Gita Kalderon (née Shami) was born in Monastir, Yugoslavia (today Bitola, in Macedonia), in 1926. In April 1942, Macedonia was annexed to Bulgaria. On 10 March 1943, Gita fled with eight of her friends from the area, led by Shimon (Simo) Kalderon. The following day the Bulgarians arrested most of the city’s Jews, including all of Gita’s family except her brother Shabtai, and after a number of days transported them to the Treblinka death camp, where they perished.
Gita and her friends fled to Kastoria, in the Italian-occupied area of Greece, where Shabtai and Simo joined the partisans. Gita worked in the fields, and in parallel was involved in providing propaganda to the women of the region, as part of the anti-fascist enterprise. In September 1943, the Germans took control of Italy and the regions under its control. In March 1944, the Germans arrested all the Jews in Kastoria, Gita among them, and sent them to Auschwitz. With the approach of the Red Army, Gita was taken to Bergen-Belsen, and from there marched to the Weinsberg camp, where she worked removing dead bodies and caught typhus. “The woman in charge told me: ‘If you make it through the next 48 hours – you’ll live’. After 48 hours of hallucinating fever, I woke up,” relates Gita.
The Red Army continued to approach, and Gita was sent west again by train. “We passed through Czechoslovakia; we were thirsty and tired, without food or water. The guards emptied vats of water before our eyes, and did not let us drink. These were older soldiers, not SS men. The residents of Prague heard that prisoners were passing through, and gathered together bread for us.” Gita reached Mauthausen at the end of her strength. “I felt that my soul was leaving me. I ate grass from the side of the road.” Soldiers saw the weak women and began to throw them crumbs of bread, so they could watch the women fight. “I told myself: ‘I am about to die, but until my last breath I will not relinquish my honor and I will not bend over.’ I did not bend over for the crumbs.”
After liberation Gita returned to Yugoslavia, the only surviving member of her family. There she met up with and later married Simo. In December 1948 they immigrated to Israel with their oldest daughter. Gita devoted her time to caring for her family, and after her children had grown, she went to study and began to work in administration. Today she volunteers at the Schneider Children’s Hospital in Petach Tikva.
Gita has 3 children, 10 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.