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elvira kohn

There were a lot of Jews in Zagreb who were on Rab with me, and with them I had contacts. Most of the people I socialized with were my work colleagues, or neighbors, who weren't Jewish. What deeply affected me was that Tudjman [14] and his government didn't financially valorize participants of the National Liberation Army.

The government reduced material incomes that we received during the communist regime. The partisans were all of a sudden not recognized any more. And I claim that, if it hadn't been for the partisans, there wouldn't be a Croatia today. And I'm not afraid to say that.
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I lived with my mother until her death in 1977. The two of us were very close, and it was difficult for me when she died. I was left alone; I had no relatives, no family of my own. I was also in a dilemma as to how to bury my mother. It was a very difficult decision for me to make.

Many JNA officials and my co-workers came to my mother's funeral. Some gave a speech. I couldn't have a rabbi bury her in front of the party members. And I couldn't have the party members speak in front of a rabbi. The two don't go together. So at last I decided not to have a rabbi at the funeral. It wasn't easy, but there was no other choice. I wasn't allowed to have a Jewish funeral for my mother.

But I did something else. I arranged with the community that for the whole first month after my mother's death, the Kaddish was recited for her every Friday and Saturday. That was something I could do. Even though all the officials knew that I was Jewish, and that my mother was Jewish, I couldn't have both, the Party and the rabbi, at the funeral. And even though I had been retired since 1964, and my mother died in 1977, I was still in the same circle of people, shared the same spirit, and thus wasn't allowed to. That was the spirit of the time.
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During the communist times, I was in the JNA, I was a member of the Party. I worked and socialized with others who were in the Party; that was my life, that was my world. Today people say terrible things about communism, but it wasn't so bad after all. Maybe in certain aspects it was better than it is today; only, we aren't allowed to say that, it just doesn't sound right.

Immediately after the war, I went to the Jewish community on Palmoticeva Street to become a member. Through the community I re-established relations with my aunt Adela in Brazil and my cousin Zlata in Israel. I've never been to Brazil, but to Israel I went several times.

The first time I went in 1950 to visit Zlata. It wasn't easy to get permission to leave the country because I was among the high-ranking officers in the Party. At last, after many attempts and rejections, I spoke with one officer-general who helped me get a permission to go to Israel. I left from Rijeka on a boat, and arrived in Haifa. It was an amazing trip because there I met with Zlata and her family and I also saw many people who had been interned on Rab with me. But, I never developed any deep feelings for Israel. I was also invited to Zlata's son's bar mitzvah and I went.

Then there was her son's wedding, and I went again, and I think I visited Israel another couple of times. Had I not been in the JNA and the Party, I would have considered to move to Israel. But I was in the army, and I was very much connected to it, and I couldn't help myself. In addition, my mother wasn't so young any more, and it was a risk to go because I didn't know what kind of job I could get there. The Party never criticized me for going to Israel. Everyone always respected me because I always openly admitted that I was Jewish and never hid my origins.

Both my mother and I became members of the Jewish community. I attended celebrations for holidays, if I was in Zagreb. Because I traveled a lot, I couldn't become more active in the community. The fact that I was in the army and went to the community at the same time had no consequences. I never directly told anyone in the army that I went to the Jewish community; that was my personal and private business. If I was in Zagreb for Chanukkah or Purim, I went to the celebrations.

I took my mother to the synagogue for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and waited outside. I didn't enter because I didn't want the wrath of the Gods, so to speak. There were services for holidays that my mother always attended, and I know that there were people who went, and the people who conducted the services, but I'm not in the position to say much more about it. When I went, I mostly went to the afternoon meetings and tea parties, or to the meetings organized by the women's department.
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baby pisetskaya

My grandmother's brother was a communist. He was the chairman of Ternovka village council and was killed by bandits in his own office in 1919.
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My father's older brother Yakov was born in Odessa in 1899. In 1917, after the October Revolution [see Russian Revolution of 1917] [3]. Yakov was attracted by communist ideas. He became a communist.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

