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elvira kohn

Throughout the whole time of our imprisonment in the camp, I had my camera with me. I managed to hide it when we arrived in the camp even though we had to submit all of our belongings to a detailed search. But, apart from the initial search, I had to continue to hide the camera because the Italians searched our barracks almost every day.

We, the inmates, figured out the system although it was very risky. We informed each other when and where the search began so if the search began in barrack number 1 that meant that barrack number 1 was clear.

One of the informers ran to let the others know, who then let me know, and then I sent the camera through others to barrack number 1 that had already been checked. So my camera was always in a different place and the Italians never found it, thanks to good communications and good relations among the inmates.

I didn't take any photos during our imprisonment because that would have been too dangerous. I wasn't, of course, allowed to do it and, had they caught me, I could have been in great trouble so I never even tried.
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In May 1943, when the internment camp on Rab [6] was built, we were transferred from Kupari to the Island of Rab. There were no religious or observant inmates and no one observed any Jewish traditions or laws. At least I don't remember anyone doing so.

The Island of Rab was also under Italian rule. There were two camps: one for Slovenes and the other for Jews. Slovenes were imprisoned by the Italians just like we were. The two camps were strictly separated and no communication or contact between the two camps could take place.

There was one man, a Slovene, who was an electrician and who was ordered to fix some electric failures or something similar in our camp. He was the only one from the Slovene camp that we had some contact with but even that was very rare and limited since the Italians kept their eyes on him while he carried out his duty.

The Jewish camp, called Kampor, was divided into two camps: the Dubrovnik camp, where I was with my mother and other Jews from Dubrovnik, and the Kraljevica camp. Jews who managed to run away from Zagreb, Karlovac, and the surroundings arrived in Crikvenica and were interned by Italians in Kraljevica, just a few kilometers away from Crikvenica.

After a while, they were transferred from Kraljevica to Rab and were interned in the camp next to ours. The two camps, Dubrovnik and Kraljevica camp, were separated and each was enclosed with a wired fence. We were allowed to meet with Jews from Kraljevica camp during the day but only from 12 noon to 2pm, during the hottest time of the day.

At other times, it was strictly forbidden to meet. There were cases of parents being in one camp and their children in the other, depending on who was where when the war started, and at least they could meet for a short time during the day. I was lucky that I was with my mother.

There were around 1200 Jews in Dubrovnik camp and perhaps the same number or maybe a bit more in Kraljevica camp. We were accommodated in the barracks; in Kraljevica camp, there were wooden barracks, and in Dubrovnik camp they were made out of bricks.

The barracks were long and somewhat narrow. There were some 30 people in one barrack. The beds were bunk-beds: one person sleeping on the top and one on the bottom. The beds were one next to the other, on both sides of the barrack.

The toilets were outside, far away; to go to the toilet was like going on an excursion. The toilets were in one place and everyone from our camp used the same facilities, but there were a few toilet bowls, not just one. There was water in the camp, but for some weeks the central unit that supplied water was broken so cisterns with water were delivered to the camp. We received one liter of water per person per day, and that had to be enough for drinking and for personal hygiene.

We got a small amount of food which wasn't enough to keep us for the whole day. It was also disgusting. For breakfast, we got coffee that wasn't real coffee but some mishmash that tasted awful, and a piece of bread for the whole day. That piece we divided into three parts so that we also had a little piece for lunch and a little piece for dinner.

For lunch, we were given some soup, dried vegetables brewed up with old and foul-smelling oil, or pasta with oil. Pasta was usually served for dinner; thick black macaroni with oil. Even today, when I see someone pour oil over his food, I feel disgusted. Sometimes we were served goulash with meat and potatoes, but only small amounts of meat.

Every one of us had his turn to work in the kitchen; it was like a duty call, an obligatory call, perhaps once or twice in a week. We only helped around the kitchen to prepare the food, but the cooks cooked; we didn't. I remember once it was my turn to work in the kitchen and that day goulash with potatoes was served. The soldiers brought large baskets filled with already cooked potatoes and we were supposed to peal off the skin.

