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baby pisetskaya

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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Alexandra Ribush

Once my father was absorbed in a book, a small and pathetic-looking English book. He read it in the light of the stove fire. He didn't hear the inspectors approach. When the supervisors arrived, he was punished immediately. First they threw him into the punishment-cell. Then they transferred him to the position of a grave-digger. He would have died for sure, if not for the new camp management. A new head was appointed, who believed that people should be evaluated properly or, at least, made reasonable use of. There were no good physicians in Magadan, so imprisoned doctors were assigned to work at the municipal hospital. They were taken to work under an escort.
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Margarita Kamiyenovskaya

Then came the day of deportation: 14th June 1941 [see Soviet Deportation of Estonian Civilians] [23]. It was probably the darkest day in the history of Estonia. It didn't just change the fate of the people deported from Estonia, but also the destiny of the remaining Estonian Jews. The list of people to be deported was made beforehand and we found out about that only later. The car with NKVD officers went to people's houses and these people were given half an hour to pack. Then they were taken to the train station, where all arrangements were made for their departure. The men were sent to the Gulag [24] and the women and children were exiled. Politicians, people who disapproved of the Soviet power, rich people, i.e. the owners of real estates, well-off peasants who came to prosperity by working hard, were to be exiled from Estonia. There were cases where people were exiled for no reason.

There was a Jewish family, Olephson, who lived not far from our house. They owned a small store in front of our house. They didn't have any hired employees. They did all the work by themselves to make a living. I remember that one night the NKVD stormed their apartment and took them away. It was dreadful. 10,000 people were exiled, whereas the total population of Estonia was about 1,000,000. There were mostly Estonians among the exiled, but there were also Jews, Russians and Belarusian. Nationality didn't matter. It was ideology that mattered. It can't be compared to the Holocaust, but Stalin's camps weren't much better than Hitler's. Of course, it's clear why Estonians started to hate the Russians after that. The atrocities happening in Estonia during the war, when Estonians murdered Jews, commenced on that very day. Estonians recognized fascists as liberators from Soviet oppression and strove to do anything for the Germans. They chose the lesser of two evils.
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Henrich Kurizkes

On 5th March 1953 Stalin died. His name was an icon and Stalin was God for those born in the USSR who grew up with his name. I spent my youth in a different environment and was critical about Stalin's personality. We associated Stalin's name with everything happening in the USSR: cosmopolitan processes, the Doctors' Plot [46] and ever strengthening anti- Semitism. Of course, there was no information available, but we were not blind and we had an inner feeling that these were initiated by Stalin since he couldn't be unawares of whatever was happening.

My wife and I were horrified when Nikita Khrushchev [47] spoke at the 20th Party Congress [48] with the report on the cult of Stalin and his crimes. Only parts of his speech were published, even then there was a ban on information, but what we could read was sufficient for us to feel horrified, though we knew and sensed a lot. We knew it, because so many people were returning from the Gulag telling us what it was like. Of course, it was a shock.

Later we learned that if Stalin had not died, Jews would have been deported to Siberia or farther away. I wouldn't say that this shattered my trust in the Party. By then my membership in the Party became a pure formality for me. It was a requirement for making a career and nothing more.
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Demobilization started for older people. I was an officer. I was told I was still young and had to serve in the army. I served in the Estonian Corps until 1949, when reorganization of the army began and the staff was to be reduced. This was also the start of the anti-Semitic campaign in the USSR: the process against cosmopolitans [43], and the murder of Mikhoels [44]. After that reprisals in Estonia began. To tell the truth, when this happened there was more mention of the agricultural population. In the villages, the process of dispossession of wealthy farmers, the Kulaks [45] began. Of course, there were wealthier and poorer farmers in Estonia. Agriculture was well developed there; Estonia prospered from the export of butter, eggs and bacon. Denmark purchased butter and bacon was sold to England. Farming is hard work and all members of a farmer's family joined in this hard work. The Soviet power expropriated land from these people and granted it to the poor; rich country families were banished to Siberia.

I already knew that I was not going to become a staff officer so I got involved in the army finance division. I had no special education and had to learn this specialty on my own. The state anti-Semitism fed by the struggle against cosmopolitans was strengthening in the USSR and of course, it had its impact on me. In 1950, when the Estonian Corps still existed, they made the place too hot for me. They never tried to hide the fact that the reason for this was that I was a Jew. I requested demobilization, but they sent me to the Human Resources department of the Leningrad regiment, and from there to Tikhvin, in the St. Petersburg region [200 kilometers from St. Petersburg] where I was employed as a financier in the military enlistment office.
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14th June 1941 is a memorial date for all Estonian residents. At night the Soviet authorities deported Estonians [25]. The lists for deportation were ready before night. They included the wealthier Estonian, Jewish and Russian residents. Soviet authorities had access to all banking documents and had no problems finding the wealthier residents. Estonian communists also took part in generating the lists and I suspect many people were included in the lists for personal dislikes or jealousy. There were also some suspected of a disloyal attitude to the Soviet power, political activists of the pre-Soviet epoch, wealthy farmers and also those whose residence seemed attractive to the newcomers on these lists.

