YALDE SHABAT by Meir Deutsch

On one bright night in June 1944 there was an explosion that could be heard in the whole of Penne, a quite village in the Gran Sasso Mountains in Italy. We were in total darkness till sunrise in the early morning. Nobody dared to go outside his home to find out what happened. In the morning people tried to find out what caused the explosion and the failure of electricity, then, at about noon, ten Italian soldiers, not the Fascist ones, entered the village and told us that the Germans have withdrawn from the area and we are liberated. Before retreating from the area, the German army has blown up the electric power station.

To inform their headquarters that the village has been "conquered", the Italian soldiers used pigeon mail.

We were liberated!

Meir Deutsch was born in Zagreb Yugoslavia, today it is the Capital of Croatia. His father Josef was born in Mattersdorf and after his service in the Austro-Hungarian army in the First World War he studied mechanical engineering in Vienna. In the late 1920's he opened the first scales and cutlery factory in Yugoslavia in Zagreb. The family lived in comfort and after the Anschluss of Austria to Germany helped, together with the Jewish community, the many refugees that passed and settled in the city. The family gave shelter in their house to an Austrian family, mother and two daughters. In 1940 and early 1941 Josef sent hundreds of food parcels to Jewish families in Austria, Germany and German occupied Poland, including to the family of the Gerer Rebbe, families Alter in Gora Kalvaria and Warsaw.
In 1941 Germany occupied Yugoslavia and put up a puppet government in Croatia the Ustasha. Josef was arrested and sent to the Jasenovac death camp, from where he never returned. The factory was confiscated and later sold. Now the wife with three small children, aged 7, 4 and 2 had to decide what to do to save herself and her children.
A couple of days after her husband was arrested she decided to flee to Italy, without a Visa or any entry documents, where they were put in a camp in Malo in Northern Italy. They stayed there till the armistice in September 1943.
After Italy signed the armistice with the Allies, German troops occupied Italy and the fate of the Jews changed. They were arrested, killed or deported. The family, together with another two families, decided to go south and meet the advancing Allied forces. One day we were stopped by the Germans who asked for Identification Papers. There were none that we could show. Mother, who was born in Czechoslovakia, spoke fluent German, so did we the children, and German was our second mother tongue. Mother said to the German Officer that she is from Czechoslovakia. The German Officer started talking to us, the children. When he realized that we all spoke the language, he asked "are you Sudeten Deutsche?" Mother replied "yes, we are." That is how we were saved that time.

At the beginning of June 1944 we were liberated. The Jewish unit from Palestine who served in the British eight's army, more or less adopted us. After being out of school during all those years we started visiting a school put up by the British for refugee children. The teachers were soldiers from the Palestine Company.
Towards the end of 1944 President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill decided to issue about 1,000 certificates each for entry of refugees to the USA and Palestine. We were given the opportunity to choose where to go and decided to go to Palestine. We boarded a British War Ship "Princess Kathleen" and arrived at Haifa just before Passover of 1945.
After the UN resolution of 29 November 1947 to divide Palestine into two States, one Arab and the second Jewish, the British decided to leave Palestine on Saturday the 15th of May 1948. On Friday, the 14th of May 1948 David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish state according to the UN resolution. The surrounding Arab states, and Iraq that had no border with Palestine, invaded the new created state. We, at our Youth Aliya orphanage's roof, watched the Egyptian Air Force bombing Tel Aviv. It was very disturbing, especially for young Jewish children that just survived the Holocaust. I was a child at that time, but never imagined that I would have to take part in the other wars that Israel had to fight.

As my father has no grave, I included in the book a chapter about Mattersdorf, his birthplace, as a monument for him. Besides the parts of the holocaust and War, other parts of the book include our youth and family in Palestine and Israel, the German Mentality as seen through its History, the Allies' policy toward the Jews during the holocaust and a visit with my elder son in 2001 of our roots in Mattersburg, Zagreb and Italy. Yes, people in Italy still remember us as the children who wore shorts in winter. The scales factory in Zagreb is still there. In Mattersburg the Jewish quarter disappeared, the Synagogue is gone, even the cemetery is destroyed (the only one in the seven communities that was destroyed). Some tombstones were used to cover the Wulka River; others were broken up and plastered to a wall without any order. The only thing to remember the Jewish Mattersdorf is the Judengasse. It is just a name of a street, no Jews live there. No Jewish shops can be found anymore in Mattersburg.

Preface of Prof. Shevach Weiss

How can one describe the power of the Holocaust and imagine the systematic and barbaric destruction of six Million of our people? It is difficult, maybe even impossible!
The survival itself acts as witness; therefore putting in writing the memories of that period are important for the future generations.
 
In his memoirs Meir Deutsch describes a family, whose father was taken to an extermination camp, and the mother, a courageous woman, managed to navigate in impossible ways and with daily struggle, to save herself and her three children.
 
Among other things Meir Deutsch describes the township where his father was born, Mattersdorf, which was a well known Jewish community and one of the "Seven Kehilot". The author describes the German nation, as seen by him according to her history. The story goes on beyond that period, meeting the Jewish Brigade, his arrival to Palestine still under British Mandate and founding a family in a country he witnessed its birth, are an integral part of the book and are the side of rebirth.
 
This documentation is important beyond the monument for his family, and it reflects to a wider scope.
 
Prof. Shevach Weiss
Chairman of the Council of Yad Vashem, Jerusalem

Short biography

Meir Deutsch was born in 1935 in Zagreb Yugoslavia. After his father's arrest and transfer to the death camp Jasenovac, the family fled to Italy where they spent most of the war years, until liberated by the Allies and the Jewish Units in the British Army. He made aliya in 1945, and was sent by the Aliyat Hanoar to "Bate Avot" at the Ponevez Yeshiva of Rabbi Josef Kahaneman. Meir Deutsch studied at the "Kol Tora" Yeshiva and he is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He worked for the Bank of Israel and was its Comptroller. After retiring he worked as a Journalist for the financial Paper "Globes".

Meir is married to Jackie nee Fisch and they live in Jerusalem. They have two sons and many grandchildren.

ISBN 9789657344446 available only in Hebrew (now)

by Meir Deutsch, edited by Johannes Scholem Graf

2013.09.26