I have dedicated this book to the "Lager." Readers will be surprised and will wonder what a "Lager" is, and what kind of word that is. It's a German word, which, translated into Serbo-Croatian, means camp.1 All Jews of Petrovgrad were resettled into that camp. Earlier the camp was an army barracks, which had been totally neglected and thus full of lice and bedbugs. Before the Jews were moved into the barracks, it was a breeding place for infectious diseases. The courtyard was full of various military things which the retreating Yugoslav army left in great disorder. In the rooms, soldiers unloaded their things from suitcases, trunks, etc. Bedbugs promenaded among those things just like people taking an evening stroll in town. In a word, there was a big mess in this building, and the only inhabitants were lice and bedbugs. We, the children, still lived relatively well because we were together and we were able to play to our hearts' content all day long. But the adults could not boast anything like that. They worked and sweated very hard, and when they returned, the commissar would harass them. And so it went. This book cannot be written in the form of a novel, because it wouldn't have any content, and therefore I am writing in the form of short stories. The stories in this book are not fabrications but rather the plain truth which I lived through. Readers will see how a young boy of 11 feels and imagines the "Lager." Because I am writing this book when I am only 11 years old.
So, let's begin...
Petrovgrad, August 11, 1941 Đura Rajs
Moving to the "Lager"
After the entry of German troops into Petrovgrad, all Jewish males between the ages of 18-60 were taken to a former elementary school and locked up there. They were escorted by guards every day to work at various places. My father was also among them. So it went for about a month. On May 2, 1941, a fateful day for the Jews, an order was issued that all Jews must resettle to the former Hungarian army barracks. The resettlement began... Just to be safe we moved to the house of my grandmother who was also alone because grandpa was also in the school, to await the day when we, too, would have to be resettled. That day soon arrived. On May 8 a police vehicle pulled over with two auxiliary policemen armed to the teeth. They showed us an announcement that said that we must immediately resettle to the barracks. Dad and grandpa then came to help with the move. My uncle Franja, a medical student in Zagreb, who went to the school and voluntarily signed up for labor immediately upon arriving in Petrovgrad, came along with them.
The policemen allowed us to bring along two beds, a sofa, and an armoire. Also a table with four chairs, a wash basin, some food stuffs, and so on and so on. Then we loaded all of that on a cart, bid farewell to our acquaintances, friends, and relatives, and we took off in a carriage to our future apartment, actually to our future jail.