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elvira kohn

Today people say that the Italians didn't really kill anyone directly in the camp. My answer to that is: the Italians did and didn't kill in the camp. They killed indirectly. They killed by forcing us to work, by giving us small amounts of food, by giving us orders, by treating us like a lower race. They were cruel.

Often the inmates who had small children were given half a liter of milk for a child. The commandant of the camp who was among the worst, saw a mother with her child in one hand and a bottle of milk in the other, approached the mother, took the bottle from her and spilled the milk. They were cruel in these ways: starving us, mistreating us, scaring us, forcing us to work.
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In May 1943, when the internment camp on Rab [6] was built, we were transferred from Kupari to the Island of Rab. There were no religious or observant inmates and no one observed any Jewish traditions or laws. At least I don't remember anyone doing so.

The Island of Rab was also under Italian rule. There were two camps: one for Slovenes and the other for Jews. Slovenes were imprisoned by the Italians just like we were. The two camps were strictly separated and no communication or contact between the two camps could take place.

There was one man, a Slovene, who was an electrician and who was ordered to fix some electric failures or something similar in our camp. He was the only one from the Slovene camp that we had some contact with but even that was very rare and limited since the Italians kept their eyes on him while he carried out his duty.

The Jewish camp, called Kampor, was divided into two camps: the Dubrovnik camp, where I was with my mother and other Jews from Dubrovnik, and the Kraljevica camp. Jews who managed to run away from Zagreb, Karlovac, and the surroundings arrived in Crikvenica and were interned by Italians in Kraljevica, just a few kilometers away from Crikvenica.

After a while, they were transferred from Kraljevica to Rab and were interned in the camp next to ours. The two camps, Dubrovnik and Kraljevica camp, were separated and each was enclosed with a wired fence. We were allowed to meet with Jews from Kraljevica camp during the day but only from 12 noon to 2pm, during the hottest time of the day.

At other times, it was strictly forbidden to meet. There were cases of parents being in one camp and their children in the other, depending on who was where when the war started, and at least they could meet for a short time during the day. I was lucky that I was with my mother.

There were around 1200 Jews in Dubrovnik camp and perhaps the same number or maybe a bit more in Kraljevica camp. We were accommodated in the barracks; in Kraljevica camp, there were wooden barracks, and in Dubrovnik camp they were made out of bricks.

The barracks were long and somewhat narrow. There were some 30 people in one barrack. The beds were bunk-beds: one person sleeping on the top and one on the bottom. The beds were one next to the other, on both sides of the barrack.

The toilets were outside, far away; to go to the toilet was like going on an excursion. The toilets were in one place and everyone from our camp used the same facilities, but there were a few toilet bowls, not just one. There was water in the camp, but for some weeks the central unit that supplied water was broken so cisterns with water were delivered to the camp. We received one liter of water per person per day, and that had to be enough for drinking and for personal hygiene.

We got a small amount of food which wasn't enough to keep us for the whole day. It was also disgusting. For breakfast, we got coffee that wasn't real coffee but some mishmash that tasted awful, and a piece of bread for the whole day. That piece we divided into three parts so that we also had a little piece for lunch and a little piece for dinner.

For lunch, we were given some soup, dried vegetables brewed up with old and foul-smelling oil, or pasta with oil. Pasta was usually served for dinner; thick black macaroni with oil. Even today, when I see someone pour oil over his food, I feel disgusted. Sometimes we were served goulash with meat and potatoes, but only small amounts of meat.

Every one of us had his turn to work in the kitchen; it was like a duty call, an obligatory call, perhaps once or twice in a week. We only helped around the kitchen to prepare the food, but the cooks cooked; we didn't. I remember once it was my turn to work in the kitchen and that day goulash with potatoes was served. The soldiers brought large baskets filled with already cooked potatoes and we were supposed to peal off the skin.

When the soldiers came to collect the potatoes, they looked inside the basket, then looked at us and asked: dove sono gli potati? [Italian: where are the potatoes] They gave us cooked potatoes to peal, and of course we ate more than half of the amount, who wouldn't have? We were hungry! The soldiers were very upset and from then on they always gave us raw potatoes to peal, and it was impossible to eat raw potatoes.

