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elvira kohn

My mother came to Zagreb, along with the hospital and the pharmaceuticals, three weeks after me. In the meantime, I stayed with a friend from Dubrovnik, a non-Jewess, in a house on Buliceva Street. When my mother came, I found a bigger apartment for the two of us, and we moved to Stanciceva Street. After the war, the defense and army headquarters of the JNA [10] was formed, and I was appointed by the supreme headquarters of Croatia to work in the newly established defense and army headquarters.

At first, I had to organize the photo laboratory, collect the necessary equipment, cameras, and so on in order for the photo department to function. I also gathered the people who worked with me, as I soon became head of the photo department. I supervised the work of others in my department but I also took photos myself. My love for photography and for capturing important and interesting moments was still very strong.

I usually attended party meetings and took photographs; there were various events that took place, like meetings or celebrations of 8th March, 1st May, 25th May [11] and other party celebrations or commemorations. I had to travel a lot and I was really quite busy, but I enjoyed doing my work. I was very lucky to having found a profession that I loved.

In my work, I often met JNA officials and important people; once I met Josip Broz Tito [12]. The photos that I took were mostly published in local newspapers, such as Vjesnik and Naprijed. Often, I took photos for my own pleasure: shots of nature, the people that I loved, my friends.

I continued taking photos of small children, usually my friends' or just children that I saw on the streets. Even after I retired in 1964, I continued taking photographs privately and enjoying photography as an art form. I donated my photographs and negatives to the Croatian History Museum, and they are still kept there today.

I never married. It is my love for photography that should be blamed for this. I was always away; I spent three days in Zagreb, then five days on a trip working, then I was in Zagreb again, then working away again. It was hard to find someone who would have tolerated this! One suitor once told me, 'You love your camera more than you love me!' True, I loved my work, and I dedicated myself and my whole heart to it.
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We reached Zagreb on 9th May 1945 around 5pm. We crossed the Sava bridge and arrived at the main square. The welcome was amazing. People were standing on the streets all over the city of Zagreb, waiting for us to come, clapping their hands, waving the flags. The atmosphere was magnificent, full of emotions, people were delighted and excited. Everyone knew that the war was over, that the Ustashas and the Germans had left the city, that Zagreb was liberated.

After the celebration on the main square, a group of us partisans, who had been together throughout the war, went to Zvonimirova Street, where the headquarters of Pavelic [9] used to be. We decided to sleep in the headquarters of Pavelic, as a statement of victory over the Ustashas. We were warned not to touch anything because there was danger that the Ustashas had left bombs and munition.

There was still a smell of smoke in the backyard of the headquarters; the Ustashas must have been burning the documents and papers just the day before when they were driven out. My first night in Zagreb, I slept on a table in Pavelic's headquarters, with an army coat and a gun underneath me.
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Each one of us had his duties and knew what he/she was supposed to do. I knew exactly what took place when and where, in terms of meetings, conferences, events, campaigns, and I followed the schedule. I was the only female photo-reporter within ZAVNOH. There were two other male photo-reporters, but sometimes there were called in for other duties, so there were times when I was the only photo-reporter for ZAVNOH.

After the supreme headquarters formed their own public-relations department, I started to work for them, and I stayed there until the war was over.

For a while we stayed in Topusko and were about to start the preparations for celebrating 8th March [International Women's Day]. However, we received the order to move to Zadar. Zadar was terribly bombed, but liberated, and so we were given orders to reach Zadar.

After we packed our belongings, we set out on our journey from Topusko to Zadar. In front of us was a Russian military mission, the English and the Americans, and each had flags on their trucks. And, again, the day was sunny and clear, the Germans saw the truck convoy and started bombing. When we were forming our convoy, each truck had a number; each department received a number and had to load the truck with the corresponding number.
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While I was with the partisans, I always emphasized that I was Jewish. I've never hidden the fact that I am Jewish. There was also no need; as soon as I said that I had been on the Island of Rab, it was known that I was Jewish. I said I was Jewish so that I wouldn't put anyone or myself in an uncomfortable position.

I wanted to let everyone know so that nobody would say anything against the Jews. There were other Jews with me in ZAVNOH in other departments. Some were typists, some clerks, and so on. Nobody treated us any different than the rest. There were Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Jews. Everyone was treated equally, and the relations among us were fine. We all had a common goal: to liberate our country and bring about peace.
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When the partisans arrived from Crikvenica on the Island of Rab, whoever wanted to join the partisans could join them. A group of young Jewish boys registered and was sent to Korski Kotar. Most of them didn't know how to use weapons so many of them lost their lives soon after they were liberated from Rab.

