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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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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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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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Esay's mother was a housewife. She perished in the ghetto in Odessa during the Great Patriotic War.
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mario modiano

After I left the army I worked for the Joint [11] - the American Joint Distribution Committee, in their offices on Mitropoleos Street in Athens. I made many friends there. One of the very dear ones is Dario Gabbai who had returned from Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was in the Sonderkommando [Jews that the Germans used in the extermination camps to throw the corpses into the ovens] and had some very frightening experiences to tell. He had put into the oven of the crematoria his own family. Only one of his brothers survived. Today he lives in Los Angeles. His testimony figured prominently in Spielberg's documentary about the Hungarian Jews [The Last Days, 1998]. Dario, who was captured in Athens in 1943, served in the crematoria towards the end of the war and this saved him. The Germans used young Jews to shove the bodies of the gassed Jews into the ovens, but they would shoot them every three months so there would be no witnesses. Dario managed to flee by mixing with the other survivors from Auschwitz when the Germans evacuated the camp and led the survivors to a death march [12] westwards.
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danuta mniewska

Our family from Czestochowa was sent with a transport to Treblinka. Grandfather reportedly led Grandmother by the hand when they marched to the 'Umschlagplatz. 'Slowly, slowly,' he was saying - on top of everything else she had just suffered an attack of palsy. And so he led her up to the train... My grandparents and my mother went to the gas right away. Aunt Bela, her husband and their daughter also died in Treblinka. It's a pity that girl, Hania, wasn't saved. She may have been five or six then. She didn't have Jewish looks at all. But how could she have been saved...? Uncle Josef, his wife and kids - no one survived. Szolek, my grandparents' youngest son, was in the Lodz ghetto [27]. He had already been married to a girl that bore him a child in the ghetto. Of course they died. My husband's father, a dentist, and his mentally retarded younger sister also died in Treblinka.
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Basya Chaika

I remember
almost all of his children, my aunts and uncles: the first one was Isaac,
who was born in 1879 in Kiev and was killed in 1941 during the Holocaust in
Babi Yar together with his wife, Hannah, and daughter.
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Daniel Bertram

Apparently my parents had moved to Czerwony Pradnik [a district of Cracow] before they went into the ghetto; I didn't even know. I also found out from my aunt that my parents had lived on the ground floor in the same building in the ghetto as her. And they had gone in the first transport, on 2nd June 1942. Apparently, first of all, on a Saturday, they had gone to do some road works, and my father hadn't managed to get them a blue card, which could have helped them live longer [Editor's note: The card confirming employment and necessity for the Germans, and permission for staying in the ghetto, was of blue color and attached to the 'Kennkarte']. And people who didn't have a blue card were deported at once along with the whole transport via Plaszow camp [20], and at Plaszow into what were probably cattle wagons. My uncle told me that they spread lime there. And then, when they went to Belzec, there weren't gas chambers at that time, but just exhaust fumes from motor vehicles. They weren't all taken away at the same time; other relatives went in later transports. All my relatives were there, my uncles and my aunts. They went in later transports.
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Leon Glazer

After that we were joined by Liban, who'd come back from the camp in Stutthof [34], that's near Gdansk. There had been a soap factory there, that soap from human fat. What a thing [35]!
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Presumably, I'm not sure, they were taken to Belzec [33]. And I meant to go to Belzec, but I'm too old, I can't. Not long ago I talked to my wife about it.
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It took a whole day and a night, I think. They open the wagons: 'Raus' [Ger.: Get out]. We look: 'Arbeit macht frei' [Work makes (you) free, the infamous inscription above the Auschwitz gate]. What's going to happen to us? I thought then. I didn't know anything about Auschwitz. I knew about our camp in Pustkow, but about others, that they existed at all, I didn't. They left us a very long time on that ramp. And that SS-man, Ruff, said that he had had a 'Befehl' [Ger.: command] and he had to put us in the camp, not in any crematorium. No, because he had been given an order and he wasn't leaving the place until they took us to the camp. It wasn't that he asked for it - he demanded it. On that ramp Ruff behaved very decently. I didn't see him during the convoy, I only saw him on the ramp.

