Interviewee: Wacek Kornblum
Title: Wacek Kornblum’s father Szlomo Kornblum with his sisters and his brother in law
Place and Date: Warsaw, Poland - 1911
This is my father Szlomo Kornblum with his sisters and a brother-in-law. There are standing, from left: Zlatka, Rywka, Szlomo himself and Chawcia. Sitting: Rozia, Szlomo Gilf , the brother in law, Doba. On the reverse of this photograph is the inscription in Yiddish: ‘Tzum aybigen un andenkung fun dayne shvester, brider, shvayger. 27. yuli. 1911’, which means: ‘As a souvenir for rememberance from your sisters, brother and brother-in-law, 27th July 1911’. This picture was sent to my uncle Mosze to France - that’s how it survived the war.
[My parents] got married probably in 1921. Since I was born in 1926, I suspect they spent those few years in Warsaw and then went to Paris, where the family of my uncle, Father's brother, was living. They went there to work, because they had a place to stay there. I know that Mom died in Paris. I know she died of tuberculosis. I know that after Mom died Father gave me, a few-month-old baby, to the nuns, to some convent in Strasburg, apparently there was no one to take care of me, and probably after about half a year Father took me back and brought to Warsaw. All these memories are based on unfinished allusions, by Mom's sister, Aunt Mania Zamosc from Mszczonow, who lived in Warsaw. Some time around 1929 Dad got married the second time, to Lonia Mileband and I used to call her my mom.
Father had a couple of sisters and a brother. The oldest sister of Father was Aunt Frania-Franciszka. She lived on 26 Wielka Street, if I remember correctly, they were best off before the war. Aunt's husband, Motek -Mordechaj Braunrot, had a hardware warehouse on Bagno Street. And they had a daughter Maniusia - Mania, diminutive for Miriam, most emancipated, there was a son older than her who had already left home, and a younger one, Salek - Salomon, who was about two years older than me. Maniusia later married some other Salek and they had a daughter Paulinka Paulina in 1940.
Another sister of Father's, Aunt Doba - Debora, had a husband whose name was Szlomo Gilf. They had two sons, Zewek and Chylek and a daughter Maniusia - Miriam, who was a bit older than me. It was a non religious family. Uncle had a grocery store in Wlochy near Warsaw for many years, but later, because of various anti-Semitic incidents, moved to Warsaw just before the war. He had a store there for some time, but it wasn't going well. In 1939, Chylek and Zewek were drafting age and they were both drafted to the army. Chylek was in cavalry and was taken to a POW camp, which he escaped from and returned to Warsaw, that was before the ghetto. Zewek was in the army and defended Warsaw until the capitulation .
Father's other sister, Aunt Ryfcia, also married a Gilf, Szymon, Aunt Doba's husband's brother. Uncle was a miller. They used to live on 54 Przykopowa Street, and I remember there were huge flour sieves at the back of the house. They had a daughter, Maniusia, born in 1922. Later they were in the ghetto and we even lived together for some time on Niska Stret.
Then there was Aunt Rozia. To tell you the truth, she was a half-sister, because I don't remember whether there was a common father or mother. They lived on 35 Niska Street. The husband of that Aunt was Lejb Gefen, she was his second wife. He was a very wealthy man, he was one of the five richest bakers in the ghetto, a man with a heart of gold. They had two sons. Poldek - Leopold and Julek. Julek and his girlfriend ran away to Russia in 1939 and we never heard from him again. Poldek with his wife Anka stayed with the family all the time. They were a very handsome couple, about ten years older than me. And they remained in the ghetto until the end.
Father's half-sister, but of a different combination than Aunt Rozia was Aunt Zlatka. Her husband was Abram Zymelman and Aunt Zlatka had three daughters, Bronka Bronislawa, more or less same age as Uncle Gefen's children, and two daughters, twins, my brother's Borus age: Halinka - Halina and Dziunia - Jadwiga. Halinka was a very pretty girl, and Dziunia was such a skinny creature, they didn't look a lot alike.
The youngest sister, Father's favorite who he used to always help, was Aunt Chawcia, that is Chawa. Her husband Beniamin was also a Kornblum, he was Father's cousin. They had two sons. One was Icchak, the other one Kuba Akiwa. Icchak was three-four years older than me, and Kuba was my age, my best friend who kept getting me in trouble. They lived in Warsaw, on 17 Panska Street. It wasn't a religious family, but a traditional one, they had a kosher kitchen. Aunt's husband was very active in Zionism. Kuba used to go to a Hebrew school, and probably belonged to Betar. They had a piggy-bank for Karen Kayemet at home and his father, whenever he could, would give money. My father didn't like it, Mom even less. Izaak was very talented. He used to play the violin, paint. He used to go to the Pilsudski School of Lithography on Konwiktorska Street in Warsaw. He also sang in a choir, in the Large Synagogue on Tlomackie, and whenever he had shows, the entire family tried to get there. I remember that synagogue as a large palace, staircase going up, lights. I felt strange there, a bit uneasy.
Interviewee: Emilia Leibel
Title: Emilia Leibel’s grandfather Ozjasz Grossbart and his guests at Pesach 1915
Place and Date: Cracow, Poland - 1915
Opposite our house in Lagiewniki [a Cracow suburb] was a convent [the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy], but at that time [during World War I; 1914-1918], there was a hospital in that convent run by the nuns. As the festival of Pesach was drawing near in 1915, and Grandfather was a devout Jew, and wealthy, he invited the invalid Austrian Jewish soldiers from the convent to spend the holidays with him.
Dinner was served outside, in the summerhouse. They couldn't take the photograph in the summerhouse, because it was too dark, they took the table outside - even the tablecloths weren't laid straight, in a hurry, while it was still light. Yes. Behind the table, on the wooden wall of the summerhouse, hung a portrait of the Austrian emperor, Franz Joseph. Well, it was Austria, and Grandfather was a loyal subject. The Jews prospered under Austria. In the center sat my grandfather, this gray-bearded Jew with short peyot and a hat, and all around him soldiers. My grandmother, mother, and father were there too, and my brother in his sailor's cap. My Mama was in a white apron, because she'd been helping to serve dinner. Afterwards she was most outraged that they hadn't told her to take her apron off for the photograph. My 2 cousins Mala and Pepa, were there too, and Aunt Ela. I remember that one of the soldiers taught me to dance, and that they were very grateful for being made so welcome. And the soldier whose knee I sat on to pose for the photograph - well, he fell in love with my Aunt Ela, and she would have married him, Aunt Ela. Those wounded soldiers were a long time in that hospital, you see. A few weeks at least. But then he recovered and left as her fiance, and was killed in Bukovina, because it was war. I remember so much because those were really big emotions.