When the soldiers came to collect the potatoes, they looked inside the basket, then looked at us and asked: dove sono gli potati? [Italian: where are the potatoes] They gave us cooked potatoes to peal, and of course we ate more than half of the amount, who wouldn't have? We were hungry! The soldiers were very upset and from then on they always gave us raw potatoes to peal, and it was impossible to eat raw potatoes.

We usually woke up around 6 or 6.30 in the morning. The breakfast was brought to our barracks by the soldiers at 7am and by then we already had to be up and ready for breakfast, that is that horrible coffee and a piece of bread.

After breakfast, we each had our obligations that had to be fulfilled during the day. In the camp, everyone had to work or do something else during the day. The Italians weren't forcing us to work in a particular place; we could choose where we wanted to work. It looked as if it was voluntary work whereas we were actually forced to do something, it was just the place that we could choose. But sometimes even the place of work was determined.

There was something like a tailor's place where women who wanted to work there went. Buttons fell off from soldiers' uniforms or other things like that, so women went to do these jobs. Whoever worked there would be given an extra portion of food; this was like voluntary work, we weren't forced to do that.

Out of pure spite, I refused to sew buttons on soldiers' uniforms and never went to work there. Then, the Italians always built some roads and men usually went to dig and build these roads. That was hard physical labor. Men who worked there were also given an extra portion of food.

There was also a medical clinic in the camp, and usually the imprisoned Jews who were doctors worked there. In addition, there was a school for small children to teach them how to read and write so that they wouldn't remain illiterate. The inmates who were teachers worked there and taught children the basics in language and mathematics, the elementary things. The Italians allowed this.

I worked in the hospital. On the coastal side, in the town of Rab, which was four to five kilometers from the Kampor camp, there was the Hotel Imperial, which served as a hospital. Whoever wanted to work in the hospital could do so, and I volunteered. Every morning, Italian soldiers took a few of us on the truck to the hospital and brought us back in the afternoon.

We usually helped nurses in sterilizing bandages and preparing medical utensils. The patients who were treated in this hospital were the inmates from the Kampor camp. My mother sometimes worked in the tailors' place but most of the times she helped in the kitchen.

Lunch was served between 12 noon and 2pm. We had to go to the kitchen to collect our portion of food and then return to the barrack to eat there. During that time, we were also allowed to meet with the Jews from Kraljevica camp. We usually had the afternoons off. Depending on the nature of the work, sometimes someone had to work in the afternoon as well, but usually we had time off. Sometimes the Italians took us to the beach; they allowed us to go swimming.

They allowed 20 or 25 people to go to the beach, so we rotated. If more people went, it would have been more difficult for them to keep their eyes on us, so only 20 or 25 went at a time. It was around one or two kilometers to the beach and we walked. The Italians watched over us and guarded us very strictly and rigorously.

It was one of the Italian specialties to count us; they counted us again and again. We always had to line up and they counted and counted, before we left, while we were walking, while we were on the beach, when we walked back; they permanently counted us!

After we came back from the beach, we had off until 9pm. We usually walked around, many of us knew each other from before or we became friendly during our imprisonment so we walked and talked. At 9pm, the lights went off and we had to be in our beds in the barracks. The barracks weren't locked during the night.

The guards guarded them and walked around the camp during the night so that no one would even try to escape. It was very hot in the barracks especially during the night but the worst were the bedbugs. Our barracks were full of them and they drove us crazy. Those bugs bite and are very annoying so it was difficult to sleep at night.
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I didn't feel much anti-Semitism in Dubrovnik before the war. Perhaps right before the war started, anti-Semitism was felt more individually than collectively. My boss, Miho Ercegovic, had one partner named Gesel. This Mr. Gesel told my boss that he must fire whoever was Jewish. He knew I was Jewish.

So my boss, who was very inclined to me, had to fire me but he did so only officially so that he wouldn't get into trouble. He still let me work 'unofficially' for him and I continued to do my job and take photos and that way I could earn my living. This was just when the NDH was proclaimed a state and the Ustashas came to power.

We were forced to wear a badge since the NDH was proclaimed in 1942. There were other discriminating laws implemented against Jews: in addition to wearing the badge, we were forbidden to work in state and public services, and we were deprived of the freedom of passage. We were allowed to go to the beach or to the market only until a certain time of the day; a curfew was imposed on us.

