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elvira kohn

In general, I have great respect for the citizens of Dubrovnik in how they treated the Jews during the war. They were very fair to us. I never hid the fact that I was Jewish. There's a well-known Croatian actress from Dubrovnik whose name is Marija Kohn.

Her father married a Catholic woman and converted to Catholicism but didn't change his name. For this reason, the name Kohn was well known in Dubrovnik and when someone heard that my name was Kohn, they automatically considered me a Catholic as well. I always emphasized that I was Jewish though.
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Leontina Arditi

I've had a lot of friends; I was an exceptionally friendly and sociable person in contrast to now. I had friends everywhere - in the villages where I grew up, at elementary school, at high school, at drama school, at the conservatory and in the theaters where I practiced as a beginning actress. These people were always tolerant towards me, so I didn't suffer from anti- Semitism. All the more, I remember in those hard days of our internment to Dupnitsa that the grandfather of my friend and classmate Lili, who was a miller, came to my mother. And he came from a village far away from Dupnitsa to say: 'If you need to escape, if you are to leave the country, I have men in the mountains, they can save you.' So I nearly became a partisan since the old man, who wanted to hide us, was obviously a supporter. And I don't even know his name.
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Before our departure I studied in a Bulgarian secular school. I hated geometry. And the hateful teacher was Miss Yankova, our maths teacher, of course. I was a poor student. When I received a satisfactory mark [3 out of 5] my mother would make a pudding for me. And she would give the women from the neighborhood a treat. My parents even hired a private teacher for me, but it was fruitless. I liked geography a lot and I loved literature and the Bulgarian language. I knew by heart half of the 'Epopee of the Forgotten' by Ivan Vazov [21]. I loved my teacher in literature, Mrs. Kateva, and I remember her even now as if she was standing right in front of me.

Once people came to summon students for Brannik [22] in our school. And my classmates put their names down. We had a very stupid boy in our class, Haim, and I often had fights with him. He said: 'I also want to write my name down'. They told him: 'We don't accept Jews.' Some teasing was heard: you the Jews are such and such. Then Mrs. Kateva turned red and said: 'I won't tolerate such things in my class.'

I remember another interesting story of this period. Apart from my pointless private tuition in mathematics and the wonderful lessons in French with Julia I took up lessons in music for free. As I mentioned before, my violin teacher was uncle Kamen, the famous violinist Kamen Popdimitrov, my father's friend from his years in France. Well, when we were to be interned, in my third year in the junior high school, I had a final poor mark [2, that means failed] in geometry. Everybody graduated and I had to sit for a make-up exam. We set off for the province. We were first allocated to Haskovo, but I was summoned to the police for some verses I had written. Then they sent us to Dupnitsa, where I wasn't accepted to enroll in the high school, because I didn't have a diploma for the junior high school. They wanted at least some document stating that I had studied up to the third class of the previous level. Then mum wrote a letter to uncle Kamen. As a response he sent me a grade book for a completed 3rd class of the junior high school. My maths teacher, Mrs. Yankova, had been my nightmare; she used to give me only poor marks; I had wanted to suffocate her... And now we read that there are two good marks [4 out of 5] in the certificate for completed third class - one in geometry and one in maths. What had this man done? In which way had he spoken with Mrs. Yankova? What could he have said to her? I don't know, but this cruel woman for me became a saint, despite the fact that I wasn't accepted in the high school but in the business school. Never mind! What does this mean? It means that two Bulgarians had tried to give a blunt-witted Jewish child as best as they could, a chance to continue her studies.
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ester josifova

Our father owned a little shop opposite our house and a Bulgarian rented it. He turned out to be a very good person and even came to Kjustendil during the internment to assure us that the shop would be ours again when the internment was over. That shop was where I began to work later and that was how we started our life in Sofia again.
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Alexandra Ribush