I joined the party [PZPR] in 1951, when I was working at Dobrobyt. It was Jews who persuaded me. They said that if I wanted to achieve anything, I had to join. But before that I'd steered clear of the PPR and the PZPR. And I belonged to the Bund, and I'd gone there as a member of Zukunft. They had their headquarters here in Legnica on Piastowska Street, and I used to go there to meetings. That was a bit more of a democratic party, you see, and Jewish through and through. But in the PZPR I wasn't such a keen activist, I didn't get particularly involved in their affairs - I had to so I did, no more.
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I went to that Hashomer Hatzair [4] too. I went there just like that, because I had friends who were members. That was a left-wing organization, but a Zionist one. Good, active, they were mostly into sport, less of the politics and mostly physical culture. They had this hut rented on the same street as the synagogue, and that was where the meetings were held. There were trips too. I remember we would go to the woods in these gray uniforms and short trousers. And at the end - from 1936 to 1937 - I belonged to the Zukunft [5]. But that was for a short time and I remember very little.
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She was in some left-wing organization, only I don't know whether it was the Bund, perhaps, or the communists that she belonged to.
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He was a lefty as well, not very religious, but he knew the history of the Jews, knew the prayers, could read the Torah and argue with the rabbi.
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He was into politics a bit - on the side of the left-wing parties. He wasn't a particular activist, but he belonged. I just can't remember if it was to the Bund [1] or one of the other left-wing parties. He definitely didn't belong to any of the Zionist parties; if it wasn't to the Bund then I think it was to the Communists, but they were illegal at the time [see Polish Workers' Party] [2].
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Mico Alvo

He would vote in the Community's elections. I don't know if he was with the Zionists or with the assimilationists. I don't know this because he never spoke about politics at home. I don't think that he would have been with the Zionists; he was probably with the ones in favor of assimilation.
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I remember the death of Mordehai Frizis [65]. All the newspapers in Thessaloniki and Athens wrote about it. They would discuss it and say, 'all the Greeks are fighting together for freedom.' It was written that he was the first officer of a higher rank that got killed. Then it was mentioned that Muslims in Thrace had died, too. It also said that all united, with no difference of religion or ethnicity, were fighting for freedom and the country. I remember that well.

This was quite a positive thing to hear after the situation with Metaxas, who didn't recruit Jews in the EON. He would recruit them in other cities but not in Thessaloniki. Everybody wanted to get in the EON. We mostly wanted to get in it because we didn't want to be any different from all the rest of the people. Not that we were fond of fascism and the rest of it. Because Metaxas, one the one hand, had a really excellent attitude on account of the war, but on the other hand, what he did with beating people up and stuff like that was another story. We knew from the security police what the people who were regarded as communists went through. The word was spreading around. They were sending them to islands into exile. And many were Jews who were leftists. We knew that fascism was fascism. But then everyone had changed in favor of Metaxas.
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Dario was also an employee. Sento was doing well in his own business. And later Grandfather gave his business to Sento. I'm not aware whether one of the sons-in-law was more active than the other in social clubs and such things. Some of them were at the B'nai B'rith. Sento was definitely a member. His father must have recommended him, and I think that Elie was a member, too.

They weren't very interested in politics. They were probably a bit more concerned about the city's affairs. All the Jews voted for Manos, Nikolaos Manos. Most of our own voted for Manos. I imagine that my father and my mother's sons-in-law, voted for him, too. But, before Manos, they voted for Aggelakis. They voted for Aggelakis because he was very well known. Aggelakis was great; he lived very near our house, at the same tram stop. He was a doctor. Aggelakis was with Venizelos, but they never really cared if he was in Venizelos's party. They voted for him as an individual. He originated from an old family from Thessaloniki, very well known, he was from Thessaloniki's aristocracy. With Manos, it wasn't the same.
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Grandfather gave money for the house, but he didn't give easily, he was strict and would check how it was spent, he wouldn't just give away money. He didn't participate in Community affairs. He was only at the B'nai B'rith. When they would organize some gatherings, he would also go. When such a gathering was organized a personal invitation would be sent to him, and it said 'Personal' on it, so no one else was allowed to open it. That impressed me, because I was thinking, 'Why is it personal, why?'

"Ah," he would say to me, 'this is from the committee, it's for a B'nai B'rith meeting.' You see, not everyone could join the B'nai B'rith. It was very strict. You had to be somebody in society. It didn't have to do with politics. It was rather an organization like the Freemasons.

I think that Grandfather Daniel voted in the Community's elections. He voted not the leftists, not the Zionists, but the liberals that were in favor of assimilation. I'm not absolutely certain, but I'm pretty sure that he supported them. At the national elections they would always vote for Tsaldaris [17], the Laikoi [Populists].
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