I didn't know that Auschwitz was a death camp. None of us knew that. We were told that we were going to the camp and we went to the camp. But later I found out that it was usually like this: a transport arrived and all of it to the bathhouse. There that poisonous gas at once, then the floor fell in, the corpses down, and that was it. In Birkenau [29] there were crematoria, those people were sent there to their deaths, and others were sent to the sheds. And so somehow we simply survived, because in the end we were sent to the camp. And so that's why I've got this number, A-18077. I was tattooed on the first day, 27th July 1944. Prisoners did it, but I don't know whether they were Poles or Jews.

After that I got my stripes, of course [camp uniform, made from material with blue vertical stripes, comprising a jacket and trousers]. But in Pustkow we hadn't had stripes. You went around in whatever you had. First we were sent to this big bathhouse. I knew that I was in quarantine, that this was how it had to be, that they would come and take us somewhere to work. I don't know what the point of that quarantine was. Two weeks we sat in these sheds and didn't do anything. On the bunks, without anything, just like that. There weren't even straw mattresses, and all those people.

There I saw the women's camp in Birkenau [30]. Women, all shaven, I saw at once on the first day. I saw the gypsy camp too. Yes. I could see that they were gypsies; their camp was separate. I saw other people too, different nationalities, Greeks, Hungarians. I even remember this one episode. I didn't even know what it meant. 'Korfu lekhem' - one of the prisoners said that to us. 'Korfu' meant that they were from the island of Corfu, and 'lekhem' is simply 'bread' in Hebrew, apparently. I still remember those two words, as if it were yesterday. 'Korfu lekhem, Korfu lekhem.' Just meaning that they were from the island of Corfu and they wanted bread.

And after that quarantine, after all that, what they called 'merchants' came to the camp. Yes, SS-men. They ordered us all to get out of the shed. The whole group, the one from Pustkow, because we'd somehow stuck together. They asked about our trades. What trade, what trade? They just wanted to see who could do what, because it was to be real work. Obviously I wasn't a properly trained tailor, but I said I was a tailor. Perhaps I saved myself as a tailor, because they took me to work and didn't leave me in the camp. Some of them, that stayed, older people, they finished them off in the camp. Then they split us into groups and some went to the Siemianowice Foundry [proper name: the Laura Foundry], others to... I can't remember, and I ended up in Gliwice. In July 1944.

I was still a prisoner of the Auschwitz camp, just of the Gliwice branch [31]. There they were building a factory to make gun carriages and large water mines - munitions, in any case. We organized it all, in the sense that first we did the earthworks, and then we put the machines in, set them up, leveled them. Even lathes, milling machines and other machines. As non- experts we did what we could. And in charge of that was a firm called Zieleniewski [Zieleniewski-Maschinen und Waggonbau GmbH] from Cracow, which the Germans had partly transferred to Gliwice during the occupation. I don't know why. Perhaps so as not to be manufacturing munitions in Cracow? Perhaps they didn't want it to be visible in Cracow, that there was production going on in such a big city, and there in Gliwice it was somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, way out of town.

Some of the workers presumably had to move from Cracow to that factory. But they used to go home almost every Sunday. They weren't slaves like we were, but presumably got money for their work. We walked to work every day, perhaps 10 minutes, because our sheds weren't far from the factory that was being built. But there the conditions were awful. Indescribable. In the winter, washing right out in the open air, naked. The washbasins were outside. We had to wash, because we were covered in lice. I couldn't stand it any more. Everything outside. These camp sheds, so many people in one space, as many as possible. The nights terrible, the days terrible. And I was there until about January 1945. The worst I experienced was there. The worst. And then after that there was that march [26] as well. I didn't expect it to end like that. Quite simply, well.
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