Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research

Login

Register

Help

Skip to main content

Eyeglasses and case used Mayer Altarac whose family fled from German occupying forces

Object | Accession Number: 2002.438.5 a-b

Search this record's additional resources, such as finding aids, documents, or transcripts.

No results match this search term.
Check spelling and try again.

results are loading

0 results found for “keyward

    Eyeglasses and case used Mayer Altarac whose family fled from German occupying forces
    Loading

    Please select from the following options:

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Eyeglasses and case used by Mayer Altarac, who owned a stonework and construction business in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (later Serbia). In September 1941, he fled with his wife, Mimi, and seven-year-old son, Jas̆a, following the German occupation in April. They went to Skopje, Macedonia, which was under Bulgarian control because Yugoslavia had been dismembered by the Axis Alliance. A month later, Mayer encountered a man from Kosovo who recognized him as Jewish and the Altarac family fled that night to Pristina, which was under Italian control. There as a large Jewish refugee population there, as the Italians did not regularly deport Jews to the German-run concentration camps. In December 1941, the Jewish refugees in Pristina were ordered to move into a transit camp at the main prison. In March 1942, German authorities demanded the deportation of fifty-one Jews to German territory. This group included Jas̆a 's maternal aunt Frida Barta, her husband, and daughter. The Italians complied and they were all murdered. In September 1943, the Italian military commander informed the Jewish families that Italy had surrendered to the Allies and their troops were withdrawing from Pristina. Assuming the Germans would soon occupy the region, Jas̆a 's family took a taxi to Tirana, Albania. His mother sold hand knit sweaters, and one of her customers, Ganimet Toptani, learning that she was Jewish, offered to help them. Her husband, Atif Toptani, took the family to an estate outside of town. In August 1944, a German unit came to search the estate for weapons, as someone had shot at the soldiers. Atif showed them they had no weapons. They were not arrested, but they were ordered to move back to Tirana. That September, Tirana was liberated by the partisans. The family returned to Belgrade. In December 1948, the family immigrated to Israel.
    Date
    use:  1939-1948
    Geography
    use: Belgrade (Serbia)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jas̆a Altarac
    Markings
    b: lid, front, stamped : Diplom(?) optičar / K(?)lman / (SARA?)JEVO / Telefon (20-71 Utemelieno?) 1904
    Contributor
    Subject: Jas̆a Altarac
    Previous owner: Jas̆a Altarac
    Biography
    Jaša Altarac was born on January 1, 1934 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (Serbia), to Mayer (Meir) and Mimi (Miriam) Finci Altarac. Mimi was born in 1910 in Brcko (now in Bosnia and Hercegovina). Her father was an accountant and she had two brothers, David and Shalom, and a sister, Frida. Shalom immigrated to Palestine before the war. Mayer was born in 1901 in Sarajevo (later in Bosnia and Hercegovina) and had a successful business as a marble craftsman and home contractor. Jaša’s younger sister, Lea Lela, was born in 1937. The family was well off, assimilated, and spoke Serbian. Mayer also supported his mother and other family members in Sarajevo. They traveled by car every year to celebrate Passover with Jaša’s grandmother in Sarajevo.

    Yugoslavia was held together by a totalitarian monarchy backed by the military. On April 6, 1941, continuing the policy of eastward expansion, Germany and Italy invaded Yugoslavia supported by Hungary and Bulgaria. Jaša and his family were in Sarajevo for Passover on April 14 and there was an aerial attack. The family rushed to the basement, and the house was directly hit by a bomb. Jaša was thrown through the air. His sister, Lela, was found in the arms of her grandmother, both dead. A few days later, German troops occupied Sarajevo. The family left the city ten days after the funeral for Sabac, a village in central Serbia. They stayed with Miloje Markovic, the foreman of Mayer’s business. On July 18, the family returned to Belgrade. Yugoslavia had been dismembered by the Axis Alliance and Serbia, where Belgrade located, was under German military government. Anti-Jewish policies were immediately implemented. Jews had to register with the police. Jewish men, including Mayer, were taken for forced labor. The Germans took hostages to prevent any resistance, and Jewish hostages were killed for any pretext. Mayer asked a former business partner, and Italian named Erminio Dorio, to help them obtain travel documents for the Italian occupation territory. This area was preferred because Italian authorities generally refused to deport Jews to German-run concentration camps. The permits were not ready as quickly as needed, but Dorio provided a letter on the stationary of the Bulgarian Embassy in Belgrade stating that a travel visa for Skopje was waiting for them in Tirana, Albania.