I immediately decided to join the partisans. They asked every one of us individually what we wanted, where we wanted to go, which brigade we want to join, what our profession was. I told them I was a professional photographer, and that I had a camera, that I had a Leica.

They were very surprised to hear this, and very glad, so they invited me to join the advertising and public-relations department of ZAVNOH [8], which was situated in Otocac at the time. They asked about my mother and what her profession was. So I said she was a housewife, and they replied that she should also come because we would need her around the kitchen. And so we left the Island of Rab; most of the inmates from the camp decided to join the partisans.

We got aboard a large boat that had both motors and sails, and arrived in Senj. Senj was completely bombed and destroyed, the whole town except for a church. We stayed in the church for several nights and slept on the wooden church benches. From Senj, we left on ox-drawn carts across Velebit and reached Otocac. For a while we stayed there. My mother worked in the kitchen, and I was part of the public-relations department of ZAVNOH. Apart from this department, there were other departments, like the educational, cultural, technological one and others.

My job was to take photos of various events that took place within ZAVNOH. They had board meetings, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, concerts; all kinds of events were taking place. It was like a government so many activities were going on, and I had to take photos of all the events. All the high-ranking officials of the government were there.
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Rafael Genis

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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avram sadikario

Once they arrested a Jew named Isak Levi: 'You participated in demonstrations.' 'No, I did not.' They didn't believe him and they beat him, beat him and beat him. When he was released, we received a directive not to speak with him for some time to make sure that he hadn't become an agent. Later we heard that he wasn't an agent, and he told us the whole story. 'You participated in demonstrations; you spoke against us Bulgarians.' 'Why do you think I said that?' There was no one calmer than Isak Levi; he wasn't even a member of the Party.

I was a member of the Party in Belgrade as well. There I participated in demonstrations. Oh, how I was beaten there. There was a demonstration against the government on 14th December 1939. All governments were reactionary and unjust. The governments changed but the relations were the same. They were against communism, against freedom, etc. There were a lot of people at the protest. It was a demonstration for communism. There were maybe a thousand students and workers there. They were all for communism. Communism was very widespread. The demonstration went from Slavija to Vuk Karadzic monument. [Editor's note: Slavija Circle is one of the main intersections in Belgrade. This intersection is named after the hotel that Frantisek Nekvasil, a Czech, built in 1885. In the 1970s a new hotel with the same name was erected in the same place. At the intersection of Bulevar Kralja Aleksandra and Ruzveltova stands the Monument to Vuk Karadzic which was erected in 1937 by the Belgrade municipalities for the 150th anniversary of his birth. Vuk is considered the father of the Serbian language.] In the middle the police came and started to beat us and we started to beat the police. We had rocks. We had collected rocks and kept them in our pockets. They hit us and we hit them.
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I officially joined the Party in 1941. Before that I was a member of SKOJ [21] starting in 1938. The committee evaluated my activities and recommended that I be a member of the Party. There were no signatures. It was all illegal. They reviewed my activities and recommended me. There were not a lot of members of the Party. A party member was extremely active. In Bitola I would say, among Jews and non-Jews, that there were 30-40 members. All 30-40 of them would never get together. When there were demonstrations yes, but they didn't know who the others were. I didn't know who was a member of the Party. When they first recommended me I refused because I didn't deserve it. But you couldn't just say 'I do not deserve.' They just recommended you. The president of the cell, Done Popandonov, came to me to tell me this.
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Rahela Perisic

