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Nachman Elencwajg

There was one more prisoner, some landowner from the area, who had been arrested for shooting at the Russians. They were to be taken to Brest, to the underground prison there, the Kleparz, where the NKVD [10] held its trials. They brought out the two of them and put them on the back of the truck. Styczynski crossed himself; he knew he was going to death. At that moment the Jewish militia commander, who had the sheets with the signatures, shouted, 'Styczynski! Off the truck!' which meant he was saved. The man subsequently underwent a transformation.
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ruth laane

So, I was an appointee for the position of the Komsomol leader. I spoke out disqualifying myself from this appointment. I can't remember what reason I offered in this regard, but I thought it was rather convincing. However, I noticed that nobody listened to me and they were going to vote for me. I took the floor again, and this time I said that since our Komsomol activities spread as far as collecting monthly fees I believed there were other people that would do a better job. Deathly silence fell on the audience. The students were in silence, and our tutor from the College Party unit also kept silence.

Anyway, I was not elected. Our faculty management took no measures against me, or at least, I did not know if anything unusual was happening. Only when we met 20 years later, my former co-students told me that after I spoke they felt like a bomb had exploded. Any way, I said what I believed was appropriate and I was not elected to this position.

I got a job appointment [29] and went to work as a teacher of Russian literature and language at a general education school in Tallinn. One year later I was offered a position of lecturer in our college and I accepted the offer.

This job was more difficult, but I enjoyed it more than working at school. I would have had no problems working in college if I had joined the Party, since, from our management standpoint, I had two big shortcomings: I wasn't a party member and I was Jewish. Therefore, I was unprotected. In college I was offered to join the Party. The party secretary of our faculty approached me and told me that since I was working with the new generation, I should join the Party. I replied that I couldn't. I could not raise my hand voting 'for' at party meetings, if I disagreed. It is true, I could not do it. And since it was quite frequent that I disagreed, I could not possibly join the Party. This was the last time I had this offer.

However, this refusal had no impact on my work, and I enjoyed working at college. I liked working with students. I also had other responsibilities. I was bound to be involved in scientific research and I didn't have much time for that. Our managers were decent people. Actually, there were disagreements, but they had nothing to do with my national origin or views. Also, I could not speak out what I thought in class, but I didn't mention what I disagreed about either. It was always possible to balance on a safe side.
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I remember the Doctors' Plot [22] in January 1953. Now I wonder that this fearful period only lasted for two months. NKVD employees [23] managed a lot through this short period of time.... I was 13. I remember a meeting at school where students of our 7th grade held 'murdering doctors' up to shame. They made speeches saying what rascals those doctors were. I remember that one Jewish girl spoke even having no direction from the teacher. She also said how terrible this was.

My grandfather had many friends and acquaintances, and they often came to see him and discuss political news. My grandfather read newspapers, and could read between lines, which was common in the Soviet Union. He also commented on what he had read saying 'Well, if they write like this, this means...' He also liked listening to 'The Voice of America' [24] and other international radio stations that were forbidden in the USSR, and also discussed what he had heard.

I am grateful to my grandfather that all such discussions took place in my presence. Nobody feared that I could mention something that was not safe for my grandfather or his acquaintances. I think my grandfather did a lot for me. He planted the seeds of doubt in me, and he taught me to think and analyze. These seeds have grown out.

I remember 5th March 1953, when Stalin died. We knew about it from the radio news before it was time for me to leave for school. When my grandfather heard that Stalin had died, his face brightened with happiness. My grandfather did not work on this day as if it was a Jewish holiday. This was so very unusual that my grandfather stayed away from work on a weekday, which had never happened before. On hearing the news my grandfather rushed to see my mother and tell her the news. My grandfather was really happy, but for me Stalin's death was a terrible blow. We had a mourning meeting at school, and all attendants were sobbing.
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Cilja Laud

Father did not like Stalin and he never held it back from me. Father and his friends often said in my presence that we would be much better off without Stalin, called him blood-thirsty, told us about repressions, the Gulag. There was such a period in Estonia, in the late 1940s, when very few Gulag survivors started coming back. They spoke of the horror of Stalin's camps and it was hard to believe in that. Father understood clearly who Stalin was and explained that to me, though he warned me not to discuss those things with anybody.

Father was frank with the people who were surrounding him he must have said something what he was not supposed to and somebody informed against him. Father was arrested. I recall, I was on the way home from school and saw my father was walking towards me with two men accompanying him on both sides. I asked him where he was going and he kissed me and said that it might the last time we see each other. Fortunately, his fears were not realized. During the litigation he was not accused of political crime, but of larceny. Nobody believed that as they understood that it was connected only with the politics. He was sentenced for a long time, but he was actually in prison for two years and was pardoned. Father's friend Rachmiel Bloomberg helped him a lot while he was in prison.
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Grandmother started baking pies to make some money for a living. When Tallinn Jews found out that Grandmother Genya had come back to Tallinn, they started asking her to make lunches at least. Grandmother was happy to do what she liked again. She even managed to open a small canteen in her apartment. Of course, it was impossible to do it officially during the Soviet regime, but Grandma was a very smart woman and she could make it so that nobody could find fault with her.