Varvara Alekseyevna was a very kind woman; she tried to entertain and teach us. We didn't have any books, there were no libraries, so she narrated books to us, which she had read in her childhood. Kipling's Kim made an unforgettable impression on me back then. [Editor's note: Kipling, Rudyard (1865-1936): English short-story writer, poet and novelist.] I read it later, as an adult, and was quite disappointed. Varvara also narrated ancient Greek myths and different movies. She was a very educated woman. After we were released she came to Tomsk, too. There was an affiliate of the Leningrad Medical Institute.
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Employees of the 1st Medical Institute, who remained in Kislovodsk, had no means to live on. There was this professor Schaag, he was a German and he wasn't anti-Semitic. He obtained permission from the occupation officials to open a Medical Institute in Kislovodsk. A lot of young people were eager to attend paid studies. This was during the occupation. One of the buildings of the health center was meant for studies. There was a room in the building where Varvara hid us. Aunt Varvara lived in the laboratory, in which she worked. The laboratory was located in a big building. There was also one of these organizers of the NEMVAKHO Institute, who came from Leningrad, and worked with Schaag. He gave us this room for hiding. Varvara, her mother and the three of us lived in this room in the Medical Institute. We sold everything we had in order to buy food.
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Unexpectedly we got into German occupation there. All adults were executed. The three of us, children, were saved by a Russian woman called Varvara Alekseyevna Tsvelenyova. I was 13 years old at the time. We lived in various apartments. Our landlady was a nice woman, but her husband and son were anti-Semites. They owned a house. Varvara Alekseyevna worked with Vera Isaacovna, the wife of dad's brother Isaac. She was evacuated from Leningrad along with the 1st Medical Institute. They were evacuated in the same train, in a heated goods' carriage. That's where they became friends. They hadn't known each other before. Varvara was very young; she was 27 years old and she wasn't married. Her brother was at the front. Varvara Alekseyevna came to Kislovodsk, which was occupied by the Germans, because of her old mother, who was in hospital. That's why she couldn't leave Kislovodsk on foot when the Germans approached the town. She was very young and didn't want to abandon her mother. When the Jews were gathered in Kislovodsk for execution, she took us to stay with her.
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Luna Davidova

In September when the school classes began the Kapons took us in their house - we lived in one room with another family;, we changed our clothes in shifts. Then a wonderful guy took us whose name was Rangelov. He was a lawyer. He went to the countryside with his family because of the bombardments and left his house at our disposal. He didn't want any rent for it. Our Bulgarian neighbors often gave us meals - grilled fish for example. I finished the seventh 7th grade in Lom but I can't remember anything from the school - neither the teachers, nor my classmates. My sister and I worked in the confectioner's. - we We cleaned nuts and brought our parents whole bags filled with nuts. Then we went to work in a workshop where we cleaned fruits such as apricots, peaches, etc. and we put them into containers, barrels or the like. They probably used fresh fruit to make some jam or compote to send to Germany. And we were paid for our work - I was 16, my sister was ten and we earned a few stotinki [1 Bulgarian Leva is equal to 100 stotinki].
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Victoria Behar

That year, since I was studying as a private student, I found it very hard when we went back to Sofia and I had to continue my education. The anti- Jewish laws and our internment practically crippled my education. I had my grade officially recognized, although I had only sat for my singing exam, because 9th September 1944 [13] came and all students had their grades recognized. The new power had come; the Soviet armies had reached Bulgaria. We were allowed to go back to Sofia.

My father went to our house to tell the people living there that we were coming back. When he came to Dupnitza, he told me that he had signed me up in the French College for me to continue my education and that the teachers would give me textbooks. I went back to Sofia alone in October 1944 carrying the curtains my mother had given to me so that I could tidy up the house until they had prepared the rest of the luggage. Then Grandfather Gotse and his wife Elena took me to sleep at their place so I wouldn't be alone in the house. And since at the time of our internment to Dupnitza my parents had sold their bed, they bought them a new one. They were such good people. I still have this bed! All my family came back to Sofia and my sisters continued their education, after an interruption of one year, in an ordinary Bulgarian school.
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Then Gotse Gulev, the owner of the knitwear factory, where my father worked as an accountant, and his wife, Elena, came and told my parents to sell nothing and that they would keep our furniture until all this was over. My mother was desperate and told them that we would never come back, that we would be sent to the death camps, about which we already knew. We had heard about them from friends and acquaintances outside Bulgaria, from the independent Bulgarian newspapers with correspondents abroad, who wrote about the echelons of death, and from the French girls in the college. [Editor's note: Although the interviewee insists that she was aware of the existence of the German death camps in Poland, this is unlikely. Most Jewish interviewees who we have interviewed understood that 'deportations to the east' boded ill for them, but none guessed that actual death camps were in operation. Holocaust historians Raul Hilberg, Wolfgang Benz and Randolf Braham have written extensively on how the German regime worked to keep these camps a secret. It is also unlikely that Bulgarian newspapers, which were all under government control, would have written of such things, especially when the Bulgarian government was an ally of Hitler's Germany]. But Gotse Gulev and his wife told my mother that such a monstrous deed couldn't go on for long. He even sent two of his employees to Dupnitza with us to see how we would settle and where we would live. Later, I found out that on 24th May 1943 [10] when a big march in support of the Jews was organized by Bulgarian intellectuals and representatives of the Orthodox Church in Sofia, Grandfather Gotse - I called him Grandfather because he loved me as if I were his granddaughter, and so did I - also took part along with Exarch Stefan [11].

