Šaul Gattenyo

* 1940  

  • "We found shelter with the nuns in a monastery in Skopje. But soon thereafter, since there were Bulgarian and German soldiers all around, they became scared. After a couple days they sent us along with one Jewish girl and a ten-year-old boy in a horsecart out of Skopje. First, we rode in the horsecard until at some point, the nun told us to carry on on foot. We walked for three days until we reached southern Kosovo and the monastery of Letnica. We were not scared on the way. There were no Germans or Bulgarians there. At night, we sat on tree stumps and made fire because it was cold. We prayed not to be killed by wolves. Then we made it to Letnica where we were admitted by the nuns. I was baptized and given the name Sasha. I learned all the Christian prayers by heart and we stayed there throughout the war. It was a very good place. In 1945, when the war ended, we set off with Zora and a horsecart back to Skopje."

  • "After my military service when I was about twenty-one, I realized I hadn't known the whereabouts of my savior Zora. I hadn't thought about it for a long time. The family that brought me up was not in touch with her. I knew a family of survivors from Yugoslavia, my relatives. They lived in Jerusalem and I often visited them during Shabbat. I even gave them some money. They were great, both her and her husband. Her second husband then went to Yugoslavia and I asked him to look for Zora. They wrote in the newspapers, tried via the Red Cross. To no avail. Once, in September 1973, I got a phone call from an acquaintance, telling me they found Zora. Where? In Ljubljana. I got her address and phone. Instantly, I wrote to her and called her, asking her to come to Israel."

  • "Yad Vashem wants people to tell what they went through during the Shoah. They call it testimony. I went to Yad Vashem and undertook a several day-long course. From the morning till the evening, we were taught how to speak in front of people and so on. There were sixty of us and this took place some two or three years ago. I began talking to other survivors from all around Europe that I met there. I asked them about things. I recall one nice gentleman who was in Auschwitz and at the moment of liberation, weighed some forty or forty-five kilos. Then he made it to the Israeli air force. I talked to pretty much everyone. I found out a part of them were in Auschwitz, others elsewhere. Their lives were very difficult and it was a miracle that they survived. But almost everyone had at least some survivor in their family. For some, it was their sister, for others, their grandma. Myself, I was never hurt physically, I didn't spend time in a concentration camp where Jews were being murdered. I never received a beating. But on the other hand, I was left with nobody from my family."

  • "Up until 1945 when we were in the Letnica monastery I thought Zora was my mummy. I called her 'majka', meaning mummy. As a child, I thought I was Christian, knew all the prayers and thought she was my mummy. When we returned to Skopje to Ester, Chananja and her daughter Sheli, they told me that my parents and the whole family - uncles, grandma, the whole extended family - died in Treblinka. That was very hard for me. I kept crying at night, it was horrible. I had a dream of hijacking a plane and bombing Germany. It was very difficult."

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    Tel Aviv, 08.12.2017

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    duration: 01:01:14
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I was not hit once during the war but I lost all of my family

Shaul, Cerkvenica, 1946
Shaul, Cerkvenica, 1946
photo: archiv pamětníka

Shaul Gattenyo was born on 21 August 1940 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. His parents Vinka and Leo Gatenjo were Sephardi Jews. In 1941, following the occupation of Serbia, the family moved to the Macedonian city of Skopje. After the annexation of a part of Macedonia by Bulgaria in March 1943, Jews were concentrated in the Monopoly camp in Skopje, from where they were being deported to Treblinka. Šaul became seriously ill at that time and his mother secretly passed him over to a former nanny, Zora Pičulin from Slovenia. She had gone into hiding with the boy since March 1943 in the Letnica monastery near the Macedonian-Kosovar border. Most of the members of the Gatenjo family died in extermination or concentration camps (Treblinka, Auschwitz, Jasenovac, Sajmište). After the war, Ester Biti, the sister of his grandmother and her husband Chananja took care of the boy. He joined them on their journey to Israel in 1948. He studied mathematics and worked as high-school teacher in Jerusalem. Ever since the 1970s, he paid annual visits to his savior Zora in her hometown of Ljubljana. In 1975, Zora Pičulin was awarded the Righteous Among the Nations honorific by the Yad Vashem memorial. She died in 1998. Šaul Gattenyo collaborates as a volunteer with the Yad Vashem memorial and tells his life story there.