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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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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

We were worried. And our parents were very worried. They were worried that they might attack Greece, and what would we do then? They were worried that they might attack Greece because there were many Jews here. We knew about the concentration camps, where people were incarcerated at the time, the way people were being tortured and what they did in general. When they seized a country like Czechoslovakia, and then France, we knew that the people there suffered a lot. We knew from France, that under the occupation, the first thing that was going to be missing was the food.
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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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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 never tried to convert Didi. We thought that it wasn't correct. She went to church-events at school. Since we knew that she was Christian Orthodox, we knew that she would go. We didn't want to do things in an unacceptable way. She never expressed the wish to be more religious, to read or say a prayer before she went to bed. We never thought that it would happen, because we weren't religious with regards to Judaism either.

Didi knew when it was a Jewish holiday. For example, at Passover, the family would come and we would have dinner together and she participated, too, but nothing more than that. It was more of a social event rather than a religious one. We still keep gathering at Passover and Socrates and his children come, too, and we read through the Exodus. Socrates has been living with Didi for many years now. He has two children, a boy and a girl. They all live together but he and Didi are not married.

Didi would ask us about our lives. Sometimes we would have conversations like that. We told her about the concentration camps from a very young age. We had conversations about it when she was in Lyceum. Later when she had come back from Switzerland, where she studied, we didn't have a lot of spare time. Lately, she has been thinking of converting to Judaism. After all these events took place and the Holocaust issue became a movie subject and popular talk, we talked a lot about it. She is a member of the Council of the Association Greece-Israel and everybody there loves her very much. She is very active.
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Alexandra Ribush

Lily Arouch

I guess she was very traditional but not religious. She wasn't very talkative, but she was very active within her household, she took very good care of us and was very important in our house. We lived in a house in the center of the city, so my family wasn't in a very Jewish environment; I guess the environment was more the Orthodox Christian environment of Thessalonica.

My grandmother didn't have much of a relationship with the neighbors but she was always waiting for Saturday when her daughters and grandchildren would visit; visitors were always a cause for celebration in the house. She used to live with us, but unfortunately she was taken to a concentration camp.
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When the first survivor came back from the concentration camps, a man called Leon Batis, he came to Dr. Matarasso's house where we all met up and when he started talking about the crematoria and human fat being turn into soap and all these things, everyone was staring at him and saying, 'poor guy he is mad, hardship made him loose his mind.' That is how unbelievable it all seemed. Later more and more people started coming back and what was happening in the camps became well-known.

This is what made all of us, my father as well, realize that it was only on Israel we could rely. Since then he became a very eager supporter of Zionism. The American Joint Committee [see Joint] [13] was very active in Greece at the time. They came to help and they actually did help a lot of people.
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I believe that after the war my father clearly became pro-Israel, which was an impressive change of view. The state of Israel was founded in April 1948, which was a great relief for us as messages from the concentration camps had started arriving.
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Henrich Kurizkes

I went to work as a pioneer leader [29] in a pioneer camp during the summer. The camp was located about 15 kilometers from Tallinn. I was to start on 15th June. We had just settled down, when on Sunday night of 22nd June 1941 we heard the roar of the artillery cannonade. It never occurred to us that it was a war. We thought it was another military training exercise. Then at noon, on 22nd June, we heard the Molotov [30] speech on the radio, and he said that Hitler's armies had attacked the USSR.

We returned to Tallinn where evacuation began and my parents decided to evacuate. Thank God, they didn't delay. Many Estonian and Jewish people didn't fear Germans as much as they did the Soviet power after the tragic deportation experience. This day played another tragic part in the life of Estonian Jews. Even before the German occupation, Estonians began to destroy the Jewish people. Estonia was one of the first European countries to report to Hitler that its territory was free, judenfrei, [31] from Jews. Hatred toward the Soviet power was so strong that it out-weighed all historical dislike of Germans by Estonians. The Germans were seen as liberators and rescuers, and Estonians were ready to fulfill all of their orders.

