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Chapter VII

The Mismer family from Kulikow
near Jarczow to Osijek, Yugoslavia

 

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Map of Osijek, Croatia

 

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As mentioned previously Wolf Mandel and Liba Weintraub gave birth to Rivkah Mandel. Rivka married Chaskel Figer, and they had the following children: Ephraim, Lea, Hannah, Reisel, Leib, Hersh and Rosa. Ephraim Figer and his family managed to escape the Shoah as did Leib Figer and his family. All other Figers perished in the Shoah.

Rosa Figer of Jarczow married Ephraim Mismer of Kulikow near Jarczow. Ephraim was born in 1886 in Kulikow near Jarczow to Isaac and Jente Mismer. Isaac Mismer was the son of David Arieh Mismer born in 1843 in Kulikow. Ephraim was drafted into the Austro–Hungarian army and stationed in present day Yugoslavia. He slowly managed to bring his entire family to the village of Orahovica, present day Slovenia. Several years later, the family moved to Osijek, present day Croatia. The Mismers named their first son David in honor of his grandfather David Mismer. The second son was named Arieh also named for his grandfather. During this period, another Mismer named Mordechai or Markus Mismer was born in 1886 in Kulikow to Ephraim and Annie Mismer. This Ephraim was the son of David Arieh and Anna Mismer. David Arieh was born in 1843 in Kulikow. His grandson Mordechai Mismer left Kulikow and arrived in New York on January 10,1914 aboard the President Lincoln. He was a watchmaker. He came to the home of his father Ephraim Mismer in New York. Ephraim arrived in New York City on July 5, 1910. His wife Beile or as she was later called Betty in the USA arrived September 2, 1912 aboard the President Cleveland. With her came Gitel, age 11, Moishe, age 9, and Ruchel, age 7. Markus Mismer was joined by his wife Regina Mismer. All had lived in the village of Kulikow near Jarczow. David Arieh Mismer had two sons that we know off: Isaac and Ephraim Mismer.

 

The Jewish population of Osijek
Year Total
population
Jews
(families)
Jews
(people)
% of the total
population
1746–7   11    
1818   24    
1852   160    
1880 23,750   1,900 8
1900 23,000   2,070 8.3
1910 27,919   2,370  
1921 34,412   2,960  
1931 40,337   3,020  
1940     3,193  
1968 86,000   220  

The Jewish population reached a peak of 3,193 in 1940 just prior to the German occupation of Yugoslavia. Notice in 1968, there were about 220 Jews in Osijek.

Osijek dates back to Neolithic times, with the first known inhabitants belonging to the Illyrians and later invading Celtic tribes. The area was conquered by the Romans and the 7th legion was stationed there. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the area underwent major upheavals, and battles, that resulted in chaotic conditions.

The earliest recorded mention of Osijek dates back to 1196. The town was a feudal property of the Kórógyi family, which retained it until 1472. The Ottoman Empire conquered the city on August 8, 1526. Following the Battle of Mohács in 1687, Osijek was liberated by the Habsburg Monarchy on September 29, 1687. Under Austrian rule the city expanded and modernized. The Austrians also encouraged German migration to the city and region. In 1809, Osijek was granted the title of a Free Royal City and during the early 19th century it was the largest city in Croatia. The city developed along the lines of other central European cities, with cultural, architectural and socio–economic influences filtering down from Vienna and Budapest.

Jews from the Austrian Empire began settling in Osijek under difficult conditions in the middle of the 18th century. They had no official right of residence until 1792. Religious services were held in the town from 1830, and the community was founded in 1845; it had 40 members in 1849. The congregation school and ḥevra kadisha were founded in 1857; a synagogue was built in 1867. Later the city would have two synagogues, one in the lower part of the city and one in the upper part of the city. When emancipation was granted to Jews in Croatia in 1873, the community prospered and was the largest one in Croatia until 1890.

The Jewish community was well organized and even had a variety of publications that appeared. The Zionist movement was well represented in the city, especially the youth movements such as Betar and Hashomer Hatzair.The city had a Jewish sports club called Maccabi headed by Yossef Rosenberg and later by Andria Nag'y. The rabbis of the city were Dr. Shmuel Spitzer, Dr. Armans Kaminka; Dr. Shimon Unger perished in the Shoah as did Dr. Chaim Shtekel.

The Germans occupied most of Yugoslavia in April 1941. Parts were also occupied by Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria. Croatia became a so–called independent state under the leadership of Ante Pavelic. On April 13, 1941, the first pogrom against Jews was organized by Germans, Folksdeutsche or Croatians of German origin, and Swabians or Germans. The anti–Jewish campaign was led by the fanatic group called the Ustasha. On the day of the pogrom, they also burned the main synagogue and destroyed the Jewish cemetery in Osijek.

