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Francis O. and Ilia O. Holocaust testimony (HVT-3315) interviewed by Jenny Loebel

Oral History | Fortunoff Collection ID: HVT-3315

Videotape testimony of Francis O., who was born in Novi Sad, Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (presently Serbia) in 1913, and his wife Ilia O., who was born in Kisač, Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (presently Serbia) in 1915. Mr. O. recounts his mother's death in 1915; his father's draft into the Austrian military in World War I; living in a Serbian village with his grandparents, the only Jews there; singing in the church choir; returning to Novi Sad in 1918; living with his aunt; learning that he was Jewish; attending a Jewish school; his father's two remarriages; the births of two half-sisters; participating in Hashomer Hatzair; starting university in Zagreb in 1931; exposure to many Zionist factions; meeting his future wife; joining Betar; his father's death; his position with a law firm in Novi Sad; assisting Jewish refugees to emigrate to Palestine; serving as an officer in the Yugoslav military reserves; traveling to Belgrade and Kladovo to assist Jewish refugees leave Šabac; German invasion in 1941; Hungarian occupation; draft into a Hungarian slave labor battalion in spring 1941, building roads and cleaning sewers; obtaining documents to move with his wife to Budapest in September; living with an aunt; learning of the massacre in Novi Sad; meeting Joel Brand once; obtaining false papers as non-Jews; traveling to Istanbul via Bucharest and Babaeski in spring 1942; establishing relations with a Yugoslav woman, Allied representatives, and the Jewish Agency; providing intelligence to them; working for the United States Office of War Information; developing a network with Teddy Kollek, Isaac Berman, Ehud Avriel, and others to transmit intelligence and support rescue operations; obtaining visas for Jews in Budapest; contact with the local cardinal, the future Pope, John XXIII; and sending Allied propaganda to German-occupied countries. Mr. O. details many events and people with whom he was involved, during and after the war, and shows photographs and documents.
Ilia O. recalls attending the Jewish school in Novi Sad; her interest in music, through which she met her future husband; attending university in Vienna; hearing a lecture by Vladimir Jabotinsky; antisemitic harassment; returning home; taking food and clothing to Jewish refugees in Šabac; the Gestapo coming for her husband when he was in a slave labor battalion; their flight to Budapest; her sister and brother-in-law joining them; giving piano lessons; traveling to Istanbul in June 1942; working with a former Yugoslav woman to send mail and packages to hundreds of Jews in occupied countries; bringing her parents, sister, sister's husband, and friends to Istanbul through contacts with Turkish officials; and sending visas and aid to Yugoslav Jews.

Author/Creator
O., Francis, 1913-
Published
Tel Aviv, Israel : Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, 1992
Interview Date
March 1, 1992.
Language
English
Copies
2 copies: 3/4 in. dub; and 1/2 in. VHS with time coding.
Cite As
Francis O. and Ilia O. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-3315). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.