There were hardly any Jewish survivors in Estonia after the war. Even those who had been deported to Siberia had more of a chance of survival than those who refused to leave their homes. People thought that they would wear yellow stars, if the Germans wanted them to, and speak German and go along with the Germans. They all perished, but it wasn't until after the war that we heard about the Klooga concentration camp [32], mass shootings of Jews and other horrors.

Meanwhile my mother and father packed some belongings and we headed to the railway station. My father worked in the military supply store [department responsible for food and commodity supplies to military units and organizations of the town], and was to take care of transportation of its stock. My parents decided to go on separately rather than wait for one another.

Evacuation was organized from the very start of the war. There were freight trains at the freight station in Tallinn that moved on when they were full. We evacuated on 3rd July 1941. After our train crossed the bridge over the Narva River, the bridge was destroyed. We were told that all Estonians were to be evacuated to Ulianovsk where the government of Estonia had been evacuated [33]. We traveled for about three weeks. We had some food and clothes with us. We were lucky since some business organizations were traveling on our train and we could buy everything we needed from them: cookies, butter, tinned meat and fish. So we had sufficient food on the train.
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Isroel Lempertas

The fate of my mother's youngest sister, born in 1910, can be called tragic. Rahil married a pampered loitering Jew Jacob Rier from Riga. When WW2 began, Rahil's daughter Rosa turned 3. Rahil, Jacob and their daughter fled Mazeikiai on the second day of war. When our family got to Riga, Jacob insisted that his family should go to his relatives in the town of Salaspils 'to take a rest' in his words. We moved on, but Rahil's family was in occupation. In accordance with archival data, which I found after war, Rahil's family died in one of the most dreadful extermination camps in Salaspils. [6].
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jerzy pikielny

Shortly after my meeting with my father I had an accident at work. A milling cutter injured two fingers on my left hand. The wounds wouldn't heal throughout the war, mainly because of malnutrition. Consequently, I was unable to work at all. It was sometime in March or April. I have some doubts regarding the exact date as we had no sense of time in the camp. We just knew if it was winter or spring.

Anyway, I spent the rest of the time in the infirmary. I came outside one day to chat with some friends. Suddenly someone came running to fetch me, as they were looking for me in the infirmary. I entered the room and saw all the patients standing naked before some Germans. One of them, uniformed, was collecting all the patients' charts. Behind him stood our 'Lagerältester' [Ger.: a prisoner in charge of all the others in the camp], a Jew from Lodz called Herszkom, and he gestured me to drop my chart on the floor and cover it with my clothes. So I did and stood naked, too. As soon as the Germans made sure they got all the charts, they left. A couple of days later a truck came and took all the people they'd taken away the charts from. I stayed. I guess Herszkom saved my life.

On 8th May 1945 at noon the SS guards ordered a roll-call. The weather was beautiful. The commandant of the Friedland camp, a captain, I think, said they were leaving, but not for long, and so they were leaving us there. They would know how we'd behaved as they returned. If we misbehaved, they'd punish us. A member of the German citizens' committee which had assembled in Friedland spoke next. He spoke in a different tone. He asked us not to leave the camp, so that we'd all be handed over to the Soviet authorities together. We were asked if we held any grudges against the leaving SS crew.
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A man called Abram Kajzer kept a diary during his stay at Kaltwasser camp and particularly during the march. He hid his notes in toilets. After the war he traveled the whole route again and collected them all. He wrote in Yiddish, because he didn't speak Polish, but in 1947 he asked Adam Ostoja of the Wydawnictwo Lodzkie publishing house to help him with the translation. The book was translated and published under the title 'Za drutami smierci' ['Behind the Wires of Death,' edited and prefaced by Adam Ostoja, Wydawnictwo Lodzkie 1962]. Kajzer wrote of being in Zimna with my father. He had fond memories of him.
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