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Oscar Haber Interview Part II



MAY 17 & MAY 30, 2000




[Copy-checked and partially authenticated by A.D.—9/1/05]


Question: Our third tape, so this is tape number three, side A. So there came, a woman came out of the house?

Answer: And she asked me what do I want? Said, ‘We have to go to sleep, to take in.’ And I took Fryda from the wagon and I tried to put her in and the woman said, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Well we have to warm her up a little bit, because she is sick.’ And she looked at her and said, ‘Well what do you think? She is dead already. Better one to put in the grave, like she is looking.’ But I took, outside I found a brick, an old brick. I put it, make a fire and warm up the brick and I warm up a little bit. And so at this house, on the floor, we slept through until the morning. In the morning we start to go, and we went and we came to Krakow. We went to this house of our friend there and we put what we have, these little furnishes on the dirt floor. This guy helped us, Stanislaw Soltys helped us. And he went back with the horses, back to his home, he had to give back the horse to the neighbor. That was sacrificing. I don’t know how he did it or why he did it. It was not human, that was angel work. In this time to go back, to endanger the horses, which is all what the people have, a horse, a cart, but he did it. And she gave us a little products, half a bread, which was the big peasant breads, and some beans, some barley, and we’ll have something to cook and to eat. That was our food at the beginning. And so we are being there with all this people around us, other people living there. And Fryda went to the house, which was their house before the war, their apartment. And there was the janitor of the house, which was the janitor before the war. He was a carpenter working in their furniture store. A dirty, drunk man. And she said to him, ‘Maybe there will come some post here on this address. We are here living…’ and she gave the address where we are living. And he, ‘And what will be if I bring you a post from your father?’ And she says, ‘Well, you will get a hug and a kiss.’ He said, ‘All right.’ A few days later he came with a card, post card from Auschwitz. And he said, ‘Pana Fryda [ph], Miss Fryda, I get a kiss.’ And she give him a kiss and a hug. ‘I got post card from your father.’ And we have this post card. You saw it I guess. And he is sick and he asks to come to pick him up. In the meantime, I met another acquaintance of me. He had a dental office, quite a primitive office, but a dental office in an apartment which wasn’t his. It did belong to a Jewish woman before the war. She was even the owner of the house. And she and her daughter survived. But in this moment, she wasn’t there yet. She was in a camp somewhere. And I met him and I said to him, ‘What are you doing?’ And he said, ‘Well I have here a dental office. But I’m leaving this office. I want to sell it because I am leaving to the once German territory. There I will organize a modern dental office, an apartment and I will be living there.’ He married, he survived as a partisan. He married a Polish, Gentile woman. And he lived together with her. I guess he had some children with her already. But he was, he was a partisan in the Socialistic, not in the AK, in the AL, that was Armia Ludowa. That was the Volks party. And they were more lenient to the Jews. And he was a good fighter. He was a strong guy and he was really fighting there, in this army. And he said, ‘My party will help me to organize there.’ I said to him, ‘Sell me your office here, for a begin, it will be good for me.’ He said, ‘I will not sell you. I will rent it to you because maybe I don’t find nothing there. I will come back.’ Said, Okay. I can’t give you nothing. I don’t have nothing. But for the first money what I will make as a dentist I will send it to you somehow.’ And I start to organize a practice. And I had first of all, a room to sleep, a nice room to sleep with a bed, with a couch, quite a nice room and a nice kitchen. And that was for the moment a wonderful solution. But I started to think, ‘If he did it, maybe I can do the same. I will go to the German occupied, German-Polish occupied territories, Poland occupies German territories. And there were a lot of dentists and dentist equipment and I will organize my clinic there. And to live there.’ And I went there, but I didn’t find nothing which I would like. So I left Fryda there. We met there another guy, a survivor who was already working for the Polish security, in the Polish security. He wrote a book about it. He lives here in the United States. He became a very rich guy here. And he became an officer. He survived in his village there. However they were trying to kill him from the AK, too. But he survived somehow. And he was in this part which became occupied by the Russians first, the first month there. And the Polish units there sent him to an officer’s school and he became an officer in the Polish security. And then when the Russians moved, he moved with them. He came to Krakow. And he make a lot of, find a lot of Polish people whom, whom he gave over to, handed over to the Polish security. But while the Russians occupied the German part, they sent him to Wrocław as an officer there of their security. And then they send him to Lidnice, Lidnitz, where we were. And where I was looking for some dental equipment, he was working in his job to look for Germans. And we met. And we make a recognition as a Jew and he as a Jew. We didn’t talk too much about it. He said, ‘What can I do for you?’ I said, ‘You can help me to find some…’ He said, he’ll try.

