Yeshayahu (Kostia) Nir

* 1930  

  • “I was the only child and when I asked my parents why I didn’t have any siblings, they told me that there was a hostile attitude against Jews in Germany with a very dangerous dictator, and that only after this man would had died, I could have a sister or a brother. I remember that none of my friends had younger brothers or sisters, just older ones. It was very rare to see a Jewish family risking pregnancy, because everyone was afraid.”

  • “There was a big rain. We went through the village of Ďurčiná. Suddenly, through the window of one house in that village I saw the officer, who threw me out of the mobilization office [of partisan’s, note ed.]. However, he wasn’t wearing the uniform anymore; he was looking just like any other farmer. We went on. We ran away to the mountains. I thought a lot about the whole meaning of the uprising; how fast could the uprising stop to work. I was very disappointed. Although, I also thought about the difference between Slovaks – partisans and Jews – partisans. The Jews couldn’t leave home whenever they decided the uprising was no more good for them. The Slovaks could have done that. They had some place to go. Back then I wasn’t quite aware of that, but after few years I realized it was the difference between the nation having own land, where its people live and the nation without own land.”

  • “It happened yet before the allies disembarked in France, that I saw in Jewish elementary school two people I didn’t know. They were dressed like Jews from Žilina. I heard from members of the Ha-Šomer ha-ca’ir organization that those were the people who ran away from Poland, from the concentration camps. Later I found out their names, which are world-famous today, Vrba and Wetzler. I knew they were informing the movement about horrible things, but I didn’t know the details. Several days later my father told me that up in north, not far from the borders with Poland, there was a concentration camp, where thousands of Jews were killed every day.”

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    Tel Aviv, Izrael, 23.11.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 01:43:37
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th century
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After the war I had only one thing on my mind: the Jews must have their own state and army

Portrait
Portrait
photo: Pri natáčaní ED

Konštantín Nürnberg, in Hebrew Yeshayahu, was born in 1930 into a Žilina Jewish family as the only child of his parents. Everyone mostly called him “Kostia”. When he was young, he attended the Jewish elementary school and he also had many classmates of non-Jewish origin. However, after passing of the anti-Jewish laws, he personally encountered the takeover of fascist ideology in his surroundings. People were chanting anti-Semitic slogans in front of the church, Christian boys were throwing stones into him and his Jewish friends. There were further similar manifestations during this era. The Nürnberg family managed to avoid the first wave of deportations in 1942 also thanks to good connections they had with non-Jews. Year 1943 was relatively calm for the family; Konštantín got involved in cultural-educational activities of Zionist underground movement. Unfortunately, when in 1944 the question of transports arose again, his family was endangered. For several days they managed to run away thanks to warning of someone from the Christian community, but at last they were detained by Germans due to betrayal of farmers who were selling food to this fleeing family. In the fall 1944 they ended up in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where was Kostia and his father separated from his mom. This was the last time he saw her. They spent in Auschwitz few days and afterwards they were moved to the camp in Niederorschel, where they stayed in relative safety app. half a year. In 1945 when the front was approaching, they were evacuated to the camp Buchenwald. Two days later they waited to see the liberation there. His father died due to illness, so Konštantín had to return home alone. After the war he studied at the Secondary School of Agriculture in Nitra and with the gained skills he left to former Palestine, to begin with founding the young State of Israel. There he founded the first kibbutz and it members were mostly of Slovak origin. Later he made a short film about the extent of knowledge the Vatican representatives and Slovak politicians had about the holocaust. After the Velvet Revolution, he returned to Slovakia for short time, but until today he has still lived in Israel.