In June 1942 the Jewish community was ordered to build a settlement on the road to Tenje, a nearby village, where the Jews would be left unmolested. Three thousand Jews from Osijek, and later from other places in the region, were confined there; and by August 1942 they had all been sent either to the death camp of Jasenovac in Croatia or Auschwitz. Most of the survivors left for Israel. There is a small Jewish community in present day Osijek.

 

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Efraim Mismer and Reisel Mismer née Figer and their family

 

Efraim Mismer was born in 1886 in Kulikow near Jarczow. His wife Reisel Figer was born in Jarczow in 1885. Their oldest son, David Mismer was born in Kulikow in 1906, Leo Mismer was born April 3, 1908 in Kulikow. Klara Berta and Maja were born in Kulikow, near Jarczow. Hela Mismer was born in Orahovica, present day Slovenia. Later the family moved to Osijek, Yugoslavia, present day Croatia.

 

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Roza Figer–Mismer

 

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Above birth certificate of Reisel Figer born in Jarczow, Poland May 29, 1885 to Rivkah and Chaskel Figer

 

She was also a granddaughter of Wolf Mandel and Liba Weintraub. This document is dated 1926 in Lemberg. It was issued years after the actual birth day. This was a copy issued by the Jewish community office. Notice the date of the document issued, 1926 Lwow or Lemberg. Many Jewish marriages in Eastern Europe were performed by local rabbis who were not recognized by the civil authorities. As a result, the births of children were also not recorded. Birth certificates were needed for passports or draft boards. Then the community would issue a certificate of birth with the actual date when the copy was written.

 

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Above marriage certicate between Roza Figer and Efraim Mismer in Jarczow Poland

 

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Passport issued to Ruza or Rosa Mismer to visit her parents in Poland

 

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The information page of the passport dealing with Rosa Mismer

 

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Roza Mismer born in 1885 in Jarczow, Poland, deported to Auschwitz Birkenau in 1942 where she was murdered. Testimony page by her son Leo Mismer

 

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Brother of Rosa Figer born in Jarczow. Efraim Figer

 

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Sister of Rosa Figer born in Jarczow

 

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Efraim Mismer

 

Efraim Mismer

He was born April 3,1886, in Kulikow, near Jarczow. He was the son of Isaac and Jente Mismer. He married Roza Figer, daughter of Chaskel Figer and Rivkah Mandel. The marriage was performed by Rabbi Wolf Gerstel, Rabbi of Jarczow. The Austrian authorities did not recognize Jewish religious marriage ceremonies and therefore did not record the event. The Mismers were not considered married by the Austrian authorities. This practice was common among Jews in Eastern Europe. A birth and marriage certificate was needed for the draft board. Efraim Mismer obtained a marriage certificate dated September 16, 1915. The document was issued in Lwow or Lemberg. Efraim and Roza gave birth to the following children: David, Leo, Klara, Berta, Maja and Hela.

We already mentioned that the family settled in Orahovica, present day Slovenia. The village of Orahovica was small and consisted of farms and fruit orchards. There were four Jewish families in the village. Following World War One, Efraim obtained a job as a farm supervisor. In about 1924, the family moved to Osijek, present–day Croatia, but Efraim continued to work at the farm and came home for the weekends to Osijek. The Mismer family lived modestly. With the entry of the Germans to Yugoslavia, persecution of Jews began. Germans and Croatians began to arrest Jews and sent them to detention camps and then to the death camp of Auschwitz–Birkenau.

 

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Passport issued to Efraim Mismer when he visited his parents in Jarczow Poland. Notice the personal information in the document.

 

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Testimony page submitted by Leo Mismer for his father Efraim Mismer

 

Efraim and Roza's children

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David Mismer

David Mismer

David Mismer was born in 1905 in Kulikow, near Jarczow, Poland. He grew up in Orahovica, present day Slovenia. Later the family moved to Osijek, Yugoslavia, present day Croatia. He was arrested in Osijek and sent to the Jasenovac death camp in Croatia where he was killed during the Shoah. He was married to a non–Jewish woman and had a son. They survived the war.

 

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Testimony page for David Mismer killed in Jasenovac death camp in Croatia

 

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Leo Mismer

 

Leo Mismer

Leo Mismer was born in Kulikow near Jarczow, Poland on April 3, 1908. He grew up in Orahovica, present–day Slovenia. He attended the local primary school for four years, followed by another four years of schooling, then entered the gymnasia where he studied a further four years. He graduated in 1928 and started to work in the wood industry. In 1931 he changed his job and joined the Bernard Gutman company where he worked in the office. He was exempt from military duty due to a heart condition. He met and married Mira Schwartz. They were married on March 5, 1939 in Osijek.

