Dora Klayman discusses surviving the war in hiding with her brother in Ludbreg, Yugoslavia. After her parents were deported in 1941, she spent the war first with her maternal aunt and then, after her aunt was denounced and deported, with non-Jewish neighbors.
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“Everybody knew who we were, the fact that we were not given away was miraculous.”
Over sixty years after the Holocaust, hatred, antisemitism, and genocide still threaten our world. The life stories of Holocaust survivors transcend the decades and remind us of the constant need to be vigilant citizens and to stop injustice, prejudice, and hatred wherever and whenever they occur.
This podcast series presents excerpts of interviews with Holocaust survivors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s public program, First Person Conversations with Holocaust Survivors.
In today’s episode, Dora Klayman talks with host Bill Benson about surviving the war in Ludbreg, Yugoslavia. Dora was from Zagreb, Yugoslavia, and after her parents were deported in 1941, she spent the war sheltered by her maternal Aunt Giza, Giza’s non-Jewish husband Ljudevit, and their neighbors the Runjak famiy.
You do remember the coming and goings of people, people saying goodbye, and disappearing. Why do you think, say a little bit about that and why you think ultimately you and your brother were not taken, despite family members around you going?
Well, it’s a miracle of sorts. And I think there are some things that are, that underlie the miracle. I think for one, but this is really what I think I don’t know, that we were not on the list. When you look at, even there were books published about the town and you have the lists of Jews from that town and I am not on the list and neither is my brother because we were not from Ludbreg, we were from Zagreb, and nobody had put us on the list. So that’s one thing.
The other thing is that we were the youngest and a lot of people in Ludbreg sheltered us. This was a town that had a large number of people who had joined the partisans and while they couldn’t really very well take over the town, there were many battles and they tried but they didn’t succeed until the very end. I think there were people who sheltered us. Every once in a while Giza would take off and take us some place. We would be with one person or another or there were times that, we would be told at times that there would be a raid and we would be hidden by somebody.
And at some point, as you said earlier your uncle was sentenced to a period and that time was up and he came home, but while he was gone his wife, your Aunt Giza with whom you were living, was taken and deported.
Yes. So even though for a long time we were able to somehow make it and survive and no one would give us up, at one point there was a person, and they eventually knew who that was. He fingered my aunt and she was arrested and taken away. She begged the people who were living next door, as I told you there was a building that was constructed in the same courtyard with the house we were living in, and in the back apartment behind that store was being rented and the people who lived there, the Runjak family, there was a mother, father, and three children who were sort of early teens, late teens, we were left with them. And they were willing to take us in. I heard just recently that my aunt begged for them to save us and they agreed and took us in and we stayed there for quite a while.
And this was the Runjak family?
That was the Runjak family.
You told me that a priest basically was aware that you were with the Runjaks and essentially insisted that they baptize you, more or less or else. Will you share that with us?
Well, I was told that, I don’t remember it very well. But it was the local priest who eventually, who obviously knew who we were, and so did the rest of the town. Everybody knew who we were, the fact that we were not given away was just miraculous and that priest I think was getting uncomfortable and eventually went to that family and said what are we going to do with these children? And so either or. And he must have been satisfied with that because we remained until my uncle returned.
And then your uncle returns after his time was up, his wife, your aunt, is gone. And now most of his in-laws are gone, and he has you and your brother.
You have been listening to First PersonConversations with Holocaust Survivors, a podcast series of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Every Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. from March through August, Holocaust survivors share their stories during First Person programs held at the Museum in Washington, D.C. We would appreciate your feedback on this series. Please visit our Web site, www.ushmm.org/firstperson, and follow the prompts to the First Person podcast survey to let us know what you think.
At our website you can also learn more about the Museum’s survivors, listen to the complete recordings of their conversations, and listen to Museum podcasts Voices on Antisemitism and Voices on Genocide Prevention.