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elvira kohn

I don't know how my grandparents met, but after they married, they eventually came to live in Vinkovci, and they stayed there until they were taken to Stara Gradiska [2] in 1942.

My maternal grandparents had five children: my mother, her two sisters and two brothers. The two brothers, Samuel and Dragutin Klein, were taken to Jasenovac [3] in 1942 and murdered. The older one, Samuel, had two sons: Mirko and Vlado.

Vlado died of some illness in Vinkovci before the war, and Mirko was murdered in Jasenovac when he was 15 years old.

The other brother, Dragutin, married a Catholic woman and they had one son, Mirko. Even though Mirko was from a mixed marriage and it was said that children from mixed marriages would be spared, he was nevertheless taken to Jasenovac in 1942 and murdered.
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The two brothers, Sandor and Emil, Emil's family and Elza and her husband were taken to Auschwitz and murdered. Olga survived in Belgrade.
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Mico Alvo

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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Krystyna Budnicka

In 1942, during the Great Action, Boruch had said, 'Little children, where can I hide with such small children? A child will cry, we have nothing to eat.' So it was sort of his own decision, I don't mean that he went voluntarily, but... he didn't fight. It is likely that they were killed during the Great Action. Szaja and his wife were caught during the Great Action, too. They went to Treblinka. And Rafal and his wife were caught. Rafal escaped from the train while being transported to Treblinka, but his wife didn't manage.
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Rahela Perisic

n the meantime, my parents along with Judita and Moric were supposed to be
transferred from the reception camp to Jasenovac. However, my father was
clever and while they were in the cattle cars waiting for the train tracks
at the Prijedor station to be fixed he told my brother and sister to ask to
the officers if they could use the toilet. Since there was not a normal
toilet, they went a little behind the wagon and they managed to cross over
the narrow-gauge railroad tracks. Shortly afterwards my parents managed to
escape unnoticed and caught up with them. All four of them got on a train
for Sanski Most. In Sanski Most they hid for some time; they wanted to
reach Drvar because the Italians were there and they did not practice the
same abuse the Germans did. With a lot of hardship they finally reached
Drvar.
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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

As we reached the ramp in Auschwitz-Birkenau we were told to leave everything in the cars. Men and women were separated. Afterwards both groups went through a selection, conducted by three or four SS men. They judged by people's appearance if they were fit to work. Both my father and I passed the selection. It later turned out Mom did, too. My father found that out when he started carting trash in Auschwitz, because people with a university degree were given that job. I was assigned to a different block.

They soon started to 'buy,' as it used to be called at the time, metalworkers [they were needed to work in the German workshops] in that block. They carried out a selection among those claiming to be metalworkers. The ones looking fit were picked out and sent to a different labor camp. You had to take off all your clothes.
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Albert Eskenazi

soon as the war began and the independent state of Croatia was
established, the persecution of the Jews began. They expelled us from all
schools and faculties of the university. I remember that the director of my
gymnasium called my mother and, in a very cultured way, he said that he
unfortunately had to inform her that her son could no longer attend school,
that he was very sorry, but that the order came from the government, and he
asked her to please understand. I remember that he said: "There will come a
time when they will be able to go to school again." Clearly, that referred
to only those who survived, because 80 percent did not survive. My sister
almost finished elementary school, but she could not enroll in the
gymnasium.

Our community established a Jewish school so that we did not miss out on
our education. This was in Zagreb. The school functioned very well. The
professors were all Jews. There was one for Croatian-Serbian language,
another for mathematics, handiwork, etc. However, since there were waves of
deportations to the camps, every day there was one professor fewer or two
students fewer. They would come to people's houses during the night and
take them away to the camps.

In school, we celebrated Shabbat. We lit candles and sang songs. We did
this until the school lost its sense, once 80 percent of the teachers had
been deported, and maybe there was one left. One day Mikija was not there,
they had taken him; Lee was not there, they had taken her.

