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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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nisim navon

Before the war I wasn't involved in political life. Jews had their own
cultural organization that belonged to the synagogue. I was a member of it.
I was a Zionist. Each house in Pristina had a blue cash-box in which we put
money each Friday. A delegation of three people from Belgrade or another
European center came once a year to collect the money, which was used for
buying land, kept by Arabs, in Palestine.
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Mico Alvo

At the time, in 1936, many events took place in Thessaloniki. They killed workmen, they broke our shop glass sign: the workmen threw stones when they were passing by. All these events influenced us. Later Metaxas came, but Metaxas didn't take Jews from here at the EON [53]. That was our complaint. We wanted to participate, too. He would take Jews from all the other places in Greece, except here.

The fact that I was a liberal had nothing to do with my father. We only spoke theoretically about it. What is right and what is not right. Without taking into account our personal interest. Why should there be so many class differences? For example, why should someone get 70 drachmas as a daily wage? We used to say that there shouldn't be differences like that.

However, we never got into communism. We would talk about communism, what it is etc, but we would call ourselves socialists and not communists. A communist would be someone who would let the government arrange everything. That one could no longer have his own property. Everything was to be shared. While the socialist would say, to be equal in all classes and depending on each person's work everyone will own their earnings. I don't remember where we learned what is communism and what is socialism.
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Mari's father was called Moshe Benveniste. Before the war he had a cashmere shop at Agiou Mina Street, where the tram used to take the turn. He was a well known trader and he worked together with his father, Abraham Benveniste, who was from Izmir. Many came from Izmir at the time and settled in Thessaloniki. Abraham Benveniste came before 1922. He was a fanatic fan of Venizelos. He had the picture of Venizelos in the lounge. I don't know why he came here. Mari's father, who was born in Izmir and later came here, went to the same school as Onassis [Aristotle (1906?-1975): Turkish-born Greek financier and shipping magnate who pioneered the use of oil supertankers]. While his brother, Mari's uncle, who was younger than him, was born in Thessaloniki.
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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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