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Mico Alvo

My father was a member of the 50-member Council of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Thessaloniki. I don't know when this was. It must have been until the war. Later on the Germans gave an order for all the Jews to leave. He was one of the fifty members of the Council because his was regarded as one of the most developed businesses in Thessaloniki. But I don't know why he wanted to be a member of the Chamber. Not that he needed them for any reason. He just wanted to get in. My father was chosen as a trader at the Chamber. Trade was considered more important than industry.
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In 1943 they took over our factory and then they arrested me and my father. Until then we were working at the factory. Because there was no electricity we worked there only at night. And we were trying to get hold of raw materials. We had five or six workers working of the thirty that we had in the beginning. Anyway not all of the machines were working anymore. We didn't have the raw materials; we didn't have any moving power. We didn't have petrol. We had gas with wood. We would start the motor on wood.

The products of the factory were in great demand. We didn't produce all the products. We produced nails and a few other things. I remember the nails were made out of wire. But because we had no wire, this is what we did: We went to the junkshops and the old warehouses; we bought barbed wire that was available in large quantities. We would buy it, we would untangle it and take the prickles off and we would turn it into normal wire, which we then took and cut to nails. You can imagine how much that would cost. Even so, we still had a margin for profit. We sold that at the shop, the Germans weren't taking this for their army needs.

Apart from that, we had set up a wheat mill at the factory. Because starvation had started and there was already great shortage. They would come and we would put the wheat on the mill and make flour, for people to make bread at home. They never paid you. You wouldn't accept a payment but you would get a small percentage for the milling. I don't remember what percentage we were getting for the milling.

During the occupation they had recommended to me some secret houses [non- registered brothels]. These were much cleaner and nicer, and one could find nice girls. Many girls went there out of pure necessity because they didn't have any money. And it was completely different from what we knew from the professionals. I remember at Proxenou Koromila Street there was Mrs. Pipina. She had really nice girls and a nice environment. It wasn't like you had to go to the lounge and choose. Sometimes I would be on my way from the factory and I would get in the mood, and go. That time of the day you wouldn't find anyone there and it was...
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Dario Modiano worked for a German who was an agent of Deutsche Debarque line. He was an employee, but he was getting paid quite a lot of money. They sacked him because he was a Jew, and he left for Athens. There he opened a shop with his brother. The bad thing was that he gambled; he played cards. He used to go to the Club of Thessaloniki [23] then. He lost a lot of money. The fact that he was gambling always caused problems. My aunt would cry and get very upset. He would go to the Loutraki Casino [Loutraki: city in north Peloponnesus, 600 km from Thessaloniki]. He was supposedly going to the hot springs, but instead he would go to the casino. He never took his wife with him. She would sit with the children at home and he would go and have baths at the hot springs, drink fresh water and then go to the casino to gamble.

I used to hear these things from the elder ones when they talked about it. They were talking about this in front of us, in order to protect us. During the war Modiano served in the army as a pilot of the Italian air force. We had a picture that his daughter still has; with the pilot's uniform on, but what a pilot! He ruined an airplane once. How he managed to ruin a plane due to an emergency landing without getting himself killed, is a mystery.
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avram sadikario

The first time I felt any anti-Semitism was when the Bulgarians occupied Bitola. They spread this [anti-Semitism], but it wasn't accepted by the people. Only a few people accepted it, a very few.

My father worked until 1942; by the end of 1942 he wasn't working. They took his store. He had some money that he lived of. On 11th March 1943 [see Deportation of Jews of Bitola to Skopje] [22] they [Bulgarians] seized the whole city. There was a curfew in the whole city, no one was allowed out, not Serbs, not Jews. And the Jewish quarter was occupied and blocked off by the Bulgarian police. There was specially reinforced police near each house; they collected everyone, took them to the train station, and sent them to Skopje.
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This was in 1941. At the beginning it wasn't so bad, afterwards it got worse and worse. First of all, it was forbidden for Jews to work. Second, it was forbidden for Jews to live outside the Jewish quarter. They reduced the size of the quarter and made a special quarter where we could live. We had to pay a very high tax. It was terrible. Most were poor to begin with, but those who were not became poor. We could only walk around in the Jewish area, outside of that it was forbidden.

We had to wear stars [see Yellow star in Bulgaria] [20]. We had to wear the pins [yellow stars] for Jews which we bought at the Jewish community. They were not expensive. We had to wear them all the time. Since we weren't allowed into certain parts of the city, if we went there we covered them up.

We only had contact with non-Jewish youth. My friends from school were very good, I maintained contact with them. Some of them came to us. They could come to us but we couldn't go to them.
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Lily Arouch

My younger daughter, Nelly, had a very painful experience. Since she was a child she had wanted to become a teacher. When she finished school and was about to take the exams for the training college, she was told that it was impossible for her to be accepted because she was Jewish.

