Youth

On the whole we were happy children. We had all the reasons to be happy: we were surrounded by love and care, we had the secure feeling that everybody who came to us loved us and our standard of living was adequate to our needs and desires. Our house was never dull, our parents had many friends, mother kept close contact with her family, Mira and I had our friends, and father's business associates in the country and from abroad were our frequent guests. I do not exaggerate when I say that we kept an open house. It often happened that my father had no time to announce in advance the arrival of a guest and gave a last-minute call to my mother, but she was used to such surprises and with the help of our cook a perfect lunch or dinner was served on time. In my family religion was professed in moderate ways. As I said before, grandmother had her reasons for not going to the synagogue, but she must have come from a traditional Jewish family: though she never spoke about her past, she objected when we did any handwork on Saturdays. My mother went to the synagogue regularly, sometimes on Friday evenings, always during the High Holidays when father too joined her; both had their seats in the big temple; Mira and I also went with mother. Our holidays were always a festive occasion. T'he table was appropriately set, guests invited - usually my grandmother's sisters. Each Passover mother renewed our wardrobe, the 'Mah Nishtana! was recited with great solemnity, during the eight days my mother ate only matzot; for Yom Kippur we were sent to my parents' friends because in our home there was no cooking and later we both fasted. There was no greater joy than Hanukkah, with the candles lit every evening and the beautiful presents we received every year. The political system in Yugoslavia was tolerant and Jews were free to practice their rites: we stayed home from school during our holidays, after the prayers we gathered in front of the synagogue. I cannot remember any resentment against us, any sign of anti-Semitism, at least not openly. There were some remarks, as 'You are really not Iike other Jews, nobody would believe that you are Jewish' which was considered as a kind of compliment. Indeed, it was not easy to maintain the right balance in a neighbourhood of a Christian majority. Their religious tradition was very attractive to us children and we were sometimes invited to celebrate Christmas Eve in Christian homes. We had not to go far to listen to Christmas carols- my mother's brother married a Catholic and their only son, my first and only cousin, was Catholic too. My grandmother's brother married a Protestant and their children were, of course, not Jewish. Only seldom were we permitted to attend these celebrations because my father disapproved of it. He also protested when my great-aunt's business associate, a Protestant, sent us a Christmas tree; he soon abolished this custom. For several years he permitted us to put out shoes on the windowsill on St Nicholas Eve. In the morning our shoes were filled with candies and all kind of presents and we believed that this was St Nicholas (Santa Claus) doing. This custom was also not approved for long. There was one Jewish school in Zagreb, with only four elementary classes, but why my parents sent me first to another school I do not know. In any case, my first day in school had a considerable effect on my mind. The teacher asked if we knew prayers. I recited the German prayer Grosa had taught me, 'Mude bin ich':

             Mude bin ich': Mude bin ich, geh zur Ruh                     I am tired, go to rest
             Schliesse meine Auglein zu.                                         Close my little eyes.
             Vater lass die Augen Dein                                           Father let your eyes
             Uber meinem Bettchen sein.                                         Watch over my bed.
            Alle die tnir send verwandt                                          Let, o Lord, all my kin
            Herr lass ruhen in Deiner                                            Hand Rest in your lap.
            Alle Menschen, gross und klein                                   Give support to all men,
            Sollen Dir empfohlen sein.                                           Young and old.
           Amen                                                                            Amen

