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Jozef Abrahám

Jozef Abrahám, born 1919, Budča, district Zvolen

  • Testimony abstract

    About a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty Roma lived in the village of Budča. Abraham's brother-in-law[1] was a Sudeten German who had enlisted in Slovakia. After meeting Abraham's sister,[2] he did not return to Bohemia.

    • [1] Name not given.
    • [2] Name not given.

    Abraham was serving in the army at the time Germany invaded Poland and the war began [1 September 1939], and was in Poland with the entire 25th Regiment. According to Abraham, something must have happened then between the Slovak president and the Germans, because the Slovak Army withdrew and began to allow reservists and those who had already served their time in the army to go home. He returned home in November [1939] and married Vilma, who had waited for him while he was in the army. They came to get him in 1941.[1] He was issued with a uniform in the barracks in Trenčin and they were going, he says, to Russia. But they never got that that far, stopping in Lublin.

    Jozef Abraham then took part in the [Slovak National] Uprising – he was the only Roma from the village of Budča, but many other Roma men were taken by the Germans to work in the camps. He says that the Russians first invaded Bystrica and on 28 August [1944] Zvolen, where he registered as a insurgent soldier[2] at the castle. They advanced to the village of Tomášovce and into Lučenec, before being pushed back by the Germans, and then towards Kokava and Prašivá [a peak on the crest of the Low Tatras], where the Germans surrounded them, as they did the whole republic.[3] Abraham fought under the command of the Russian captain Krkhanov and his aides Pavel Beliek and [probably Pavel] Barboriak. He was on guard duty, going out at night to reconnoitre. The partisan campaign against the Germans lasted about three months. Then each man returned home on his own. The Russians took off in aeroplanes.

    Then[4] the Germans came again, and took people to work in Germany. Abraham was captured right at the beginning, but took the opportunity to report to the coal mine in Handlová. When he arrived, there had just been a gas explosion and twenty people had been killed, so he wanted to get out of there. He hid with his older brother[5] on a train going to Štubňa and threw his backpack out of the window. Apparently the Germans were stopping people who were carrying a load, a rucksack or a sack, and shooting them regardless, but allowing those who were not carrying anything to go. However, a parish priest who was travelling on the train with them spotted them and denounced them to the Germans at the station in Štubňa; according to Abraham, even parish priests were collaborating with the Germans at that time. Abraham and his brother were captured, taken to headquarters and had to work for the Germans – digging graves for the dead killed by the Germans. He was in the camp in Nováky near Koš,[6] where there were about three and a half thousand people. The camp was like a prison; they slept on straw on the ground, were covered with lice, and in the morning were given one cup of unsweetened coffee and a piece of bread. But sometimes they got no food for three whole days. The Germans always took ten or twenty people to work, and none of them knew whether they would come back or not. Every evening the Germans came, took one of the prisoners away, shot him, and in the morning the other prisoners found only his shoes and clothes. Abraham was also in Nemecké Pravno,[7] where the Russians bombed a meat canning factory. After that, there was nothing for the prisoners there to do, so the Germans took them back to Nováky. When the Germans began to withdraw, they ordered the prisoners to take bread from the warehouses and brought them to Čadca, as they planned to repair some destroyed tunnels. The Red Cross from Čadca gave the prisoners a quarter loaf of bread and tea, and for the next two days they slept sitting by the wagons. Finally, the Bishop of Čadca took them from the station to a castle where they could sleep overnight, and he gave each of them papers to return home. Even so, the journey back was full of fear; the Germans were still hiding in the woods. Abraham was the last of all the Roma and Slovaks in the village to return, just before Easter. He was taken by car, by Russians whom he had bribed with liquor bought with hidden money. At that time, he and his wife already had three children.

    Abraham also talks about Anton Facuna – Abraham's sister-in-law was a “sort of” cousin to Facuna. According to Abraham, Facuna posed as a Major Novák during the war because when he was in the [Slovak National] Uprising, a Slovak army pilot, Major Novák, was killed. Facuna took his clothes and documents, and because he spoke German well, he moved among the Germans and could, for example, warn civilians if they were in danger. He became acquainted with Abraham's brother-in-law, a Sudeten German, who worked in the Germans' kitchen and took food from there to give to the partisans. The food was taken somewhere towards Banská Bystrica, Facuna shot the Germans on the way, took the load of food to the partisans and returned with an empty car. He also arranged permission for the Roma to move around the region, as whoever had a permit was not shot by the Germans. So Abraham dug pits for the Germans [near the Tri Duby airport] in Sliač, in which they hid when a plane landed, so as not be seen.

    • [1] Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June and by 24 June the Slovak Army had already joined the German soldiers at the front.
    • [2] Probably a partisan.
    • [3] The Slovak National Council, with its seat in Banská Bystrica, proclaimed the restoration of the common state of Czechs and Slovaks on 1 September 1944. (ed.)
    • [4] It is not stated when.
    • [5] Name not given.
    • [6] There was a camp in the village of Koš where Jews were interned after the first deportations stopped in October 1942.
    • [7] Since 1946 Nitrianske Pravno.

    Jozef Abraham and his wife had five sons and four daughters, but none of the children stayed with them. All the sons married non-Romani women. According to them, Budča was becoming depopulated, and many Roma now lived in the town, as did their children.

    How to cite abstract

    Abstract of testimony from: HÜBSCHMANNOVÁ, Milena, ed. “Po židoch cigáni.” Svědectví Romů ze Slovenska 1939–1945.: I. díl (1939–srpen 1944). 1. Praha: Triáda, 2005. ISBN 80-86138-14-3, 868-879 (ces), 880-892 (rom). Testimonies of the Roma and Sinti. Project of the Prague Forum for Romani Histories (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences), https://www.romatestimonies.com/testimony/jozef-abraham (accessed 4/14/2024)
  • Origin of Testimony

    Jozef Abrahám was interviewed on two consecutive days in 1994 in his home in the presence of his wife Vilma and two women students of Romani studies. He was not prepared for the interview, so there are moments in his memoirs that it would be desirable to clarify. The information gathered was disorganized and in some places incomprehensible, so the editors have formally edited the text, arranged it chronologically, and sometimes omitted the questions.

  • Where to find this testimony

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