So she wasn't allowed to teach in a Greek school! That was a major shock for her, as she had grown up with that dream, and so she decided to go to Israel. I escorted her, we were together when she registered, and I must admit I found it hard to leave her there on her own, in a foreign land. That is not to say I wasn't happy she was in Israel, but I couldn't avoid being overprotective, I am a mother.
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Rahela Perisic

After the unification of the Third Reich
in 1938 (editor's note: this is how the respondent refers to the German
takeover of Austria), many Jews arrived in Banja Luka from Austria. My
uncle Salomon Levi took in one of these families. They left all of their
property behind in Vienna. I was still too young to fully understand their
situation. But, unfortunately, the hard times soon befell me too. For the
1940-41 school year I was enrolled in Prijedor. During this school year I
started to have problems because my history professor was a fascist
sympathizer and he always humiliated and insulted me in front of the whole
grade. I cried after almost every class with him. My three school friends:
Sveta Popovic, Joca Stefanovic and Milan Markovic were a great consolation
to me. They would tell me: "Don't give in to him, hold your head up high,
proudly, high, you are not going to let one fascist make you suffer." I
listened to them. Numerus Klausus, a law which restricted the number of
Jewish children who were able to go to school, had already been enacted.
They carried this out especially rigorously with those boys and girls who
were supposed to enroll in the higher grades of the gymnasium. At the
teacher's meeting the director of my school insisted that I be thrown out,
but I was lucky and my physics, geography and literature professors lobbied
for me to stay. Their argument was that it would be better to dismiss a
younger student who had time to transfer to some trade school rather than
me. In the end they did not throw me out. I learned about this incident
during the war when I met one my professors.
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Albert Eskenazi

soon as the war began and the independent state of Croatia was
established, the persecution of the Jews began. They expelled us from all
schools and faculties of the university. I remember that the director of my
gymnasium called my mother and, in a very cultured way, he said that he
unfortunately had to inform her that her son could no longer attend school,
that he was very sorry, but that the order came from the government, and he
asked her to please understand. I remember that he said: "There will come a
time when they will be able to go to school again." Clearly, that referred
to only those who survived, because 80 percent did not survive. My sister
almost finished elementary school, but she could not enroll in the
gymnasium.

Our community established a Jewish school so that we did not miss out on
our education. This was in Zagreb. The school functioned very well. The
professors were all Jews. There was one for Croatian-Serbian language,
another for mathematics, handiwork, etc. However, since there were waves of
deportations to the camps, every day there was one professor fewer or two
students fewer. They would come to people's houses during the night and
take them away to the camps.

In school, we celebrated Shabbat. We lit candles and sang songs. We did
this until the school lost its sense, once 80 percent of the teachers had
been deported, and maybe there was one left. One day Mikija was not there,
they had taken him; Lee was not there, they had taken her.

My father was taken to Jasenovac on September 19, 1941. First he was taken
to Stara Gradiska and then to Jasenovac. It is hard to know what was worse,
to be in Stara Gradiska or Jasenovac - the camps were even connected. We
stayed in Zagreb, and no one touched us. They took the Jews in two ways,
sometimes the whole family and sometimes just the head of the family. When
they took my father, they took only the men. However, two months later,
they came after the women and children as well. We were not at home. I
remember the details. We heard that the next day they were going to deport
all the Jews whose last name began with K. We had relatives named Kon. That
morning my mother went with us to the Kons, who did not live far from us,
to tell them what we had heard and to hide. My mother drank coffee with
them, then we went back to our apartment where our neighbor told us: "Mrs.
Eskenazi, run away; they are looking for you. Hide until this passes." We
hid for a few days with relatives, he was a Jew and she was a Catholic and
was in some way protected. Afterward, we hid with a Croatian family we knew
from when we had lived on Sava Road. Then we hid with a Moslem waiter who
knew my father. My father had gone to a café where he worked; his name was
Fajko. He hid us with his wife. At some point my mother lost her nerves and
patience and said: "No one is going to hide us any longer. We are going
home and whatever is the fate of the others will be our fate as well.
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Matilda Cerge

The Germans sealed off our store, with one of those seals, as Jewish property, they stamped it and then they took everything.

We went to school until it was forbidden for all Jewish kids to go to school. [Editor's note: Already in August 1940 there were signs that Jewish students were being denied enrollment in schools and expelled. On 5th October 1940 the Numerus Clausus was passed in Yugoslavia and with it the first formal restrictions on education for Jews.]

That was terrible, very unpleasant. I don't remember how they informed us of this or when. Jews were forbidden to appear in public places, they weren't allowed to work in public institutions or go to school.

For instance, my mother told Grandmother's sister's son, Isak - we called him Red Isak [because he was a red head] - Isak Koen was his name, 'Isace, you are healthy, innocent, join the Partisans. Run to the forest to save yourself. I will help you.