The whole family traded in leather, skins: they bought up raw hides. Great-Grandfather, Grandfather, even my father was in the business. They were cattle hides. Used to make shoes. I remember how my father used to go places and bring back cattle hides, or somebody would bring them to him. We had a big farmyard in Lagiewniki and I remember there was this brick drying house, coal- and wood-fuelled. When the hides came in - still fresh, or part dried, they would hang there on the poles to finish drying out. Father and Grandfather, they would hang them out themselves. All I remember is the dry skins being taken down and taken to railroad wagons somewhere. They would be sold to a tannery somewhere. I couldn't tell you - maybe there was somebody who came in to help with drying the hides. But I don't think so - I don't remember any other men.
My grandfather was a farmer as well, really. He had a vast estate - a working farm. Lots of fields. All the fields right down to the Wilga river, to Zaborze [formerly a hamlet on the outskirts of the village of Lagiewniki, now a residential suburb of Cracow] - all that was his property. In the summer, for the harvest, haymaking and potato digging, he would hire people. I remember how Aunt Ela [Mrs. Leibel's father's sister] used to carry a sieve with these hunks of bread in it, and coffee in a jug, out to the people in the fields.
Interviewee: Mieczyslaw Weinryb
Title: Hashomer Hatzair group
Place and Date: Zamosc, Poland - 1920s
This is a nest (in Hebrew: ken) of Hashomer Hatzair in Zamosc. The members of the group were pupils of the Jewish grammar school in Zamosc. Both of my sisters studied in this school and both were Zionists so I don't know which of them is on the photo - probably Sara Schifeldrin, nee Weinryb because Rywa Yavnai, nee Weinryb, only finished six classes of the school. The photo was taken in the 1920s.
In Zamosc the group of Reformists, among them my father, was active in the education cause. In 1921 they founded a Tarbut school in Zamosc, called 'Kadima', 'forward' in Hebrew. [This was a private Jewish school with state recognition.] It comprised four classes. The resources for its construction came partly from their own contributions and partly from money that they collected from the residents of Zamosc. The school itself was a single-story building. Later, a Jewish grammar school was also established in Zamosc, but my father wasn't involved in that one. Both schools were private Jewish schools with state recognition. I didn't study at the Jewish grammar school, but my brother Mojzesz and sister Sara did.
My two younger sisters, Sara and Rywa, had similar lives. They both emigrated to Palestine in the 1920s. They were members of Hashomer Hatzair. They did hakhsharah in Zamosc. There was an agronomist there who had both a vegetable garden and large orchards, and was educated in hakhsharah, and he taught the Hashomer how to work the land.
Interviewee: Tomasz Miedzinski
Title: The Kupferman Family
Place and Date: Horodenka, Poland - 1921
This is a photo of my family, taken in Horodenka in 1921 or 1922. In the first row from the left: my aunt Frajda Wajcman, nee Kupferman, my grandmother Menia Kupferman, nee Gutman, my grandfather Berl Kupferman, my aunt Zelda Kupferman, the wife of Frojm, the eldest son of Menia and Berl. In the second row from the left: my uncle Szlojme Kupferman, my aunt Cypora Kupferman, my mother Chaja Klara Szwach, nee Kupferman, my father Josif Szlojme Szwach, my aunt Sara Oxhorn, nee Kupferman and my uncle Frojm.
I remember my grandparents on my mother's side very well, because until I was six I was brought up by them. My granddad was called Berl Kupferman. Kupferman is like Miedzinski [the stem of both the Jewish and the Polish names means copper]. Berl Kupferman came from a village called Kolanki, between Horodenka and Zaleszczyki. He was a furrier. He was short, with a beard, a man of exceptional goodness and very proud - that's how I remember him. I think my grandmother was born in the 1870s, and I think she was from Horodenka. Granddad married into Horodenka, you see. They had six children: two sons and four daughters.
Granddad Berl took part in World War I; he was a soldier in the Austrian army. He was on the Italian front when they used gas bombs, and he partially lost his sight. And then after the war he got diabetes and went blind altogether. But that didn't stop him being a shammash in a prayer house. Mama always told us how at 5.00 or 5.30 in the morning, winter or summer, he would walk the several hundred meters with his stick to the prayer house and clean and tidy up there. And he would walk past our windows, and my mother, who on Fridays always got up in the early morning hours to bake bread for the whole week, would look out of the window and by the light of the streetlamp would see Granddad trudging, often through the snow, and feeling the way with his stick. Sometimes he would fall into the ditch somewhere along the way - there were ditches in our town because there wasn't a sewage system - and then Mama would have to dash out to help him out of the ditch and show him the way.
Granddad Berl lived with Grandma Menia and their youngest daughter, who was called Frajda. Frajda was born in 1914. She was a tailor. She got married in 1939 or 1940, I think, to Hersz Wajcman. Aunt Frydzia, that's what we called her, had her own Singer sewing machine. Their middle daughter, Sara, born in 1902 or 1903, emigrated in the early 1920s to the United States. There she married Natan Oxhorn, and they basically spent their whole lives there, had children, and grandchildren - an American family. My mama, Chaja Klara, was born in 1900. And then there was a fourth daughter, called Cypora, who some time in the mid-1920s emigrated to Uruguay. We kept in touch with her and Aunt Sara during the war. The oldest son was called Frojm and was a tailor, and the youngest son, the youngest child in the family, was called Szlojme and was a tailor too. Frojm and Szlojme lived in Horodenka with their families. I knew them all personally; we saw each other every day.
Interviewee: Salomea Gemrot
Title: Salomea Gemrot at school in Rzeszow
Place and Date: Rzeszow, Poland - 1925
This is a picture of my class of the Artistic Crafts Industry School in Rzeszow where father signed me up because he thought that I?d learn some trade. It was taken on 15th December 1925, when I was in the 2nd grade. There's one of our teachers in the middle of the group, the one without a school hat. She was German and she didn't like me for obvious reasons. Once I had a very unpleasant incident with her. Today I cannot remember any details. I denounced it to my father when I got back from school. My father had a very influential friend in Rzeszow, Mr. Lusniak. Soon that teacher was fired from the school.
My school was a private one, four grades and it had the status of a secondary school. It was a very good school. There were army headquarters in Rzeszow, and Polish officers weren't allowed to marry anyone who didn't have a secondary education. So girls from manor houses went to that school with me, daughters of officers and other officials. And again I was the only one [only Jew] there. There were more than 40 girls altogether. No, I wasn't separated. On the contrary, I had lots of friends.
I learned how to make hats, lingerie; I learned sewing, clothing design, all kinds of embroidery. I learned how to design dresses for operas, I was often given assignments for the holidays, to prepare dresses for some opera, or to draw them on these large panels. I remember this, because we took a special subject for that, costumology. So you had to know all kinds of costumes which were worn in Europe since the earliest times. I don't remember this today exactly, those were complicated things. I also studied French. I could learn everything there, including cooking and baking, but I didn't want to take advantage of that, because I didn't like that. [What the interviewee means is that she would not eat non-kosher food.] I had an internship during my fourth year of studies. This fourth year was not obligatory for all students. Only if you wanted to.
