From the Testimony of Dina (Buechler) Chen, February 1994

I was born in Zagreb to my parents Blanka and Dargutin Buechler. My father Dr. Buechler had a law practice, my mother, who came from a well to do family, was a housewife. They could have emigrated in time, but no one ever thought it would be necessary.

As soon as the war in Yugoslavia broke out in 1941, my father was arrested with other intellectuals and sent to the well know Jasenovac camp. Later other men were sent there (my grandfather and his two sons). Not one of them returned.

The women, my mother, myself and my grandmother, were sent in summer 1941 via the camps of Pag and Hruscica to Loborgrad. No one returned. Some six months later, in the winter of 1941-2, with great efforts and high expenses, they managed to get me out of the camp and to have me brought to the Jewish Community in Zagreb. I had been the youngest child in the camp. (I have kept the note that was tied around my neck to this very day). One of the camp guards, an ethnic German Yugoslav (what was called Volksdeutscher), brought me, like a little parcel, wrapped with a pillow.

I was handed to my mother's cousin.

Mrs. Fuerst was still in Zagreb. She was listed by my mother on the note on my neck as one of the relatives to whom I was to be given.

Mrs. Fuerst took care of me and brought me back to life and good health. But after hiding her parents, she joined the partisans. She tried to hide me in a convent, but I was too small and the nuns believed it was too much of a danger for them. They recommended a very pious Christian woman, who would take care of me for proper pay. But this did not work out, and my condition deteriorated.

Mrs. Djina Beritic was a friend of Mrs. Blanka Fuerst from before the war. She was also my Godmother when I was baptized. My name was now Marija. At home they called me Maja. Mrs. Djina lived with her son, the medical student Tihomir and her husband who was a sea captain and almost never was at home.

Mrs. Djina visited me while I was staying with this pious woman and found my condition to be terrible. I was suffering from malnutrition, starved and without clothes. (It turned out that they had sold them). I was most unhappy, and I remember I was not allowed to be outside, and they wouldn't let me drink so I wouldn't wet myself. Djina pretended to take me for a walk and actually kidnapped me and took me to her home.

I stayed with Mrs. Djina from the winter of 1942-3 until the end of the war.

Mrs. Djina took loving care of me, as if I were her own daughter. Also her son, who loved me very much, like a little sister. I remember him carrying me on his arms to the air raid shelter during the bombings of Zagreb.

Mrs. Djina risked her life by hiding me in her home. One of the neighbors made explicit threats that he would denounce her to the Germans. He was a violent antisemite. Our lives were saved, because the partisans made a counter threat that if something would happen to me, they would punish him.

On the other side of the street was a youth center of the local fascists, and I knew I was never to go near that place. I was practically closed inside the house most of the time. only rarely could I go down to the backyard. I grew up among adults, without friends of my age or any other children.

...Mrs. Djina told me that I have an aunt who is with the partisans, and that perhaps she would return after the war. When Mrs. Fuerst came back, they told me I was Jewish and that my name was Dina. It was very difficult for me because I knew that Jews were bad people who had crucified Jesus. In short, Mrs. Djina knew that as a Jew my place was with my own people. But she was very sad to part from me and actually wanted me to stay.

...In 1948 I immigrated to Israel with Mrs. Fuerst and the contact with the Beritic family was reduced to correspondence. I visited them in 1961 and again in 1968. There were no other opportunities.

Mrs. Beritic meanwhile died from cancer and I am in touch with her son, the physician and researcher. He is now retired, but he was a well-known hematologist and an expert in lung disease and industry medicine - so that we also have mutual professional interests. [Dina Chen worked in Haddassah Hospital's blood bank]. He calls me his little sister and is very moved every time I call him. I, too, want to hear his voice.

I feel deep gratitude to this family....