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Jankiel Kulawiec

Some farmers, Poles, hid me and kept me for a time. I was living with them in their house, and I didn't have to sit there the whole time. I went out to work sometimes, for instance to take apples to the squire.
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Mico Alvo

Sento's wife remained hidden and didn't turn up when all the Spanish were gathered. She managed to get to Athens and hide there. But she suffered. The Spanish that left from Athens weren't taken to Spain like it had happened with the first deportation. They took them to Bergen-Belsen. So she thought that she would be doing better than her husband and hid on her own but she suffered much more. She did survive though, and so did her two daughters.

Moshe Gattegno was with the Spanish. When the Spanish were liberated from Bergen-Belsen, he got eruptive typhus.

Aunt Lily survived, too. She had gotten married to Mario Modiano who was Italian. When the deportations started, the Italians put all the Italian citizens who were in Thessaloniki on an army train and moved them to Italian land. They didn't let the Germans take them. The Italian embassy helped many people. They gave out many certificates with fake citizenship. If, say, you had a grandfather or an uncle or someone, they would give you a certificate saying that you, too, are Italian. And they would send you on their own army train. So, this way they came to Athens and went into hiding.

When Italy fell and surrendered, Aunt Lily was in hiding in Athens with her two children. Her husband went to the mountains, with the partisans. They helped him to go and hide there with his two brothers and his eldest son, Tori. They didn't fight; they were old then, about fifty years old.

Aunt Ida married a Greek Jew. And they were all deported. She didn't survive.

My mother didn't have Spanish citizenship, because she was married to a Greek. My parents left during the last but one deportation to the camps. While she was at Baron Hirsch, my mother had tried to commit suicide by jumping into a well, but they managed to stop her. We heard of this from others that were there and returned.
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We had a really good time with them. Latronis had an employee, who was also his girlfriend. She was a beautiful woman, very beautiful, and she was from Patra as well. Because she got pregnant, he decided to marry her. After a couple of months they got married. The wedding took place in the house. Only we and a few close friends were present.

Latronis and Papahrisanthou didn't think that they were risking anything at the time. But that's how it was. There were many like him. Latronis was very religious, he would go to church every Sunday and he felt it was his duty to help anyone who was in danger. I am certain that this is how it was. He probably also helped us because of the friendship that he had with my uncle.
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Later we got ID cards that Evert [Angelos Evert, Athens City Police Chief] was giving out. Proper ID cards because, you see, the ID cards were done in relief then, so one couldn't just make fake ones. So what did they do? They were taking other people's birth certificates. In a very simple way: they would go to the Town Hall and get them. I was called Konstantinidis Kostas and my brother Konstantinidis Vassilis. They were taking these birth certificates and with two witnesses one would go to the police station, and there they would give you the proper ID card. The only difference was that they had someone else registered in the same name of an existing person.
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Krystyna Budnicka

One day it turned out that the midwife had been doing illegal abortions and injured some Volksdeutsche [10] woman who ended up in hospital and the Germans began an investigation: where, what and how. We had to run. Anka and I were led out separately, but on Dolna Street some kids began to yell after me, 'Jewess'. I spent the entire night on coal in a cellar. I was not suitable to be shown to other people. I couldn't show my face in public because I looked very Semitic. [Jews identified as such by Poles were often blackmailed or handed over to the Germans.] The next day a female liaison came in the morning, put a bandage around my head and took me by tram to Dobra Street. And that's how I found myself at the Budnickis'. Anka was already there.

The Budnickis helped Jews; they were a middle-aged childless couple. I know that when the summer holidays started, Mrs. Budnicka went to a summer vacation spot with some Jewish children, somewhere in the Otwock area. When the Uprising broke out, she wasn't in Dobra Street. Anka cooked there. I recall that the Poles captured a heating plant somewhere nearby and there was great joy, euphoria. During the Uprising we would go down with everybody else to the cellar, the shelter. At that time I didn't hear a bad word directed at us. You could say that people felt a stronger solidarity with one another, all felt the same danger. We walked out of Warsaw on 6th September with the Budnickis. We crossed Warsaw, which was ablaze. I parted with Anka in Wola [a district of Warsaw]. First, there was a night stopover under the open sky, and in the morning selection for work duties.