Leo worked until April 11,1941when the Germans, Italians and Bulgarians attacked Yugoslavia. Leo was immediately fired from his job. The Germans created a Croatian puppet state headed by Ante Pavelic and his paramilitary force called the Ustasha. During the summer of 1941 the Ustasha ran wild in Croatia.[1] They destroyed entire villages and killed thousands of Jews and Serbs. Jewish life became meaningless. There were constant arrests, detentions and killing of Jews. The Jewish population of about 30,000 was reduced to several thousand by 1942.[2] Leo and his wife Mira began to plan their future moves when Hela Mismer, a sister of Leo, arrived at their house and told them that the Germans were looking for her. She had decided not to report and packed a bag, heading

 

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Birth certificate of Leo Mismer in Polish. The certificate was issued in Jarczow

 

to her brother's home. There they decided on a plan of action, to head in the direction of Italy.

Italy was no heaven for Jews but the situation was much better there than in most occupied areas under German control. Italy had a small Jewish population of about 47,000 Italian Jews and an estimated 10,000 foreign Jews.[3] Italian Jewry was well integrated into the general Italian society: Jews served in the army and there were about 15 Jewish Italian generals in the Italian army in 1938. Jews held prominent positions including professorships at the universities and judges. The status of Jews was not affected by the seizure of power by Benito Mussolini in 1922. As a matter of fact, some Jews were members of his party. Il Duce, as Mussolini called himself, even had a Jewish mistress, Margherita Sarfatti.

As fascist Italy moved closer to Nazi Germany, things began to change in the country, especially in the press that was government controlled. An anti–Jewish campaign was launched followed by the introduction of racial laws in 1938. The first act of the new policy was the closing of the Italian schools to Jewish children. The Jewish communities had to establish their own schools. Then all Jewish civil servants were dismissed from their posts, and Jewish professionals were forbidden to practice their professions. Foreign Jews were forbidden to enter Italy. Foreign Jewish residents in Italy were urged to leave the country and a number left. Their place was soon taken by Jews who entered Italy illegally or entered areas controlled by the Italian army in Yugoslavia. Italy seized these areas in April 1941. Italian border guards and soldiers did not blindly obey the anti–Jewish orders and looked the other way, enabling Jews to smuggle themselves into the desired areas.

The Mismers decided to head to the Italian–controlled areas in Yugoslavia with the hope of entering Italy. They left Osijek by train and headed to Zagreb, capital of Croatia. There they found some assistance that enabled them to travel to Susak, Croatia. The entire trip was fraught with danger because Jews were not permitted to travel on trains. Susak was already under Italian army control but the Ustasha ruled the city. The Mismers established contact with some local people who helped them on their way to Trieste, Italy.

The stay in Italy was very difficult and many a day the Mismers had no food. The Italian police arrested them and they were sent to a camp named Aprica near Milan. Leonardo Marinelli, a commander in the Guardia di Finanza in 1943, was stationed in Tirano and was in charge of the internment camp in Aprica.[4] Life at the camp was relaxed without harassment. While the internees were not permitted to leave the camp, they received food and some were even permitted to work, including Leo Mismer who worked in the administration of the camp. The situation changed radically when Italy capitulated to the Allies on September 12, 1943. The German military reaction was swift, as large German forces moved into Italy, among them S.S. units. The internees of the camp, especially the Jews, were mortified by the news. Most of them had no money, legal papers, nor fluency in the Italian language to escape the camp. Some did manage to leave and head to the Swiss border that was closed to illegal refugees. Guides and smugglers were hired to cross the Italian–Swiss border. Once in Switzerland many refugees were returned to Italy. Some terrible scenes took place at the borders when refugees were forced to retrace their paths where the Germans were waiting for them.

The situation of Jewish refugees in Aprica was hopeless when a papal messenger, a young Italian priest named Giuseppe Carozzi, arrived at the camp and presented the commander, Leonardo Marinelli, with a letter from the Pope asking him to liberate 300 Yugoslav Jews from the internment camp and give them safe passage into Switzerland.[5] Marinelli went against strict Nazi orders forbidding Jews, prisoners of war or anyone who had not joined Benito Mussolini's northern Italian Republic of Salo from crossing the border, and that same night let them escape from the camp. Marinelli's diary states that he even ordered guards to help carry the belongings of the Jews. After four days of traveling through unbeaten paths, the prisoners, primarily led by Carozzi and another priest, Cirillo Vitalini, along with the help of Marinelli, safely managed to cross into Switzerland.