A truck with NKVD [26] soldiers drove to a house, people were given limited time to get packed and that was it. Trains waited at the railway station. Men were separated from their families. They were sent to the Gulag [27], and members of their families were moved to Siberia. In total about ten thousand people were deported on 14th June. This was quite a significant number, particularly considering that the total population in Estonia accounted to one million people.

My mother's younger sister Rosa, whose marital surname was Klompus, was also on those lists. The Klompus family was probably one of the wealthiest families in Tartu. My aunt's husband's father owned a whole neighborhood of apartment buildings and also had some other property. In his will he assigned his property to Wolf, my aunt's husband. He said that his other sons would either drink or gamble it away. So, in the end only Wolf, Rosa and their son Anatoliy were deported.
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Dina Kuremaa

I got married in 1956. I met my future husband, Raymond Kuremaa, with the help of my neighbors, an Estonian family. Raymond was their relative. On 31st December 1945 he came to congratulate his relatives on New Year. He rang the bell, and I opened the door. He looked at me and asked who I was. I said that I had lived there since my arrival from evacuation. He introduced himself and said that he had come to see his relatives. Then my neighbor came up to me and said that Raymond wanted to congratulate me on New Year. That was the way we met. From time to time we saw each other, went for a walk, to the cinema. I had known Raymond for eleven years before we got married. We were just friends. If someone told me about our getting married, I would only laugh.

Raymond was born in a hamlet in Raplass district of Estonia in 1924. His parents owned a farm, cultivated land and bred cows. When Estonia became Soviet, all property of Raymond's parents was taken over by a kolkhoz. Raymond's elder brother, who was 18 in 1941, was in hiding in the forest, when the Germans came to Estonia - he was not willing to join the German army. Then he came home to his parents, and someone told on him to the NKVD. When they came to arrest him, they found a rifle in his house. He was sentenced to 25 years and nobody believed that he was fighting against Soviet troops, and he was given an additional five years for keeping a weapon. He spent almost ten years in the Gulag, somewhere in Kolyma [32]. Only after Stalin's death, when the commission on retrial of the convicts' cases considered his case, he was released since there was no corpus delicti. He came back home in 1956 and attended our wedding.
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When campaigns against cosmopolitans [25] were held in the USSR, most Estonian citizens learned about them from papers. We didn't feel it. When I was working for the Ministry of State Planning, I didn't remember a single case, when a Jew was fired. There were other things happening in Estonia - recurrent exile of those, who managed to come back after deportation of 1941. In spite of the fact that those people came back on an absolutely legitimate ground, without being in hiding, they were arrested and exiled in the previous place. Of course, we were lucky, as the new leaders of Estonia were loyal to us. My sister Zelda, who was living in Latvia, said that there was tension there and sometimes she had to conceal that she was a Jew.

When the Doctors' Plot [26] commenced in January 1953, Estonian Jews also felt that. Every day there were radio programs, where people were told how Jewish doctors tried to poison Stalin, and we could feel that anti-Semitism was streamlined. We lived in fear. I knew that the management of the theater was given the task to make a list of Jews employees. There were a lot of Jews among the actors as well as among the employees of the theater. The chief producer was also a Jew. Such lists were definitely made in other institutions too. Our HR manager, Scherbatova, came to Estonia from Russia. She got those lists ready. I think if Stalin had not died in March, all of us would have gone to Siberia. We were living in constant fear. We had stocks of tinned food, rusks in case NKVD [27] officers came to us to send us in exile. Thanks God, Stalin died and our stored up things were not needed.
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When the Soviet regime came to power in Estonia, our life changed. Our Jewish lyceum was closed down and remade into a Jewish school with the teaching in Yiddish. All of us became pioneers [10]. At that time I didn't quite understand what it was all about. I did what others did and became a pioneer like others. The new-comers from the Soviet Union were housed in the apartments of other people, but it didn't happen with us, maybe they didn't have time for it.