Mr. Budnicki noticed some nuns, Grey Nuns from Warsaw, from Ordynacka Street. He went up to the Mother Superior and told her that he had an orphan, that he wasn't her father. She said, 'You will come to get her after the war?' 'Yes, yes, of course,' said Budnicki. When the nun saw me, she asked, 'My child, what's your name?' I said, 'Krysia Budnicka'. I went with the children from the orphanage to the Pruszkow transit camp [11]. Later it turned out that out of eighteen children, six were Jewish.
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Ms. Stefania Socha lived at 15, or 17, Podwale Street, in a studio flat on the first floor, and she took us in. She was a kind of patriotic drunk who kissed every metal badge with the Polish eagle [the national emblem]. Naturally, she knew that we were Jewish, that couldn't be disguised - we looked ghastly. At her place, we slept on the floor. We only spent a few days there, maybe a week.
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When they tracked us down, it was already September 1943. Two girls from the bunker came into contact with the caretaker of a house somewhere on Okopowa Street; Wasilewski his name was. He later helped us. He cleaned around the manhole, and he would hand us slips of paper with information, and we would pass ours to him. One day a man came to us from the outside, carrying a backpack with food, I don't know who he was. He was a very nice young man. And he said, 'Don't worry, everything will be okay, we will take you away from here.' At that time there were thirteen of us: My mother, my father, four of my brothers - Icie, Chaim, Rafal and Jidl - I, Perla, Anka - Icie's wife - and two married couples.
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After the Great Action we remained in hiding, no-one from our family worked legally in the shop. [Only those who worked in the ghetto factories had the right to live there, others were so called 'dzicy', 'wild' inhabitants of the ghetto.] Rafal, Icie and Chaim, my brothers, were building a bunker. Rafal was the boss in this business. I don't know where they had found the people who gave the money for the construction of the bunker. I think that they began building it right after the Great Action. The bunker was on Zamenhofa Street. We moved into the bunker in January 1943, I think. We had stocks of provisions. I know that there was a physician among us. At the beginning, until the uprising, there were some 30, 35 to 40 people. From this bunker there was a passage into the sewers, and that was the crucial thing, that made it possible [for us] to cross over to the Aryan side. Between January and April, the boys, my brothers, would go into the sewer to explore the Aryan side.

I will now describe the bunker. The passage down from the basement was closed off by a trapdoor that weighed 70 kilo. The bunker was constructed in such a way that the whole was dug out below cellar level, and the soil that was taken out was used to strengthen the ceiling with the help of wood planks and logs. Inside there were two rooms: in one, provisions and other necessities of life were kept. From that pit a tunnel was built leading to the sewer. The tunnel might have been ten meters long or perhaps even more. That tunnel, which was hollowed out in such a way, was the second room, the bunks were there. That was the place where we lived. And when the ghetto started burning, then it was literally like in an oven there. [Editor's note: The Germans began to burn down houses in the ghetto a few days after the liquidation began on 19th April 1943. Street after street burned. By 15th May, when the final liquidation of the ghetto was announced, most of the buildings in it had been burned down.] We would escape to the sewer to cool off a bit. The bunker was designed to be very safe. Inside we had everything: light, water. We also had a radio in the bunker. The idea was that we would survive the war in it.

Every day Icie made notes on our life in the bunker; but all of that was destroyed there, nothing was saved. It was in the bunker, before the Uprising, that the marriage of Icie and Anka took place. My father led the ceremony. At that time he didn't wear a beard anymore because the Germans had cut his beard in 1939, as soon as they came in they cut off half of his beard. I was very sick once and was given one potato, which my mother mashed and then fed me. I probably had a high fever, I don't know what the matter with me was, but I got well later on. My parents were very weak, they were simply wasting away. We switched day for night. During the day we slept.

There were food rations allotted in a way to make it fair. There was this watery soup made of oats. In the bunker meals were cooked on an electric range. We relieved ourselves into a small pail and then dropped the contents into the sewer. We washed one after another in a bowl. Emissaries were sent outside. But I really remember very little. I think the most important thing was not to move around too much, and that was all. And I suppose I just learnt to live like that. I was very young and didn't want to cause trouble or bring danger on us, so I breathed quietly. I really don't recall very much at all. I never went out at all, not even at night. None of us went out. If there was any danger we would hide in the sewers. I remember going out onto the street only once, during the day, but that was before the Uprising. We went to another cellar, but I don't know why, and I remember that we returned to our bunker very shortly after that.

The people in the bunker - I don't know who they were or how they came to be there. I know that we had no money, so perhaps my brothers constructed the bunker and the other people supplied them with food and medicine. I remember a physician and his wife, a married couple with two daughters and a son, the latter left earlier and helped us after that. And there were many people, but they didn't get fixed in my memory as they were only there for a short time, and they left quickly. I don't know what happened to them. They all tried to pass onto the Polish side via the sewers. The Germans knew that people were escaping through these sewers and dropped gas and grenades into them. At one point, the cellar collapsed with all the stocks of provisions inside, and we were left with literally two sacks of oats. We were left without light, nothing, not even water. And the boys started to dig through this mass of earth in order to somehow get to the air. They bored these passages in wet rags, and finally they reached some adjacent cellar, for there was a whole chain of cellars. I didn't see any firearms on my brothers, perhaps they didn't have any in the bunker, but I know they were in the Uprising, at the beginning, maybe for several days. They said they had come back from the Uprising. And when everything was coming down, burning, they were with us.
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I remember the terrible fear in that chimney, when your heart is pounding because you can hear loud steps and you know that at any moment they could catch and kill you. I remember feeling hungry later, in the bunker. [Editor's note: Krystyna was in hiding in a bunker built by her brothers from February to September 1943.] I remember how I imagined that I was eating, that I was chewing bread. But I remember my fear better than the hunger.
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We had a hiding place at Mila, too, it was located in the ventilation chimney. We survived several house searches inside that chimney. A type of disguised cabinet on rollers was used to cover the entry to the chimney. During the Great Action we hid there several times.
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I remember a house search in our apartment. They cut open a small sack of flour with a bayonet. Under the small table in my parents' bedroom there was a trapdoor to the basement. The men were hiding because then they were only looking for men. And in the cellar there was another hiding place in a crate with sawdust.
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Janina Duda

