Ivan Bergida

* 1943  

  • "We asked the office what can be done about moving out. So they told us that the laws are still so valid, but that it takes a long time, months to get permission and who knows what will happen tomorrow. But we can get a permit for Vienna for three days. We had to wait a few days because Marike had a tonsil surgery on the day the Russians came. The whole hospital was sent home, but she had to stay because there was a possibility of bleeding. She stayed there, the nurses woke her up in the morning, that the Russians were here. She didn't even want to believe it, but she had to stay there for a few days. But when she got home, we immediately packed our things and went at night with two suitcases and a small son in our hands. A friend drove us to the station at night so no one could see we were leaving. We said goodbye only to my parents. My sister came with us to come back and say we left ok. We went by night train to Bratislava. We arrived in the morning, left Marika with my son and sister at the station and had to get a visa for Austria and foreign exchange at the consulate. We had the right to exchange some money, I don't know how much it was. And this was only possible with the central bank. So I took a taxi from one place to another, there were long lines of people waiting everywhere. So it took long. I came back to the station with a taxi, the train had just left. So we all got into the taxi, I knew he would stop in Petržalka. He stopped there, we caught the train, we got on the train and we were there. There was a Russian officer on the train, but he was just standing in the hallway and doing nothing and saying nothing. There were scenes outside as families said goodbye, hills of packages and suitcases, and weeping and hugging. Everyone could know that this farewell was permanent. When the guide was ticking the tickets, she asked the boy sitting next to us where he was going and he said he was going to Sweden for two weeks. And she said, 'Or for longer.' So everyone knew that people leaving on that train would not come back."

  • "I experienced a lot of anti-Semitism there, because those kids will say what they hear at home and say to me, 'You're not playing with us because you're a Jew.' But then other kids said I could play with them. But that anti-Semitism in those childhoods was simply direct and existential. It was an elementary school. We lived in the same apartment building and there used to be a family above us, they had a boy my age. Sometimes I was at their house. And suddenly his mother says, 'Are you a bourgeois?' I didn't even know what it meant, only that it had a negative accent. And she insisted and kept asking, seeing that my parents worked infinitely a lot and that we had nothing. But it was the idea of those people that every Jew is rich and bourgeois. Such experiences were always there, even when I was already working. I may talk about that later, but I can say it now, too. I worked in a company and during the Prague Spring in ‘68, it was discussed whether the federal system first or democracy first. I don't know why it was supposed to be in a certain order, it can be done all at once. But it was a topic, and I was of the opinion that democracy first and my boss told me, 'That's why you're not in favor of dissolution, because you're not Slovak.' So he meant - you are a Jew, you are not Slovak, you do not belong with us. So it was a permanent experience and speaking of which, in Slovakia it was better not to say that we are Jews. Sometimes it came out, but many people tried to hide it. I had a classmate in high school who I didn't know was a Jew all along. I only found out after he left. But we knew about us, about my wife, her family, so her father was the chairman in the village. My father, we were kosher, we built a sukkah in the yard during the holidays, so everyone knew about us that we were Jews. And when we came to Germany, we were surprised to find that it was easier to be a Jew than in Slovakia, with the fact that when we said that, people didn't know what to do with it now, how to react, they were frightened. For that past was known to them, and there stands a living one in front of them. So it wasn't very nice either, but it was easier than in Slovakia. "

  • "They didn't talk at all, much less with us children. But sometimes someone came to the house who had experienced it and so I learned something here and there. I would always put together little pieces of information. Nobody told me anything about it. So I know very little, especially I know almost nothing about my mother's family. They all perished. Mom would be the only source if I were to ask, but that wasn't a topic at home. But I remember, once a lady came to us and they were talking about that time, and my mother suddenly said that if she had known in advance what she would have to go through, she would have ended it beforehand. And that shocked me, because we were a nice family, and I said to myself that everything would be gone if she had done it then. But it will say something about what a time it was like when they had to survive. "

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    Cez Zoom, pamätník žije v Mníchove, 16.02.2021

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    duration: 02:37:07
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I am grateful to my parents that the horrors of the Holocaust and the loss of loved ones were not the dominant theme in the family.

period photo
period photo
photo: Archív pamätníka

Ivan Bergida was born on February 22, 1943 in Humenné to a pious Jewish family. The father had a tailor’s workshop with his brothers, and thanks to orders to sew police uniforms, they were excepted from Aryanization and deportations. In the spring of 1944, on the basis of a government decree, they were forced to leave eastern Slovakia with numerous relatives from their father’s side and settled in Liptovský Mikuláš. After the suppression of the SNP, the family and one-year-old Ivan hid from the Germans in the mountains during harsh winter. Much of the family did not survive, all seven of the mother’s siblings died. After liberation, they returned to Liptovský Mikuláš and in 1948 left for Košice, where they and other survivors resumed life in a Jewish religious community. Even during the anti-Jewish attitude of the 1950s, the mother ran a traditional Jewish household. Since his parents were only tailors, Ivan had no problem studying at the grammar school and, thanks to his excellent achievements, he studied at the Czech Technical University in Prague from 1961. In June 1965, he had a wedding in the synagogue in Košice, which was the first Jewish wedding since the war. After the August 1968 invasion, he and his wife Marianna immediately decided to emigrate with their two-year-old son to Germany, where her father had lived for several years after his judicial rehabilitation, as he had been convicted in the 1950s of a fabricated Zionist conspiracy. In the early 1970s, when his parents died, Ivan could not come to Czechoslovakia, as he was convicted in absentia after emigration. Until his retirement in 2003, he worked at the IBM research and development center near Stuttgart, and the family is still very happy in Germany. For many years he served on the board of the Jewish community in Stuttgart. He visited Košice with concern for the first time in 1990 and to this day he has a mixed relationship with Slovakia. In retirement, he and his wife live a rich life in Munich, where they moved to be with their son. The daughter lives in the USA and they have a total of six grandchildren.