In Dubrovnik, the state power was in the hands of the Croats, i.e. of the Ustashas, and the military power was in the hands of the Italians. It was our luck that the Italians were in power there. The Germans, in collaboration with the Ustashas, tried to take us to their concentration camps, but the Italians made clear to them that they were in power in Dubrovnik and that it was Italian right to do what they wanted to do with us. And because the military power was greater than the state power, we were, in a way, put under the protection of the Italians.

The Jewish community informed all the Jews living in Dubrovnik, the Jews who by accident happened to be there, and the Jews who came to Dubrovnik to run away or hide, that on a certain day in November 1942 we would be taken away and that we could take with us what we thought was necessary. I was with my mother. We were taken aboard a large Italian passenger ship and many people of Dubrovnik came to see us off.

Among them was my boss Miho Ercegovic. When I saw him, I approached him and returned his camera. And he said, 'No, you keep it, and whatever happens will be captured on film.
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I recall well one event in Dubrovnik: in April 1942, the NDH was proclaimed an Independent State of Croatia [5]. On this occasion, a great ceremony and celebration took place in Dubrovnik. All the high-ranking officials of the NDH came to Dubrovnik and requested that this ceremony be photographed.

Apart from me, there were two more men in Dubrovnik who worked as photo- reporters; however, that day they were already busy working elsewhere. By then Jews already had to wear a badge. Everywhere else in Croatia, Jews had to wear a yellow star but in Dubrovnik we wore on the left side of the chest a brass-like yellow badge within which was the black letter 'Z' [Zidov=Jew].

My boss told the officials that other photo-reporters were busy but that signorina [Italian for Miss] Elvira - that's how they used to call me in Dubrovnik - was available to take photos. 'If you don't mind that is. You know, she is Jewish', my boss said to them, and they replied that they didn't mind as long as the whole event was photographed.

The main ceremony took place in front of St. Vlaho church, and all the officials stood on the stairs of the church. Professor Kastelan and his sister were among the officials and many other functionaries and deeply religious Catholics. The ceremony began and I started to take photos. I had a Leica then. I stood there and took photos with my Leica on one side and the badge on the other.

After a short while, I noticed that the sister of this Professor Kastelan whispered something into his ear and they both looked at me. They stared at me for some time, and, as I noticed this, I slowly started to move back towards the crowd.

I wanted this to be unnoticed, and I moved slowly and disappeared into the crowd. Soon the sister came down the stairs, walked through the crowd, came straight up to me and asked me to stop taking photos immediately. At her request, I stopped and left the event.
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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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When the war started, there was fraternization between Christians and Jews. Because when the war started, the Jews were fighting not only for their homeland but against the Axis, who were the fascists and that's why they had one more reason than the Christians to go and fight. While they were saying that the Jews are fearful in the war and who knows what else, they proved to be the complete opposite. Especially the men from Thessaloniki who were the first ones to go in the front line, such as those in the 50th regiment, which was the closest to the border, and where more than half of the men were Jews.
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There was an Italian Fascist organization that Jews were also members of before the anti-Jewish measures [58]. All those Jews that were Italian citizens were compelled to become members, since it was supposed that everyone was a fascist. That is, they were fascists not out of conviction but out of duty. If you weren't a member of a fascist organization they wouldn't give you a passport. Only men could go sign up in fascist organizations and their children, girls and boys. And they would have celebrations where they had to wear their uniforms.

They used to call the little ones 'Balilla' [59]. If you went to the Italian school you had to be a member of the 'Balilla.' Other Jews, apart from the Italian Jews, weren't in any local fascist organizations. I don't think that you could anyway. There were many students who were Jewish in the Italian school but didn't have Italian citizenship. They didn't take part in the 'Balilla.' I remember my uncle Dario being so full of himself, that he was an Italian fascist etc. He even had the sign of fascism on the 'boutonnière' [French for 'buttonhole'], the fascio. Not that they cherished their beliefs. They just regarded it as something special that the others didn't have. I remember mocking them. At the Lycee we were very liberal, so completely the opposite.
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Rafael Genis