And And some children knew  the paternoster.  The teacher then taught the
whole class the paternoster with the sign of the cross at the beginning and end
of the prayer.  Next day I was transferred to another class and never again
participate in prayers.  The children gave me some disdainful looks and I
understood that I was not one of them.  That year I remained in the same
school, next year I learned at home because of an illness and for the last two
elementary classes went to the Jewish school.  My parents did not make the
same mistake with my sister who from the beginning went to the Jewish
school.
Jewish high schools did not exist in Yugoslavia and we had no choice, but I
cannot complain that I had ever felt a stranger in high school.  I liked my
teachers and my schoolmates; for many years my best friend was a Catholic. 
My mother, however, remembered an unpleasant incident.  After the First
World War she demonstrated with other young people for the rights of the
Croats, when somebody asked her: 'Zasto se Vi, gospodjice, uzrujavate? 
Pa Vi ste samo  idovka'  ('Why are you so excited, Miss?  You are but a
Jew!') The earlier incident with the family of her future bridegroom and this
one, cured her for ever of trying to fight for the rights of a nation whose
destiny had been so much in her heart.  With time, my parents became more
conscious of their identity, perhaps mainly because of Hitler who opened the
eyes of many assimilated Jews, not sufficiently though!  My father was a
member of various Jewish organizations.  He entered the B'nai B'rith
fraternity, he was very active in the Jewish Community of Zagreb, he was the
head of a section in the Maccabees Sport Club he became ever more
interested in Zionism.  In 1934 he bought a grove (20 dunam = about 5 acres)
in Palestine and planned to visit the country.  Unfortunately he had always
what he considered more urgent business trips and never reached the
Promised Land.  Some of his friends arrived In time and saved their lives,
while my father's decision came too late, in fact he had no more time to
decide anything.  
  As the years went by, my parents became ardent Zionists.  Mother was a
Wizo member; they attended lectures given by famous Zionist leaders; they
supported every Zionist group or action, and my father donated generously to
the cause.  They chose their friends only among those who shared the same
ideas.  With Hitler's growing influence, politics became one of the main topics
in our house, newspapers were carefully read, the political situation was dis-
cussed at length, but Mira would not open her mouth to utter a word of
German.
         Writing these lines many years later, I try all the time to remain as truthful
as I can in remembering the past, and as much as these facts are true, the more
embarrassed I am; the less I am able to understand our behaviour.  Hitler
knew his goals exactly; he and his collaborators proclaimed them almost every
day for many years; the results showed that he was serious, yet we were blind
and deaf and convinced to the very end that Yugoslavia was different from
other countries where the peta kolona 6 
had more freedom to act.  We believed that we should fight Hitler; that, to us
Jews who are so loyal to the country that is equally loyal to us, is one of the
answers to a paradox which essentially will never be comprehended.
         It is certain that my parents were aware of the Nazis' threat which was
asserted by the intensified feeling of adherence to the Zionist movement, but
the ethical conception of humanity based on truth, honesty, justice, pity and
gratitude was rooted so deeply in them that this awareness was not strong
enough to make crucial decisions which would have meant leaving everything
behind and emigrating to another place.  My father was unable to make such
decisions because the wheel of fortune had favoured him so far and he was
too much engaged in his business to which he gave his heart and soul.
         As a matter of fact my father had considered the possibility of emigration. 
His Jewish friends, who lived in the countries occupied by Hitler, Austria and
Czechoslovakia, had succeeded in escaping to France or to the United States. 
During my father's business trips abroad they evidently tried to convince him
that he should take appropriate steps to emigrate one day.  Indeed, my father
deposited considerable sums of money in England and America, and during his
visit to the United States in 1939, he obtained an immigration certificate
(affidavit) for himself and his family (mother, Mira and me); but this benefit
was never put to use.
         I remember that the subject of emigration came up during our conversa-
tions at home, but I think it was never seriously considered: uncertainty of the
unknown, the fear of having to start again, the reluctance of taking risks were
perhaps the reasons to stay where we thought we belonged.  Neither do I
think that the ideal of Zionism - Palestine as the only solution for Jews - had
been seriously considered by my father.  I was the worst of all.

         As much as we change with time-tempora mutantur et nos  mutamur in
illis - time cannot change human nature: in every epoch young people are
more or less bound to extremes.  Some earlier, some later try to find their
indpendent way of thinking, not exactly what they were taught at home or in
school and expected to follow.  To me it happened when I was sixteen.
   