We usually woke up around 6 or 6.30 in the morning. The breakfast was brought to our barracks by the soldiers at 7am and by then we already had to be up and ready for breakfast, that is that horrible coffee and a piece of bread.

After breakfast, we each had our obligations that had to be fulfilled during the day. In the camp, everyone had to work or do something else during the day. The Italians weren't forcing us to work in a particular place; we could choose where we wanted to work. It looked as if it was voluntary work whereas we were actually forced to do something, it was just the place that we could choose. But sometimes even the place of work was determined.

There was something like a tailor's place where women who wanted to work there went. Buttons fell off from soldiers' uniforms or other things like that, so women went to do these jobs. Whoever worked there would be given an extra portion of food; this was like voluntary work, we weren't forced to do that.

Out of pure spite, I refused to sew buttons on soldiers' uniforms and never went to work there. Then, the Italians always built some roads and men usually went to dig and build these roads. That was hard physical labor. Men who worked there were also given an extra portion of food.

There was also a medical clinic in the camp, and usually the imprisoned Jews who were doctors worked there. In addition, there was a school for small children to teach them how to read and write so that they wouldn't remain illiterate. The inmates who were teachers worked there and taught children the basics in language and mathematics, the elementary things. The Italians allowed this.

I worked in the hospital. On the coastal side, in the town of Rab, which was four to five kilometers from the Kampor camp, there was the Hotel Imperial, which served as a hospital. Whoever wanted to work in the hospital could do so, and I volunteered. Every morning, Italian soldiers took a few of us on the truck to the hospital and brought us back in the afternoon.

We usually helped nurses in sterilizing bandages and preparing medical utensils. The patients who were treated in this hospital were the inmates from the Kampor camp. My mother sometimes worked in the tailors' place but most of the times she helped in the kitchen.

Lunch was served between 12 noon and 2pm. We had to go to the kitchen to collect our portion of food and then return to the barrack to eat there. During that time, we were also allowed to meet with the Jews from Kraljevica camp. We usually had the afternoons off. Depending on the nature of the work, sometimes someone had to work in the afternoon as well, but usually we had time off. Sometimes the Italians took us to the beach; they allowed us to go swimming.

They allowed 20 or 25 people to go to the beach, so we rotated. If more people went, it would have been more difficult for them to keep their eyes on us, so only 20 or 25 went at a time. It was around one or two kilometers to the beach and we walked. The Italians watched over us and guarded us very strictly and rigorously.

It was one of the Italian specialties to count us; they counted us again and again. We always had to line up and they counted and counted, before we left, while we were walking, while we were on the beach, when we walked back; they permanently counted us!

After we came back from the beach, we had off until 9pm. We usually walked around, many of us knew each other from before or we became friendly during our imprisonment so we walked and talked. At 9pm, the lights went off and we had to be in our beds in the barracks. The barracks weren't locked during the night.

The guards guarded them and walked around the camp during the night so that no one would even try to escape. It was very hot in the barracks especially during the night but the worst were the bedbugs. Our barracks were full of them and they drove us crazy. Those bugs bite and are very annoying so it was difficult to sleep at night.
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Mico Alvo

Later, in February 1943 the persecutions started. They came one day at the shop and took my father and my two uncles to the 'Kommandantur' that was down Agias Sophias Road. I was at the factory that day. Around that time I went to the factory every day. They picked them and kept them there. They didn't allow them to come back. And I was at home with my mother and sister that night. Danny was in Athens. We were scared because Father hadn't come back and neither had any of the uncles.

They sent a gendarme to the house, who said, 'The son should come with us and bring the keys of the factory with him.' So I went, too. They waited for us there, they took the keys to the factory and they sent us to the transportation department, escorted by gendarmes. That maybe was the worst experience. What was going on at the transportation department was beyond one's imagination. The dirt, one on top of the other, some pot heads smoking, crazy, and all together. I don't know how my father could take it. But the poor guy didn't even know what was ahead of him.

We slept on the ground. They gave us some blankets, or perhaps I had brought blankets from the house, I don't remember. Next to us there were criminals. The next day they sent us to the Pavlou Mela Barracks where the prisons were [72]. We stayed there for three weeks:. my father, my two uncles and I. And they had taken in many more merchants. Benrubi who had a glassware manufacture and other merchants that were dealing in iron goods like us.

