Francis Ofner

Francis Ofner

Born: July 18, 1913

Novi Sad, Yugoslavia

Francis grew up in a city with a Jewish community of 5,000. The Ofners belonged to a synagogue that sponsored many social activities, from sports to care for the elderly. In 1931 Francis began law school at the University of Zagreb. While a student, he organized a service that posted on university bulletin boards the translations of speeches by Nazi leaders broadcast on the radio.

1933-39: By the time Hitler became chancellor of Germany, I was heavily involved in trying to unify the university's Jewish students against the Nazi threat. In 1933 I helped organize the Betar Zionist organization in Yugoslavia. We helped send immigrants illegally to Palestine, trained Jews in self-defense, and cooperated with anti-Nazi Yugoslavs to counter pro-German activities in our country.

1940-45: On March 25, 1941, Yugoslavia allied itself with Germany. I participated in preparations for the coup that ousted the pro-German government two days later. But by April 6, Germany and its allies had invaded Yugoslavia and the city Novi Sad, where I lived, was occupied by Hungarian forces. I was taken away by the Hungarians for forced labor along with most of the city's Jewish men. This saved me, for while I was gone the Gestapo came to Novi Sad to arrest me because of my anti-German activities.

In 1942 Francis fled from Budapest to Turkey. In Istanbul he was hired by the U.S. Office of War Information as the Balkan Press Liaison Officer. He immigrated to Palestine in 1945.