Q: How did you, let me just interrupt briefly. How did you make that recognition? Was there some special way?

A: Well, I recognize him as a Jew. His name was Polish, Zalewski [ph]. And when I met him, I said, ‘Zaleski, but what is your real name?’ And he was from Kolbuszowa, which was not far from my village, about twelve kilometer. That’s about eight miles. It was quite close. And I knew people from Kolbuszowa. And he told me, ‘My name is Zalschitz [ph], Nafthali Zalschitz.’ And he was called Tadek Zalewski, Tadeusz Zalewski [ph]. But I left Fryda with him, and I went back to Krakow to see how to organize life in Krakow. I found some instrument which I can use there. And when I came to Krakow, I found this, I have to go, well I mix up because I don’t go chronological. Before we left I went to Auschwitz to take Father, her father from Auschwitz.

DOANHUE: You went actually to the camp?

A: It was no more camp there. [PHONE RINGS] It was liberated by the Russians. That was a card we have that he was there.

Q: Right.

A: So I went there with the Russian trucks, I went there with taking ammunition to the front. There was still war, but Auschwitz was already liberated. And he was the one who remained in the hospital there because he couldn’t go farther. And he said better, they ask to leave, but he said he preferred to stay here to be burned and not to go. And they shoot all the other people who went there.

Q: Did you, before you, so this is around February 1945, right?

A: It’s January, still January.

Q: Okay, did you know, did you know what had happened at Auschwitz at that point?

A: Well, I knew from Polish accounting, but when I came there I found everything. I found everything. And when I saw him, I had all the history. That was a man who was taller than me and he was fifty-six pounds, I guess. I took in a blanket a heap of bones. And I was waiting for a truck to take him to Krakow. But that was before we left to the occupied territories there. And Fryda took care of him, and he came to his quite normal. But that was already February when we left for… even more later, maybe March already. It is difficult now to remember the dates exactly. So we left Father in this apartment where we lived. We left to him. And we went to look for, find some existence there with the idea maybe we’ll take him over there to us.

Q: Can we go back? I know you already did go forward, but go back to the Auschwitz experience and what you… you mentioned you really discovered what had gone on when you were there. What did you experience?

A: Not too much. All what Father-in-law told us. I didn’t have the time and the courage to go to look what happens around. But he had enough to recount his stories of what happens during the time. But on the way back from this occupied territory to Krakow, I have a car accident. And I have broken my leg, my hand here, and I was taken to the hospital instead to go home. Somehow I could let know Fryda that I am in the hospital. That was everything through people, which are communicating, commuting there and back. So, she came back. She decided to come back. She didn’t have money, not even for to pay the Russians to give the vodka for commuting with them. But while she was at this friend’s house, he became our good friend, this officer, this Tadek Zalewski. His wife, she was Jewish too, she survived also on Christian papers. She said, ‘I can’t give you anything money.’ She want to give her some jewelry, but Fryda didn’t want to take it. But while she was sleeping, she put in her bag a golden bracelet. And Fryda when she got up, she said, ‘What is this yet? I didn’t have a bracelet.’ She said, ‘Take it, you’ll need it. Take it, you’ll need it. I don’t need it now. Someday you’ll pay me back.’ I don’t remember if she took it. I guess she took it and she came back to me, to the hospital. And she had to take care of this poor father and of this poor husband. In the meantime, we got connection by mail with a brother of her father, an uncle, Uncle Solomon in the United States. And when he heard that his brother survived, that we survived, he open… in Krakow, an open account. ‘How much you need, you can have and take.’ And there was the connection who gave us the possibility to survive further. But that was already a few months later, because mail didn’t function so easy.

