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Rafael Genis

I reached Kiev with the army of Marshall Rybalko [Marshall Pavel Semyonovich Rybalko (1892-1948) commanded the Third Tank Guards Army, which liberated parts of Eastern Europe from Nazi occupation in WWII] and took part in the liberation of this city. At night on 6th November we crossed the Dniepr on boats. There was a gun crew with us and they put boards one in front of the other and placed two anti-tank weapons on each of the boards. The German artillery fired on the boats from the high right bank. They hit our boat and I swam to the right bank. I was drifted away 500 meters as the current of the Dniepr was strong. I was in Kiev. There was a barge by the dock. I reached it and then I remember only a flash of the blasted shell. I can't remember anything else.
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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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Renée Molho

We arrived in Athens and went to a house in Magoufana, a suburb of Athens - Lefki today - a house offered to us by a monk from Mount Athos. The area was full of small farms, and this monk was coming every week, and we would open all the doors as he would pray, so that the entire neighborhood would listen. Once an airplane passed close by and I said to Matilde, 'Adio, Mary look!' You see, we were very easy to be spotted by someone who was after us.

At this place at Magoufana we were not alone. There was also Toto and two of his sisters. One of them was later deported and never came back, the other one married a Christian called Mikes, a member of the yachting club, and his children still live here in Thessaloniki. Toto also had another sister who had a slight mental disability and was not with us in Athens. She was also deported and never came back.

We stayed at Magoufana for quite some time. We were washing the sheets by hand and our hands would bleed, and when this priest saw the condition of our hands, he told us how to wash 'cloth against cloth' and how to tumble it. We would start at one end and fight our way to the other. In a minute he showed us how to do it, and it was simple.

This priest was called Father Kissarios. He would come to visit us every week at this little house, in Magoufana, with the farm and the vines. We were left with no money, and later it was Paul Noah who paid my share to the partisans. I suppose that this house in Magoufana must also have been paid for, but I don't know by whom.

Normally we would walk from Magoufana to Kifissia, a distance of approximately 13 kilometers. In order to purchase medicine for our father. We would walk in the dark, in the loneliness, with dogs barking and no papers, but at the pharmacy they would give us what we asked for.

The only outside contact we had was Elios, my cousin, who was hidden in a room on 3rd September Street with his mother, our aunt Rachelle. Later, when they left for Israel, we lost contact for a while.

It was quite lonely in Magoufana, so when Elios and Aunt Rachelle left for Israel we decided to go to Athens, to their place on 3rd September Street, which now was empty. First, our sick father was taken and the rest of us walked for a whole night from Magoufana to Athens. Thank God we had no unfortunate adventure, but we were walking all night, and it's a long walk!

So we stayed in Athens with our father. In the room we had a big container where our father could sit and make, whatever it was he had to make, and then, he was moved to an armchair, from the armchair to his container and back. It wasn't easy. We, the three sisters, were using the house toilet, which belonged to another family but I cannot recall their name.

One night a group of traitors came with the Germans, a quisling Jew and three Germans, to arrest Elios, who was living there before us. They didn't find him but they found us, who were Spanish citizens. At this time they had already deported all the Spanish citizens, and when they realized the situation that we were facing with the sickness of our father, they decided to take the two girls and leave one behind so she could take care of him.

Since I was the one with more patience in dealing with our father, I was left alone in taking care of him, and my sisters were taken away. They said they were taking them to check our papers etc but they didn't say where. During those moments you cannot think or feel. You are faced with fate, you live an accomplished act, and there is nothing you can do. I was left with the impression that my sisters would return but instead of that, after a short visit to the Gestapo, they were held in the military barracks at Haidari [18], a prison for all kind of people. This I learned, of course, only after the end of the war.
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Teofila Silberring

Poldek Wasserman and Fredek Thieberger, we used to call him Frycek. During the occupation they took part in the attack on the cafe 'Cyganeria' [Campaign] [2].
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Lusia [Lea Shinar], came to promote her sixth book, 'Losy krzyzuja sie w Warszawie' ['Paths cross in Warsaw']. Apparently, it's about the ghetto; I haven't had time to read it. Here, in this book, are our school friends, now living in Israel. Poldek Wasserman and Fredek Thieberger, we used to call him Frycek. During the occupation they took part in the attack on the cafe 'Cyganeria' [Campaign] [2].
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Gracia Albuhaire

