The National Defense Law 20/1940 exempted Jews from military service in the new Slovak state, but required them instead to do manual labor at military work camps. Such Jews, who were called "Robotnik Zid" [work Jews], wore distinctive blue uniforms and berets. They were assigned to the Sixth Labor Battalion which consisted of five companies, three of which were exclusively made up of Jews. New Jewish recruits were assembled in Cemerne (Vranov district) in eastern Slovakia, where they underwent basic military training using shovels instead of rifles. After their training the Jewish labor companies were assigned to forced labor in various parts of the country. In the spring of 1942 most of the Jewish labor units were concentrated at three labor camps in the Bratislava district in western Slovakia: Sv. Jur, Lab and Zohor, where they were put to work on drainage projects. When the mass deportation of Slovak Jewry began in the spring of 1942 the position of the "work Jews" improved vis a vis the civilian Jewish population. The Jewish labor companies fell under the authority of the Ministry of Defense which was often in conflict with the Ministry for Internal Affairs that was responsible for the deportation actions. As a result, the Defense Ministry sometimes refused to comply with requests from Internal Affairs to discharge "work Jews" from the military labor service. On May 31, 1943 the military labor camps for Jews were formally disbanded and the remaining "work Jews" were moved to civilian concentration camps or centers.
[Source: Dagan, Avigdor (ed.), The Jews of Czechoslovakia. Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1984, pp.187-8]
Herta Menzer (now Iris Avni) was born on December 11, 1928 and her younger sister, Mirka (now Mira Frenkel) was born on January 5, 1938. The two girls and their oldest brother, Yehuda Alfred Miron Menzer (born on April 3, 1927) lived in Bratislava together with their parents, Aurelia Zlata Lamm Menzer and Eduard Menzer, a wealthy wine importer and exporter. In March 1939 Slovakia aligned itself with Nazi Germany, under Jozef Tiso. The Menzer family sold its house in Bratislava and moved in with their maternal aunt, Luisa Lamm Schlesinger, in Nitra, 50 miles to the east. In April 1942 the Menzer family was supposed to be deported to Auschwitz, but at the last moment they were released before boarding the train. In 1943 Iris tried to escape from Nitra to Hungary, but she was caught and imprisoned for six weeks. From the jail she was transferred directly to the Novaky forced labor and concentration camp, where she reunited with her parents and her younger sister. They were imprisoned in the Novaky camp until they were released with all the other prisoners as a result of the Slovak National Uprising in August 1944. The Menzer family stayed in Banska Bistrica and later tried to go into the Tatra Mountains. For a few weeks, they lived high up in the mountains, but then came down to the villages below at the urging of partisans. One day, some Germans entered the hut where the Menzer family was staying and saw Eduard wrapped in his Tallit reciting his morning prayers. The German soldiers tore the Tallit off him and threw it on the ground. Herta Menzer found the courage to address one of the Germans and insisted that she and her sister were not Jewish. She told them they were escaping from the Soviets. After the German soldier let them go, Herta ran to warn her mother, who was hiding behind the building. Once the Germans left, with Eduard Menzer, Aurelia recovered her husband's Teffilin and managed to find a hiding place in another village with her two daughters. On January 9, 1945 Eduard Menzer was executed in Kremnica together with 747 people, 400 of which were Jews. At the end of March 1945 the Soviet Army liberated the area. Alfred Menzer, who was deported to Auschwitz and transferred to many camps in Germany, was liberated from Bunzlau. After the liberation the Menzer family reunited in Nitra and eventually moved to Palestine.