Grandpa Nakhman lived until the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War [2] and would have still lived longer as he was very robust, which wasn't common for people of his age. He was shot in Telsiai in the summer of 1941 along with many other family members.
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On the day when the war broke out, my brother Liber and his wife Ida with their baby daughter - about two months old - came to see my parents. The lady said that she noticed the tail of the column, where Liber and Ida with the stroller, were walking. The Fascists took the stroller away and it was rolling on the curb. My brother darted after the stroller and the German shot him right away, then they shot the baby.
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Knowing the Fascists' attitude towards the Jews, and reading the military press, I understood that Lithuanian Jews, including my relatives, were exterminated. When we were liberating towns and villages in Ukraine, the local people told us about executions of Jews in ghettos and camps, about the atrocity of the Fascists. I saw horrible pits, the places where Jews perished and understood even more that I remained alone. My task was revenge. I went in every battle to take revenge and exterminate as many Fascists as possible. In summer 1943 I undermined four enemy tanks and every burning tank was a monument for my kin.
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Eva Ryzhevskaya

Olga is a determined person, and she is not prone to phobias. She isn't afraid of changes. She does fear to be without money or a job though. She believes there is a way out from any situation. I think it's in her genes to be aware of fascism. She knows that her relatives were murdered by fascists, and she is afraid that the fascists could come to power in Russia. She is constantly trying to convince me to leave for Israel. Of course, I understand that my daughter will not leave me. I want to die in my motherland. I don't believe that fascism would be a driving force in our country, which had suffered so much from fascism. We will see, maybe I am too optimistic.
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Isroel Lempertas

The fate of my mother's youngest sister, born in 1910, can be called tragic. Rahil married a pampered loitering Jew Jacob Rier from Riga. When WW2 began, Rahil's daughter Rosa turned 3. Rahil, Jacob and their daughter fled Mazeikiai on the second day of war. When our family got to Riga, Jacob insisted that his family should go to his relatives in the town of Salaspils 'to take a rest' in his words. We moved on, but Rahil's family was in occupation. In accordance with archival data, which I found after war, Rahil's family died in one of the most dreadful extermination camps in Salaspils. [6].
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I dote on Lithuania. Now I like things, which I could not accept at once- crushed communistic regime was like a breath of fresh air, something which was necessary for our country to exist, but there are things in Lithuanian politics, which I disapprove, i.e. getting away with everything, connected with the USSR. I do not think it is the right thing to do. I do not like a negative attitude toward the victory over fascism. Here many people think that we should have fought with Hitler against USSR. I am strongly against it! Hitler captured half of Europe, enslaved and exterminated millions of people. I was in the lines and I know: because of our combined efforts we gained a victory over fascism and we should always keep it in mind. I hope that my country would get over the difficulties with growth.
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In 1938-39 pro-Nazi public opinion was streamlined in Lithuania. The teacher of arts, a Lithuanian, called upon fascism among youth. I do not know who of them did it, but each morning there were anti-Semitist posters in the lobby of lyceum, namely a Jew with a 'snoot', plaits, distorted appearance and clothes, with a humped back. Those posters were removed, but next morning they appeared again. I know for sure that two guys from that circle shot Jews, including their classmates in 1941 during one of Hitler's actions. There was a very beautiful girl in our class, the daughter of the director of Jewish bank, Kock Glikman. Many guys wooed her, including one of those guys. She did not want to go with him and he shot her with his own hands during one of the actions in 1941. Many people, at least our family, understood, that fascism would bring calamity to our country and many people looked up to USSR. I am not sure if my father knew about political processes and repressions carried out by Stalin in USSR [Great Terror] [13]. He had never talked to me about it.
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Gracia Albuhaire

My father-in-law was born in Turkey and had Turkish citizenship. During the fascist times the authorities wanted to send him back to Turkey as a Turkish citizen, while his wife Rebecca and the children, who were Bulgarian citizens, were to remain in Bulgaria. My father-in-law, very upset, went to Sofia to try and solve the problem. A motorcycle hit him there. His leg was broken, he was sent to a hospital and so he missed the internment in Turkey. This is how they remained in Bourgas.
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