Q: At that time were you really thinking that you wanted to stay in Poland permanently?

A: Well, I didn’t think so much about Poland. I didn’t want to stay with the Russians. I knew the Russians before. Poland I wouldn’t mind, even, to stay, because I had my roots there, you know? With all minuses I thought I would be able to organize a good life in Poland, even I thought in my dreams, on our farm. I said, I will keep the farm. I’ll keep a clinic there, help the people. And having a nice living on the farm. I love the farm too. We have a big farm, a nice farm. And it was the nicest farm in the village. I thought sometimes that will be okay. But when I thought about the Russians and the system of their, when they bring in, I would not have the farm and I would not have my freedom so I start to think to move from Poland somewhere. Somewhere, the nearest approach was to Belgium, where Fryda has a brother of her father. In the beginning we want to go to Germany, because one of my brothers, who lives now in the United States, came to visit us in Poland. He couldn’t take us. When he came only for two or three days. And he saw our misery there and he tried to help us what he could. And he said, ‘Come in Germany we have apartment. You’ll make a living there for time being. Come there.’ And we found a way where they were repatriating German families from Poland to Germany. So there was a woman, she came to our house. She was making all kind of businesses, a Jewish woman from Krakow. And she had the connection how to organize, to join people who want to go to Germany with the German repatriates. We left our apartment. We went to Katowice, which was on the border to Germany. But when we came there, we were there two days, there was no transport going to Germany. They already, the last transport left. And you have to wait another month or two and I couldn’t wait in Katowice there, so we decided to go back to Krakow there. And in Krakow we stayed there until, I guess it was August, I guess, when we find a connection which somebody make passports with a visa to Costa Rica for five hundred dollar each passport. And the uncle from United States gave us the money and we paid thousand five hundred. But we could get a transit visa through Belgium, because there was no straight flights. There was no flight at all. You have to go by train to Belgium. And from Belgium you could have gone to a flyer, a ship to Costa Rica. But when we came to Belgium, we remained in Belgium. And we stayed in Belgium for five years.

Q: Were you originally planning on making the entire trip to Costa Rica or was your intention to just stay in Belgium and not go any further?

A: My intention was to stay in Belgium, but even in Belgium I didn’t want to stay. 1948 when Israel was declared independent state, I was doing everything possible to go to Israel. I said I don’t want… the uncle sent us papers, everything to go to the United States. He wanted to pay for my studies here and to upkeep us until I make my diploma here, but I didn’t want to go to the United States. I want to go home, because after all I am Jewish. There we have a state. I don’t want anymore to be a stranger.

Q: Did you ever consider making aliyah before Israel was a state and going illegally?

A: To be candid, we in our villages, it’s more my nephews, organized a Zionist organization. And I was quasi a member of this organization. But my brother was an active member and he even made ha-shorah [ph]. He was a farmer and he wanted to go before the war. But my mother, even before the war, somehow she said, ‘There is no future in Poland for Jews, let us go to Israel.’ It was not yet Israel, still Palestine. Said, ‘You are a farmer,’ she said to father, ‘and the farmers are well off there.’ It was another kind of farming there. ‘We will make somehow money here from our farm.’ We could make then, that was a lot of money for our farm, ten thousand dollars. With ten thousand dollars in Israel you could do a lot, you could do a lot. But my father said, ‘No, I don’t want.’ He was much older than my mother. My mother was young. With so many children he said, ‘I’m sure it will be difficult and impossible to make existence there.’ And he didn’t want to leave Poland. He was orthodox Jew. He said, ‘I will go to Israel when Messiah will come.’ No Zionists. And my brother was prepared to go, but then there came the war and he couldn’t. And so my nephews wanted to go and no one of them did it.



