Gila Fatran

* 1929  

  • “In Nové Mesto where I was staying they started searching for Jews. As soon as I heard about that I suggested to my parents who were about fifty years old at that time: ‘Come on, I know how we will get out of here. We still have money, let’s escape.’ Suddenly, the door burst open, a man walked in and told my daddy to follow him. He only arrested my dad but still left my mum and me behind. My daddy was against us doing anything to save ourselves since he was a determinist and a religious person which didn’t match our fate. As soon as dad was out, my mum tore open the inside of my winter coat, stashed inside the remaining money, sewed it over again and told me: ‘You shall go abroad and save yourself.’ I said: ‘Mummy, come with me.’ She replied: ‘No, daddy wouldn’t have known what happened to me.’ She had already lost the will to live because of our difficult past at that time. But she forced me to save myself at any cost.”

  • “The canteen was full of Jews. We even found an acquaintance and told him what we were looking for. He told us to address this and that person and gave us the addresses of smugglers who brought people across the border. He also told us what cities we should go to in order to get as close as possible to the border crossings with Slovakia. We took the train and got to the spot he told us about after lunch. As it was getting darker, we walked towards the borderline, having the address of a person who would take us across. He was not at all likeable. We set out to get as close to the border as possible. At a certain spot he told us this was the highest point of the route and showed us a light spot down in the valley. He asked us whether we saw it. We said yes. He replied: ‘This is where you need to get. You knock on the door there and go inside.’ He left us behind and left.”

  • “Reli realized her difficult situation. She was pregnant and her child only wanted to be in her arms, not in mine. As soon as we got out to the street she told me: ‘Gila, I will commit suicide. I will jump under a tram. You shall stay with my children and decide what you do next.’ I replied: ‘We are not in such a desperate situation yet for you to jump under a tram. Come on, let’s try something.’ It was a beautiful spring day and I said: ‘Come on, pick a direction. Either this way or that way. It is impossible for us not to meet someone we know.’ She obeyed and as we walked we saw an acquaintance from Michalovice who was walking in the oppostie direction. We told him what we were looking for – a contact to take us across the border to Slovakia. He gave us the address of a canteen where people with contacts to smugglers gathered.”

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    Izrael, 17.11.2015

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I will stay but you shall escape and save yourself

Gila Fatran 2015
Gila Fatran 2015
photo: natáčení ED

Gila Fatran, née Ella Goldstein, was born on 8 December 1929 in Michalovice in eastern Slovakia into a religious Jewish family as the sixth and youngest child. Her father Jehuda ran a shop with paints but later focused on social work, gathering material and financial aid for poor Jewish families. Her mother Sára was a housewife and helped out in the shop. In 1939 Ella was forced to leave the state school and resume her studies at a newly-founded Jewish school. The family shop was Aryanized but as an economically-important Jew, Ella’s father and his children were temporarily protected against deportations. The anti-Jewish pogroms intensified throughout 1942. Fearing further raids, by the end of 1943 her parents had sent the 14-year-old Ella along with her pregnant sister-in-law and her two-year-old son to Hungary. Following the invasion of Hungary by the Nazis, both secretly returned to Slovakia, reuniting with part of the family in Žilina in May 1944. In the following months they went into hiding in Žilina and later in Nové Mesto nad Váhom. Ella’s parents were uncovered there and deported to the Seredi camp. Ella escaped and hid with strangers up until January 1945 when she found her brother and his wife with whom she hid in Žilina until the end of the war. Her parents, several siblings and many other relatives were murdered. After the liberation she graduated from a school of commerce and joined the Zionist HaShomer HaTzair movement. For two years she had worked as an educator in the HaShomer HaTzair house in Bratislava and was preparing to leave the country for Palestine. She moved to Israel legally in the fall of 1949 along with her future husband, a Slovak Jew. In Israel she changed her name to Gila and adopted her husband’s surname Fatran. She studied pedagogy and history, obtaining a doctorate degree at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She researches the history of Slovak Jews during the Holocaust, publishing several studies and a monograph. Gila is a member of the Yad Vashem memorial commission which awards the Righteous Among the Nations honor. Since the 1990s she has been visiting Slovakia but permanently lives in Israel.