One room was occupied by Grandmother. There was a large table in the other one, where she served meals to everybody who came over. There were mostly visitors, whom she treated. Nobody said that they had to pay for her treat. Of course, if the authorities had found out that Grandmother had a canteen, and made money with that, they would have closed it down and fined her at best. But most likely she would have been put in prison as at that time private entrepreneurs were in disgrace as they allegedly hampered the economy of the country. People were sentenced for a pretty long term for that.

Of course, there were inspections: she explained that her prewar friends came over to her as they knew she was a good cook and she said that she treated them to food free of charge. If she had a chance to feed people, why should anybody care? Strange as it may be, that explanation was accepted. Some of the visitors came over two to three times a week. There were even some people who came every day. There were all kinds of people, even the most respectable Jews in Tallinn. Of course, Grandmother took money from people who were well-off, but she also helped a lot of poor people, and not only Jews.
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Isac Tinichigiu

I was glad about the Revolution. When the first riots began in Brasov in 1987 [see 1987 Workers Revolt of Brasov] [21], I was skiing with my son. When I came home in the evening, I found a friend of ours there, who told us what had happened. I started jumping from joy: ‘Finally the working class is awakened. The fool [Nicolae Ceausescu] is going down!’ So you can imagine what I felt in 1989. No matter how wicked the present system is, it is infinitely better than the old one, because you have freedom of speech. You don’t have to be afraid that for anything you say you can be arrested by some hooligan just because he is working for the Securitate.
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Eshua Aron Almalech

My father was a distinguished social democrat, and as early as 1946 in Stara Zagora he was invited to run for MP from this party. But then came the heated division between the parties, which formed the coalition Fatherland Front [10] against the fascist government. After the 9th September victory the communists started following closely the Soviet and pro-Stalinist policy, while their other allies did not agree with it and formed an opposition, which my father joined. He did not manage to become an MP because many social democrats were sent to the communist jails. He was also sent to jail for a couple of days because he had spoken against the dictatorship in Stara Zagora. But I was able to have him released with the help of some friends of mine and of my friend Mony Dekalo. I took him to Sofia where he worked for the Jewish organization and no longer took part in politics.
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Mieczyslaw Najman

When Hitler came to power [9], he wiped out all opposition. Hindenburg gave up power; he was weak and had nothing to say, and Hitler started filling all the top posts with his people. People said things would soon get nasty. Hitler had all the power and, above all, that he was oriented solely against Jews. 'Mein Kampf' - it said all Jews needed to be destroyed.

Why? Because Jews in Germany had a strong position, owned the industry. And the Germans envied that. And Jews had given them money to prevent communism. But the poor are always the most numerous and that was how he appealed to the nation.
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Chasia Spanerflig

Our calm, rich and serene life ended in June 1940, when the Soviet army came to Lithuania [16]. I know that many, especially poor Jews, hoped for and gladly welcomed the Soviet Army. The Soviet regime didn’t bring about anything good. Soon goods vanished from the stores. Bread was only of the lowest grade. Our family had products in stock and didn’t feel the need of them. Soon our store was nationalized. Repressions, arrests and deportation [17] commenced and my husband’s parents moved to a smaller apartment, hoping to escape exile. They weren’t disturbed, but Boris, a famous Zionist, had to go into hiding. First he lived with one of his friends. He changed places, but it wasn’t safe as all of them belonged to Zionist circles. I was pregnant again and on 20th April 1941 I gave birth to a boy. I gave birth in a private maternity hospital, in a separate ward. The parturition was normal. I named the boy after my favorite Grandfather Velvl.
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Moshe Burla

From my family, I was the last one to come back to Thessaloniki. I was the last to return because I went to Naousa, where they had told me that my mother lived, in the house of an old school friend of mine, who was now a major in the army and had come from Egypt; Mr. Oikonomou his name was and he was a captain in Naousa. He was not treating the villagers well, because Naousa was a village of partisans and he was a major of the army.


When I got to Thessaloniki, in the neighborhood of Agia Triada, I got a trolley to put my things in, and I was heading for home. It seems that one of the people that I met while arranging things had nailed me and they came from the Security Police to catch me. They took the trolley, and took me to their main offices. They asked, ‘What have you got here?’ ‘I have some blankets, some bullets and some other things.’ They took the blankets, I had five for the whole family, but they also took other things that had fallen out. And this anti-communist in Thessaloniki, the well-known Koufitsa [24], the head of the secret police said, ‘You see, Burla, everything has come back to us.’ I replied, ‘As time will go by and in the years to come, we will regain what has been taken from us. As soon as he heard that, he and a few others fell on me, and beat me up badly.


Anyway, so I got to the house wounded. When my mother saw me, she was shocked. They all had come down from the mountain, they got a house of an old Jewish family that now lived in Switzerland. This house was left empty, we let ourselves in, us and a few other Jews that later moved to Israel. So that was our haunt. And that’s how the whole family got back together and we started all over again.
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