After this school, I unfortunately didn't do anything more, although I wanted to educate myself further in this area, but you needed to have a recommendation for another school. Yes, there was the 'numerus clausus' at universities and in those schools, when they had a look, they'd say, 'We don't have any openings.' There was no government statute, but they wouldn't accept you. Anyway, these schools were very expensive and, by that time, my parents were not doing so well anymore. After Grandfather died, the brick factory went bankrupt. Yes, it didn't take long. Grandfather was the first one to start a brick factory, but then all those people around us set up two more, so there was competition and, by then, there was already: 'Nie kupuj u Zyda' [Don't buy from a Jew.]. And that's when it started. I remember these signs and the first incidents. These signs - 'Nie kupuj u Zyda' and 'Bij Zyda' [Get the Jew] - were posted on all announcement boards.
Interviewee: Gizela Fudem
Title: Gizela Fudem with her sister Tauba Grunberg
Place and Date: Tarnow, Poland - 1928
Here you can see me and my older sister, Tauba Grunberg. This picture was taken in Tarnow in February 1928, when I was four years old. My sister was eight at the time.
I was born on 24th November 1924 in Tarnow. I lived in Tarnow before the war and for the first two years of the war. When it comes to my siblings, I had a brother - Mojzesz - four years younger than me, and a sister - Tauba - older than me, also by four years. I come from a religious family, even very religious, my father was a pious Jew with a beard, and never tolerated anything that wasn't kosher.
During the times of my early childhood, I remember, my grandfather had a wine bottling plant. He owned a house on one of the more beautiful streets in Tarnow, on the corner of Folwarczna and Goldhammera Streets. It was a big house, two-storey, I think. It was quite elegant, with additions, there was a fish market, and in the yard there was a carpenter's workshop, and near that a little house for the caretaker, and there was the wine bottling plant. There's a story in our family that when I was young, when I was going to school, I used to drop by at Grandpa's and the workers there would let me drink some wine from a barrel with a rubber hose. Later I couldn't eat my dinner.
I started attending school when I wasn't quite six years old yet, because my sister was already going there and a few years earlier my cousin, who had the same last name as I, graduated from that school. Later she lived in Lodz, but at that time she still lived in Stopnica, and there was a six-grade school there and in order to do the 7th grade she came to Tarnow. And since the cousin had a good reputation, and so did my sister, I asked them to let me in earlier. I was first going there when kids were playing in the school yard, and I was waving my arms too, when they were doing some exercises. So I wasn't even 13 when I graduated, and later I went to a one-year business school.
Interviewee: Leon Solowiejczyk
Title: Leader of the Jewish religious community in Dzisna
Place and Date: Dzisna, Belarus - 1930
This is the leader of the Jewish religious community in my home town, Dzisna. His name was Jofe Szmer-Zaumen. The photo was taken in 1930 and comes from the memory book about Dzisna and people who lived there before World War II.
There were 6 thousand people in Dzisna. Some 60 percent were Jews. Or 50-60 percent. The remaining ones were Poles and Belarusians. The community was strong. There were merchants, tailors, local officials, doctors. There was also a Jewish religious community in Dzisna, there was a rabbi. The rabbi had huge rights. The rabbi wrote out birth certificates, baptism and marriage certificates and they were accepted everywhere, in all kinds of offices. There were also rabbinical courts. In our Jewish community such a court is the most important one. The Gypsies [Roma] have that as well, that they acknowledge the civic court, but it's not sufficient for them, they have to have their own courts.
So there was this rabbinical court, they used to call for people to testify, one spoke for the one side, the second one for the other side, the third one was neutral. It was a court of one's peers, I guess you can say that. The Jews would usually not want any case to go outside of the community. If someone was stubborn and wanted to go to a regular civic court, so it would be. But this rabbinical court was respected the most.
Let's assume that you and I have some misunderstanding, so I take my so-called juror and you take yours, someone you trust. Like a member of the jury. You could also call the rabbi, but usually it wasn't necessary. Usually they'd settle for some compromise, because there were all kinds of cases there, disputed wills or commercial issues. And everything had to be done, whatever they would say. There was no appeal.
It was called 'dintojra' [Hebrew: Din Torah - religious court]. But those 'dintojras' were different than in the city. What was dintojra there, was the rule of the Torah here. If one side didn't agree to carrying out the verdict, they were doomed in that community. If he didn't do what the court told him to do, if he didn't submit to the verdict, no one would trade with him, no one would shake his hand, no one would want to talk to him. It was different in a civic court, but in the community it was sacred.
In a Jewish community, the rich members were also important, not just the rabbi. There was this Bimbat, a wealthy man. He came from a poor family, but became rich selling forests. There were also some doctors, members of the intelligentsia in the community, they had their own banks and trade unions, all of them Jewish. The chairman of the bank was the community leader. There were some butchers, three rabbis, there was one appointed by the government and there were schoolteachers. Candidates would take part in the local magistrate elections. There were parties - the Bundists, the Zionists, the Hashomer Hatzair, leftist, rightist... There were Chalucinim [HaHalutz], they were mostly young people who wanted to go to Israel. The strongest party was the Bytarym [Betar]. That was a rightist party.
Interviewee: Julian Gringras
Title: Koppel Gringras and his father and brother playing chess
Place and Date: Kielce, Poland - 1936
This is a photograph of my father, my grandfather and my father’s brother Moric playing chess. It was taken in 1936 in our apartment on Czysta Street in Kielce.
Father liked chess. Moric liked chess, and Grandfather liked chess. Though at one point chess became an addiction for Father. And an addiction that cost. In Kielce, you see, there were two patisseries. One was called Smolinski's and the other the Royal. It was probably the Royal where for some time Father and Moric would sit and play chess for money, they tried to win and make money. That met with great disapproval from my mother, because the winnings probably didn't bring in any profit. Only losses, I presume.
I learned to play chess in Kielce too; I think we all, all the men in the family, could play chess a bit. In the patisserie it was not only Jews playing amongst themselves, but various different people played - true-blue Poles, Catholics. Religion, profession played no role there, because the chess itself was something we could call an ecumenical calling. People got together because they liked chess - and they played.
Interviewee: Anna Mass
Title: Anna Mass' father's apprentices M. Elzur, Berek Rainer and Adam Waksma
Place and Date: Lublin, Poland - 1938
‘As souvenir for our boss’ daughter - M. Elzur, B. Rainer and A. Waksman’: this is an inscription on the back of this photo. They are boys who worked with my father, in his shop at Pijarska Street in Lublin.
Berek Rainer was my boyfriend. When he started working for my father, he was 20, and I was 13. At first he treated me as the boss' daughter, but then, slowly, slowly, we became a couple. He never proposed to me, never said he'd marry, but everyone laughed Szwarc was rearing himself a son-in-law. And shortly before the war within three months that boy lost both his parents. He had three younger siblings and had to take care of them. And he stayed in Lublin.
