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elvira kohn

Throughout the whole time of our imprisonment in the camp, I had my camera with me. I managed to hide it when we arrived in the camp even though we had to submit all of our belongings to a detailed search. But, apart from the initial search, I had to continue to hide the camera because the Italians searched our barracks almost every day.

We, the inmates, figured out the system although it was very risky. We informed each other when and where the search began so if the search began in barrack number 1 that meant that barrack number 1 was clear.

One of the informers ran to let the others know, who then let me know, and then I sent the camera through others to barrack number 1 that had already been checked. So my camera was always in a different place and the Italians never found it, thanks to good communications and good relations among the inmates.

I didn't take any photos during our imprisonment because that would have been too dangerous. I wasn't, of course, allowed to do it and, had they caught me, I could have been in great trouble so I never even tried.
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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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Victor Baruh

On 24th May [15] there was a spontaneous Jewish protest and the Laborers' Party came to help us [UYW] [16]. But in fact everything was spontaneous. Rabbi Daniel Zion wasn't liked by the other rabbis, went to Exarch Stefan [17] and explained everything to him. At the official public prayer on the occasion of 24th May where the tsar was present, the exarch told him, or is reported to have said, 'Boris, thou shall not chase, in order to be left unchased.' These words are from the Bible. Thousands of people gathered in the yard of the Iuchbunar synagogue [a Sephardi synagogue at the corner of Klementina boulevard and Osogovo street, demolished during the Communist rule; the Central Synagogue is located at the corner of Exarch Yosif and George Washington streets]. The Rabbi came, made a speech to calm down the crowd and the people went on a march along Osogovo Street and Klementina [now Alexandar Stamboliiski boulevard] and finally stopped at Vazrazhdane Square. The policemen encountered us there and began to run after the protesters and beat them.

I remember that a young man took a flag off a green wooden fence and walked with it at the head of the procession. When the writer Dragomir Assenov [pen name of Jacques Nisim Melamed - a famous Bulgarian writer (1926-1981)] read this in my novel 'Beyond the Law', he said, 'That was me'. A great number of protesters were arrested. We were hiding for a couple of hours next to St. Peter and Paul church and all the people who were arrested on that day were driven to a camp in Somovit on the bank of the Danube. This camp was established as a direct response to this incident. The plan was to disperse the compact Jewish population, to drive them to the Danube and then to send them to Poland and Germany. This demonstration compelled the Committee to put off the internment of the Jews from Sofia till the beginning of June. It was said that the tsar interfered.
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I have many more memories from the time when Hitler came to power in Germany and the persecutions began. In December 1940 the Law for the Protection of the Nation was adopted by the National Assembly and on 23rd January 1941 it was promulgated. Pursuant to the provisions of this Law, Jews were deprived of all civil rights. One of the articles of the Law for the Protection of the Nation stated that you couldn't write - you had no right to be an author. My first short story during our internment to Parazdjik was published in the newspaper Gorsky Kooperator [literally - 'a forest guard']. I can't remember how I got in touch with the editors but they got it published under the name V. Beshkov. I couldn't be published because I was a Jew. Another article stated that you couldn't be in matrimonial or non-matrimonial relationships with non-Jews. Thus, I couldn't love Bulgarian women.

In 1941, apart from the yellow star, we had to put a note on our front door - a Jewish Dwelling - which consisted of a white sheet of paper with black writing and the star of David. At the time when the Law for the Protection of the Nation was enforced I worked at a Jewish commercial company called Bratya Mizrahi [Mizrahi Brothers] but they had to decrease the number of Jewish employees because the law required that Jews employed by such companies should not exceed 50% of the total work force. I was employed in a company that was engaged in fabric trading when I went to work for the first time with the star. When my boss, Boris Zhelev, who was one of the republican officers fired from the army as a republican, saw it, he said, 'Take it off, I'll vouch for you!' There was sympathy for us everywhere.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

I never experienced any nastiness from Poles. My colleagues at work laughed at the mass meeting. They knew I was Jewish, but I never had any problems.
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Rafael Genis

According to the law on restitution we were given back the former premises of the prewar Jewish community. I sold that house and used the money to help poor Jews. Actually, the community is based in my house. I am the bookkeeper. I distribute the sponsors' aid coming from the Joint [18]. We celebrate Sabbath and Jewish holidays. I fulfilled my task: I put the monuments to the perished Jews on the places of their execution. I mostly used my savings for that as well as the money from the sponsors, collected by the relatives of the perished.
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I reached Kiev with the army of Marshall Rybalko [Marshall Pavel Semyonovich Rybalko (1892-1948) commanded the Third Tank Guards Army, which liberated parts of Eastern Europe from Nazi occupation in WWII] and took part in the liberation of this city. At night on 6th November we crossed the Dniepr on boats. There was a gun crew with us and they put boards one in front of the other and placed two anti-tank weapons on each of the boards. The German artillery fired on the boats from the high right bank. They hit our boat and I swam to the right bank. I was drifted away 500 meters as the current of the Dniepr was strong. I was in Kiev. There was a barge by the dock. I reached it and then I remember only a flash of the blasted shell. I can't remember anything else.
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Knowing the Fascists' attitude towards the Jews, and reading the military press, I understood that Lithuanian Jews, including my relatives, were exterminated. When we were liberating towns and villages in Ukraine, the local people told us about executions of Jews in ghettos and camps, about the atrocity of the Fascists. I saw horrible pits, the places where Jews perished and understood even more that I remained alone. My task was revenge. I went in every battle to take revenge and exterminate as many Fascists as possible. In summer 1943 I undermined four enemy tanks and every burning tank was a monument for my kin.
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Sami Fiul