I will go with you to Avala [A 511 meter peak, 18 km south of Belgrade], and you flee to the forest, so that you can save yourself.' The other young people had been taken away for work. And Mother helped him get to the forest. But instead of going further, imagine, he came back. In the end they caught him. None of them were saved.

My mother's brother [Rudolf] learned that Belgrade was going to be bombed and the day before [6th April 1941] [8] he took my sister, mother and me, along with his wife and his daughter, in a car to Umcare, a village near Belgrade. Grandmother and Father were left behind in Belgrade during the bombings. Father was in a wheelchair and Grandmother old, and they couldn't go with us.

The car that picked us up was a state-owned car because Rudolf worked in a state hospital while he was in Belgrade. We stayed with some man in a house there for a few days. After the bombing they immediately moved us [my sister and I] to my uncle's apartment in Banovo Brdo [a neighborhood on the outskirts of Belgrade].

In front of our apartment on Gospodar Jovanova there was a 100-kilogram unexploded bomb and a big crater. The whole house was crumbling. Father and grandmother were sitting in the house unable to help themselves. Mother left us up there [in Banovo Brdo] and then went to see what was happening with Father and Grandmother.

Then she would take us to visit Father and Grandmother for a few days. [It was during one such visit] that the German came and told us, 'Jews out!' So from the bombing [of Belgrade] until the time when the German came to evict us, we were mostly in Banovo Brdo with my uncle. Before they took Father and Grandmother, when people started to get the armbands, Mother asked the nuns to take us in, and we stayed there for three months.
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The people in the school didn't know about us. Imagine this: the priest asked the school director to accept us in the school. We had no documents because I told you that Mother packed up all our documents. We had nothing. No documents or diplomas with which to prove that we had been in school. The director accepted us and only he knew we didn't have documents. The priest brought us there. He accepted us on his personal responsibility.
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Gracia Albuhaire

The Jewish school was immediately occupied - first by the German troops in 1941, when they were on their way to Greece, and later by the police. It was never opened again. Jews weren't allowed to study in high schools. Interned young people from Sofia came to our town, excellent students, who were deprived from the opportunity to continue their education. Only the best among the local Jewish schoolgirls and schoolboys were allowed to study in the Bulgarian school. The ones from the capital were forbidden. Of some 1,000 Jewish students, only three people from Karnobat - I, Nora Hanne and Mois Tano - were admitted to go on with our education in the Bulgarian school.
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There were no possibilities either for dairy farming, or for leather processing or even trading! We all became unemployed, hungry, no matter how rich or poor we were. Only those were able to survive, who had plenty of gold or money and who had previously used the chance to put something aside for savings.
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After that our radios and jewelry were confiscated, we were forbidden to walk freely on the street. Our street had two ends - one end led to the main street, the other to the Gypsy neighborhood. We didn't have the right to walk in the center, which contained a large street with several branches. We didn't have the right to go to the cinema or to the theater. Bulgarians were forbidden to hire us for work.
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Rifka Vostrel

Before and during World War II we lived in Split. Looking back, I have to admit that Italians were relatively gentle to us, Jews, especially in comparison to the Ustashas and the Germans [see Italian occupation of Yugoslavia] [4]. The Jews of Split didn't have to wear a yellow star, but they were restricted in their personal lives.

Some of the shops had a sign stating: 'E vietato gli regresso agli Ebrei' [It is forbidden for Jews to enter]. But nobody stuck to it, on the contrary, there were many good people who wanted to help us and indeed did help us. Unfortunately, I didn't go to school because it was forbidden for Jews [see anti-Jewish laws in Croatia] [5], but I finished the 2nd grade of high school [today the 6th grade of elementary school] privately, in a school that was organized by the Jewish Community of Split.

It was in June 1942 when a group of young fascists came to Split. At that time Split was under Italian occupation, but these were local fascists. I remember it like it happened yesterday. I was thirteen years old. I was swimming and playing with my friends on the beach, when I realized it was time to leave in order to be home in time for Sabbath.
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Bluma Lepiku

I worked in the recreation center for three years. The Doctors' Plot [25] had no implications for me. This period was quite unnoticed in our part of the country. I remember the day, when Stalin died in March 1953. Many employees of the recreation center were not just crying: they were grieving and sobbing, as if they had lost their own father. They were lamenting and sobbing. I did not cry and had no feeling of grief. I could not understand why they were grieving. I was telling them that we are all mortal and one day we will go, too. I though to myself: are they so dumb? Don't they know that Stalin was an evildoer? As it happened, they didn't.

Stalin was mean in his treatment of doctors. It was a good thing he died and they were rehabilitated [26]. However, even now many people believe that Stalin was a great person and chief. Well, let everybody believe what one wants to believe. For some people Stalin was an evildoer, for others he was an idol, and this won't change.
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