“We were in that last mountain hut and it was very cold, and we had no food left whatsoever. I remember one day, in heaps of snow, I was sawing wood with my father in order to have logs for the fire, for our stove. And as we were sawing, with that large two-handed saw, one of us pulling one way, the other one the other way, I suddenly spotted something white in the snow. I did not even have time to warn my father. This moment was very uneasy and tense, because the white thing did not know whether it ought to be afraid of us, and we did not know whether we should be scared. And this white something then suddenly moved. It was a captain of the Czechoslovak army, I think his name was Kováč. I forgot to tell you that the front had stopped ahead of Liptovský Mikuláš for six weeks, the front was standing there and that was why we had those problems, that it was not possible to go down and obtain some food. And then this captain appeared. he was a scout sent up to the mountains to observe the situation, whether the Germans were on the move, you know. He asked us whether we knew something, so we directed him to a place where those partisans of ours had a spot, from which they were watching the village down in the valley, to see if the Germans were coming, or if some attack up the mountain was underway.”
“We walked the street with my sister, and near our house, some big boy shouted at us: ´Stinking Jews!´ and he pushed into my sister. And I, being quick-tempered, jumped to him and smacked him in his face. And we ran home. I came home very upset, and I told my mom what had happened. But I hit him because he was calling us ´stinking,´ but I did not know what ´Jews´ meant.”
“So I returned form Israel and I think that I have had a very interesting and good life, I cannot complain, only that it was a bit too eventful in my opinion, and a bit demanding. But once a person asked me, who I felt to be, what was my identity – was it Slovak, Czech, Jewish, German, Israeli? And I quickly had to reply, that I only feel to be a human being.”
“First they arrested my father, he was behind the bars for about a week. It’s not even important to talk about it, none of us was told what and how it happened. But it is possible they wanted some money, which we did not have anyway. And about two or three months after, they began arresting others, too, even those who were baptized, for example, or who had some been granted some exemptions. So eventually they came of for us too. This was in 1942 and I can tell you precisely when, for it was on October 28th 1942 (Czechoslovak Independence Day – transl.´s note). They put us to jail overnight ad then we were taken to that camp. I don’t remember the journey at all. And I consider it very important to say that personally I have never seen a German in Slovakia who would be involved in all these anti-Semitic matters: there was not a single German, perhaps only someone who was a resident, but those did not meddle with it. Those who were doing it were all Slovaks, from the Hlinka´s guards. They took us to the camp.”
“A former colleague of my father’s, a Czech, who was either in some high position, or who was a friend of some other person, asked for my father, claiming that he was of great economic importance for timber industry. And he managed to get my father out of the camp, but when they were about to release him, my father refused to leave without his family. To this, the camp leader Vašina replied that he would release the whole family if my father brought a Singer sewing machine to the camp. So this is about how much we are worth. Naturally, daddy had our small Singer machine sent to the camp as quickly as possible, this was to be used in the workshops there, and we went to Michalovce.”
Meanwhile Slovaks forbade the Jews to attend schools. But at that time I already knew I was one of those who were not fitting into the society.
Anna Bittmanová, b. Schönová, was born on November 24th 1929 in Košice in a Jewish non-religious family. After the arrival of Hungarians to Košice, the family had to move, they were living in Vranov nad Topľou and later in Michalovce. In October 1942 the entire family was transported to an assembly labour camp in Sereď. There they met a group of young Jews, Akiva Nir, Abraham (Jindřich) Pressburger, and Gabi Eichler, among others, who later became partisans. The family spent over a year in the Sereď camp, then their father managed to get them out thanks to his being declared an economically significant Jew. In the beginning of 1944 the family returned to Michalovce. After several months they moved near Liptovský Mikuláš. In October 1944, after the defeat of the Slovak national uprising, they were being helped by Jewish partisans and they were hiding in bunkers built in the mountains. In March 1945 the whole family was liberated by soldiers of the Czechoslovak army. After the war, Anna studied at medical faculty in Prague and Košice, she met her future husband Ladislav Bittman and in the early 1960s she followed him to the German Democratic Republic, where he was working in foreign service at that time. After their divorce she remained in East Germany with their children; in 1968, owing to anti-Israeli sentiments there, she emigrated to Israel, where she was then living till the 1990s. Afterward, she returned to the Czech Republic, where she has been living till now.