    On September 9, 1941, the family fled to Skopje, Macedonia (now North Macedonia), a former province of Yugoslavia, now occupied by Bulgaria. They rented a room with a Jewish family named Amarillo. On October 10, Mayer met an Albanian man from Kosovo, who recognized Mayer as Jewish. The family left Skopje that night for territory under Italian jurisdiction, and settled in Pristina in Kosovo. Pristina had a large, Jewish refugee population. In December 1941, the Italians ordered the Jewish refugees to move into the main prison. Families remained together, they were allowed to use the prison courtyard, and many of the Italian guards were friendly. Moshe Mandil, a professional photographer from Novi Sad, secured permission for a group of inmates to go to the local market to sell the bread they received from the prison authorities for vegetables and other food. Jewish residents of Pristina also helped the prisoners by providing kosher meals.

    On March 17, 1942, German authorities demanded the transfer of the Jews into their custody. The Italians turned over fifty-one individuals. Jaša’s maternal aunt, Frida Barta, her husband, and daughter, Dita, were among them. His mother, Mimi, wanted to join her sister, but an Italian guard convinced her not to go. All fifty-one people were murdered by the Germans. On July 8, the Italian command decided to transfer the Jewish prisoners to Albania. They were divided into groups and each group had to find trucks to take them to different destinations in Albania. Jaša, then eight, and his family went to Kavaje, with four other families: Azriel, Borger, Ruchwarger, and Mandil. There were three other children in the group: Marki Azriel, 14, Gavra Mandil, six, and his sister Beba, five. In Kavaje, the head of each family had to register with the Italian commander daily, but otherwise there were few restrictions. They rented apartments in the same building which they called the Red House. Moshe Mandil opened a photography studio. The children attended a school, with an Italian soldier as their teacher.

    In September 1943, the Italian military commander assembled the heads of the Jewish families and announced that Italy had surrendered to the Allies on September 8. The Italian garrison would be leaving town, but they had destroyed the records on the families. The mayor of Kavaje provided documents identifying them citizens and Muslims. It was felt that German forces would soon occupy the town. The Altarac family decided they would be safer in a city and went by taxi with Jasa’s cousin, Sida Levi, and her ten-year-old son, Mikica, to Tirana, the capital. They rented an apartment and Sida and Jaša’s mothers earned money by knitting sweaters. A customer, Ganimet Toptani, who spoke German because her father had been the ambassador to Austria, knew that the family was Jewish and often gave Mimi food for the children. In February 1944, Ganimet asked Mimi to come see her. She told Mimi that the Germans were planning deportation round-ups and that the Jews needed to leave Tirana. Her husband, Atif, moved the Altarac and Levi families to an estate in Kamza, outside Tirana. He later moved Sida and her son to different hiding places. They celebrated Passover with the Mandil family who were being protected by the Veselis family and the Gershons, who were aided by the Frasheris family. In August 1944, the estate was searched by a German unit of Bosnian Muslims, the Hadj Amin El Husseini division (Handjar), after shots were fired at them. They interrogated Mayer, who spoke German, and explained that he was a relative. There were German books, including Nazi propaganda, in the villa, so they believed him and left. Atif moved them to another location in Tirana. In September 1944, Tirana was liberated by partisans.

    The Altarac family returned to Belgrade. They later learned that Mimi’s brother David and his family had survived. Shalom had served in the British Army, parachuting behind enemy lines and working with the Yugoslav partisans. In December 1948, the family immigrated to Israel. In 1960, Jaša married Enica Frances, from Skopje, who had survived with her parents, brother, and grandmother in Albania. The couple had two daughters. In 1992, Atif and Ganimet Toptani were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Croatian
    Object Type
    Spectacles (aat)
    Genre/Form
    Eyeglasses.
    Physical Description
    a: Bronze-colored, metal-framed, bifocal glasses with circular rims, a metal nose bridge, and plastic-covered temples. The rims are connected to the temples by a small end piece and hinge on each side. The back end of each temple is a thin, bendable, tubular, gold-colored metal earpiece that is curled into a rounded shape to better grip the wearer’s ear. The bifocal line in the lower half of both lenses curves downward. The metal nose bridge has a circular mark with a small arch at the bottom etched on the back. The lenses are scratched overall, and the right one is chipped along the left edge. The gold coloring has worn off the right ear-piece.

    b: Slim, lozenge-shaped cardboard case for eyeglasses (a). The exterior is covered with black, textured paper. The telescoping lid slides off the top of the base, revealing a narrower portion of the cardboard cylinder around the open end of the base. This portion is wrapped in burnt orange paper. The case is cracked and deteriorating on the base’s bottom. A flower is stamped into the front center of the base, and there is partially legible text on the front of the lid.
    Dimensions
    a: Height: 2.500 inches (6.35 cm) | Width: 4.750 inches (12.065 cm) | Depth: 0.500 inches (1.27 cm)
    b: Height: 5.375 inches (13.653 cm) | Width: 2.125 inches (5.398 cm) | Depth: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm)
    Materials
    a : glass, metal, plastic
    b : paper, cardboard, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The eyeglasses and case were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2002 by Jas̆a Altarac, the son of Mayer Altarac.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-04 08:59:24
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn520798

    Download & Licensing

    In-Person Research

    Contact Us