The war broke out and everything ended. My father was rather sickly, and my mother was terribly worried that if they took him - they were taking men as hostages - he wouldn't survive. And it was my mother who forced my father to flee from Lublin. Eastwards, beyond the Bug [1939 - 1942 the border river between Germany and USSR]. My father went with a group of friends and vanished. Others were sending letters, my father was sending nothing.
My boyfriend ran the watchmaker's shop and German soldiers were coming to us. One was telling me poor Jews had nothing to fear because Hitler was only interested in the rich ones. He didn't know himself what he was talking about. And one day it was so: it's after curfew, and there's a knocking on the door. A soldier. He must have his watch because tomorrow he goes to the front. And the keys are with my boyfriend in the Jewish quarter at the other side of town. We tell him it's after curfew. He'll accompany me. So my mother begs him to then escort me back, because what, I'll have to sleep at the shop? And so we're walking, in the night, through the town, there are guards everywhere, with dogs, German soldiers, and time after time they stop us. Those dogs were trained: the dog stands in front of you, sideways, so that you can't pass. When the guard had been through - he talked only to the soldier, not me - he patted the dog, the dog stepped back. When we got close to the Jewish quarter, there was no ghetto yet, it was really swarming with them. They were staging pogroms, all kinds of things. I went into the alley where my boyfriend lived. I started calling him in Jewish. Finally someone answers me. Who am I? I introduce myself with my full name and say I want to talk to Berek. 'Just a moment.' A gate opens, they let me in. I say, 'You have to go with me.' He told the others he might have to spend the night at my place, and off we went. He put that watch together, and the soldier saw me off. He refused to see Berek off, though. 'What, I'll be walking like that the whole night?' he said. So Berek spent the night with us.
Interviewee: Jozef Seweryn
Title: Round-up of Jews in Cracow
Place and Date: Cracow, Poland - 1940
I took this photograph at the begining of the 1940s in Cracow. One can see the round-up of Jews in the Podgorski Market in this photo.
My childhood flair for photography was still there. I had my own photo camera - a Leica with a claw and a fixed focus lens. I'd always carry the camera around with me. I'd take pictures from the tram. One day I managed to take several pictures of a street round up of Jews in Podgorze. I took them from inside a coffin - through a knothole. This coffin was set up in the window of a funeral parlor, which was owned by my friend Staszek Gawlik, a Pole.
One night, in October 1942, I ran away from the ghetto. On my own I discovered an underground passage, running through houses which were connected to the ghetto. Nobody knew about this passage but me. Before the war I had had a girlfriend, a Pole; her name was Jadwiga Lepka and she worked in a bookstore. I ran away to her. I had to get Aryan papers. A priest agreed to give me a fake certificate of baptism, issued for Jozef Seweryn. Seweryn was the last name of my mother's husband - the Catholic, the Pole. All his children were Seweryns and I became a Seweryn as well. I looked right, and I was taken for an Aryan. By the end of 1942 I married Jadwiga. I started working in the same bookstore where she worked. I had a section there - I repaired fountain pens, I had to make a living somehow.
I went back to the ghetto several times, I was active in the PPS, and we tried to help Jews. In November 1942 I was arrested, on the street, and not in a street round up. I met two Jews on Krakowska Street, in the Arkady cafe. When I left the cafe, I was caught by the Gestapo. First they sentenced me to death, and then they sent me to Auschwitz as Jozef Seweryn. Well, and I was Polish, an Aryan and so it stayed in the papers. Even in a book, published recently, listing the transports to Auschwitz, my nationality is listed as Polish. It was only several years ago that I went to Auschwitz and told them that I was a Jew.
Interviewee: Henryk Prajs
Title: The resettling of Jews from Gora Kalwaria to the Warsaw ghetto
Place and Date: Gora Kalwaria, Poland - 1941
This is a photo taken on 25th February 1941 in Gora Kalwaria. That day all Jews from Gora Kalwaria were resettled to the Warsaw ghetto.
The ghetto in Gora Kalwaria was created in May 1940. Things were already very bad at the time. They evicted the Jews from the outskirts of Gora Kalwaria, the ghetto was right in the center of the town: the Pilsudskiego and Senatorska streets, and a short section of Pijarska Street. We all had to squeeze in somehow. My family was not evicted, because it was already ghetto where we lived on Pilsudskiego Street. Leaving the ghetto was forbidden on the death penalty. Mom and I continued to sew, we had clients coming, some Poles, they commissioned clothes and we could make some money, just to get by. Plus we still had some supplies, we were always selling something. Yes, but what kind of life it was?! Vegetation, we couldn't afford anything, just the potatoes all the time, potato soup, there was nothing else.
On 25th February 1941 they deported the Jews from Gora Kalwaria to the ghetto in Warsaw. My sister was already there, she hadn't come back to Gora Kalwaria with the outbreak of the war. Mom didn't even think of escaping, and me neither, I wanted to go to the ghetto with my family. The neighbors would come over and say 'Listen, run away, go, you don't look like a Jew, maybe you'll make it.' I heard there were Jews in Magnuszew - there was this sort of grapevine during the occupation - and that there are no deportations there. And so I basically ran away in the evening, after a talk with Mom. I don't know what happened to my family. I lost contact with them on that day. They were gone without a trace. Only my brother came to me later on. Lots of people left the ghetto then, everyone tried not to surrender.
Interviewee: Emilia Leibel
Title: Mrs. Leibel with her pupils in the Polish gymnasium in Koz'modem'yansk
Place and Date: Koz'modem'yansk, Poland - 1945
This picture was taken in a Polish school for mostly Jewish children in Koz'modem'yansk, USSR. All the children and teachers had been deported from Poland. I’m sitting in the middle, in a black dress. My daughter Halinka is standing in the top row, second from right. This picture was taken 3 May 1945.
When war was about to break out we went east, and ended up in Lwow for a while. I don't know when exactly it was that they deported us from Lwow, but it was no longer winter. It was March, April 1940. We were traveling for a terribly long time. About 3 weeks. They would stop for a moment, sometimes in the day, sometimes at night, so that people could jump out to relieve themselves. We were taken to this port on the Volga, this small town. I don't remember the name. From there we sailed all night by ship to Koz'modem'yansk [approx. 150 km. from Kazan]; that was a very nice port on the Volga, and there was a railroad station there. That was in the Mariy El Autonomous Soviet Republic [in December 1941 there was a Polish population of 4,000 there]. Apparently 500 people arrived with us on that train. Later that same day we were taken 35 km into the forest, where we found a cottage to stay with 2 other families.
