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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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When the war broke out in Croatia in 1991 [see Croatian War of Independence] [13], I wasn't afraid for some reason. I wasn't afraid of any catastrophes and disasters. Once someone called me on the phone and said threateningly, 'What are you still doing here, why don't you go where you belong?' I replied, 'I live in my apartment! Where should I go?' And he said, 'You have lived long enough!', and hung up. That scared me and disturbed me. But he never called again. He must have found my last name in the phone book and wanted to scare me.
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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

In 1991 the Jewish life began to revive in Odessa: they restored the synagogue in Remeslennaya Street [Osipov Street at present] where my grandfather Menachem and great-grandfather Shlyoma once used to go.
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My mother and I cooked delicious food. We often had guests and life was fun. We helped and supported each other. When our relatives' children were getting married we went to their wedding parties.
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We were a big and nice family. My grandfather, grandmother, aunt Ida and aunt Chaya lived in the same building and we saw each other frequently. Besides, all our relatives who lived in Odessa came to celebrate Soviet and Jewish holidays and birthdays with us.
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Shelia and I had many Jewish and Russian friends. We didn't care about nationality: there was no anti-Semitism in Kursk before the war. My sister and I and our friends went to swim in the river, celebrated Soviet holidays and went to parades. There were many gatherings in our apartment. My friends from the orchestra visited me. We sang, danced and had a lot of fun.
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In 1953, during the time of the Doctors' Plot [5], he was arrested as an 'enemy of the people' [6] and sentenced to ten years in Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk region. He was released after five years of imprisonment when Khrushchev [7] came to power. He had all his war decorations returned to him [see Rehabilitation in the Soviet Union] [8]. The authorities sent him to a recreation center for two months to improve his health. After returning from exile he went to work as administrator with the Odessa Philharmonic.
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Jankiel Kulawiec

When I was working in the foundry I collected a few medals, the Gold Service Cross, the Bronze Service Cross, the Legnica Copper mining District Silver Medal, and the Cavalier's Cross [Order of Polonia] Restituta. [Editor's note: Polonia Restituta ranks among the three most important Polish honors. It is awarded to philanthropists and those contributing to the restoration or building of Poland, outstanding meritorious acts, arts and sciences etc, and sometimes for acts of bravery. Its fifth class is the Cavalier's Cross.] There was a story with this last one, because Solidarity [20] helped me to get it. I'd been scheduled to get that distinction for a long time, but I didn't get it because I was a Jew. That's what I felt. Apparently, in the works committee [PZPR] there were some that were against it. I only got it in 1980 when Solidarity was forming. That's when justice was done.
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The next day this Ubowiec [slang name for an employee of the Security Office (UB) - the secret police] came with a summons to the UB. I was on afternoons at work then, and had to go for 2pm. And they took me off to the UB sometime just before 12. This crew from Wroclaw had come down especially for me. First of all they questioned me for a long time about what I did, where I worked and things like that. So I say to them that I'm on afternoons and would they say exactly what this is all about, because for me the most important thing is production, and I don't want to be late. So they asked me what objections I'd had yesterday in the TSKZ club about the mass meeting in Ursus. So I say that I didn't have any objections, I just asked what the difference between Polish and Jewish nationalism was, and I'm still asking. And they come back saying that they're the ones asking the questions, and do I know what institution I'm in?

The conversation went on like this, they getting angry when I looked at my watch, and me saying to them that I don't want to discuss with them because I'll be late to work. In the end I said to them that I couldn't see any danger to Poland from such a small state as Israel thousands of kilometers away. And at the end they asked me if I wasn't planning to take off to Israel. To which I replied that if they put on wagons and I was forced to, I'd pack my things and go, but until then I was staying. Then they let me out. And it was all because of that Jewish communist who snitched on me!
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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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Mico Alvo

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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Rafael Genis

My Constantia is the best helper in all community activities. On Sabbath and on holidays she cooks a treat for the whole community and the Jews join us in celebration. We chat and recollect family stories. We celebrate holidays according to the tradition. I feel under the weather lately and I have to look for a successor as I understand that I have heart trouble and had an operation recently. I hope that my successor will be Petras, who will come back to Lithuania and help me.
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Even though I was almost blind, I worked for many years. I retired in the early 1990s. Though since 1945 I have been getting a pension for the disabled, it is miserable. All those years my wife and I had been going to the places where Jews were executed to commemorate them. I thought of how to mark those places and put the monuments there. Besides, I couldn't feel indifferent towards those Jews, who survived the war, and now are scraping through. I decided to found a Jewish community in Telsiai and went to Vilnius to see the chairman of the United Jewish community of Lithuania, Alperavichus. He supported me. The community was founded in 1993 with me as a chairman.
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