I remember once a blockade. The authorities were chasing a Jew, who hid in a hencoop in a Jewish house in the highest part of the town. Later he joined the partisans. And I recall another blockade as well. A friend of mine came to me and told me to destroy anything suspicious that I had. At that time I was corresponding in Esperanto with a teacher from the countryside. I wanted to practice and learn the language. I also had a book at home with a story about a sailing boat with some 300 Jews, leaving for Israel, which sank. In that book I had made a note, which said that the Gestapo or the police had a hand in that affair of killing so many Jews. [Editor's note: The interviewee is referring to to the tragedy of a sailing boat with Bulgarian Jews aboard, which left for Israel from the Bulgarian coast in 1941 and sank in the Black Sea.] I threw both the letters and the book into the stove.
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roza kamhi

I was a member of the Party [see Yugoslav Communist Party (KPJ)] [14] from 1941. I was in Hashomer Hatzair, the most progressive Jewish group. Around this time there was a dilemma in the organization: should the whole organization take membership in the Party or should we each become members on an individual basis. The 'rosh ken' at the time was a guy named Likac [Editor's note: In 1939 Elijahu Baruh, nicknamed Likac, came to Bitola from Belgrade. He was an instructor in the Zemun and Belgrade chapters of Hashomer Hatzair. He remained in Bitola until after the capitulation of Yugoslavia.] Likac wanted us to join the Party as an organization. But after a lot of discussion we decided to join as individuals. Slowly those that were more progressive became members of the communist party, some didn't, others were in SKOJ [15]. For instance, my husband, Beno Ruso, was one of the first to become a member of the Party. Through him the party carried out its activities.

I led three or four groups of girls that were in SKOJ; from the younger ones that I previously led in ken. They helped as couriers: carrying groceries, distributing money, knitting sweaters, hats, etc. for the partisans.

Because of my father's involvement in the Ilinden Uprising my parents made no resistance when I began to actively work for the movement. They knew what I was doing and our house was even used for illegal activities. We kept some party materials at home and people from the movement would sleep there. It was very dangerous, but they didn't mind. Some Jews were active in these activities, others were not, but no one made problems. There were no traitors or spies among the Jews.
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Mayer Rafael Alhalel

I remember 23rd August 1944 clearly, because it was just before my escape from the last labor camp. On that day partisans from the Lovech squad ‘Vasil Levski’ [25] came to our camp. I knew some of them, who were from Lovech, like my cousin Albert Vaida. He died in the first stage [of the Bulgarian participation] of World War II, in Stracin [today Macedonia], as a political dissident. We met the partisans and gave them our food. We had a very evil and cruel supervisor, whom we complained about to the partisans. They sentenced him to death immediately. At that time the partisan squad had its own jury. They shot him. But 9th September 1944 was approaching and our stay in the camp was becoming just a formality. So, all the people from the camp and the partisans held a meeting, at which some of us decided to escape.
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Mirou-Mairy Angel

Things got more difficult as days went by. But my brother was reluctant leaving me alone in Athens. Mrs. Katina Manias proposed that she could hide me alone. They were very good people. They loved me very much. So my brother Alberto left for the ‘mountain’ and I went to stay with Sergio Manias’s family. They had a house like a palace at the end of Acharnon Street [near the center of Athens].
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Beno Ruso

Youth don’t think a lot about the consequences. And that was the way the times were. If you thought a lot then you didn’t do a lot, no fighting. It was very risky. Extremely risky. And even more so if you were a Jew and got caught. Then you were finished. Look at Pepo Pesun. They caught him as a partisan, they didn’t try him at all, during the night he just disappeared. He was in the partisans and then I don’t know what happened he left the partisans then he was caught by the Bulgarians and they knew that he had been in the partisans. They didn’t even try him, nothing, they just killed him. He was a Jew. Someone else they would not just kill. They would have tried him. For a Jew it was that risky. You could lose your head like this. Back then there were also those signs [yellow stars] and a curfew for Jews. Jews could not go anywhere.
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Josip Papo

When we were older we started to get involved in politics and before the war we joined the anti-fascist youth group. In Makarska, 90 percent of the citizens were anti-fascists.
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Josip Papo
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Josip Papo
Name of interviewer: Ida Labudovic
Date of interview: August 2001

Growing up
During the war
After the war

Growing up

I was born in 1923. I spent my entire childhood with my older sister in Makarska, and it was the nicest childhood that one could have. We were always on the street; we only went home to sleep and eat. I was the only Jewish boy and my sister, the only Jewish girl. (There were also Ela and Ester, but they were very young. They now live in Israel.) When we played with the other children, there was no difference between us.

