Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Noemi Engel Ebenstein - July 22, 1996


While you were living in


Subotica. You, did you, you went to school?

Yes. Hmm. That's an interesting story. I, in the communist countries they sent kids to school, first grade was at the age of seven rather than the age of six. My parents did not want me to go to a Hungarian school. See in Subotica, uh.... I don't know what the percentage of Hungarians versus Serbians. What was the, you know, the ratio. But there were Hungarian schools and there were Serbian schools. Well, the Serbians were not known as anti-Semitic. The Hungarians were known as anti-Semitic. So I was sent to the Hungarian school--to the Serbian school, I'm sorry. Um. They did not care about anything. Whether, I, I spoke Hungarian, that was my only language. But they did not want, and then they send me to the Serbian school, like, who cares if you, if you can understand the language or, or any of that. It was very important. The Serbians were not anti-Semitic, therefore you go to the Serbian school. Meanwhile I was instructed in Hebrew. I had a private tutor. Uh, private, I don't know, I think my cousin and I. A Melamed, you know. And, uh, he taught us the aleph-bet and reading, and, and writing I don't remember. I remember reading lessons. So when we go to Israel, uh, when we finally settled it was 19-, April of 1948, 1949 and, um, I was tested whether I could read and write in Hebrew and I could. So they placed me in second grade and I graduated--I finished, not graduated--finished second grade with my age group. And from then on I went to regular education in Israel.

But were there any instances in Subotica of anti-Semitism when you were a child in school?

Yeah, when, one Shabbat afternoon, one, um, time we were, I was going to a friend and there were these kids who were, were harassing me, nothing different than any other place, um, and one kid was pointing at me to the other, to the older child, like this is the girl that we see, or whatever. And later he looked at me and in a loud voice he said, "Oh she is a stinky Jew" and he spat on the ground. Um, yeah, so that stayed with me. There were some Hungarian peasants actually when we got to Subotica, the, the parents were Hungarian peasants, the younger people they rented an apartment to my parents before the war and they saved some of our things. They were very good to us and they fed us. And the older, the Haggadushnani, the older peasant, Hungarian peasant lady said to my mother once, "Lillica," like an endearing Lilly, "You are so nice as if you weren't Jewish." That was the big compliment, you know. And she meant it from the bottom of her heart. But that was ingrained. Anti-Semitism was ingrained. It was part of their thoughts and feelings.

Even in the Serbian school?


Okay, let's stop here for minute.

Okay. Thank you.

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