We kept walking, we found a forester’s hut. A Pole, Marian Surowiec, with his wife Gienia and a small boy, six or seven years old, was inside. We didn’t tell him we were Jewish. It turned out he didn’t love Jews very much, but he let us stay. He knew the Gestapo was looking for us, but he didn’t know we were Jewish. We stayed with him for several weeks. First of all, we bribed the ‘soltys’ [elected chair of a village council]. We had some Jewish coverlets hidden, we got them from those Jews in Vysotsk, we gave them to the ‘soltys.’ He just said, ‘Live here if you want to’ and that was it.
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After three weeks, he wasn’t there. We didn’t have a drop of water for three days, because I couldn’t drink from the canal, I vomited. Hunger. We didn’t know what was happening, we had to get out, because we would have died of hunger. And so we went back to the village, to him. And we asked, why? ‘Mister, those were Lithuanian szaulis [from the Lithuanian word ‘šaulis’, meaning ‘shooter’ – Lithuanian soldier serving the Nazi occupants between 1940-1945], they were combing the forests, looking for partisans and runaways. They didn’t find you, but I can’t keep you any longer. I don’t have anything.
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Lily Arouch

We were left in the house. On the one hand we were fine, because we were living in an apartment, but on the other hand we were scared too. We would walk with socks because we didn't want the people living below us to know how many of us were living up there. Obviously the lady of the house would go out shopping for the family and obviously it was quite basic: we didn't have much money; my father had some but not that much. We were just trying to survive.

We were eating pulses; I rarely had meat that whole time. There was a shop close by that made yogurt of terrible quality, our hosts would buy some and they would share it with us and a piece of bread. That was dinner. For lunch we would have pulses or a potato - very basic.

That period we weren't keeping Sabbath or any of the holidays we didn't even know when they were, my parents would calculate it could be [Yom] Kippur, but there was no way we could keep it. My mother and I would do all the housework, we would wash the clothes by heating up some water on coal and briefly try and clean them.

We would make bread if there was flour, and we were all allowed one piece each. The bread that was available at the time was called 'bobota', a kind of hard corn-flour bread, that's what the bakeries were selling. Time went by and my mother would wash and cook and keep the children busy; my younger sister was three years old.

My father was reading books from the doctor's library and I was too. I was reading a lot, both the doctor's and his wife's books. Or I would knit if there was wool, so I could make some clothes for my sisters; they had nothing to wear and there was no chance we could go out and buy any [clothes].

Naturally they [Dr. Karakotsios' family] limited to the minimum the people that visited them. Only a friend of my father's would come every fifteen to twenty days to see us and tell us what was happening in the outside world. Time was going by slowly and we were hearing stories about people getting arrested and we were very scared.

Then there was bombing in Thessalonica and I remember being in the room and watching the port on fire. We really were very grateful to these people; until the day she died my mother called George Karakotsios an angel. The Karakotsios' though were hit by a great misfortune. After the liberation my parents would see them sometimes.
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One day my father received a message from a friend, a doctor, George Karakotsios. It said, 'I am willing to put you and your children up so long as you manage to leave that place.' My father didn't think twice, even though he had to leave behind his old mother, and my mother had to leave her mother and sisters and their families.

On 12th April 1943 I left the ghetto with my two sisters; we stayed alone that night. Before we left my father told me, 'Listen child, you have two younger sisters and you need to take care of them.' We didn't know what was going to happen next. Thankfully my parents came the following night and then the morning after that everyone in the ghetto, where we had also been before, was gathered and taken to the ghetto next to the train station.

From there they were forced into trains and left. My grandmothers and aunties were taken too. We found that out when we were hiding, because we had a Christian friend who would come and tell us some news. We remained hidden in that house for nineteen months, even though the original plan was to move further away from the center. The apartment was very central, it was on 113 Tsimiski Street, on the third floor. It was an apartment with three rooms and the people living in it were the doctor, his wife and their child.

These people saved us, they were very special. He was a known tuberculosis doctor, George Karakotsios. He was the manager of a branch of IKA [social security office] in Thessalonica. His wife was Fedra and they had an eight- year-old boy then.

These people took us in, gave us their room and hid us there for nineteen months. They shared with us the little bread and food they had, and also our fear and frustration. It was a very hard time for us, and for them. We were all very scared. Imagine, we were living in a very small apartment and every sound and every knock on the door was scary for us. My father was hiding in a closet and my mother was hiding under a bed.
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