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elvira kohn

When the war broke out in Croatia in 1991 [see Croatian War of Independence] [13], I wasn't afraid for some reason. I wasn't afraid of any catastrophes and disasters. Once someone called me on the phone and said threateningly, 'What are you still doing here, why don't you go where you belong?' I replied, 'I live in my apartment! Where should I go?' And he said, 'You have lived long enough!', and hung up. That scared me and disturbed me. But he never called again. He must have found my last name in the phone book and wanted to scare me.
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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

My daughter and son-in-law even had trouble once in connection with my daughter's background. It was in 1968, when my son-in-law was working in Lubin in a mining corporation. One day his colleagues asked him if he had any enemies. His department had received an anonymous note that his wife was a Jew. They gave him the note and he took it home to show my daughter. She had a friend, a teacher, who she was very close to. She would come to Legnica to visit me with them, they literally 'ate out of the same bowl' [i.e., they were like sisters]. When Roza saw the note, she immediately recognized the style [handwriting] as Asia's, that friend. Shortly afterwards it turned out that it was her. My daughter and son-in-law went to tea with her, and showed her and her husband the note, and after they left they eavesdropped at the door and heard them arguing and this Asia's husband reproaching her for writing the note. That was that incident.
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When I was working in the foundry I collected a few medals, the Gold Service Cross, the Bronze Service Cross, the Legnica Copper mining District Silver Medal, and the Cavalier's Cross [Order of Polonia] Restituta. [Editor's note: Polonia Restituta ranks among the three most important Polish honors. It is awarded to philanthropists and those contributing to the restoration or building of Poland, outstanding meritorious acts, arts and sciences etc, and sometimes for acts of bravery. Its fifth class is the Cavalier's Cross.] There was a story with this last one, because Solidarity [20] helped me to get it. I'd been scheduled to get that distinction for a long time, but I didn't get it because I was a Jew. That's what I felt. Apparently, in the works committee [PZPR] there were some that were against it. I only got it in 1980 when Solidarity was forming. That's when justice was done.
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I experienced the events of 1968 [17] at first hand, to some extent. Perhaps not directly from people, but through political pressures at work. I was simply forced to resign from my post and move to a less important post. That was a kind of unofficial suggestion from my engineer. He wanted to protect me, because my job was a very responsible one - I was a gang foreman at a furnace where they smelted golden copper classified as 4 9s [highest quality]. I was responsible for the work of the whole team, eleven people. And he was worried that somebody could damage something maliciously, and the melt would be rejected, which I would be held responsible for. So he made it clear that it would be better if I wrote an application myself for transfer to a less important position, to smelting lower quality copper. And that's what I did. As a result of that anti- Semitic campaign I lost about 1,500 [zloty] in monthly pay. It was a lot then, a tram ticket was something around half a zloty at the time.

As well as the change in my position, I also remember other events from that year. There were various marches, demonstrations, some of them anti- government - one such took place outside my window. Not because I lived there - they were just marching past. I remember that they had this banner - 'Down with communism', or something like that. And one Jew I knew - Friedman - was walking along. I think he was going home from work. They must have known him, because a few of them stepped out from the group and said to him, 'Come along, Jew, shout with us "Down with the PZPR!"'

There were anti-Jewish demonstrations too. Where I worked there was a mass meeting [an employee rally organized by the directors of state enterprises, at which a propaganda-style lecture was held; this was used frequently by the communist authorities as an instrument of propaganda], in my department, about the Israeli attack on the Arab countries. And there they shouted 'Down with Jewish nationalism.
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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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Krystyna Budnicka

Anti-Semitism in Poland. That's a very big, very complicated subject. In 1956 I personally didn't experience anything or see anti-Semitism directed towards others. I had just graduated. In the attic where I was squatting I had neither a radio nor a television. I wasn't living in a Jewish environment. And anyway, that wave of anti-Semitism wasn't as noticeable as the one in 1968. 1956 was mainly about purges among military personnel and people in power. And those were on the whole rather closed circles.

Anti-Semitism is either an illness or stupidity. The circles in which I move in Poland - doctors, teachers, the middle-class intelligentsia - have nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Either way, I don't believe that anti- Semitism in Poland is anything out of the ordinary. I don't imagine that anti-Semitism in France or America is any less painful. I think there has been a great improvement here in the last few years. Once the system changed, everything became more above-board and hence more normal.