Following the escape of the Jewish prisoners, the Nazis, who had not yet mobilized in that region, began sending more and more troops there in an effort to stop illegal border crossings. They also put into effect a decree proclaiming that anyone helping the Jews would be put to death. Marinelli, seeing the approaching danger, decided it was best to leave. On September 22, 1944, Marinelli along with his family fled to Switzerland. He remained in a refugee camp until July 4, 1945.

The Mismers were apparently among the Yugoslav Jewish refugees that crossed the border relatively easily. Their testimonies indicate that they crossed the border and were received by the Swiss authorities and assigned to a labor camp. From 1943 to 1945, Switzerland admitted 38,000 Italian refugees and about 6,000 refugees of various other nationalities.[6] It is estimated that among the 44,000 refugees there were about 5,000 to 6,000 Jews. Most of the refugees came from the area of Milan and entered Switzerland via the Swiss canton of Ticino. Most of them had some sort of help as well as assistance from local guides who knew the area.

Leo Mismer found administrative work in the Swiss camp. Later he worked at a hotel as an accountant. On August 23, 1945, the Mismers boarded a special train to Yugoslavia, and arrived on August 29, 1945. The Mismers returned to Osijek, hoping to find some members of the family, but there were no survivors. Leo started to work as an accountant for the firm Pharmacia in Osijek. In1946 Mira Mismer gave birth to a daughter named Tanja, later Tziporah. Leo and his family left Yugoslavia for Israel on December 20, 1948 aboard the ship “Radnik”.

 

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Cover page of Swiss document permitting Leo Mismer to stay in the country

 

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Swiss permit for Leo Mismer to stay in the country

 

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Permission to stay in Switzerland extended from 1944 to 1945

 

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Mira Schvarz–Mismer

 

Mira Schvarz–Mismer

Mira Schvarz was born December 20, 1918, to Herman and Melvina Schvarz in Volpeck, Yugoslavia, a small village, where they were the only Jewish family.[7] The father had a store. Mira was an only child and the only Jewish student in her class. Several years later she moved to Osijek where her aunt lived. She finished the gymnasia in Osijek, where she met Leo Mismer and they were married on March 5, 1939. The Germans invaded Yugoslavia April 11, 1941, and set up a puppet state in Croatia that immediately began a vicious campaign aimed at the Jews. Jews were arrested, detained, sent to detention places and finally to the death camp of Jasenovac in Croatia or to Auschwitz–Birkenau. Osijek was no exception. Each day brought more arrests. Hela Mismer left her home and and joined her brother Leo Mismer and his wife in Osijek. The three Mismers decided to leave Osijek and head to Zagreb, capital of Croatia.

Here they found some help and a place to stay. They then continued their trip to Susak, Croatia. Here the atmosphere was freer because the city was occupied by the Italian Army and administered by the Ustasha administration. The Italian army did not permit ruthless brutality but still Jews were caught by the Croatians and deported to their native cities.

Mira later recalled, “We managed to contact some people and were helped to reach Trieste, Italy. We began to look for help and the Italian police arrested us but we managed to bribe our way out of jail. The second time we were arrested and sent to a special camp named Aprica near Milan.” Mira and her sister–in–law Hela Mismer ran a laundry operation for the wealthier residents of the camp in order to earn a few lire. Their flight to Switzerland has already been described. In Switzerland, the Mismers received some food packages from the Mismer family in the United States. That family also wanted to take them to the United States but Hela refused. She insisted on returning to Yugoslavia to meet the family that had been left in Osijek. The Mismers returned to Yugoslavia.

 

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Mira Schvarz–Mismer document describing in German her wanderings with her husband Leo Mismer and sister–in–law Hela Mismer during the war

 

According to the document, she was born March 25, 1918 to Herman and Malvina Schvarz in Osijek. In August 1941 they managed to escape and fled by train to the city of Susak, Croatia. In February 1942 they reach the city of Trieste in Italy. In March 1942, they were placed in forced detention in Aprica, Italy. In September 1943, they entered Switzerland as refugees. In May 1945, they were liberated in the refugee camp in Engelberg, Switzerland. December 12, 1948, Leo, Mira and Tanja Mismer left Yugoslavia for Israel. The family changed the name Mismer in Israel to Mizmor.