My father's workshop was nationalized and turned into a cobblers' artel [11]. Father transferred all equipment to the artel and kept on working there. Strange as it may be our family avoided deportation, carried out by the Soviet regime on 14th June 1941 [12]. A lot of people who used to own stores and workshops were exiled to Siberia from Estonia within one day. Men were sent to the Gulag [13], and their families were exiled. Now I wonder how come our family was not touched. Maybe several stages of deportation were planned and the unleashed war was in the way of that process.
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bella zeldovich

She had problems being admitted to the institute, which, I believe, was due to her nationality. She had to take entrance exams, although she had a silver medal. But she passed them and entered the institute.
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In November 1932 our house and belongings were confiscated. It was the end of the NEP [11].
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He was sentenced to imprisonment in 1949 and was at the wood-logging site in Omskaya region, Siberia. Katherine followed her husband with her baby. They returned to Leningrad after four years. Katherine died in Leningrad in the 1960s. Clara had returned to Odessa where she died in 1947. I don't know what happened to her husband.
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ruth laane

In 1946 I went to the first grade of a Russian school. Our classroom was huge. It was a former canteen. There were so many children in my class that they needed a lot of space. Many of them were overage because of the war. On the first day at school our teacher asked the children to tell her their year of birth and nationality. The Russian girl, my desk mate, asked me who I was and I said I was Jewish. Her face gained a scared expression and she whispered, 'Don't tell her!' She must have been in Tallinn during the war, and now she knew such things were to be kept a secret. She didn't mean to hurt me. Vice versa, she wanted to help. There were three Jewish children in my class. I never faced any anti-Semitism at school or observed any demonstrations of it towards other children.

I was a pioneer at school and believed everything we were told. I was a common Soviet child. I argued a lot with my grandfather and he was my opponent. My grandfather was trying to open my eyes, but I didn't let him. I remember always having a trump card. To all his attacks against the Soviet regime I replied that if it hadn't been for the Soviet regime, we would have stayed in Estonia during the war and we would not have survived. My grandfather surrendered under such argument and had nothing to object.

After the war, living in Soviet Estonia, my grandmother corresponded with her sisters living abroad. She corresponded with Bertha, her brother Nathan's daughter, living in Israel. She corresponded mainly with her sister Bertha Gringut living in Switzerland. She would have corresponded with more people, but during the Soviet regime this was dangerous for our family. However, my grandmother had no intention to refuse from this single opportunity to communicate with her sisters. Amalia sent her letters for grandmother to Switzerland, and then Greta resent them here. My grandmother corresponded with Greta in Yiddish. After Greta passed away, her daughter wrote us in German and Russian.

At that fearful Stalin's time Greta wrote such letters that the family was afraid that censors would pay special attention to them. Here is what she could write: 'When I was in elementary school, we had a teacher, who was an immigrant. The Bolsheviks executed him. What brutality!' Greta could also describe the life of one of the tsarist family, or that some noble immigrant opened a store, and she mentioned well-known names that caused anger with Bolsheviks since 1917. Greta described the White Guard immigrants. She probably did not understand that all letters crossing the USSR border were censored. However, we received her letters and nothing bad happened. Probably Greta's letters were so long that they tired censors before they read them to the end. Greta wrote 15-20 page letters on tissue paper. After Greta and Amalia died, this correspondence stopped.
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My uncle was a great supporter of the Soviet Union and admired the principles of the Soviet regime: equality, internationalism and fraternity of all people. This was all he heard about from Soviet newspapers and radio programs. He had never been to the USSR and could not have his own opinion. When in 1940 Estonia became Soviet [9], Philip was probably the only one in our family who was happy about it. The rest of the family, my parents and my mother and father's parents believed it to be inevitably evil. There was nothing to be happy about, and it was impossible to help it.

During the War

It goes without saying that Soviet authorities confiscated my grandfather's shop and store. Besides, the bill that my grandfather had signed one day played its role. My grandfather had never seen the factory and was just a stooge, but for Soviet authorities he was a factory and a store owner, a bourgeois and an enemy of the people [10]. Mama told me that people had been arrested before overall deportation [11].

My grandfather had no doubts that this was going to happen to them. He had his belongings packed to avoid the hustle when the time of arrest came. They expected arrest each day. Mama told me they had such a vague idea about what was happening in the Soviet Union or where they were to be taken to that my grandmother did not dry any bread or store any food products to take with them for the road. She made a cake every day, and they ate it, and then grandmother made another cake. It never occurred to them to buy any tinned food.

However, for some reason our family was left alone. Deportation took place on 14th June 1941, when about 10,000 people were deported from Estonia. Whole families, including elderly people, children, handicapped and ill people were deported. Men were sent to the Gulag [12], and women and children were exiled to Siberia. A week after the deportation, on 22nd June 1941 the fascist German armies attacked the Soviet Union.
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arkadiy redko

In 1931 my father was arrested by the NKVD [7]. He was kept in a cell for a month while they kept demanding silver and gold from him. My father was brutally beat, as they demanded: 'Tell us where the money is'. We didn't have any money or gold, and only when they had made sure that this was true they let my father go. I didn't recognize my father when he came home. He was 46 years old, but he looked like an old man. He was thin, couldn't walk and stayed in bed for a long time. My father didn't tell us anything, but that he was beaten terribly. My mother hardly managed to bring him to recovery. However, we didn't blame anybody thinking that it had just been a mistake. We thought that since the Soviet power had many enemies, the NKVD often had to resort to strong measures.
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