Otto Deneš

* 1918  †︎ 2009

  • „The Jewish community in Bratislava organized an illegal tour to Palestine. I joined them. At first we sailed along the Danube, then in the sea. We spent about a week in Bulgaria, they thought we were spies, and the same was then in Romania in the delta. On the ship we spent about half a year. Everywhere they were making difficulties and the authorities did not want to let us go further. They thought we were spies.”

  • “In autumn we arrived in Palestine, the English arrested us for two weeks and started to investigate, who we were. Then they released us and everyone made a living on his own hook. I worked in agriculture first, I plucked oranges and lemons, then later I got to a military hospital where I worked until the time I went to the army.”

  • “Before the war we lived normally. My father was a sales representative and during the first Republic he was happy. He earned a living for us, we lived modestly and well. We came from a Jewish family, my brother studied at a Rabbi school and he was very religious. I was religious too, but less than my brother. Our family was orthodox. In practice it meant that we were more religious than those not being orthodox. We held all feasts, we went to the house of worship every day…”

  • “In 1942 I joined the army. At that time there were fights in the Near East, where the German general Rommel was based. He had already occupied a great part of North Africa and the only place which was left was Tobruk. There we were as a counter-air defence and we were holding the harbour of Tobruk not to be occupied by the Germans. We spent there about a year. The Germans often bombed the harbour. We were shooting to their planes.”

  • “It was because there was the Hlinka guard in Slovakia. We could not normally even walk in the street, because they were assaulting Jewish families.”

  • “On 5.11.1943 we surrounded the Germans, they were about 15-20 thousands. A lot of our boys lost their lives there. The Germans shot at us with machine-guns. We hid behind the tanks, but it was also not easy, as the tank was going forward, and so the Germans saw and shot us.”

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  • 7

    Karlovy Vary, 03.10.2003

    (audio)
    duration: 19:30
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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I left for Palestine

Otto Deneš
Otto Deneš
photo: Archiv - Pamět národa

Mr. Otto Deneš was born on August 21, 1918 in an orthodox Jewish family in Malé Dvorany, Slovakia. Deneš’ family expected he and his brother to practice Judaism, and possibly becomes rabbis. When anti-semetic sentiments strengthened in Slovakia at the end of 1930s, Mr Deneš decided to leave illegally to Palestine. Arriving in Palestine after the sixth month journey, Daneš immediately began working in agriculture. Some time later, he joined the army. He fought in the Near East, and served in the counter-air defense in the harbour of Tobruk. Then he was sent to England, where he prepared for another military personnel departure into France. He took part in the fighting at Dunkerque.