Until elementary school, my childhood was very pleasant. I went to kindergarten, but enrolled late. This caused me to experience my first fear of school and that fear lasted my entire life, whenever I had to learn something. I had a good teacher. Classes were divided between rich and poor children, working-class children. As a Jew, I was in the working-class classroom. We all got along well in this classroom, much better than among the rich children who were always jealous of one another. In the fourth grade, Vito Marinovic, a French teacher, came to Makarska. He was an Ustashe and humiliated me. I resisted, but he prevented me from passing the class and I failed the grade. At the school meeting the next year, the teachers' board decided to throw me out of school. Some other girls and boys were punished along with me. I immediately turned to the secretary of the Communist Party in Makarska, who found a way to get me into another school, and I was able to finish elementary school. We fit in to life in Makarska and got along with all the youth there. We lived in the Marineta neighborhood, and all of the kids from that part of town socialized together. There were no differences between us. We each had a nickname. I was Jozi, from Joseph. One Hungarian woman called me that and some one else heard it, and the nickname stuck. Every month we played a new game until the swimming season began. We did not have toys like today. We would aim at a flat stone until we hit it and it fell over. We played “klic pic” – we hit smaller sticks with a bigger one, and the one that went furthest won. We played hide and seek. We all played together and there were never any fights between us. We were divided only by the different areas of the city. We also played war between different parts of town, and would throw stones at each other in jest. We played football with a ball made from socks. All of this was until it was swimming season. Since the beach was for foreigners, we swam on the side. We had a rowing club where I went for years. We had a four-man boat and one helmsman. When we were a little older we enrolled in the “Sokol” athletic club, where we learned volleyball and practiced on different apparatuses. We also learned how to present ourselves in public. Life was very dynamic. We all gathered on the seafront. When we were older we started to get involved in politics and before the war we joined the anti-fascist youth group. In Makarska, 90 percent of the citizens were anti-fascists.

My father and mother met each other in Sarajevo. Jewish women in Sarajevo went to dances. My paternal grandmother had instructed my father that, when he went to the dances and shakes hands with a girl, he should touch the palm of her hand. If her hand is smooth, she is lazy. If he feels calluses, if it is rough, a worn hand, then she is a hard-working woman. That is how the love between my parents began.

My father was a recruit in the Austrian army. My mother remained in Sarajevo. World War I was a difficult time. My father, who did some smuggling, helped my mother’s whole family, because my grandfather Sabetaj had already died. In 1919, at the end of the war, my parents married. They immediately moved to Dalmatia. The decision to move to Makarska saved us. We survived the war untouched. In Makarska, we were entirely equal with the others, even in 1941. I was in prison – but as a communist youth, not as a Jew.

My maternal grandfather died in 1912, before I was born. My grandmother Bojna lived a very difficult life in Sarajevo and her sons had to support her. She always had things to do. She was very thin and quiet. My clearest memory of her is that when she finished her work, she would knit socks. The next day she would undo the socks and make new ones, day after day. When we visited Sarajevo, she would make dilece, a famous Sephardic dish. She knew Hebrew letters and would use them to write everyone’s name or make a Magen David. She always wore a tukada. She spoke Ladino and Serbo-Croatian with the children.

I was one of nine grandchildren. One sister was married to a tailor named Sabataj Moric. My aunt Klara lived in Belgrade with her sons Sabataj and Moric. Aunt Sara lived in Tuzla with her two children; they were killed before the war. The eldest son had three children: Djusta, Sabetaj and Braco. Djusta and Sabataj were saved.

We went to Sarajevo once a year during the school vacation. We stayed with grandmother Bojna. It was a house across the street from Hotel Europe. It had huge rooms with rounded windows; once it was probably a warehouse. When you entered there was a hallway, and between the apartments there was a wooden terrace. It had a big kitchen and pantry. In one corner there was a water pot where we got our drinking water. Above the bed there were pictures and details about when we were all born. The beds and closets in the bedrooms were carved. Everyone would gather around the big table. Above the table there was a luster with the lamps that we lit for Shabbat. Once I was there for Tu B’Shvat, we sat around the table, passing around shoeboxes with fruit. I visited to Sarajevo with my mother and sister; my father would stay at home and work.