Q: Okay, it’s now May 30, 2000, and we’re continuing our interview with Mr. Oscar Haber. And why don’t we start by going back, you had talked on the last tape about the day of your liberation. And just to remind you, what you had talked about, we were, you talked about how afterwards you had met up with some other Jews and you were singing some old Yiddish songs. And then you described going back to your hometown and then back to Krakow. The thing that I wasn’t sure about, that I didn’t quite understand is, did you immediately leave the town where you were after liberation? And do you remember saying good-bye to the family that you were staying with?

A: Well, the question of liberation is one of the most difficult time from all the past problems which we had. We were, as I told you, living as Christians. And the liberation came. We couldn’t enjoy our liberation or country. It was the greatest shock and the most difficult moment in our lives. That was the liberation. And especially if I want to put it in perspective, the differences between people who survived camps and people who lived on so-called Aryan papers was very different. We have two things to overcome. The first is, which we had all the time, that was the fight for existence and how to survive, of course. And the next, when the liberation came was the shock to find the reality. You don’t have where to go. You couldn’t find nobody you know, or anybody of your people. You suddenly find yourself, you cannot stay in the place where you were. We were in a village, not in a town. We were in a village. And if I… realize it was a hostage village. They were not sympathetic to Jewish survivors. However I survived, not a Jew, but suddenly I felt that I am back a Jew. But I couldn’t officially declare it. I had to stay on my Aryan papers. And how to go and where to go? Because to go to my other village where I was born there, I wasn’t sure that I will be accepted. And I wasn’t sure to go to Krakow, for example, because I didn’t have where to go. Even not where to sleep at night. And you don’t have money. And you don’t have nothing because whatever you had you have already sold out whatever you had. So, that was the most terrible time in all this events which we had, the so-called liberation was the terrible hit of the reality. You were hit with the reality. Not where to go and not what to do and how to start. Will you be accepted as a Jew? You cannot go on and to say you are not a Jew, because really where you go they know you are Jew when you come to the places where I used to live. And to stay in a strange, foreign surrounding like we were before, so I have to stay like I was all the time, a peasant, a farmer. To watch the horse and the cows. In reality I was a dentist. I want to go back. I didn’t have nothing with me, but I have to go to start to look for our existence. And as I said before already that part, I went to the village where I was born, and then later when they went with us to Krakow, all this trouble I have with Fryda and when I came to Krakow. But the question of this liberation, to explain it in a very simple term, that was the greatest shock of everything together. But when I came to Krakow, when I started to settle as I said, I have been there, different places, start to organize my life. And with the help of the uncle which came, we went to Belgium as I said. And in Belgium we became refugees. We became as one of the United Nations refugees. We registered there and I have my register card as a refugee from the United Nations. And I got the permit because I had a visa only to stay there, transit visa to pass through Belgium. But because I was recognized as a refugee, they gave me time to stay three months there. In three months I had to renew my stay in Belgium. And we were under the auspicion of the foreign police, a special department, the etranger [ph], police etranger. And they gave us another stay of three months.

Q: Okay, before we go on into Belgium, I just wanted to ask another question about the liberation time. I’ve forgotten the name of the family that was sheltering you right at the end of the war. What was their names?

A: The Polish people?

Q: Yeah.

A: Soltys. Soltys. That was a woman, a widow.

Q: They were the ones in your hometown, right? But at the time of the liberation what was the name of the woman that you were staying?