   Till then I was a royalist, enthusiastic about the royal family Karadjordjevi 
that ruled in Yugoslavia.  We read with great attention about their lives and
followed every detail.  Their summer residence was in Bled and I remember
when we spent one vacation in Bled, Mirica and I waited every aftemoon on
the balcony of our hotel to watch the royal family driving near by in their
beautifull Rolls-Royces: the crown-prince, Peter, then a teenager, in the first
car with his escort, the queen Mary, with the little princes Tomislav and
Andrew in the second.  When King Alexander visited Zagreb I went
everywhere with the crowd to see him; we waited for hours for his appearance
on the balcony of the Banski Dvori in the Upper Town (Gomji Grad).  There
was a picture in the newspaper with me in the crowd not far away from the
king walking through the market; I was about twelve.  When King Alexander
was killed in Marseille, in October 1934, 1 cried bitterly. 7

With Hitier's and Mussolini's growth in power, anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist
feelings increased everywhere throughout Europe, supported and strongly in-
fluenced by Communist propaganda from Russia.  Socialist and Communist
parties gained more votes than ever before, various  leftist organizations  in-
creased the membership of sympathizers and supporters.  Intellectual circles
had the lead in propagating theories based on Marx-Engels' teaching of a new
social order, against 'class exploitation' as they called it.  Russia (USSR) was
the best example for the realization of these theories, as they claimed.
         Along with social changes other suggestions came: Freud's new
theories caused a revolution in human attitudes; man-to-man relationships
were carefully analyzed.  Old systems were revalued; history, literature and art
were considered from new  aspects; classical, medieval and  more  recent
philosophers and writers were discovered, suited to the new theories.  So, for
example, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Napoleon, the greatest historical
heroes were called sly conquerors and dictators, while Spartacus the rebel was
the real hero who liberated the slaves.  Dostojevksy was a sick psychopath,
Chateaubriand and Victor Hugo were sentimental weepers.  Film propaganda
was extremely popular and the cheapest means were sufficient to provoke
enthusiasm and admiration for the new system.

         T'he book that made the biggest impression on me was Beer's The
History of Socialism and Social Struggles, it was to me a kind of Bible, a
guideline to understanding the course of history, as opposed to everything I
learned in school.
   This leftist trend was fashionable, in particular among young people from
wealthy families, often Jewish - they were called Salon Communists.  In my
class I had a group of Jewish girlfriends who introduced me to this movement. 
We formed a kind of reading circle and we used to meet regularly, reading and
discussing everything that could lead us to a better understanding of the world
we inhabited; books on dialectic materialism, the official doctrine of Commun-
ists, the philosophers Hegel and Feuerbach and the philosophers of ancient
Greece, the first followers of this theory - Thales and Archimedes; we
discussed Freud, Jung, Wexler; we argued about the validity of art and  its
aesthetic aspects, mainly whether art should serve a purpose or remain in the
pure frame of 'L'art pour I'art.  The Jewish problem and Zionism, the only
solution for the Jews, was never discussed.
         We were bright and intelligent but too young to initiate a search for
new solutions to create a better world and society.  When I was a teenager,
girls would never look at boys of their own age; those were considered 'babies'
('zuziki').  We went to dancing parties, concerts, social meetings, theatres,
lectures, excursions with older boys, mostly students, who were Ph.D.
candidates by the time we matriculated.  Intelligent and very much involved in
the circumstances around us, they stimulated our curiosity for a world that
very recently had been beyond our interest.  The boys were students of law or
medicine. 8
         Viewing things from a different angle I also started to disagree with
my parents whom I regarded as typical representatives of the 'bourgeois class'. 
They neither interfered nor objected to what I was reading or with whom I
was meeting unless I got actively involved with these ideas, which indeed I did
not.  Only once did I go to a lecture in Svjetlost (Light), a Communist
organization - I returned late, while my father went almost crazy and intended
to call the police because he did not know where to find me.  Never again did
I go to Svjetlost.  There were families whose children left home and joined the
Communist Party, but these were exceptions in our circles.  As much as I
believed that the ideals promoted by the leftists could be put into practice, I
would have never sacrificed my family for them; the links were too strong to
further such steps.  By nature, however, I was rather inclined to follow their
example - the simple way of life, modest dress, modest food, on the whole
modest in our daily needs.
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My Best Friend Olgica