Maty Grunberg

* 1943  

  • „In 1948, what left of Macedonian Jewish people, we immigrated to Israel. There were 3600 Jews who arrived on two ships from Zadar, this is a part of Adriatic coast, to Israel. What was special about this trip, that I remember vividly, first of all, the sea was very rough. It was the month of December, and people who sat and lived in the low part of the ship have been sick and womit and I refused to be down. So I have always been on the top part of the ship, you know, the fresh wind and rouhg see, I´d loved it.“

  • „It was an atmosphere because Israel, it was a lot of people coming from Europe. People with trauma of concentration camp, lot of people had numbers on theirs arms. As a child, I didn´t want to be associated with it that, because I wanted to become immediately young proud strong Israeli, it has nothing to do with me that part. Now I recognize that the past had a big, big scar on my soul. I carry a memory. In early seventies I did some images with the memory of holocaust. Two years ago, those images were shown in the museum of holocaust in Skopje nad people were amazed that I had such a vivid memory of that period and I even wrote some kind of poetic line around this images, the memory of that.“

  • „After the war my mother always used to show me photographs but you know, as a child if you don´t have memories of your uncles or aunts, you kind of never ask. Also what was important, coming to Israel as a child, I remember my personal experience. I wanted to become very quickly Israeli, to learn the language, to become proud young Israeli who has nothing to do with the background of holocaust or the sadness of broken people who came out of the holocaust.“

  • „What was special about that period, that people came out of the ship on a floor of the port and everybody was lying down kissing the ground. As a child, I was so impressed why are people kissing the ground. You know I couldn´t understand that. Then a guy came dressed all in rubber cloth and sprayed DDT on all of us. I remember I couldn´t understand why everybody looked like ghost with the white powder on themself. Then, we were put on lorries, everybody was standig on the lorries, not sitting, and I pushed myself in the front of the lorry and we were driwing all the road to the south of Israel. What I remember very vividly on that particular journey it was the strong smell, scent of oranges in the air. I looked back and saw everybody in the big lorry, standing people in the lorry were crying. So I always associate the smell of oranges with the cry.“

  • „The Christian family really took the risk hiding us in the flour mill. I was born in a date that a week later, the Jews of Macedonia were taken to Skopje, Monopol, and from Monopol they were taken to Treblinka. 98 percent as far as I know from the records never came back. We survived and every time when a German used to pass through the main road, via Skopje, from Bulgaria, via Skopje, or from Greece, via Skopje, my father used to put me in an attic with my grandmother. I was asked, almost as a baby, two or theree, I remember, to be very quiet and not to make any noise.“

  • „I was asked three years ago to go to Macedonia to the place called Monastir Bitola to restore an old Jewish cemetery. What is special about this Jewish cemetery: when I arrived there I was shocked by the size of it. The cemetery I think was created around 16th century or late 15th century. As an artist, my proposal was to the group of five architects from the city of Bitola that we have to create a memorial park, because nobody is going to come and visit an old cemetery, nobody is interested in visiting cemetery. All Europe is full of cemeteries that nobody actually goes there. So I proposed five pieces of art to create a memorial park and to restore and open the cemetery to the general public. So they can visit and it can be a really special place. Otherwise, restoring a cemetery doesn´t go to create visitors. They all agreed with me and the foreign office also got involved with that, Bar Ilan university got involved, the Israeli agriculture fund, Keren Kayemet, got involved, and suddenly all sorts of people got involved, even a group of German Christian people from the city of Baden-Baden. The whole community took on themselves to restore the cemetery. Everything was done volontary, including my work is volontary.“

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    Tel Aviv, 08.12.2017

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    duration: 58:47
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Scent of oranges, tears and DDT

Maty Grunberg 1946
Maty Grunberg 1946
photo: archiv pamětníka

Maty Grunberg was born on March 4, 1943, in Skopje, Macedonia. Both of his parents were Jews, his father Leo came from northern Yugoslavia, his mother Bela came from Skopje. At the time he was born, the family relocated to the country — his father, an engineer, got a job near the town of Kumanovo, in a mill belonging to a Christian family. It was with this family that they hid against the directive for all Macedonian Jews to gather in the concentration camp Monopol in Skopje. Thus they escaped the deportation to extermination camps, where most of the Macedonian Jews ended up. After the war the family returned to Skopje. In 1948 they moved to the newly declared State of Israel. They settled in Bat Jam, where Maty went to the secondary school. Then he studied at the Israel Art Academy Becalel (1964-1966) and, thanks to a scholarship, continued in his studies in London (1969-1971). In London he married and raised three children with his wife. They lived in the UK and the U.S. In 2007, after his wife’s death, he returned to Israel. Maty Grunberg, among other things, dedicated himself to book illustrations, sculpture, three-dimensional paper installations and his works include even a sundial. Currently he is working on a memorial in the Jewish cemetery of Bitole, commemorating the murder of nearly all Jewish population in Macedonia.