My father was taken to Jasenovac on September 19, 1941. First he was taken
to Stara Gradiska and then to Jasenovac. It is hard to know what was worse,
to be in Stara Gradiska or Jasenovac - the camps were even connected. We
stayed in Zagreb, and no one touched us. They took the Jews in two ways,
sometimes the whole family and sometimes just the head of the family. When
they took my father, they took only the men. However, two months later,
they came after the women and children as well. We were not at home. I
remember the details. We heard that the next day they were going to deport
all the Jews whose last name began with K. We had relatives named Kon. That
morning my mother went with us to the Kons, who did not live far from us,
to tell them what we had heard and to hide. My mother drank coffee with
them, then we went back to our apartment where our neighbor told us: "Mrs.
Eskenazi, run away; they are looking for you. Hide until this passes." We
hid for a few days with relatives, he was a Jew and she was a Catholic and
was in some way protected. Afterward, we hid with a Croatian family we knew
from when we had lived on Sava Road. Then we hid with a Moslem waiter who
knew my father. My father had gone to a café where he worked; his name was
Fajko. He hid us with his wife. At some point my mother lost her nerves and
patience and said: "No one is going to hide us any longer. We are going
home and whatever is the fate of the others will be our fate as well.
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World War II arrived. The Germans came to Croatia. They created and
installed their own authorities, and with them came the Ustashe. Laws
against the Jews were enacted. First they had to register, then that they
had to hand over, their stores and property. Everyone who lived in a better
apartment was evicted and slowly they were taken to camps. Once my
grandfather was widowed he spent one month with one daughter and another
month with one son, etc. He had two remaining daughters: one in Zagreb and
one in Nova Gradiska. In November 1941 he went to stay with his daughter in
Nova Gradiska because she still had not been deported. They said that those
that lived in smaller towns might be saved. However, one day the Ustashe
came and took my aunt Mirjam; Merjama, my mother's sister; her husband,
Bernard Kraus; their children, Zlata and Jelena; and her elderly father.
Zlata was older than me and Jelena was my age. They were all taken to the
Stara Gradiska camp. From there, the women and children were taken to
Djakovo. None of them returned.
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Matilda Cerge

This was in 1942. It was the last transport of Jews from Belgrade. I don't remember when I saw Father the last time at home before Mother took us away. [Editor's note: By the end of May 1942 the last phase of the 'removal' of Jews was completed. In a correspondence from 29th August 1942 a German officer boasted: 'The Jewish question as well as the Gypsy question are totally liquidated. Serbia is the only country in which the Jewish and Gypsy question have been solved.
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Hana Gasic

Two of my mother's sisters were killed during the war. My mother never found a definitive record of where and when, but she was convinced that they had been killed at Djakovo or Nova Gradiska, two concentration camps (editor's note: run the Croatian Ustashe). Her other two sisters survived because they had married non-Jews before the war. He sister Ela married a Catholic man named Zvonko Gjebic. She converted and changed her name to Jela. Despite her name change, my mother and the rest of us always called her sister Aunt Ela. They lived in Uzice, Serbia, where Zvonko worked in the Foma ammunition factory. They had two children, Anton and Zorica, who live in Kragujevac, Serbia. My mother's other sister, Rivka, married a Jew before the war, and had a daughter, Rahela. But her husband died, and she got married again before the war, this time to a Muslim man named Karahasanovic. They had two children, Zlata and Ahmed. Mr. Karahasanovic died while cleaning his rifle during the war, and Ahmed, born in 1943, never saw his father.
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Teofila Silberring

When the liquidation began, everyone who could possibly get up went. But there were some who couldn't get up, the so-called musulmans, these skeletons. They couldn't move, so the Germans shot them, but they didn't have time to shoot them all, and some were liberated. It turned out that the Russians were already in Cracow [18th January 1945]. None of us knew that. The older prisoners heard some rumors, and they stayed behind, pretending to be musulmans. But I didn't know anything, even what time of day it was. And when they ordered us to go, I went, because they threatened that if we didn't go it would be the gas for us. But they weren't sending people to the gas any more, because they were fleeing themselves.