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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In 1968 I got another job, but not because anyone forced me out - I simply found a better job, and one that was in Warsaw, so I didn't have to travel. And that year, in 1968, I made many trips to Gdanski Station [in Warsaw], which was where people left for Israel. I said goodbye to many people then, and cried. But I didn't have the feeling that it was anti-Semitism among the Poles that was driving them away. I blamed the communist system; after all, it was because of the authorities that these people were losing their jobs, it was communist agitators who were screaming at rallies for Jews to go to Zion. That system persecuted us in various ways, and anti-Semitism was just one of its methods.
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Janina Duda

In 1968 [Anti-Zionist campaign in Poland] [37] he suggested to me – let’s leave. I told him, ‘No, my place is here.’ And in 1968, in the office, in the company where I was working, in international commerce, one of the men had just returned from the Far East when the Israeli war [Six-Day-War] [38] was going on and he talked about what was happening there. They threw him out of the party [Polish United Workers’ Party] and they told me, ‘You have to repeat what he said.’ I really didn’t remember and, even if I did, I wouldn’t have said it.
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Alexandra Ribush

Though sometimes there were anti-Semitic hints. For instance, our household manager, when I asked for some materials for the laboratory, once told me, 'You are pestering me with requests like a Jewish woman'. And I replied, 'Why like? I am one.' She was close to dropping on her knees and began to beg for forgiveness.
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rena michalowska

I remember my mother stood a table on its side to shield us. And the man was a heavy drinker. When he was quite drunk, he took an ax, shook it, and yelled, 'Etoy nochyu ya uzhe etih Yevreyev ubiyu!' [Russian for 'Tonight I will kill those Jews at last']. A neighbor took pity on us.
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tili solomon

I also remember a schoolmate from the Marzescu school, a boy; whenever he walked on Socola Street, he would call me, 'Jidauca, jidauca!' [Offensive word for female Jew in Romanian.] When I spotted him from a distance, I hid inside the house or the courtyard so that he wouldn't see me and have his way with me.
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Before the Legionaries [12] there were the Cuzists [13], for a shorter period. But it was during that very period that my father was hospitalized for an operation. My mother, who had two little children to take care of, had a hard time. She had to divide her time between going to the hospital and looking after us at home. At that time, the Cuzists saw my mother and, probably knowing she was Jewish, told her something that made her come home very upset.
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Rahela Perisic

After the unification of the Third Reich
in 1938 (editor's note: this is how the respondent refers to the German
takeover of Austria), many Jews arrived in Banja Luka from Austria. My
uncle Salomon Levi took in one of these families. They left all of their
property behind in Vienna. I was still too young to fully understand their
situation. But, unfortunately, the hard times soon befell me too. For the
1940-41 school year I was enrolled in Prijedor. During this school year I
started to have problems because my history professor was a fascist
sympathizer and he always humiliated and insulted me in front of the whole
grade. I cried after almost every class with him. My three school friends:
Sveta Popovic, Joca Stefanovic and Milan Markovic were a great consolation
to me. They would tell me: "Don't give in to him, hold your head up high,
proudly, high, you are not going to let one fascist make you suffer." I
listened to them. Numerus Klausus, a law which restricted the number of
Jewish children who were able to go to school, had already been enacted.
They carried this out especially rigorously with those boys and girls who
were supposed to enroll in the higher grades of the gymnasium. At the
teacher's meeting the director of my school insisted that I be thrown out,
but I was lucky and my physics, geography and literature professors lobbied
for me to stay. Their argument was that it would be better to dismiss a
younger student who had time to transfer to some trade school rather than
me. In the end they did not throw me out. I learned about this incident
during the war when I met one my professors.
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Isroel Lempertas

The same year- 1947 - I submitted the documents to the Vilnius university, Physics and Mathematics Department. The pro-rector, responsible for academic studies, an inveterate anti-Semitist, told me: «you studied at the Teachers' Training Institute. Take another attempt». But I was helped by the party organizer of the university, who was from Mazeikiai. He knew my father very well and insisted that I should be admitted to the second course as I was the member of the party and a front-line soldier. Students of those years did not look like modern students. At that time we were adults having gone through war. I was also responsible for my mother. She could not work, so I was the only bread-winner. When I was in the third year I was employed by Chair of Marxism and Leninism as teachers' assistant. There was a lack of teachers in social studies Lithuania, who were fluent in Lithuanian and Russian languages. On the third course I was appointed as an assistant to the teacher in Marxism and Leninism. There were 3 students-teachers in the entire university, including me. Upon graduation I successfully defended my diploma and I was not to worry of the mandatory job assignment [25]. They even did not ask what I would like to do. I remained teaching at the university.
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