Grandfather Gotse managed to arrange for my father something like civil mobilization on the grounds that he was indispensable for the factory. So my father went to Sofia every month for a week to work and he was paid as if he had worked the whole month. They were wonderful people, but later they also had a tragic fate.
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jerzy pikielny

One of my cousins reported that to Yad Vashem [11], told them about their solidarity.
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Renée Molho

As for the Molho family, they were all deported to Germany: Solon's father and mother, Yvonne, his sister, and her husband and child. The same goes for all the rest of his relatives. The only one left was Victoria and her family.

The way they were saved is that one day they were at a drugstore and at this drugstore happened to be Doctor Kallinikides, and he was commenting about the dreadful things that were happening to the Jews. He also was saying that he would be willing to save a family of Jews. When they heard that statement, although they didn't know him, they approached him. Mrs. Kallinikides went to their place to take the children, to his own house. Later he managed to get in touch with the people who were occupied with transporting illegally the Jews to Athens, under the very nose of the Germans.

This way, very quietly, Mr. Kallinikieds saved first the children and then arranged for someone to pick up the adults, from another place, and arranged all the details for their safe journey to Athens. They left together with the youngsters, Niko and Nina who were five and two years old, respectively. They were very lucky and Mrs. Kallinikides remained a friend of the family forever.

When this happened, Solon was already in Athens. In Athens, when they found each other and in order to survive, they were manufacturing soaps: Solon assisting Victoria's husband, Youda, who had had a soap manufacturing factory in Thessaloniki and knew all about it. Selling them from house to house they were making a living. Later the Germans occupied Athens, so they were forced to go and hide themselves elsewhere.

They went to Glossa Skopelou. Giorgos Mitziliotis, the mayor of the village was one of the suppliers of Uncle Youda's factory, providing him with olive oil, which is a raw material for soap. All the Leon family, the grandfather and grandmother, Maurice, Jackos, Youda and his family and Victoria's brother, that is, Solon, etc. 14 persons were taken by him to Glossa. During the whole period of the occupation and until the liberation of Thessaloniki they all stayed there.

Giorgos took an immense risk, not only for himself and his family, but also for the whole village since he was the mayor and therefore the one in charge. The ones that could help did so. They were going out with Giorgos, cutting trees, assembling wood, looking after the animals, etc. They even had a mule. Once the mule refused to move and after various efforts that had angered Giorgos very, very much, in his desperation, he put his shoulders under the mule's belly and lifted her up and threw her over. The mule fell, got up and started walking back to the village.

The first period in Skopelos was a period with no Germans but when they arrived, the family was forced to move from place to place, so that the Germans would not notice them. What a life full of anxiety!

During that period, Solon, was also going to the local shipyard assisting in whichever job he could as he was young, full of strength and life. He also worked with the local ironsmith and on his false ID, his job is that of an ironsmith.

They also listened to a hidden radio so that they knew what was going on and what was happening in an effort to be in front of unfortunate happenings. When the war was over, they all came back to Thessaloniki.

Giorgos Mitziliotis and his brother Stephanis are on the list of the Righteous Among the Nations.
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While we were still all together, taking care of our father, there was this lady, Mrs. Lembessi, who was the wife of an air force officer, who was helping us continuously. She happened to live in the same apartment block as Ida Asseo, who was a cousin of my best friend Tida Saporta, and she took us under her wing, always trying to help us.

Mrs. Lembessi was following closely the evolution of my father's health. She communicated with the doctor who was following his condition almost daily. The day my father died, Mrs. Lembessi was at our place at eight o'clock in the morning, having already been informed, by the doctor, that in his opinion it was quite improbable that he could last any longer.

He died exactly 13 days after my sisters were taken away. It happened early in the morning, while I was feeding him in bed and he refused to open his mouth. He turned his head aside and died.

Mrs. Lembessi was there to help me. She told me not to worry. It was the doctor that informed her and she was here now and she would take care of everything. She cleaned and dressed the body and then she went to telephone the Spanish Embassy. A little later some men came on behalf of the embassy; they told us to undress the body, wash it and put it in a sheet. Once again Mrs. Lembessi told me not to worry and went alone to do whatever was asked. Then we waited for a little and they took the body. They didn't tell us where they were taking him.