I was extremely close to my sister. When we came to Belgrade in 1948, they found a shadow on my lungs. At that time, I was with my sister and her daughter Blanka. Even though it was dangerous because of the illness, my sister said she could have another child, but she couldn’t have another brother. When she died, I went crazy from sadness. The relationships in our home were such that we were very close. That is how it was in general in Makarska. My sister always took care of me, she gave me pocket money, and I followed her when she did not have a boyfriend. We shared everything. She, in contrast to me, seized life, as if she knew she would die early.

My father was a merchant and my mother a housewife. We owned the shop that was registered in my mother’s name because my father did a little of everything. He finished one year of Jewish school and then spent nine years in the Austrian army. He spoke German, Hungarian and Ladino and learned them all while he was in the army. The textiles sold in the shop were mainly supplied from Sarajevo, and my father also sold seasonal goods, souvenirs. Since the shop was not big enough, we opened a larger store in which they sold many souvenirs, especially in the summertime. They did not sell any kinds of ritual items in the store, only those things that were used by the people of Makarska and those from the surrounding villages. There were a lot of confections, pants, jackets and coats. My father brought the merchandise in trunks from Sarajevo.

The store functioned until 1941, when we emptied all but a section of it. At the beginning of 1942, we received orders to hand over the store keys to the municipality, which would take over the store, since the confiscation of Jewish property had begun. The day before I had to turn over the keys, I opened the store and permitted the young people to take whatever they needed, to empty the store, leaving only one piece of each item. Afterward, the municipal authorities took the keys and sealed off the store.

We changed apartments in Makarska three times: the first time to Marineta, the next time to an apartment on the seafront with big rooms, and finally to a three-room apartment with an attic on the main street. The furniture was modern. In a separate space, there was a workroom.

Mother had a prayerbook in the house. My father prayed when he woke up. At home, my mother made the traditional foods for the holidays, which she learned to make growing up in Sarajevo. She made ruskitas, fritulikas and other pies. My father and mother observed the holidays, but they did not raise us in that manner. For Yom Kippur and the fast, my father would take me to the synagogue in Split. We would be there until 10 or 11, and then go to the seafront and look at the boats. We read the Haggadah on Pesach and we made sure that there was no bread in our house. Nonetheless, the most important thing for me was to play outside with my friends.

In Makarska, I went with the other children to the Catholic church. When my nona from Sarajevo heard this, she came to Makarska to admonish me. Then I acknowledged that this was not for me. Once, I got a stomachache from eggs that I got from the friar.

Among the Jewish families in Makarska, there was one family that lived next to us, and we occasionally socialized with them. This was the Albahari family, and they also had a shop. Mr. Albahari died from a heart attack in Vienna in 1931 or 1932. When his wife returned from Vienna, everyone came to our house the first day to mark the death. I remember this because I was playing downstairs in front of the house when my sister threw hot water out the window on me while she was making coffee for the guests. I still have a scar from that. Albahari had two small daughters, Sida and Ela, and I think his wife’s name was Mazalta. Mazalta’s sister lived with them so she would not be alone. In 1941, they went to Split. After the war they went to Israel, and Mazalta’s sister went to America.

In Makarska there was a Levi family, a husband, wife and two children. The daughter married in Split and the son was Moric Levi, who at one time was the secretary of the Jewish community of Belgrade. They never socialized with anyone. No one ever came to their house; they lived absolutely isolated. They never came to the cafes; they had no friends; they called one another “Mother” and “Father,” which was always very funny to us. They fled to Split to be with their daughter during the Italian capitulation. They were all killed in the Sajmiste death camp.

In Makarska there was also the Bilbaum family. They were a husband and wife who had no children. They educated the wife’s nephew, Mara Klemina, who worked with them. When they died, after the war, there was a question about where to bury them. Since my father had already died, Mara Klemina asked my mother if their names could be on our family monument.

There was another Papo family in Makarska with an adopted daughter, Klara. Mr. Papo was the director of finance in the Makarska district. They left before the war, but I do not know where they went. She married a doctor, Levi, and lived in Belgrade. The two of them are both buried in the Jewish cemetery in Belgrade. This Dr. Levi helped me after the war in the hospital during my treatment for pneumonia. In Makarska, there was also a Jakov Fiser, who made doughnuts. He was killed at Banija.

After finishing elementary school, I went to Sarajevo to a technical secondary school. During this time, a law was passed that Jews could not go to school, so I had to leave in the middle of the year. However, through the Party, which was quite strong, I went back to Makarska, and the Party found a way for me to continue in a technical school in Split, which I finished. While I was still in school, I became a member of the Federation of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia, and later in life this would help me greatly. The Party took care of me.

