Josef Tiso became Prime Minister of the Autonomous Slovak Region on October 7, 1938. In September 1941, Tiso issued the Jewish Code, which restricted Jews from intermarrying with gentiles, and excluded them from certain jobs. It also required them to identify themselves with yellow stars on their clothing. By the end of March 1942, Slovakia was deporting Jews at German behest to concentration camps such as Auschwitz. Tiso, a shrewd negotiator, and Catholic priest, publicly supported the plan, even after the Vatican condemned the actions.
Six years before the deportations began, Joram Diamant was born. Soon, the world was at war, and the systematic extermination of his people had begun. Joram’s family was well off in the years before the Holocaust. Slovakia, at the time still part of Czechoslovakia, had a higher GDP per capita than Portugal and Spain and were roughly on par with countries such as Ireland, Greece, and Austria. Despite Jews making up just 4.11 percent of the population, they were not a persecuted minority before Tiso's takeover of the country. Between 1928 and 1933, 9.2 percent of marriages involving Jews were intermarriages between Jews and non-Jews, indicating at least some tolerance was practices.
Too Innocent to UnderstandJoram’s father Ernest and his mother Ida were able to invest in the latest clothing and furniture, and they lived active social lives as full members of the local community. Joram was walking with his mother one day when he spotted a bug. Chasing after it, he said his first word: “Butterfly.” Having never taught him that word, his mother questioned where he had learned it. Joram just replied, “Butterfly.” A few months later, the family was forced to wear the yellow badge that identified them as Jews. Even young Joram, too innocent to understand, was forced to wear a star.
A Famous MotherIda Diamant was an active woman. She swam, hiked, biked, and was a proficient skier. However, her true calling was in tennis. She was so adept at that sport that she was at one time the second-ranked female player in Slovakia. However, she was more than just an athlete. She was multilingual, speaking Hungarian, Slovakian, and German fluently. These language skills would later serve her well while she fled deportation with her young son in tow. She wasn’t a warm person, which sometimes caused trouble in good times. But it was a trait the helped keep her and her son alive during the Holocaust. As Joram later recounted, she “was sealed like a tomb," stern and demanding.