A: Oh that was a man, that was Muschau. He was recognized as a righteous man, the righteous between people. I gave him to Yad Vashem, and he is recognized. He was a wonderful person. He helped us all the time, even the time when he didn’t suspect us as Jews, he was all the time very human and very helpful.

Q: I thought you were staying with his sister right there. You were actually staying with him right at the end of the war?

A: We stayed with the sister, but it was a very terrible accident. The last, the last bullet, the Russian bullet got his hand, his left hand. Because his house was on the, on the border. Where the front was standing between the Russians and the Germans and there was heavy fire because there was the Dunajec river. And he was close to this river, not far. So he decided, the frontier between the Germans and the Russians, which was standing about four or five months was very close to this place. And his house was under fire, so he decided to come to his sister place, and while he opened the door, a bullet cut his left hand. And he was bleeding and because he knew that the underground station, sanitary station was in my place, so he decided that the neighbor took him on a wagon and he brought him to me there to give him first help. And I cut him. It was hanging on the skin, this hand. I cut on this and I bind around that he doesn’t bleed out and I went back with him together and brought him to his house. And there I found out a really surgeon doctor was hiding there in the underground army and they brought him to this house. I gave him the anesthesia, whichever it could be a little bit chloroform. But most anesthesia was I gave him alcohol. We had there moonshine, moonshine. And he was drinking so he was out of conscious. And this surgeon bind him, all these veins and arteries. First of all, he cut him a little bit of this arm farther because it was already gangrenous, gangrene, because where I bound it there it started, it is very fast process. He cut it there and bind all the arteries and veins and so he survived. And then I didn’t go more to the place of the sister, but I stayed with him and took care on him all the time. So he survived and he was thankful to me and I was very thankful to him. So it was a very, very good occasion to serve this man, this very nice person.

Q: Was Fryda with you then too? With him?

FABER: No, for the first two days she stayed still with the sister there. But later on she came here, we brought here. The front was standing there for a moment. There was a fight there. The Germans run away. They left only some guns, automatic shooters. And these were not origin Germans. This were Russians which were collaborated with the Germans. And they were making the last fights with the German. And there in this house just, we were there. The Germans caught the first Russian soldiers who came in, and they bind them together and they put a grenade between them and they kill them there, on the garbage there.

Q: Did you see that happen?

A: I saw it later, after I saw them there. The Germans came in, you can come take in the shoes if you need from this people. And then the Germans escape, of course. That was the end of this fight there. And after several days we went there, to the sister there. We took a little bit of what we had, our clothings and we left there, from there. And then we are looking on occasion somehow to go to Krakow and to go to my village there and to organize this life like I said.

Q: But even though the war had ended and you were supposedly liberated, you didn’t tell these people that you were Jewish?

A: No, I didn’t tell them and for a long time they didn’t know, until… I don’t know exactly when they started to realize that I am Jewish. But when the war passed my village where I was, the war continued. It was January twenty-one and the war was continued until, as you know, until May. So here was all the time moving Russian trucks and armaments and soldiers. That was the only way, with the soldiers for a bottle of vodka, which we could have some commuting to Krakow or to the other villages. It was also very dangerous. They were also not very sympathetic to Jews. Sometimes Fryda stand in the line to get a ride to the village there for some food to these Polish people. So there was standing a lot of people and waiting for this ride. So the Russian driver which was taking said, ‘You yes, you can go. You yes, yes. But you no, no Jews, no Jews, no Jews.’ Even the Russian soldier. So there is no big difference between one and the other one.

Q: So you really didn’t feel then that the Russians were any safer to live with than the Germans had been?

