmother gave birth to a baby girl. I was given the honor of naming
the baby and I called her Mira Ruth Grossberger. As an infant she was quite
ill and my stepmother wanted her to have two names to protect her from
See text in interview

avram sadikario

The first time I felt any anti-Semitism was when the Bulgarians occupied Bitola. They spread this [anti-Semitism], but it wasn't accepted by the people. Only a few people accepted it, a very few.

My father worked until 1942; by the end of 1942 he wasn't working. They took his store. He had some money that he lived of. On 11th March 1943 [see Deportation of Jews of Bitola to Skopje] [22] they [Bulgarians] seized the whole city. There was a curfew in the whole city, no one was allowed out, not Serbs, not Jews. And the Jewish quarter was occupied and blocked off by the Bulgarian police. There was specially reinforced police near each house; they collected everyone, took them to the train station, and sent them to Skopje.
See text in interview
This was in 1941. At the beginning it wasn't so bad, afterwards it got worse and worse. First of all, it was forbidden for Jews to work. Second, it was forbidden for Jews to live outside the Jewish quarter. They reduced the size of the quarter and made a special quarter where we could live. We had to pay a very high tax. It was terrible. Most were poor to begin with, but those who were not became poor. We could only walk around in the Jewish area, outside of that it was forbidden.

We had to wear stars [see Yellow star in Bulgaria] [20]. We had to wear the pins [yellow stars] for Jews which we bought at the Jewish community. They were not expensive. We had to wear them all the time. Since we weren't allowed into certain parts of the city, if we went there we covered them up.

We only had contact with non-Jewish youth. My friends from school were very good, I maintained contact with them. Some of them came to us. They could come to us but we couldn't go to them.
See text in interview

tili solomon

She finished the first four elementary grades in a Romanian school: the Marzescu school. Then she went for two years to the Commerce High School, until the war began and we were kicked out from the public schools. She didn't continue her education.
See text in interview
We could only go shopping after 10am. Purchase gas, for instance. We could only queue for gas after 10am, while the rest of the population could buy gas throughout the entire day. This was the same for bread too.
See text in interview
In 1942 or 1943 they made us wear the yellow star [15]; it was a little piece of black cloth as wide as the opening of a glass, with a yellow star with six corners on it. It was attached with a safety pin. One day they simply told us that, as of the following day, we couldn't leave our houses without wearing that star. I remember that a neighbor of ours, an old man with a beard, went to the toilet one Friday and forgot to wear his yellow star. They beat and insulted him in a terrible way because of that. The yellow star wasn't worn by Jews countrywide. After I went to Israel I found out that there were cities where they didn't wear it. My brother-in-law used to live in Braila and told me that they didn't have to wear the yellow star there.
See text in interview
A neighbor of ours from Socola Street, also a Jew, of course, had a radio set. After the war began, in 1940, one or two of the neighborhood people, my father included, would risk going to that man's place to listen to the news in the evening. But it didn't take long till the radio sets were confiscated: maybe a few months later, I can't remember exactly.
See text in interview
As I lived on Socola Street, I went to a Romanian school, the Marzescu School; I studied there for two years, until 1940. Then several Jewish schools were founded because all the Jewish children were kicked out from the public schools [as a result of the anti-Jewish laws in Romania] [8]. So, whether we wanted it or not, we had to go on. I attended the third and fourth grades at the Stern School on Palat Street. There was a shortage of teachers. For instance, one of my teachers in the third elementary grade was a chemist, Miss Blumenfeld.
See text in interview

Rahela Perisic

War broke out in 1941 and a German unit entered Drvar. Not much time passed
before my father, mother and younger sister Judita, and my younger brother
Moric, who was eleven, were taken to what was called a reception camp in
Bosanski Petrovac by the Ustashe [Before and during WWII Ustashe were an
extreme right wing political and military organization of Croatian
nationalists on the German's side. They ruled Croatia from 1941-1945]. When
this happened I was at my aunt's house. The Ustashe told her that she must
send me to the camp but I did not go and I ran away instead. I hid in
surrounding villages, however in the end I fell into the hands of the
Ustashe and I suffered terribly when they took me to prison. But something
happened to save me. Serbs, who were also mistreated by the Ustashe,
attacked Drvar. I was liberated at that time. I immediately registered to
help at the Drvar hospital. Salomon Levi, who I knew from before, worked
there as a doctor. I contacted him and told him that I wanted to help in
the hospital since before the war I had learned first aid in school. From
that day I became a fighter against fascism.
See text in interview
  • loading ...