My father socialized with workers and people who worked on the waterfront. When the war began, they helped him a lot.

During the war

In 1941, all people who were considered suspicious were captured. I was among the 40 communists. The Ustashe were in power and, because I was a Jew, they contemplated liquidating me. The Italians, however, did not allow it. They released me from prison last. In the summer of 1941, I was in prison and I remember that it was Ante Pavlevic’s birthday. The Red Berets came from Zagreb. That night they captured all the leftists, and I was among them. We were first taken to the Sokol dormitory. When they brought me to the room where the Ustashe were, there was a beaten-up man from the camp whom I knew. Since they had just ripped me from my bed, I was sleepy and confused when the Ustashe asked me what I was. I said I was a Croat. The prisoner heard that, but he did not say anything. Had he, I am sure they would have beaten me until I could no longer stand. Filip Torkar, the most prominent communist, and I were in prison the longest. They started to intervene on behalf of my release. My mother went to the head of the town, who said there was no one to get me out of prison. While there she met our friend Milan Kovic’s father, Kreme, a high-ranking official, who offered to get me out of prison. They let me out of prison, and a few days later I fled to Split. I was lucky that the Ustashe had not yet become well organized and that when permission was requested for someone to go to Split that person received it.

I was in a dangerous situation again, this time in Makarska in 1942. I was on a bench when I was approached by an anti-fascist with whom I had worked illegally. I sensed he was acting strangely. I left him and went toward the beach, and he followed me. I sat for a while on the beach, and then I changed clothes and went swimming. When I turned around, I saw him with two carabineers on the spot where I had been. I swam underwater as far as I could, and made it to the other side of the shore where they could not see me. I asked a friend to get my things and take them home, if there were no carabineers. I swam a little further and got out, and went to get my things from my friend. I immediately went to the village of Batinic, above Makarska, a little below Biokovo. When I arrived, I explained what had happened and said I could not return until the situation improved. I told a partisan that I thought the young man was an Ustashe agent. The partisan said they had been looking for this person. In the middle of the night, the partisan went to Makarska, where he found the agent in a café, but he could not get to him.

The partisans in Batinic had made bunkers that were covered with boards and beams. You could lay in them, but not stand up straight. There were two holes so air could circulate. I spent two nights there. On the third night, they said the Ustashe agent left Makarska. I then returned to Makarska. The agent knew I was in an anti-fascist organization.

The Party had a man who was an officer in the gendarmerie. He was a Serb and his wife was a Croat. Through a third person, he informed us when there would be a raid so we always knew. Once I hid in the deck of a boat from Hvar for seven days.

There were other similar incidents. After the first time I was captured, I was frequently on the run and hiding, and I was always prepared for that. I had a lot of luck. One time I took some confidential material and the gendarmerie followed me. As if I had a sixth sense, I did not leave from the house where I delivered the materials. Instead I jumped the fence in one, then another, garden and from there I escaped. The neighbor told me that two gendarmes waited for a half-hour for me to leave.

Through a connection, I escaped to Split, which was under Italian control. My parents also came there. We stayed there until mid-1942 before returning to Makarska, where things were peaceful. Our house was being used as the headquarters of an illegal movement. My sister was connected to the Party already back in 1936. I was the leading organizer of the secondary school youth, and my sister was on the anti-fascist women’s board. Suddenly they began transferring Jews from Split to Makarska and Baska Voda. There were many Jews there – a great many from Bosnia and Serbia. In December 1942, the Italians were supposed to hand over control to the Ustashe. All the Jews from Makarska were gathered and interned on the island of Brac. There were Jews there from Belgrade; I remember the Vari and Albahari families.

The Ustashe knew which boat we were taking, a big boat called “Jordan.” During the night, they broke the motor. We all boarded, and control was gradually passed from the Italians to the Ustashe. Major Fenga from Bari came on another boat, which towed us to Baska Voda. There were about 80 of us. The man who maintained the Ustashe warehouse called my father before we boarded and gave him beans, flour and polenta, knowing that we might be without food for a long time. I later found this same man in a partisan camp and helped liberate him. Nonetheless, I never wore a “Z.”