A parenthesis: There was a cell chamber with 400 Greek communists. And each time that there was a case of sabotage they would take a few from this chamber and shoot them. Many times they would come at two in the morning. Two or three times I remember something like that happening during the night. A German guy would get in the chamber while everyone was asleep and he would say a few names. They were the ones to be executed the next morning. As a punishment because of the sabotage that had taken place. They took us out of there by paying an amount of gold sovereigns to Papanaoum [73]. He was a German collaborator. He was working with the Germans, the infamous Papanaoum and a couple of others of his band; they were sharing the loot with the Germans.

They took us to the 'Kommandantur' in order to empty the shops. As soon as they had sent us to Pavlou Mela, the very next day, the emptying of the shops started and it lasted for three weeks. They were emptying shops morning and night. There were these very large Schenkel trucks then, Kroup I remember, they would take away the things. And they threw them out of the windows. They were taking things and throwing them straight out of the windows. They didn't leave anything behind. Not even shelves or counters.

This all happened in February 1943. After they had emptied the whole shop they gave it to someone called Karatzas. He was the one that was collecting all the fruit and agricultural products from northern Greece. He would store them in our shops, and then give them to the Germans at prices that were already prearranged. But he also bought them at very low prices from the farmers and the merchants. In other words, he was collecting all the food for the German army. Maybe they were sending them to Germany, too, where there was a great shortage. When the Germans left, Karatzas left for Germany, because he was afraid of being accused as their collaborator. He never came back to Greece.
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They had taken my uncle to forced labor, close to Katerini [71]. They had taken all the Jews there for the new railway and the road they were building. Our customers from Katerini were bringing him food. We had customers that we knew from before the war, and they were bringing him food. My uncle worked until they paid the ransom. For a couple of months. Then many of the doctors became involved by giving you a certificate that you were unsuitable to work. They issued such certificates. I think this is why Solomon could leave. He managed to get a certificate stating that he was unable to work.

From my family no one else went to the local forced labor camps. I worked in a factory. There was an occupied factory that was making wooden boxes. It was close to the railway station. It belonged to a Jew; I think his name was Cohen. At Santarosa Street, they were making embrasures. There were many factories making embrasures at the time. They didn't make any plastic ones then; they were all made out of wood. I worked for about a month and a half. Until the Community had to pay the ransom.

My job was to cut and nail crates. They were crates for fruit. A kind of a carpenter's job. We would start early in the morning. Sometimes the tram was operating and sometimes it wasn't. When we knew that there was no tram coming the next day we had to get up an hour earlier to walk from the 4th stop of Martiou to get there, and an hour to get back. We would go there, we would get some food to eat, and we would finish. We would start at 7:30 to 8 in the morning and we would finish around 5 in the evening. The working day would last eight hours.

The factory didn't have many Jews. German cars were coming to load things up. We were supervised by both Jews and Greeks. Their behavior was good, normal. Both younger and older people worked there. To work in a factory like this at a time when there was forced labor, you had to have a way in, that is, you had to pay. In comparison with the railway tracks, this was a piece of cake. I don't know how my father arranged it. He knew someone in there, maybe he was a customer of his, and he chose the workers. He said, 'I want this one.' I don't know how it happened, but it was regarded as great luck.
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My brother went down to Athens to take his exams for the Polytechnic in June 1942. They called us all to gather at Eleutherias Square [70] on 1st or 11th July, I don't remember the exact date. There many things happened... It was the first call for forced labor: to go and be drafted for labor. And the Germans transformed it into a feast. They had people photographing all around the balconies of the buildings that they had occupied. They would make you do gymnastic exercises; they would beat you up, two or three died from the beating. And they also had the women soldiers that were called 'Blitzmädchen.' This is a compound word: 'Mädchen' means lady and 'Blitz' means thunder. When we saw this happening we called my brother and told him, 'Don't come back to Thessaloniki.' And from that time on he stayed in Athens.
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My father's brothers were not on the list. I mean the list of those people that were not allowed to leave, or otherwise, they would execute the rest. Since they managed to leave it was for the best. My father didn't tell them anything. Nothing at all. Everyone was free to do as they thought was best. At the time they used to say like they say in French, 'sauve qui peut.' That means: Whoever can, let him be saved.