A: First of all, they didn’t realize who is a Jew or no, except that they really recognize by physiognomy, they saw it is a Jew. And then in reality they were not more, well they didn’t have in their program to kill Jews. That was individual soldiers, some of them which were, I don’t know, they were from some other nationality as Russians or Ukrainians or Belorussians or Lithuanians or Latvians. There were all kinds of soldiers there. So that was more individual and then it was also sometimes inspired by some other anti-Semites to go to kill a Jew. The Russians didn’t hesitate to kill a Jew, too. However it came in the Polish Army, which was a Polish unit in the Russian Army. In this unit there were many Jews, I mean for us, many… five was many. Because we used already without Jews here in this side, the German side. But there were some Jews and the times when the Jews didn’t hear, you could hear… I understand Russian and Ukrainian, too. So, I could hear how they were expressing themselves anti-Semitic even to their officers and to their sergeants. ‘These dirty Jews,’ and so forth. So this is the reality like it was.

Q: Okay, then you were saying a little earlier about Belgium, then. And you were there as refugees and you had to be registered.

A: In this village, I came to my village where I was origin. And I told you already before in this story, that they send in somebody to kill us. And I didn’t go back there to my village anymore. Fryda went several times for food, but she never slept there. She went to the shtetl and in the shtetl were already three or four Jewish families. And between them was one, my niece, she lived there. She came there back to the shtetl there, and she had already a room there and she slept with her. And the next day she came back to Krakow. When she left I wasn’t sure I will see her tomorrow. It was a difficult time even after the liberation. Even after the liberation.

Q: You mentioned last time about the group of people, the group of survivors that you were together with. Where was that?

A: That was already in Krakow. Well, you cannot say group, they formed a group. They find each other and because one of them has a place, so we came there. We could there sleep at night. And with no soldier, we were sitting and singing old Yiddish songs because we couldn’t sleep. The horror on our heads was so terrible that we couldn’t sleep even. Like taking, by the time, how to spend the time.

Q: Were these people that you had known before the war?

A: No, no, no. I never knew. I never knew these people. I never knew these people. That was only two or three days, until, as I told you, we find the place of my friends there, which they were already coming survivors from Auschwitz after the liberation. Young people which were living together there. Sleeping there on the floor for a time. Somehow that you have, because in the evening there was curfew. You couldn’t go in the street, you have to be someplace. So that was the place where we could run away. And that was a very happy occasion to go in.

Q: Okay, do you want to skip ahead then and talk about Belgium? Because we talked, that’s where we left off.

A: Well when we came to Belgium. We founded there, because we came with Fryda’s father, he found there his brother, who survived in Antwerp. And he used to live in Antwerp before the war and he was in Antwerp quite a known person. He was in the diamond business. And he was poor, but he already contact his other brother, younger brother in Holland, in England. The youngest brother, who changed his name from Himmelblau to Hill. And then he became recognized by the Queen as a British officer, decorated. And he already makes good business. He was quite already a rich man. And he did help him. And also this uncle from the United States, he opened us a place in Antwerp where we can take the money, how to survive our time. But I didn’t want to be supported. I organize, even illegal, a little clinic, and I treated Jewish patients, refugees who came there. And there was a yeshiva, an orthodox yeshiva, which I treat without money this all students there. And I don’t know if I told you, one day came in a student. And you know whoever it comes you started to talk, ‘Where from are you? How do you survive? Where did you been?’ And there came in a yeshiva boy. A nice, pretty wonderful boy. And I ask him, ‘Where are you from?’ And he said, ‘Well, I am from Krakow.’ ‘From Krakow? We are also from Krakow.’ ‘Yes?’ He was happy to hear that we are from Krakow. ‘Where did you live in Krakow?’ He said, ‘Well in Diver [ph] Street, number four,’ and this house was the Himmelblau house of the house of my wife’s family. And I remembered his father. And Fryda knew his brothers and sisters, they were living in the same house for so many years. And he started to cry and Fryda started to cry. I called in Fryda. In my clinic, I had a corner in my bedroom where I put in an engine, a foot engine and actually did the patients, somehow. But slowly I make a living off it and I had a possibility to make a decent living. So, I stopped the help of my uncle. I didn’t want to be supported. In the meantime, as we have been there for close to two years, Israel was established. And I was already connected with the Zionist organization there in Antwerp. I was a member of the committee there. So I said, ‘I want to go to Israel.’ Well, Fryda’s father didn’t want to go. He preferred to stay in Antwerp. Well, he knew the languages and he had his brother there and he had the support from this two brothers, so he decided he will not go with us. In the meantime, our son was born. He was already two years old.