In Bacau, we lived the terrible fear, when armed groups of legionaries marched in the street, singing legionary songs and kneeling in the street. We hid in a garden, in a pit, so that they wouldn't see us. That fear didn't last for long, and some peace followed after that, but not for long: soon after that the fascists came to power. After the legionary rebellion I saw legionaries being shot dead in Florescu Square, it was near our schil, in 1937/8, and I saw them lying on the ground, in the rain, among candles that someone lit, a sign that even the governing party of the time didn't agree with their terrible ideas. I don't know much about the politics of the time; I was just a kid. All we kids knew was that they were to be feared and that we had to stay as far away from them as possible.
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Leontina Arditi

I was small then and I remember vaguely the famous manifestation of 24th May 1943 [12] when the Jews marched to tell the King not to expel them. As a matter of fact 24th May [13], the day of the Slavic alphabet, as well as of the saint brothers Cyril and Methodius [14], who created it, was my favorite holiday. I was 14 years old then. I remember I had put on my red blouse. Suddenly the people who participated in the events started running because there was mounted police that scattered them. I was playing in the street; mum came, collected me, brought me home and said: 'Take off this red blouse! You have chosen a bad moment to wear it!' [red as a symbolic color of the communists] It was this day that I first heard of the word 'anti-Semites'. I heard: 'The anti-Semites battered to death the Jews!' I didn't know what it meant; I couldn't even pronounce it. We were six Jewish children, who studied in the Bulgarian school, but nobody bothered us, nobody maltreated us.
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ester josifova

I remember an incident from the beginning of the 1940s. I had already got engaged to my future husband, and I was walking with my sister-in-law on Klementina Street, which was a Jewish street back then. Suddenly Branniks started to come out from all the small streets and intercepted us. They started to pull us, humiliated us and even tore my sister-in-law's blouse. When they attacked us, a group of young Jewish men saved us in a very witty way: they chose a Brannik, claimed he was a Jew and attacked him.
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My brother Moshe also experienced such trouble. He used to play in a band of Jews, and one evening they organized a small concert. A group of Branniks intercepted and attacked them. They wanted to take my brother's violin away. He fought bravely and managed to keep his violin but they stole his expensive watch.
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Our relations with our neighbors and landlords during the internment in Kjustendil were fine, but trouble was awaiting us on the street. I remember that one night my younger sister and I were waiting on the street for our father to come back from the synagogue. He was wearing a yellow star, which he managed to hide discretely. Suddenly two youth stopped us on the street, one of them was the son of the well-known Bulgarian army general Zhekov. They were Branniks [9] and acted in a hostile manner. They stopped us to check if we were wearing the yellow star. One of them even took liberties with my sister. Then my father got angry, caught his jacket lapels and shook him. He explained to them that he had fought in the wars for them and that they didn't have the right to behave that way. My father was very proud of his war medals and put one of them next to the yellow star. He showed them the yellow star and the medal and told general Zhekov's son that he had fought side by side with his father in the war. When we went home my father felt really bad because of the humiliation he had had to experience.
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There was a great demonstration in Sofia on 24th May 1943 [7] against the politics of repressions against Jews and, most of all, against the decision according to which Jews were interned from their homes. A large group of Bulgarians - workers, students, doctors and lawyers - went out to demonstrate their support for Bulgarian Jews. The Jewish youth also took part in that demonstration. I recall that mounted police came from Sofronii Vrachanski and Tzar Simeon Streets and chased the demonstrators away using force. It was very scary and many people were arrested.
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rena michalowska

When there was a larger group that would start on Jewish subjects or Jewish jokes which I didn't like, I would say, 'Excuse me, I don't want to spoil the fun or interrupt the conversation. I am Jewish and I will leave not to disturb you. Please continue.' That would cause consternation. It was always amusing to observe how people were backing out. 'Oh, but I am full of admiration for the Jews. What a country have they built for themselves!' To me, Polish anti-Semitism doesn't amount to slogans written of the walls and fences. The Jew has suddenly become the popular subject. But what does the figure of the Jew in the souvenir shop hold in his hand? A coin, or a little sack, or there are coins on a table in front of him and he's counting them. I've never seen a Jew bent over the microscope. This is not done by a punk who goes around writing things on walls, this is done by those who deem themselves artists.

I won't allow two things to be said in front of me. I won't allow the diminutive 'Zydek' [a derogatory term for Jew in Polish] and I won't allow the word 'komuch' [a derogatory term for communist] out of respect for my father, who believed in communism.
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