Men and women worked in the forest. My husband worked, my husband's brother, and Irena - his niece. She had just passed her school-leaving exams. Yes. I mean, women didn't fell trees, they just sawed branches or felled trees into smaller blocks, and then stacked the blocks. I had a small child, and there were the in-laws, elderly people, so I didn't have to work in the forest. Neither did my husband’s sister Giza, because she was… I don't know how old. Over 50. Later on, by coincidence, my cousin Maurycy Wiener was also deported to Koz'modem'yansk, and worked in the same gang as my husband.
My husband was chopping wood for a factory. And one time he mentioned to his director that I wanted a job. What we wanted was for me to have the right to exist there, to have a bread ration. And that director, a woman, hired me first of all as a gardener. I had no idea about gardening! They showed me the shears and told me to cut the tomatoes as they started to ripen. So I spent maybe 2 weeks on the tomatoes. Then my director said that I wasn't going to be in the garden, but in the mill. I spent half a day there theoretically getting experience. They taught me which grain was for what - before that I knew next to nothing. What it was called, what my title was at that mill? I can't remember. I was paid well, every week I would get a small bag of flour, every Saturday. That was a fortune. There was a free canteen.
The Union of Polish Patriots organized a Polish school in Koz'modem'yansk. I'd only done 3 years of my degree course [out of 5], but I had my teaching qualifications, and there were an awful lot of Polish children. Polish… I mean Jewish, mostly Jewish. And I taught the children in Koz'modem'yansk along with this Mrs. Hajdukiewicz, a teacher from Lwow. Me up to 4th grade and her up to 7th grade. We were just allocated days and classrooms in a Russian school, and we went there and taught. My Halinka went to that school too. I had something like 15 children in each class.
My husband contracted heart problems. He worked very hard. Before that he'd been a physically healthy, handsome man, but chopping wood in a forest in sub-zero temperatures..., and what kind of nourishment did we have? I called a doctor, his grandfather had been a Polish exile, and he was 3rd-generation, still understood some Polish. A very decent man. What was his name? I can't remember. Because he saw the conditions we were living in, he took my husband into the hospital. There were no patients on the men's ward at all, just one patient and my husband the second, because there was a war on and all the men were at war. He was in hospital for a long time, and in the end, the doctor said to me: 'Take him home, because he won't live.' He died in March 1944. He was buried in a Russian cemetery. No, it wasn't a Jewish cemetery. It was this neglected cemetery, a few people died, so they were buried there. The cemetery wasn't looked after very well there.
Irena and a friend worked in the forest, and one day the girls came running home and Irena shouts: 'The war's going to end! We'll be leaving here soon. I heard on the radio that peace has been signed.' We looked at her: what's she talking about - we knew nothing. What was a newspaper, a radio? Well, and it was true. Very shortly, a few weeks later, Genek, Irena's fiance, came back from the front. They had the right to leave the front and take their families back to Poland, you see. And they all - Genek and his brother, their parents, Irena, Giza and Heniek - went to Moscow, and from Moscow smart as anything went back to Poland. Yes, later on Irena married Genek.
Halinka and I stayed. We moved from the cottage into a little room in a Russian woman's apartment. I surrendered my driving license, as the only document proving that I was a Polish citizen, so that I could return to Poland. In spring 1946 we traveled in goods wagons to Poland. We could only leave when they put on an 'eshelon' [a military transport unit, in this case a train]. They gave us 24 hours to get to the railroad station, too. People went in horses and carts. Not everybody had to, but everybody left.
Interviewee: Michal Friedman
Title: Michal Friedman Lecturers of the Lodz Military School
Place and Date: Lodz, Poland - 1945
This is me (third from left) with my colleagues in the Political and Educational Officers? School in Lodz. The photo was taken in 1945.
I reached Lublin after 22nd July 1944 and remained there until the liberation of Warsaw. I taught at the Political and Educational Officers' School. The day after Warsaw was liberated, I went there to see if I could find anyone. I saw ruins and a great emptiness; there was no way to figure out which street you were on. The Jewish district had been wiped out; other streets, too. I came back very quickly. Afterwards, the officers' school was transferred to Lodz. It was there that all the important institutions were based. At the time, much publicity was being given to a proposal to make Lodz the capital of Poland, instead of Warsaw. I remained in Lodz until 1946. In 1946 they sent me to the Infantry Officers School in Inowroclaw as deputy commander. I became a major. From there they sent me to Krakow, to the Infantry Officers' School. From 1947 on I was in Wroclaw. I organized an evening high school for cadets, since they didn't have high school diplomas. There was a slogan then: Not a high school diploma, but honest intentions will make an officer out of you. I hired there a whole galaxy of teachers, and everyone got his diploma in three years.
In Lublin a Jewish club was established for all the survivors who registered there. It was named after Peretz and located on Lubartowska Street. The Sukkot holiday came around. I was on duty and I thought to myself: 'Let's go and see. Perhaps I'll run into someone.' Dinner was served; I was sitting there in my uniform - I don't recall now whether I was a lieutenant or second lieutenant then - and right across the table from me a man was sitting, and it seemed to me that I knew his face. All of a sudden, he speaks to me: 'Friedman?' And I say: 'Feldszu!' It was my last teacher from Kovel! We embraced each other over the table; he delivered a toast, then I did. He had obviously realized that it wouldn't be smart for him to remain in Poland since they would get at him for being a Zionist and a right-winger. And he left for Israel.
Interviewee: Tomasz Miedzinski
Title: 1st May Parade
Place and Date: Klodzko, Poland - 1946
This is a photo from the 1st May Parade in Klodzko in 1946. I?m in the front of the group. I was a member of the ZWM - the Fighting Youth Union, and I was made an instructor with the municipal board. And, if you please, I - a Jew - was elected chairman of a branch of the ZWM numbering over 180 members.
As soon as military operations ended we were able to go back to Poland. We left in January 1946, and arrived in Klodzko in February. Our repatriation journey took almost four weeks, in very primitive conditions, in cattle wagons. When we first arrived we were in a little village called Gieszcze Puste, and then we went to Klodzko. A Committee of Polish Jews was set up and Wajcman became its chairman. A fairly large group of Jews settled in Klodzko after the war. A number of artisan cooperatives were founded: a tailors' cooperative, a cobblers' cooperative, and there was a branch of the ORT. Joint began to send us some aid, food and other necessities, and some people started to work. We were all given some apartments that had belonged to Germans, that were more or less furnished. And there in Klodzko I started work for the Jewish Committee as head of the youth division. We organized events for young people: various types of events, festivals, ghetto ceremonies; there was a coordination commission for Jewish organizations. That was 1946.
Interviewee: Feliks Nieznanowski
Title: Jewish youth in Dzierzoniow
Place and Date: Dzierżoniów, Poland - 1946
This is a group of Jewish youths in Dzierzoniow, in 1946. I am sitting first from left.