Q: What was his name?

A: Henry Edward. He lives now in Texas, in Austin, Texas. He grew up in Israel. My uncle from the United States sent us a visa and he even want us to come to the United States. And he’ll pay our upkeep, my studies, so that I will be independent and we can live in the United States. But I found that our place, after all we survived and surpassed, my place is Israel. This is the only place for a Jewish person to live. That was my conviction.



Question: This is tape number four, side A. Did you, did you have, what kind of experience did you have in Belgium, just as far as… were you just working all the time? Or were you having any leisure time?

Answer: Oh yeah, leisure time enough. And as I said, I was an active Zionist, too. And…

Q: How were you active?

A: Well, organizing young people who came there, many refugees from Poland, from Russia, from Germany. They start to come from all places there. And then they came from Israel. There was the Israel soldiers which are serving in the British Army. They were in Europe and Germany and everywhere there was fighting against the Germans. And they are the people who helped us to organize the people to go to Israel. And quite a number of them went to Israel. Some of them remained in Belgium, some went to Australia, some went to America. But as I later heard, many of these young people who went to Israel became soldiers, even they were unexperienced soldiers, only to fight for freedom. And most of them were killed in this fight because they were not experienced soldiers. But Israel need everyone there in this time. It was a very hard time there in Israel, too. And when I decide we are going, we organize. We brought everything, because in Israel we knew there is nothing, refrigerators and the stove, furniture, hardware, what we need for the kitchen for a living. We took everything. We took several lifts and we went to Marseilles by train. And from Marseilles we went by boat, by the Kadma [ph]. It was quite a nice boat. And that was my son’s second birthday on this ship. The captain make him a party, well, kind of party, a reception for our son there.

Q: What was the date?

A: That was April the 6th. My son was born April the 6th. So, we left Marseilles April the 5th.

Q: 1948?

A: 1948. No, 1951, excuse me. 1951, because ‘49 our son was born. When Fryda was pregnant we didn’t want to go for this experience. We were waiting that he will be able to make this transport. In April of ‘51 we left for Israel. We were so far fortunate that our friend from Antwerp, who is also from Krakow, left for Israel a year before us. And he rented a house there with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom. And they invited us that we would be able to stay with them for the first day until we find a place to stay. Because that was no other way. And we came to them, we stayed with them. And the lift arrived. There was a yard there, we could put the lift there. We were searching for an apartment. And we rented an apartment, which was a living room and a bedroom, a hall, a kitchen and a bathroom. That was all.

Q: What town was this in?

A: Pardon?

Q: What town?

A: Givataim, a suburb of Tel Aviv. We didn’t want to go to Tel Aviv. First of all, it’s a big town and everybody was going to Tel Aviv. And that was a settlement which was in development and that was, to compare, a little bit cheaper. And I didn’t have enough money to buy an apartment. We rented an apartment. And we organized there. I organized in these three rooms, the hall was the waiting room, the bedroom was the clinic. And there was a bed which was in the day, closed like a cabinet. In the day I could accept patients. And the living room was the bedroom for us. We were sleeping there in the bedroom. And the child was there. There was a terrace. It was nice. After working there about two years we rented, just close, became free another big room and a kitchen and a little hall. So we rented this, and… excuse me. We bought it. I bought it. In the meantime I bought this apartment where you are renting. I bought this apartment. And I made of both of them one bigger apartment and a separate clinic. And life became more comfortable. We organized a very nice apartment and a very nice living in this room.

