War

At the end of the semester my parents came to Paris with my sister; my father proceeded on business to New York and we stayed on vacation in France first in PlombiŠres, a resort for medical treatment, then in the Vosges. The doctor suspected that I had a liver disease, but I was only exhausted and needed a good rest. My father planned to stay with us after his return from the USA. He returned indeed, but much earlier than planned, under quite unexpected circumstances. I shall never forget the dramatic events that followed: on the eve of his fiftieth birthday, 21 August, he called us from new York asking us about the news, whether we knew about a general mobilization in France. We didn't. Anyhow he said that he was returning immediately; we had to meet in Paris and hurry home. The next day we heard about the mobilization in France. American newspapers were simply better informed. We returned home at the end of August. When we passed through Italy some Jewish families from Romania were detained and not permitted to return home; to them and to us this seemed a disaster. Alas! We did not realize then how lucky they were; they were free to go anywhere. At that time this was the most tragic scene I had ever witnessed; how many, much worse were to follow! On 1 September Germany attacked Poland, the year was 1939 and on 3 September Britain and France declared war on Germany. We were paralyzed by fear and terror; Europe was on fire, beloved France had to pay for the mistakes of short sighted politicians. However, we were lucky, we thought, to have left in time! The idea that something much more terrifying could happen to us never crossed our minds. Yugoslavia was the elected land that could keep its neutrality. Moreover, my father had provided affidavits for us and had deposited a considerable amount of money in the Manhattan Chase Bank in New York. All this would not have moved us from our homeland. Some time later we received the first and the last orange from our grove in Palestine. I remember we once had a discussion when my father asked us to consider moving to the USA. When he was there his friends suggested he leave Yugoslavia and come over with his family. Dr. Neuberger left everything behind in Zagreb and moved to New York with his wife and two little boys. He told me much later that he had tried to influence my father to follow his example. I was blind and deaf to such proposals. If we have to fight, Yugoslavia is the only country we must live in and fight or die for if we must, from Russia salvation will come, humanity must be liberated from Western exploitation, capitalism has to be abolished, social equality is the only solution, class difference must disappear, workers have to dispose of the capital gained by trade and industry, workers must be the owners of big concerns and factories, no more small, private concerns, no more private properties, etc., etc. I babbled such and many other shallow mottoes saying that they my parents and Mira could go, but I must stay with Fritz to defend our cause! Nevertheless, had my father considered the problem seriously my protests would have been in vain. Was it his optimistic nature, the devotion to his business that was his own creation and developed to such proportions, or perhaps the fear of starting everything from the beginning? Probably all these reasons together prevented my father from taking action, i.e. leaving Yugoslavia. At this time my relationship with Fritz was no more a secret. In fact, my mother had known of it long ago. She had seen my letters and I had told her about Fritz, but never mentioned marriage. As soon as we came home, Fritz became a regular and frequent visitor, my parents accepted him and liked him. I started to visit his parents who treated me with the utmost hospitality. Here we were back home; life continued as if nothing had happened. War was a distasteful word concerning some distant places and people, nothing tangible. I resumed my studies at the University of Zagreb, as well as my meetings with Fritz-we were now more in love than ever before, we knew that we were suited to live together. When my parents realized that we were inseparable they insisted on having an engagement ceremony which took place in May l940 ,in our home; family and friends were invited. My father had now a successor. That summer he engaged Fritz in his business; first Fritz was sent to a paper factory in Slovenia (Slatkogorska Tvornica Papira) later he had to go through all the stages to get well acquainted with the paper industry, his future profession. I spent a marvellous summer with Fritzel's parents in Slovenia, in Gozd - Mrtuljek where Fritz visited us for only a few hours at a time: my parents would have never agreed that I spent a longer time with Fritz alone before our marriage. Although my own point of view about society and its conventional rules was more liberal. I hated all these parties, ceremonies, fashionable gatherings - I would never have done something to hurt my parents' feelings. I was not obstinate by nature and would act even against my own will only to please them: with all my independence, they were the main authority, but more than anything else, I loved them so much! Table of Contents Marriage