I returned to Poland in one of the [repatriation] transports, it was February 1946, arriving in a place called Rychbach, Reichenbach in German, Dzierzoniów in Polish. When we arrived, I looked around; it was full of Jews, hustle and bustle like before the war on Nalewki! And I stood there with my wooden suitcase, dressed in the Soviet-style quilted work jacket. I went to the Jewish Committee on Daszynskiego Street. there was a huge crowd in front of it, people had arrived in town and are waiting for lodgings, for food, because they had emerged within nothing from the train. I couldn’t push through. Eventually I got through to the secretary, her name was Siedlecka, and I said to her, in Russian, I remember, ‘Mrs. Siedlecka, my name is Nieznanowski.’ She says, ‘Oh, Nieznanowski, you must be his brother?’ And my brother entered the room. We burst into tears. We hadn’t seen each other since 1941. He says, ‘Take these keys, there’s an apartment, go there, I can’t leave the office right now. You’ll find some clothes there, get dressed.’
I entered the apartment, looked around – and there were swastikas, all kinds of German clothes. I opened the drawer – there’s a gun. But, most importantly, there was a bathroom! A coal-fired stove. I fired under that stove, took a bath, dressed into those shorts, the lederhosen, and turned into something of a German boy. I went to the train station, and there stands the car in which I arrived. I say, ‘What are you waiting here for, come on, let’s go!’ ‘No, we’re supposed to go to Klodzko.’ So I said to them, ‘We’re not going to Klodzko, this is where we'll stay!’ And they got off. The whole chevra [group], I have them in the photos here.
Interviewee: Henryk Lewandowski
Title: Henryk Lewandowski at the Warsaw Rebuilders' Convention
Place and Date: Warsaw, Poland - 1949
This picture was taken at the Warsaw Rebuilders Convention in 1949, which I had a speech at on behalf of the Polish Youth Union's Executive Committee.
After the war I returned to Zamosc, Father took over the brewery. I was 16 at the time. I started to think about school. I felt bad in Zamosc, walking the streets; none of my friends survived, the few who were in Russia were not to return until later, and back then, in 1945, there was no-one around.
I wanted to become politically active, but didn't want to stay in Zamosc, I didn't get along well with my father, which was my fault. He lived with Wanda, and I was angry at him for finding someone so quickly. I only understood years later my reproaches had been unfair - he was only 37, he was a young man. One factor might have been the rumor I heard, that he'd been fooling around with that Wanda woman back before the war. Never mind. She did help him survive the war.
I decided to leave the house in the end, moved to Lublin and became a member of the Fighting Youth Union. I stayed with Halina for some time, she was finishing her studies at the Lublin Polytechnic, she was 27.
I started an evening school in Lublin. I completed four grades of elementary school before the war. Here you completed two grades in one year, I finished the third and the fourth and passed the lower standard exams. I went to the gymnasium ran by the Workers Universities Society in the Staszic Gymnasium building, on Raclawickie Avenue in Lublin.
I worked in the youth movement, we were creating sort of a paramilitary self-defense force; I completed a non-commissioned officer's course, I was an instructor for some time, and later the chairman of the Municipal Board of the Fighting Youth Union in Lublin. At the end of 1947, after passing my exams, I decided to move to Warsaw, to work in the National Board of the Union and to study on.
I became a student of the Political Science Academy. The course lasted three years, I got my under-graduate degree there and then they transferred me to Zielona Gora, I was made the deputy district commandant of the Sluzba Polsce organization. In 1951 I was transferred back to the Warsaw branch of Sluzba Polsce, and in 1952 SP spun off a new organization, the Village Sports Clubs Association. I was there, I've brought the association into being, I'd worked there for 15 years, until 1967, when I started to work for Gromada, a hotel operator and tourist agency; in Gromada I spent 25 years short one month.
Interviewee: Estera Migdalska
Title: Estera Migdalska with the Jewish orphans on harvest action in Ustka
Place and Date: Ustka, Poland - 1951
Here you can see me with inhabitants of student dormitories from Lodz, Wroclaw, Warsaw on a trip for a harvest action in Ustka.
After the war, when I came back to Poland I immediately registered with the Jewish Committee , they were conducting kind of interviews there with young people, and they persuaded me to move to a dormitory, it was officially called the Józef Lewartowski Youth Home, on Jagiellonska Street, that I'd be with my peers, that I'd learn to speak Polish better. And here Uncle had a single room in a three-room flat. There was him, there was his wife, a child was to be born in a few months' time. So I was actually happy to go there, and I stayed for three years at that dorm.
Above all, it wasn't a children's home. Soon we became friends, everyone had their war experiences, we were all equal, everyone helped each other. It was chiefly Jewish young people who lived there, but there were some Poles too. There was a guy named Staszek Kuczera. In principle, however, it was an institution supervised by the Jewish Committee and financed by the Joint . We had full board there. Good Jewish cuisine, though I don't think it was kosher, no one bothered about that anymore. From time to time some packages from the UNRRA.
A year later a whole group of young people starting education at various schools took up residence at the dorm. We called them the 'sprats' or the 'sardines,' for the girls were 14-15 years old, and we were 18, 19 years old. One sprat has stayed, she's involved in various organizations here. Some of the others have left Poland. And the people from the dorm have scattered away. I lived there for three years. The dorm inhabitants come here almost every year, some haven't left, some keep together in Israel, all come to visit.
During that time, I completed two grades of high school because on arrival I was good for first grade. I went to the best school in Warsaw, a great school, with wonderful professors, like Mr and Mrs Libera, she was a Latin teacher, he was a professor of Polish. He helped me a lot in starting to speak and write Polish correctly. He practiced with me during the breaks, forcing me to write all kinds of essays, and, thanks to that, two years later I passed the high school finals, and passed them easily.
Interviewee: Daniel Bertram
Title: Mr Jam , Manek Zeller, Daniel Bertram and Mr Fogiel in the Remuh Synagogue in Cracow
Place and Date: Cracow, Poland - 1980s
The picture was taken for the photo exhibition "The last Polish Jews in the late 1980s in the Remuh Synagogue in Cracow and was shown in the gallery in Cracow in the early 1990s. There are four Jews from Cracow on this picture: Mr Jam (first from left) , Manek Zeller (second from left), I (second from right) and Mr Fogiel (first from right).
During Jewish festivals I go to the synagogue, and on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings too. I have been a member of the Jewish community organization since 1945, I mean first I joined the Jewish Committee and then the community organization. I am one of its oldest members, because a lot of people died and a lot of people have moved away. I also belong to the TSKZ, and recently we've had a Seniors' Club created. I take part in the meetings of the TSKZ Jewish Combatants' Association. Unfortunately not many people come to these meetings. There are a lot of older people, but then again the type of activities on offer don't appeal to everyone. But we are informed about all the most important events, we organize trips together, we meet in rooms owned by the TSKZ and the Jewish Community. These institutions also offer various types of assistance: material, medical, rehabilitation. During the week, for instance, I get free kosher dinners. A few times a year I go on 'camps' [organized by the Lauder Foundation] to Srodborow or to Ladek Zdroj, or to a sanatorium.