You have to understand that no one was thinking that they were going to die. They thought that they would take them there and put them in forced labor to work. We would go and buy good hobnailed boots and warm clothes and things like that. People hid the money in the shoes and the belts in order to have money to spend. The Germans had also done the other thing: you would give them drachmas and they would change it to zloti, which was a worthless piece of paper.

My father really appreciated German science, but not the culture. Because we already knew from World War I in France, that they had done a lot. He appreciated the industry and with many suppliers he had excellent relations. He couldn't have imagined that the Germans would get to this point. My father thought it was compulsory to follow the orders of the Germans. He thought that by having a good behavior towards the Germans, their luck might be different from the others. I think that if they had known that they going for certain death, at least half of them would have left.

What I found out is that when they got to Auschwitz, my sister and my father didn't go straight to the ovens [crematoria]. They worked for a while in forced labor. My father lasted three or four months. He, who was used to getting up in the morning and having his shower and go to the office. I can only imagine what he went through. My mother went [to the crematorium] straight away,, and my sister lasted only a very short time.

Olga was the wife of Bernard Landau, who was put in prison by the Germans because they regarded him as a spy. He knew how to speak German better than the Germans. He was an Ashkenazi. In the family they considered him a little bit as an outsider. He left with the last transport to the concentration camps because he worked at the Community. But neither he, nor Olga or his children survived. Only his older daughter, Yvonne, who got married to a Spaniard and got the Spanish citizenship made it. She survived and later went to Palestine.

Rebecca left with her husband and two daughters and went to Auschwitz. My uncle Daniel lived in the ghetto at the time. Nevertheless he managed to get out of the ghetto with his wife and his two children, Nico and Mary. It seems that when the deportations started a number of people left. Only a few though. Roula's mother, who was from Volos, sent someone to take them and bring them to Volos on a boat. Then, when the Italians surrendered, they went up to the mountains of Karditsa.

Daisy's husband thought that it was better to leave and go to Athens. He had friends there. Daisy had no problem to go to Athens because she had married a Christian. They had excluded the ones of mixed marriages, but those were very few.
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gabor paneth

I was drafted several times into different forced labor battalions. First I was sent to Felsohangoly, where I spent three months between July and October 1944. At the time I felt that I, and many others, were saved from deportation by being sent to forced labor there. We weren't too badly off there. Of course, there wasn't enough to eat, but sometimes after working at digging ditches, we had nothing to do, so we just hung around. In September I was taken to Kecskemet and soon after to Szolnok. On October 12, I went home to my parents but two days later I was drafted again and taken to Szekesfehervar, 60 kilometers from Budapest. On October 15, the news came that Hungary had broken away from the German alliance. Everybody was sent home from the camp. By the time I got to Budapest, I heard the newsboys shout that the Arrow Cross (Hungarian Fascists) had taken power. I crept home and found my mother and aunt there. My father had already been taken to a collection center in Budapest. I went to the Swiss embassy where I found a huge line. I was standing around looking at this queue when suddenly the door opened and an acquaintance of mine came out. When he saw me, he shoved me in through the door. I found myself inside at the head of the queue. The embassy gave me four false Schutzpasses, protection letters, and those enabled us to survive. I went and got my father out of the collection center with one pass, and we all moved from our house, which was then a yellow-star house, into a protected house. Later, in January, we had to move into the ghetto. We were there until the liberation.
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Lily Arouch

During the war the community had organized a few young people with the promise that they would be treated better, if they became civil guards.

My little cousin, who was twenty, joined them, and he helped bringing a group of people to the trains. A person from that group escaped. When the Germans counted them and realized someone was missing they took him instead: he was sent to Lamia, to forced labor. He tried to escape and was shot in cold blood. His parents went out looking for him; they left the ghetto and were saved.
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Then there was an order that those who hadn't gone to Eleftheria Square should go and present themselves in some school buildings. Things were getting rough, so my father decided he couldn't avoid showing up in a Jewish school. It was a bit outside the town; I went with him.

There must have been about a hundred people gathered there. Again they had to walk in the sun until they got to this place by the coast, Aretsou maybe, I'm not sure. They were put into line and they all went through a series of doctors; supposedly they were the ones with health problems. My father was relieved because obviously something was wrong with him, and he didn't have to go for labor like the ones before him.