In 1944 I caught pneumonia. The war efforts, hunger, walking, exhausted me
terribly. My unit decided to transfer me to liberated territory from the
medical facility. As soon as I got a little better I began to work in the
youth organization in the liberated territory. This was in Bosanski
Petrovac in Grahovo, in Jajce and in Travnik. At that time I was selected
to be part of the top leadership for Bosnia and Hercegovina in the Central
Committee of Anti-Fascist Youth. My work was a great help to our army. I
organized youth to help carry the wounded, to plow, dig, sow since all the
food was sent to the front lines. We started a literacy course, we taught
the youth many useful things and skills. For this work I was also awarded.
I received a lot of recognition. I received awards for serving Bosnia and
Hercegovina, for contributing to the fight, and after the war for my work
with children. I was in Bugojno until 1945 when I heard that Belgrade was
liberated. Naturally we were overjoyed, however all of Yugoslavia was still
not liberated. Fortunately that too happened.
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War broke out in 1941 and a German unit entered Drvar. Not much time passed
before my father, mother and younger sister Judita, and my younger brother
Moric, who was eleven, were taken to what was called a reception camp in
Bosanski Petrovac by the Ustashe [Before and during WWII Ustashe were an
extreme right wing political and military organization of Croatian
nationalists on the German's side. They ruled Croatia from 1941-1945]. When
this happened I was at my aunt's house. The Ustashe told her that she must
send me to the camp but I did not go and I ran away instead. I hid in
surrounding villages, however in the end I fell into the hands of the
Ustashe and I suffered terribly when they took me to prison. But something
happened to save me. Serbs, who were also mistreated by the Ustashe,
attacked Drvar. I was liberated at that time. I immediately registered to
help at the Drvar hospital. Salomon Levi, who I knew from before, worked
there as a doctor. I contacted him and told him that I wanted to help in
the hospital since before the war I had learned first aid in school. From
that day I became a fighter against fascism.
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Isroel Lempertas

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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Albert Eskenazi

We came to
Topusko, where there were many deserted hotels and buildings, and we found
accommodation there. Everyone had work. My mother worked as a cook and my
sister and I took care of some baths. This was the spa at Topusko; there
was a building with pools of warm water from nearby springs. We bathed
every day and they called us the cleanest partisans, because partisans
tended to have lice and only bathed once in a while. I became a courier,
first in the command center in Topusko and then in the Zavnoh, the anti-
fascist organization. This was the partisan authority for Croatia.

Zavnoh had its own management, technical and health sections, the
partisans' future ministry. I was assigned to the management department,
which was responsible for legislation. My boss was Leon Gerskovic, a Jew.
He later became the third most-important person dealing with legislation in
Yugoslavia: first was Mosa Pijade, then Kardelj and then Leon Gerskovic.
When they transferred me to the propaganda section, where the mimeograph
machines spun out materials, this started my love of printed things, of
printing things. I was in this section of Zavnoh almost until the end of
the war. When the Germans capitulated, Zavnoh was moved to Sibenik,
liberated territory, as was the rest of Dalmatia.
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Rifka Vostrel

In 1943 after the Italian capitulation [8], my whole family and I joined the partisans. The Jews who stayed in Split and didn't want to leave were killed by the Ustashas and the Germans. Because I was in the youth organization and doing illegal work, I knew that something would happen. In the youth organization we were very well organized.

We were divided into groups of several girls each. From time to time we used to meet, but every time in a different apartment. There we read literature that was printed on unoccupied territory ['Omladinski borac' - 'Youth Fighter'], exchanged experiences about books and which books should be read - we mostly read Soviet literature - and finally addressed concrete problems.

Once, I was obligated to distribute flyers - I don't recall what they were about, but I remember, in one house that I went to, the door was open. It was rude of me to just enter, walk in and leave the flyer on a small wardrobe. Who knows if it was or wasn't a pleasant surprise for the family.
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I stayed with my aunt for a few days and then returned to Split to my family. In 1942 I became a member of a Zionist cell. I was very young and angry with the world and everything that was happening so I desperately wanted to do something to stop it.

After I joined the Zionist cell, my Jewish friend, who was also a member, introduced me to Bosa. Bosa was a strong, happy and very friendly girl. She told me stories about the partisans, illegal work in order to help the partisans, Comrade Tito [6] and the Communist Party.

I was hoping to become one of them, but unfortunately she didn't accept me, but told me to become a member of the SKOJ [7] instead. At first I was sad, but later I found out what a great honor it was for a young girl like me to become a member of the SKOJ.
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roza kamhi

Eventually the Party made contact with the head of the prison. Since it was already the end of the war, Bulgaria had already capitulated, they said, 'if you do not release the political prisoners - there were three large cells of male political prisoners and one female cell - you will be killed.' And they released us, only the political prisoners; the criminals remained. We went straight to the partisans to Podmocani [30 kilometers west of Bitola] where we were given orders. I was instructed to stay in this place to work with women on behalf of the Party. Some went to the army, to partisans. I was in this place for almost a year, until the final liberation of Macedonia.

Image removed.I went to visit different villages to talk to women. We helped them organize and prepare for the new government. We visited women and told them they had to give food for partisans. I was in the Communist Party's Regional Committee. We worked for the Party then. That area had 20-30 villages. There were Albanian villages so we went with a woman who knew Albanian. This was political work.
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