And that was the worst, that journey; it was called the death march [8], because we walked... I walked to Leipzig. Walked! In snow like this. It was winter at the time, it was in January, 23rd January, as far as I remember [the Auschwitz death marches set off on 17th-21st January 1945; in all 56,000 prisoners]. Snow up to here [shoulders], 20 degrees below zero, and me in one shoe. A Dutch shoe, it was called. These clogs that were typical in Auschwitz. As we walked, that sound that nobody could bear, of those clogs. It was so characteristic... And the snow, red, literally. Because if you stopped, stood for a moment...

I'd never have thought that you could sleep while you walk. We learned to, took it in turns with our friends. We walked four in a row, took it in turns, and the people on the outside supported the one who was asleep. I could sleep as I walked. Whoever stopped for a moment... The road was littered with corpses, these red bloodstains on the white snow. Awful. They shot if you just... it was enough to stand for a moment. And we helped each other to survive - in fact, all four of us survived. I had one friend, Helenka Groner. We were very close. She died two years ago. She was a lot older than me; she was already married then. She had a son my age; he died in Plaszow. Her husband had died in Plaszow too, Groner. She was with me from Auschwitz. We lived somewhere near each other, then in that death march we walked together, and we stayed together until the end.

That journey was terrible. Terrible. And so we reached the camp in Leipzig. There they gave us some parsnip, and although we were dying of hunger, we couldn't eat it, it was so awful. And so we were there, that was a transit camp, and then they put us in Buchenwald.
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Amazingly, I still looked great. Very good. I was never a musulman [in the concentration camp slang a prisoner who had lost the will to live]; they took them straight off to the gas. And at that time they were selecting for Auschwitz. And there, beyond that 'Arbeit macht frei' [Above the main gate into Auschwitz was the infamous inscription 'Arbeit macht frei', meaning 'Work Makes You Free" in German.], there were six show blocks, which were the so-called Musterlager [Musterlager means model camp in German]. That was where the Red Cross came to see how wonderful we looked, what conditions we had. And because I looked so good, this German Obserwierka [Polonization of the German 'Aufseherin', meaning female guard, warder] selected us, and they took me there. There the blocks were brick, there was water; we pinched ourselves, wondering if we were in the next world or this. We couldn't believe it was true. The food there wasn't better: once a day that slice of bread. But there was water and toilets; there weren't the latrines. In Birkenau they let us out to the latrines three times a day, and if you couldn't wait you did it where you stood. And then they shot those who did it where they stood.

And then from there, only when the liquidation came [the liquidation of the Musterlager], they took me to the experimental block, also because I looked good. And I was very happy, because in that block they gave you not one slice of bread but two. And all my friends were so jealous that I had got into that block... Unaware of what could be there. And all because they gave me that slice of bread more. And there they injected us with typhus bacteria and made an antidote. They were using us to make vaccines for the Germans for the front. [Editor's note: In 1941, following the German invasion of the USSR, typhus began to spread through the German army. In Buchenwald research was carried out into the efficacy of vaccines and various chemical substances designed to provide protection against infection with typhus. 75% of the prisoners were given vaccines or drugs and 25% were given nothing, and after three weeks they were all injected with the typhus bacteria. The death rate among these prisoners was 90%. Studies have not documented what research into typhus was conducted in Auschwitz; they only report that Dr Mengele also experimented with infectious diseases, including typhus, in an investigation into how infectious diseases affect people of 'different races.'] Because those bacteria of mine were useful, I didn't go to the gas, but stayed there all the time. They sent it to the front, you see, to treat soldiers. I don't know exactly what they were doing, because I had a fever of 40 degrees. They were injecting typhus, and I don't know whether I was suffering from it or not... And I was there until the liquidation of Auschwitz.
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In Plaszow I was in a barrack, and Father and my brother were in a different one, and I lost touch with them and didn't know where they were. You weren't allowed to walk between the huts. I didn't know anything: when they had taken them, where they had taken them. Nothing, nothing at all. I wasn't in Plaszow for long, because I was taken to Schindler's [7], to the Emailwarenfabrik in Zablocie [the Oskar Schindler Enamelware Factory (Deutsche Emailwarenfabrik) in the Cracow district of Zablocie, at 4 Lipowa Street, a branch of the Plaszow camp]. I stayed there until the end, until they liquidated Plaszow [October 1944], and I went to Auschwitz from Schindler's factory.