I also meet other Cracow Jews on Sabbath and at festivals at the synagogue. But not many people come to the synagogue [Remuh synagogue on Szeroka Street], and unfortunately we can't make up a minyan. The only ones who come are [Wlodzimierz] Stein, Tuszynski, Akerman, Liban. Liban is this kind of caretaker, shammash, who didn't start coming to the synagogue until 1989. Or maybe even later. Usually there are five of us, but [Henryk] Halkowski [trained as an architect, but by choice a journalist and translator, author of a collection of essays called The Jewish Life] also comes in at the very end of the prayers. And when groups [of tourists] come to the synagogue, mostly from Israel, then there is a minyan. Jews from other countries come too, and then we usually speak in English in the synagogue.
Interviewee: Michal Nadel
Title: Michal Nadel in Jewish Comunity in Lodz
Place and Date: Lodz, Poland - 1980s
This is the photo of me in Jewish Comunity in Lodz. The photo was taken in Lodz in the 1980’s during some prayers.
My wife died on 18th April 2002. She had surgery. That leg, all the time. Wounds kept opening… Recently she was sick, we don't really know with what, she probably had a stomach tumor. She was suffering for 2 years. She's buried at the Jewish cemetery. I suspected there would be no life for me. 56 or 57 years we were together, married. I can't find myself until this day. I was sick, I went to hospital twice, but the younger son visits me, and so it slowly goes… I also started going to the community, I'm socially active. Once I was active on the board for disabled war veterans, but now I can't due to my health. And I started going out on Saturdays, Fridays. So that I am among people, make contacts. For many years I was the president of the community, now I am vice-president. I resigned, I didn't feel strong enough to keep doing it.
My religion was really just about following tradition. We used to have discussions among us friends. Also about whether God exists or not. Opinions varied. We all had doubts. At that age you had doubts in general. I conformed to the religion, but not in a barbarian way, in a more humane way. As long as I was little I used to go to the synagogue with Father to pray, on holidays and always on Saturdays. Later, when I was 15, 16, I did it less and less. In the end I decided there is some higher power that controls the world without our knowledge. It definitely has no beard and no human shapes. It's just a spirit. Because the Jewish religion sees God not in a human form, but in the form of a spirit. But later I had a depression, to be honest, when the war broke out, I decided that in reality everything is inconceivable.
When my wife died everything changed. She died on 18th April 2002. She had surgery. That leg, all the time. Wounds kept opening… Recently she was sick, we don't really know with what, she probably had a stomach tumor. She was suffering for 2 years. She's buried at the Jewish cemetery. After that I suspected there would be no life for me. 56 or 57 years we were together, married. I can't find myself until this day. I was sick, I went to hospital twice... I also started going to the community. I'm socially active. Once I was active on the board for disabled war veterans, but now I can't due to my health. So that I am among people, make contacts. For many years I was the president ofthe community, now I am vice-president. I resigned, I didn't feel strong enough to keep doing it. Today I am going there on Saturdays and Fridays.
Interviewee: Jozef Seweryn
Title: Jozef Seweryn and friends
Place and Date: Warsaw, Poland - 1980s
This is me with my second wife Henia and with two friends of ours. I don’t remember their names. The photo was taken in the 1980s in Warsaw, in front of the Memorial of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
I survived, because the SS men needed me - I fixed their fountain pens. After several months of my stay in Auschwitz, the Germans wanted to find someone who could repair fountain pens and typewriters. I volunteered and was accepted. I worked for SS Unterscharführer Artur Breitwieser, he came from Lvov; before he became an SS man he had served in the 3rd Podhale Riflemen's Regiment in Biala, at the same time as I did. Perhaps that's why he chose me. I became his 'Füllfederhaltermechaniker,' that is his fountain-pen-fixer. The Germans had a lot of good fountain pens, Pelikans, Watermanns, Parkers, which they had got by looting the possessions of the Jews, but the ink they used was poor. Their pens needed to be rinsed and fixed every two months. And I knew how to repair pens, because I'd had that section in my wife's bookstore. I worked for Breitwieser and for the other SS men, commandants, German physicians. They thought I was useful, so they even gave me a watch, so I wouldn't be late when I came to see them. Besides, I didn't just fix their pens; I would also shave them and give them haircuts. They addressed me 'Sie' and the others they called 'Du verfluchter Hund' - 'You damned dog.' And they killed them. I got the tools I needed for cutting hair and shaving - they used to be Jewish. I had more luck than sense.
I used to write letters to my wife; writing to your wife was permitted. She'd answer them. But my letters and her answers were so official. You couldn't do it otherwise, and you had to write in German. And you couldn't say anything more than, 'I'm here - I am waiting - good bye.' I couldn't even write that I was hungry because they controlled all the letters.
One time at the camp, some time in 1943, an SS man came to see me, he had a higher rank than Breitwieser, and he told me, 'Make me a barber's wig and a beard - red.' I said I would and that it would be ready in several days. When he came to pick it up he told me to get on his motorcycle and he took me to the commando, so I'd put the wig and the beard on him there. And then he told me to drive him to the theater, which was nearby, but it was on the other side of the fence. We got there and he said, 'Now go to the camp.' I answered, 'I can't go, there's no one to guard me, if anyone sees me on this side of the fence, I'll get shot.' But he made me go, so I did. I was in prison clothes; wearing those stripes. I had a huge row at the fence; the guard took out his gun and shouted. I was so scared I almost shat in my pants, but he finally let me go. There were such stories.
Interviewee: Jakub Bromberg
Title: Jakub Bromberg showing a photo of Nacha and Monek Abzac
Place and Date: Warsaw, Poland - 1990s
This is me, photographed in my apartment in Prochnika Street in the 1990s. I am holding a photo of Nacha and Monek Abzac, whom I met in the Lodz ghetto. Their photo is very important to me, because it shows my cousin who had the same name as my mother Nacha Bromberg, nee Wajntraub, and looked a bit like her. Nacha reminds me of my mother.
Mother had two brothers, Josek and Hersz and a sister - Bela. Hersz, Mother's second brother, had a wife named Lea and many children: Natan, Chil, Chaim, Fajga, Nacha, Saba-Szewa and Estera-Malka. He died in 1936 or 1937 in Lodz. Nacha lived in Lodz on Lagiewnicka Street, her husband was Monek Abzac.
I first went to Lwow, then from Lublin to Warsaw and Lodz. That worked out well. I came back to the same place, with a gun in my hand. My dream was to show up like Joseph in Egypt, who came back although everyone thought he had died. I didn't want to go straight to Lodz. I could have made it to Lodz on 19th January 1945 with the Red Army, because I was in uniform. But I didn't want to; I instinctively felt that no one was alive. I spent some months in Lublin and I came here. I thought I'd meet someone. I was disappointed. No brothers, no friends, no father, no mother, no sister, no cousins. No one was left. They all died. I searched, but I wasn't successful. I even visited the ghetto. There on Lagiewnicka Street, in Nacha and Monka Wajntraubs' apartment, I found some letters, photos, documents and that was all. I only managed to find a few of my acquaintances.