 

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Swiss document enabling Mira Mismer to stay in Switzerland during the war

 

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Mira's personal information

 

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Mira Mismer's refugee status was extended from December 30, 1944, to December 30, 1945

 

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Page of Testimony for Melvina Schwartz, mother of Mira Schwartz–Mismer killed in Auschwitz–Birkenau

 

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Klara Mismer with her husband Imre Schlezinger

 

Klara Mismer

Klara Mismer was born in Kulikow near Jarczow, Poland, on February 2, 1910 and moved with her family to Orahovica, present day Slovenia. Later the family moved to Osijek where she grew up. She married Imre Schlezinger. Both were detained in Osijek and sent to Auschwitz–Birkenau where they were murdered.

 

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Page of Testimony for Klara Mismer–Schlesinger, sister of Leo Mismer

 

Berta Mismer

Berta Mismer was born in Kulikow near Jarczow, Poland, on March 30,1912 and moved with her family to Orahovica, present day Slovenia. Later the family moved to Osijek where she grew up. She married Ernest Messinger. Both were detained in Osijek and sent to Auschwitz–Birkenau where they were murdered.

 

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Page of Testimony for Berta Mismer–Messinger, sister of Leo Mismer

 

Maja Mismer

Maja Mismer was born in Kulikow near Jarczow, Poland, and moved with her family to Orahovica, present day Slovenia. Later the family moved to Osijek where she grew up.

She was about 20 years old when she developed a serious ear infection, was taken to a hospital where she had surgery, and died some time later.

Hela Mismer

Hela Mismer was born Jauary 10, 1919, in Orahovica, present day Slovenia to Efraim and Roza Mismer. In 1924, the family moved to Osijek, Croatia, where she grew up. She

started her education in the Jewish school and continued with the public school. She finished the gymnasia. Hela belonged to Zionist groups in Osijek including Betar, a right–wing Zionist youth movement that she did not particularly care for, and so she switched to Hashomer Hatzair, a Marxist Zionist youth movement. She attended Zagreb University and majored in Slavonic studies. She had to stop her studies due to a lack

of funds. She started to work and lived in Zagreb. Shortly after the Germans occupied Osijek they searched for her but she was not home. When she reached home, her mother gave her the note that the Germans left to the effect that she had to report to the German office to begin to clean the living quarters of German officers in Osijek.

She never reported but instead packed her bag and headed to the flat of her older brother Leo and his wife Mira Mismer in Osijek. They were together until they reached Switzerland. Hela was sent to a labor camp near Zurich. Following the war the Mismers returned to Osijek, only to discover that the entire family had perished in the Shoah. While in Italy, Hela met Branko Kraus.

Branko Kraus

Branko Kraus was born October 30, 1909, to Julius and Therese Kraus in Koprivnica, Yugoslavia. The family moved to Zagreb where he attended school, and later worked as a bookeeper. He married a non–Jewish woman, and following the German occupation of Zagreb he went into hiding until 1942. Then he decided to leave Zagreb and his wife. He headed for Italy, where he was arrested and sent to the Aprica interment camp.

 

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The form states that his parents were Julius and Therese née Hirschl. He was married to Hela Mismer. He was born October 30, 1909 in Koprivnica, Yugoslavia. From April 1941 to January 1942 he was hidden in Zagreb. From January 1942 to September 1943 he was in the Aprica internment camp in Italy. From September 1943 to August 1945 he was in Switzerland at the following labor camps: Gierenbad, Laufen near Basle and Zweidlin.

In August 1945, he returned to Zagreb, Yugoslavia. He left Zagreb on December 16, 1948 for Israel aboard the ship Radnik from the port of Fiume.

Following the war, Branko returned home to find that his wife had divorced him during his absence. He met Hela Mismer and they married on September 17, 1945 in Osijek.

They emigrated to Israel, where they had two children: Dani and Irit.

 

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Hela Mismer and Branko Kraus in Israel

 

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Testimony page for Therese Kraus murdered in Auschwitz–Birkenau in 1942

 

Translator's Footnotes

  1. Susan Zuccotti, The Italians and the Holocaust, Basic Publishers Inc. New York. 1987. p.77 Return
  2. Ibid., p.77 Return
  3. Zuccotti p.5 Return
  4. Marchione, Margherita, Did Pope Pius XII Help the Jews, Paulist Press, USA, p. 77 Return
  5. Ibid., p.77 Return
  6. Zuccotti, p. 230. Return
  7. Mira's testimony states clearly that she was born December 20, 1918 in Volpeck, Yugoslavia. Yet her Swiss labor permit states that she was born March 25, 1918 in Osijek. We have to accept Mira's testimony as opposed to the Swiss document since we do not know what documents she showed the Swiss. Return

 

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