As time went by the Germans gathered more and more Jews and had them working, building roads at Lamia [13]. A lot of children died from malaria; there was an epidemic at the time. At some point the Jewish Community of Thessalonica gave a large amount of money, gold liras, to stop the hunting down of the young people, and the sickness. I know that my father gave a significant amount for the cause, but nothing happened.
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Amalia Laufer

The Germans and the Romanians brought 60,000 Jews to the old Jewish neighborhood in Chernovtsy which had about 5,000 Jewish inhabitants before the war. It was stuffed and overcrowded with people. There were two or more families in the smallest rooms in this neighborhood, houses and entrances to houses were stuffed with people. People even lived in the streets. 90,000 Jews were taken to Transnistria. Only 10,000 survived. 16,000 Jews remained in Chernovtsy.
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Edit Kovacs

During the war, in June 1944, my daughter and I, my mother and my sister,
and my sister's little son, who was the same age as Maria, were together in
a yellow-star house in Nepszinhaz Street. We were crammed into a three-room
flat with a dozen other people. The men were in forced labor battalions. In
July, the women and children were taken to a stadium from where we would
have been deported. A decent Arrow Cross (Hungarian Fascist) man-because
there existed such people as well-told me that everybody with a child under
the age of two should try to sneak away, while they would be looking the
other way. My family and I went back to the yellow-star house and we were
left in peace until the German occupation on October 15, 1944.

A week after that, the Arrow Cross people came again and collected all the
younger women and set them off on foot on a death march towards the
Austrian border. My sister and I managed to escape and arrived back in
Budapest in early November. In the meantime, my mother had been taken to
the ghetto together with the children, but we managed to find them when we
got back. My father also managed to escape from the Austrian border and he
found us in the ghetto. We pulled through the ghetto times somehow. On the
day before Liberation, in February 1945, I went out of the cellar where we
had been hiding during the bombing to get some food. I was injured by
shrapnel and I was left lying on the street for some days and got blood
poisoning, so my right leg had to be amputated below the knee (the
operation was done in the Jewish Hospital). This marked me for the rest of
my life.
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Vilmos and I had one daughter, Maria. She was born in August 1942. My
husband had already been drafted into forced labor in June 1942, but he was
allowed to come home to see his newborn baby. He saw her only a few more
times before he was killed in 1945. He was beaten to death in a camp in
Balf, near Lake Ferto, in early 1945, because he stole one small potato.
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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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Then I asked her out, she agreed, and that’s how it began. This was in 1941. I had already been drafted into forced labor once and had been sent to Transylvania.
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danuta mniewska

The labor camp in the small ghetto [several streets in the north-eastern part of the liquidated ghetto] had already been set up. It was the oldest Jewish quarter in the city, ramshackle houses; I don't know how people lived there before the war. A tiny camp - an enclave - surrounded by barbed wire. There were Jewish and Polish policemen, several Germans, the Ukrainians of course too. We secured a room in the loft of a two-story wooden shack and we were all three there.

At first the work was to clean the deserted neighborhood - you had to tidy things up, people needed for lodgings. Besides, the better things were being sent to Germany, so we segregated them, cleaned the apartments. That was a good job, we worked inside, and it had already gotten cold - it was mid-October. There was running water in those apartments, you could wash yourself, cold water, of course, no one dreamed of hot water anymore - but it was still a luxury. Besides, if you needed to change your underwear, you simply picked something from the things that had been left and changed.

You could also find something to eat - some biscuits, a bit of flour, some groats. Upon returning from work we received a plate of soup, even with pieces of horseflesh, and a bit of bread - there was a kitchen in the camp. In fact, food wasn't a problem there. I remember, for instance, when Jews, in collusion with the German guards and the policemen, brought a calf into the camp - dressed it in a coat, took it under the arms and brought it in. You could also smuggle in food for money or if you knew the right people.

There were supposed to be 4,000 people there, but there were more. Children and old people sat hidden in various hideouts, all those tiny shelters. In the same house where we lived, locked up in a room, my husband's aunt and uncle, Roman and Gienia [Genowefa] Markowicz, were hiding. Their two sons worked in the camp - Lucek [Lucjan] and Bolek [Boleslaw] with his wife Bronka [Bronislawa]. Their niece, Mirka [Miroslawa] Markowicz, was also with us in the camp.
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