I had it very good at Schindler's, because he made the effort that we should have food. Apart from that, we were working with Poles, and if you knew anybody, they would pass on letters. And they brought us bread rolls. If anybody had anything to sell they would sell it and bring something else for the money. They helped a lot. There's a Polish woman still alive, Zofia Godlewska, she lives on Smolensk Street, who worked at Schindler's with her mother. And they were really poor, but they helped us the most. Zofia brought us letters - that was risking your life. She was my age. After the war I even met her, on Szewska Street. I say, 'So you're alive, so you're alive!' And she says, 'Yes. And the Lord God has rewarded me, because I've married a Jew and have a wonderful husband.' He was a doctor, Goldstein, he was a neurologist, but unfortunately he died. And she was a nurse at the Narutowicz hospital. When her husband died she didn't want to meet up, so I didn't want to force myself on her, and we just lost touch.

Well, and from Plaszow they took us, as per that list of Schindler's, to Auschwitz. [Editor's note: In August 1944 the Zablocie satellite camp was liquidated and Schindler's Jews were moved to Plaszow. Schindler organized the relocation of the factory to Brunnlitz (today Czech Republic). On 15th October 1944, 2,000 men, 700 of them from Schindler, were sent in a transport to concentration camp Gross Rosen and, after two days' uncertainty, to Brunnlitz. On 21st October 1944, 2,000 women, 300 of them from Schindler, were sent to Auschwitz. They were put in separate huts and three weeks later moved to Brunnlitz.] At Auschwitz we stood on the railway ramp because Schindler wouldn't let us be put in... to those blocks, because he wanted to have all of us. He was waiting for a transport that was supposed to be coming from Austria. At the time I wasn't aware whether he'd paid for it or hadn't paid for it, whether he'd pulled any strings. And indeed, our group squatted by the railway tracks and waited for wagons. And so finally, I don't know after how many days - whether it was three days or five days I can't say because I can't remember - these wagons came in, these goods wagons. And it started. 'Everybody from Schindler get up,' and there were about 2,000 people. All that camp of his. He said: 'Don't worry, you're all going with me.'

Well, and there were these OD-men. That was the so-called Jewish police. An OD-man, that was the Ordnungsdienst, the law and order. They were Jews, prisoners too. Schindler picked three of those OD-men and they were to take us into the wagons, according to the list. And it so happened that one of the OD-men, whom I in fact met after the war, had evidently taken some money for me, because he didn't read me out, but took someone else instead of me. Ten of us he didn't read out. We were standing here, and Schindler was by the wagons. I run to him, look, and the wagons are starting to move off, they're locking the wagons. And I tell him that he didn't read me out. And he says, 'What do you mean?!' - because he even knew me personally, I mean he knew that I'd worked for him, because he'd known me from the camp. He calls the OD-man, and he says 'Hang on, hang on, hang on.' How he [the OD-man] pushed me, how he flayed me with that whip! The wagons moved off, and the ten of us stayed behind; that was in Birkenau [Auschwitz was a concentration camp; Auschwitz II - Birkenau was a death camp]. I met him after the war. 'You're alive?!' - Because we were destined for death. You see, we knew that because we'd come with that transport they would send us to the gas. But they put us in Birkenau into the blocks. There were selections, but somehow I was lucky; I was sent to the gas, and then sent back. And from there I moved to Auschwitz, because they were taking people there.
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bella zeldovich

His relatives perished in Odessa during the war and he left a note with their names at the synagogue so that prayers would be said for them. We didn't observe other traditions.
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