We arrived at Baska Voda, then Sumartin on Brac. All the Jews were kept in a hotel that was under construction. From here I was able to make contact with the Party. They arranged for metal beds to be sent from the village for us. The Italians gave us food. There was a bakery in the village in which we were permitted to bake bread. The Italians gave us flour. None of us were tormented. I became a member of the Committee in the village. The Jews who were imprisoned around Brac and Knin were transported to Sumartin. There were about 130 of us.

In May of 1942, big boats arrived and transported us to Split, where a big ship with Jews from Dubrovnik and the surrounding area were waiting for us. We were transported to Rab. My family – my mother, sister and father – were with me the whole time, until the departure for Rab, when we split up. My mother and father went to one village, and my sister to another. I was in Lika, in two villages, Ponori and Goric. I remember there were about 30 Jews there. We lived normally for as long as it was liberated territory. At the end of 1942, the German offensive began, and we received orders to move out of there. I visited some Jewish families, but none of them wanted to go. A month and a half later, we were still there. The Germans let them move around freely so that they would feel at ease and the Germans could see where they had buried their precious possessions. After this, they all finished in Jasenovac.
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Tobijas Jafetas

Aunt Masha and Uncle Iosif treated me as if I was their own son. They were willing to adopt me, but I didn’t support this idea. My mother’s death caused me a lot of pain. I wanted to keep the name I was born with, and besides, I was hoping that my father would find me. My dear ones understood my feelings and remained my closest people till their very last days; they died in the late 1980s. My cousin Anna has also passed away. I saw Frania, my rescuer, just a few times after the war. She lived in Kaunas and died in 1993. Yad Vashem [20] awarded Frania the title of the ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ [21].
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We also left home and were hiding in St. Jacob Cathedral. Many other residents found shelter behind its thick walls. On 13th July the cannonade grew quieter. We came out of the cathedral. There was a tank and a dead Soviet soldier on it across the street from the cathedral. There was a glow in the square where wooden storages were located. There was a field kitchen installed here, and people were given soldier’s boiled cereal. We ate our ration and the dish tasted delicious. We went home. The windows were broken, and there was ash from the fireplace all around the place. We cleaned the room and placed carton sheets in the window frames. The sense of freedom and that I could walk in the streets without restrictions were new to me. Aunt Masha told me off saying it was too soon to walk in the streets. Gradually Jews from ghettos and camps started returning to Vilnius. I went to the railway station every day, hoping to meet Mama there. Some people returned from Kaunas. Mama was not there. Some time later one man told me that Mama gave her jewelry to a guard at the gate for letting her out, but when she went through the gate, this rascal shot her. I was alone and knew nothing about my father. When Kaunas was liberated, my aunt and I went there. Our house was robbed, and I was scared to be there. Besides, the house was nationalized, and I had no right to stay there. I found the bust of Mercury among the dust and dirt. It was in my father’s room watching the chaos and devastation inertly. I took the bust and it has always been with me ever since.
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In late April 1944 I went to work as usual. All of a sudden I felt something was wrong. I could hear screams and shooting from the outside. I rushed to my rabbits and took shelter in their cage in the attic. This happened to be the so-called ‘children’s action.’ They exterminated children of the ghetto that day. I stayed in the cage. On that day a tragedy happened in our house. The fascists captured Ghettele, a two-year-old girl, our favorite. Her mother was out of her mind and the fascists killed her in the yard. When Mama returned from work, she told me that I had to leave the ghetto since one could no longer stay in the ghetto. She had discussed this with some people and had everything prepared for my escape. In the evening Mama washed my clothes. In the morning she took my clothes to work with her. About two days later Mama told me to be at her factory at 12. She explained how I was to find her since I had never left the ghetto before and didn’t know the neighborhood where she worked. My first challenge was to get over the fence. I managed it all right. The policemen were used to my presence at the gate, but I didn’t use the gate. When there was nobody around, I pulled the lower wire using my leg, and then did the same with the upper wire with my hand, and got to the other side of the fence. Then it took me almost no time to find the factory. Two Jewish workers were waiting for me at the entrance to the factory. They hid me in the boiler room. This was where I saw Mama for the last time. She came to say goodbye to me. She promised that she would also leave the ghetto soon and we would reunite. I said goodbye to her and it never occurred to me that this would be the last time I saw her. Some time later the same workers helped me out of the factory. I still cannot understand, and there is nobody I can ask about it, why my cousin brother Lev Frenkel was not with me. He, his father Lazar Frenkel, my mother and the rest of the Yatkunskiy family perished during the elimination of the ghetto. I was the only survivor in the family.
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