The Shemi family – Moshe, Sara and their four children Shabetai, Gita, Joseph and Alberto, lived in Bitola (Monastir) in Macedonia. They were a traditional family that made a good living from their textile store.
Shabetai received a Bar Mitzva gift from his parents – an accordion. After the occupation of Macedonia, Jews were forbidden to own musical instruments, so Shabetai gave his accordion to a Muslim friend who played in a band with him.
In March 1943, the day before the Jews of Macedonia were deported, Shabetai and Gita fled with other youths to Greece. They reached Kastoria, where they joined some relatives who had moved there the previous year. In September 1943 Kastoria was occupied by the Nazis, and within a few months the Jews of the city along with Shabetai, Gita and their relatives, were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Shabetai and Gita were sent separately to the Bergen-Belsen camp, but their relatives were murdered on arrival. Gita was sent from Bergen-Belsen to the Venusberg camp for forced labor in an aircraft parts factory. In April 1945, the camp was dismantled and the prisoners, Gita among them, were sent to Mauthausen where they were liberated by the American army.
In July 1945, Gita returned to her family’s home in Bitola. There she discovered that Shabetai had also been sent to Bergen-Belsen, but had perished two days after the liberation. Gita was the only survivor of her family. On her return to Macedonia, Shabetai’s accordion was given to her.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Gita Kalderon, Kfar Sirkin, Israel