Interviewee: Daniel Bertram
Title: Cracowian Jews at the mass grave of the Jews murdered in Ojcow
Place and Date: Ojcow, Poland - 1990s
This picture was taken to commemorate the visit of our group of Cracowian Jews to Ojcow. It was the anniversary of the mass murder there or founding the memorial. It was in the 1990s, I don't remember the exact year. I am the third from left. The president of the Jewish Community in Cracow, Tadeusz Jakubowicz, is the fifth from the left (in the front row). The only woman on the picture is Mrs. Jakubowicz (forth from the left), Tadeusz's mother.
After the collapse of the system in 1989 I didn't work any more. I retired in 1985, in January. I was 65 then. I wasn't needed in my workplace any longer; the feeling was that young people should be taken on. I looked for a job in other places, but the only one I was offered was as a porter, so I turned it down. Not very much changed in my life in 1989. Only the fact that you started talking about the war, with both friends and people you didn't know. We reminisced about being expelled, about our time in the camps. We hadn't talked about that since the war, you didn't talk about who had survived and how. But after 1989 television crews started coming, and they began a series of interviews about experiences during the war. So we started reminiscing. A lot of Jews came to Cracow, but most of them were no one we knew. After the collapse of communism people who had formerly been conspiratorial about being Jewish started to reveal it and started coming to the synagogue, people who often had changed surnames, sometimes even people who had been baptized as Catholics.
I have been a member of the Jewish community organization since 1945; I mean first I joined the Jewish Committee and then the community organization. I am one of its oldest members, because a lot of people have died, a lot of people have moved away. I also belong to the TSKZ, and recently we've had a Seniors' Club created. I take part in the meetings of the TSKZ Jewish Combatants' Association. Unfortunately not many people come to these meetings. There are a lot of older people, but then again the type of activities on offer don't appeal to everyone. We are informed about all the most important events, we organize trips together, we meet in rooms owned by the TSKZ and the Jewish Community.
Interviewee: Henryk Prajs
Title: Henryk Prajs and his daughter Malgorzata
Place and Date: Gora Kalwaria, Poland - 1995
This photo was taken in my house in Gora Kalwaria, maybe ten years ago. This is me and my daughter Malgosia. She is holding a photo of our family: she, me, and my wife. Malgonia was then maybe 12 years old on that photo she's holding.
We got married in 1949. My wife was called Czeslawa Maria Wasilewska. She was eight years younger than me. We were an exemplary couple, we lived together for 41 years. She was Catholic and it didn't bother me one bit. We only have one daughter, Malgonia [from Malgorzata], my wife couldn't have any more children. I never kept it secret I was a Jew, but she didn't see that Jewishness in the house. We celebrated the Catholic holidays.
Immediately after the war I worked on my own, and later in a tailors co-operative. I earned pathetically little there, 2,000 zlotys. After seven years of that I started my own tailoring business. Later I completed a technical high school and took up horticulture. My father used to sell orchards, so I knew something about it, my father-in-law and my brothers-in-law were farmers and gardeners, so I thought I'd learn, and so I did. I planted some trees, and they fruited wonderfully, I had beautiful fruits. I built a house in 1960. My wife worked in a shop at first and later in the community cooperative, selling coal, and finally as a deputy manager of a restaurant in Gora Kalwaria. She then retired. She died, my poor thing, in 1990.
We have three grandchildren, Mateusz, Aleksandra, and Jula. We've worked hard, we've made our way, I've been respected and still am. I had a good life. My house is cultured, open, if a Jew comes knocking, I'll let him in, if a priest, I'll let him in as well. Our parish priest is a great friend of mine, we speak like father and son, he respects me and vice versa.
Interviewee: Daniel Beltram
Title: Daniel Beltram, Jona Bookstein and Michael Schudrich at a Jewish wedding in Cracow
Place and Date: Cracow, Poland - 2000s
This picture was taken at a wedding of foreign Jews in Cracow. Besides me (first from right in the front row) Jona Bookstein and Michael Schudrich - the rabbis from R. Lauder's Foundation are also on the picture.
For a long time there was no rabbi at all in Cracow. Even if anyone had wanted a wedding, a ritual one, they couldn't have, because there was no way. There were only civil weddings. Only later did Rabbi Joskowicz come, for a few years. [Pinchas Menachem Joskowicz, the chief rabbi rabbi of Poland from the late 1980s till 1999, officially lived in Warsaw, but spent most of his time in Israel.]
After him came Sasza Pecaric [the rabbi working at the Lauder Foundation center in Cracow till 2003]. And if anyone wanted to get married, he married him or her. He married perhaps two couples. As to the first one, she was English and he was an Austrian from Vienna. We went to the wedding service and the reception, which went on all night. And the wedding took place on Lag ba-Omer, which is the 33rd day counting from Pesach. I can't remember what year that was in, but I have a photograph. After the war marriages tended to be mixed. All the people who have been going to Remuh for some time now, those who stayed and didn't emigrate, all of them have Polish wives, except Reiner. Reiner's wife was Jewish. And I didn't have a Polish wife. But other than that they all had Polish wives.
Interviewee: Chaim Ejnesman
Title: Chaim and Otylia Ejnesman in Ciechocinek
Place and Date: Ciechocinek, Poland - 2002
This is me and my second wife, Otylia Ejnesman, in Ciechocinek. The photo was taken in 2002.
During the time I was in Canada, I had no contacts with Poland. One day I got sick in Ontario [in 1990], they took me to the hospital with a stroke and I had to leave. There are no possibilities there. There you have to be rich when you fall ill. And I had a Polish passport, because I never gave it back. I never took Russian citizenship, or any other.
My wife brought me to Poland in 1992, to a sanatorium in Iwonicz. I was there for several months and I was getting better. A lot better. We even wanted to buy an apartment there, in Krosno. But they convinced us to move closer to Warsaw. I didn't care much. Because after this stroke, I was in bad shape for quite some time. So they got this house. And we're living here, in Podkowa Lesna. I wouldn't want to live in Warsaw, because there's too much noise. But this will have to be sold. It's difficult to maintain a house now. Our children are in Canada and we stayed here. They come here from time to time to visit us.
I registered as a war veteran in Warsaw, that's when we started going to the Jewish Theater, to TSKZ. People visited me from Spielberg's Foundation, they were making a movie. We celebrate Jewish holidays, because my wife likes that. She goes to the rabbi to get the matzah; by now he knows her better than he knows me. She's more involved, but because I can't walk, how could I get involved. And life goes on, thank God, we're living all right. I go to rehabilitation, they take me; you live as long as you can, don't you?