Mrs. Lembessi, once again, took over and took me, almost by force, since I was not in a position to think, to stay at her place telling me that, I should never return to this apartment, were my father had died. That same night the Germans returned for me, but I had fled.

What Mrs. Lembessi actually did was to ask her daughter to sleep on the floor so that I could have her bed. I cannot recall how many days I stayed there but she took very good care of me and even her husband was pressing me to drink some wine with my lunch every day since I was very weak. Mrs. Lembessi is included on the list of the Righteous Among the Nations [19].
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Albert Eskenazi

There was a Jewish community in Mostar, which had its own kitchen, where we
received two meals a day. However, because of some agreement with the state
of Croatia, the Italian authorities had to hand over Mostar to Croatia. The
Italians knew that as soon as the Ustashe enter Mostar, they would come
after the Jews first. So, the Italians organized to have us transferred to
an island that remained under Italian authority.

We were transferred from Mostar to Jelsa Island, then to the city of Hvar.
We had our own kitchen in some deserted hotel on Jelsa. The women organized
themselves, and we had a stove and wood from the surrounding forests. We
children collected oak-apples. Every seven days the Italian authorities
gave us sugar, flour, pasta, parmesan cheese and jelly, according to the
number of members in a family. Each adult had to register at the police
station every day. After Jelsa, where we were for three or four months, we
were transferred to Hvar where we were put up in five hotels, which were
empty because there was no tourism. We were in Hotel Slavija, which had a
wonderful owner named Tonci Maricic, who gave us everything. He left us
alone to organize ourselves and he solved all the problems. The Italians
paid for this, but what was important was how he treated us. After
liberation, many people visited him and he came to Sarajevo and Zagreb.
This friendship lasted as long as he lived.

Then the Italian occupational authorities decided that all Jews who were on
Hvar, Korcula, Lopud and Kuparij should be transferred to Rab. On Rab there
was a camp where Slovenes lived before, under terrible conditions. Half of
the camp was comprised of brick buildings and the other half of barracks.
The camp was surrounded with multi-layered thorns, wires. When we saw this,
we realized this was a real camp, with wires. Later we realized this was
neither Jasenovac nor Auschwitz. We were organized. We had a big kitchen;
we organized cultural life. There were pianists, actors, doctors, lawyers
and other experts among us. We children were divided by age. The elder ones
worked. As children, we did not feel camp life. We were so small and we
were able to go swimming every day. There was one Italian guard for all 100
of us.

My mother was employed in the tailor shop that made uniforms - not new
uniforms; they repaired used ones. She worked seven hours in this tailor
workshop and the prize was one loaf of bread. My mother worked for that, so
that we would have a little more bread, for the growing children. We could
withstand all of that - until the Italians capitulated. The Italians were
anxious to do this because they were never soldiers like the Germans. This
is a nation that has a nice language, nice poetry, a nation that loves to
love - but they are not warriors. Yes, their army did damage throughout
Dalmatia, and certainly people were killed, but they were humane in their
treatment of us, if one can say that. The Italians threw down their
weapons, and the partisans came. In the camp itself, there was a partisan
organization, which we children did not even know about. The partisans knew
that we would be unable to hold the island much longer and, since they had
already liberated us, they wanted to transfer us to more secure territory.
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Matilda Cerge

[Andrej Tumpej] was an exceptional man. He hid two [other] Jewish girls. Up in Banovo Brdo there was a German cemetery. This was in 1942. During the day they hid in the cemetery and at night they came to him. He gave them a place to sleep in one big hall so that they didn't freeze. Imagine this, then he, who had good relations with the Serbian priests, through them got these two papers that they were Serbian women going to work in Germany.

With this, I think, he thought he helped save them. He obtained all that for them. When they got to the train station as two Serbian women to go work in Germany a Volksdeutscher [11] recognized them and turned them in. They were arrested and transported. We never saw them, and I don't know their names.

He told us this during the war. After this the Germans locked him up for one, two, three months in Belgrade. He also hid Dr. Vajs, a pediatrician. She was with the Partisans. She also came to him in Banovo Brdo and slept in the big hall.

He helped everyone a lot. He died after the war, but I don't remember what year. When he was in prison a German asked him, 'How could you dare to do this, to hide Jewish girls?' and he answered, 'And tomorrow if you were in that kind of situation I would do the same for you.
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