Introduction

During a visit to the USA, I made the acquaintance of a high-school librarian and in the course of the conversations she said that she had never before talked to a person who lived through the Holocaust. She listened to my accounts with great interest, sometimes horrified and confused, often with tears in her eyes, questioning me in a choked, trembling voice. She was so grateful to hear things from an 'original source', a survivor, because school children asked her so many questions and she often was embarrassed, not knowing what to answer. After this experience I decided to write the story of my life, focusing on the Holocaust, something I had long been thinking about. I had hesitated for a long time and had no courage to do it. I knew that this would mean the opening of old wounds, the revival of painful feelings, the recalling of afflicting memories. Nevertheless, I considered it my duty to write these memoirs, to serve as a document for the coming generations, and as a warning to avoid a repetition of such tragedies. Although this book is based on personal accounts it reflects the common fate of Yugoslav Jews and is of significance to us all. Compared to other European countries, little has been written about the Holocaust in Yugoslavia, the country of my origin and I believe that we, the survivors, should bring more publicity to this period of human history. I must admit that I often did not know what was going on around me, and preferably so; had I known then what I know now I would have hardly survived. Even now I have not the strength to read those documents where the extreme cruelties of civilized mankind are reported and where my family was victimized. Inevitably I had to support my story with such documents for people who search for more detailed information and these can be found in the Appendices. As for the historical aspect, I have chosen Churchill as the main source of reference because I think he provides the essential material on the events of the Second World War, since he was one of the central figures upon whose decisions the crucial outcomes depended. He had an enormous range of connections with leading personalities, politicians as well as military men, all with the same aim in mind, to defeat the Germans and destroy Hitler's dream. Countless numbers of authentic documents, letters, telegrams, minutes, memoranda, official and personal, passed through his hands and his natural gift for writing contributed most to the historical significance of this epoch. It need not be supposed that Churchill's testimony must be accepted as the only valid aspect, especially not today after so much more has come to light from the disclosure of newly discovered documents. However, in the period I am refering to, he was certainly the highest authority. I was doubtful about which language to use - a problem not only mine but that of an entire generation who, during the war and after it, were forcibly or deliberately repatriated. Many of us left our native countries and remained in the place where we were sheltered, many others emigrated elsewhere. I decided to use English although it is neither my mother tongue nor the language of our adopted country, Israel, because I feel that a mutual understanding exists between the English speaking people and the Holocaust survivors. The story of my life is divided into three periods. The first part deals with the years before World War II, before I was twenty-one, a period of happiness, a kind of earthly paradise, although at a greater distance it was a fool's paradise. Here my memories return to a world that only a few decades ago was so different from ours, a world in which the way of life, customs, and manners had different meanings and values. The second part reviews the years during the war, a time of horror and sorrow, hell on earth; a time when I lost the greatest treasures I possessed in my life, my unforgettable parents and dearly cherished sister, my newly wedded husband and many of my relatives who were among the six million victims of the Holocaust. In these pages I want to perpetuate the memory of my beloved ones, lost to me for ever in the cruelties of life. The third part describes the post-war period, in which I succeeded in rebuilding a new home in our old-new homeland, where Jews all over the world can find a secure, true and appropriate shelter. Many people consider childhood and youth the happiest periods of life. If this is true for the majority of people, it is certainly true for me. I had the most wonderful, kind, good and loving parents in the world, who built for us a warm nest, secure and protective, full of affection and care. To my parents I owe not only my life, but so much more, the positive attitude to people and the moral values which have been my guidelines throughout my life. I shall, therefore, begin with a few details about the origin of my parents - very few indeed, because they never, or very seldom, discussed their past. Table of Contents My Parents