Q: When you said you came to realize that the only place that you as a Jew could be at home was in Israel, what had happened after the war that made you come to that conclusion?

A: Well maybe it is not known in the world and people are more concentrated on Poland and Polish anti-Semites in Germany. But Belgium, which seems to be more sympathetic to the Jewish case… in Antwerp, where there was quite a number of Jews, when you were looking for an apartment for rent, it was in the windows written, ‘Not for foreigners.’ And that meant not for Jews. In some of the apartments was written exactly what I said, ‘No Jews.’ And I in the meantime learned to speak Flemish, which was the language in Antwerp, because Brussels was more French. But Antwerp was Flandria. That was the the part of… Belgium has two nations, Valonia and Flandria. The Flandrians were more, more German sympathetic. They were German oriented. Valonians were more French oriented. And Jews which were saved in Belgium, they mostly were more saved in this part which was Valonian. In Flandria there was impossible to survive. We came, rented an apartment. And still we were all the time renting there. And that was a nice apartment. We love it. And the administrator showed us the apartment and the conditions where it was not expensive. It was nice and the place was nice. And when it came to write the lease, he says, ‘Yes, but you are not strangers.’ And we said, ‘Yes, we are strangers. We are from Poland.’ And he said, ‘But you are not Jews?’ I said, ‘Yes, we are Jews.’ So, ‘I am sorry, I have instructions from my… I am not the owner, from the owner, no Jews. I am sorry, no Jews.’ And that gave me a lot to think about it. Around you see no friends, no friendly, no foreigners, no Jews. So that means there is no place to live here for the Jews. However there is a lot Jews remained there and lived there. They didn’t care about it. But I was, I don’t know, personally more sensitive realizing this problem. I said, ‘No, I don’t want to be, that can happen the same everywhere.’ And therefore I decided to go home. I said, ‘That’s the one place where nobody would tell me as a Jew you have to live. You have all the rights.’ And that was the reason.

Q: Was there a particular organization that you were working with in Brussels? A Zionist organization?

A: Yeah, it was the general Zionist movement. General Zionist movement. Not labor, not revisionist, general Zionist. That was in this time a general Zionist organization.

Q: You mentioned in your last interview, I believe, that you had spent some time studying in Germany as well. Was that, did that happen after you had gone to Israel?

A: Yes. After I became involved in my profession. In the dental association I became one of the active members in the management of the organization. I became vice-president of the organization of the dental association in Israel. And because a big part of Jewish dentists in Israel, their origin was countries where they spoke German. If it was Czechoslovakia, even Poland, they spoke more German than Yiddish, or even Yiddish, they could understand German. And there was a necessity, there was not world literature in Hebrew in this profession. And we were interested as these people became more educated and more acquainted in the profession, which made progress terrible. Progress during the five years and then later on and on all the time. And there was English literature, which the people didn’t know. I spoke already a little bit English, but not enough to be fluent in literature or to give a lecture in English. The University has some professors which were lecturing in English. But for the mass, I mean for the majority of the dentists it wasn’t understandable. So we needed German-speaking lectures. And time by time, we start to bring in from Germany lecturers, professors. And so I became acquainted with these professors. And we started to exchange normal relations between them. So we started organize even at the universities in Germany, some courses for the occasion, for progress, for professional progress. So we make a course in Bonn. We make a course in Berlin. We make a course in Munich. We make a course in Marburg on the Lahn. It was in Frankfurt also some courses. Some from time to time there were a group of twenty, thirty people who can afford it, who are going only for education there. And that was the reason. And so I went with this group there. And I went to Bonn where I stayed for three months there. And I make my, my graduation doctor there in Bonn and then Marburg. That was the two universities. Marburg was a general university and Bonn was only a dental school. So here we got a dental license as a dental practitioner license and here you make your doctor up in Marburg. So you are a doctor and a dentist, both of it.

Q: So up until that point you hadn’t actually been a doctor until you…?

A: No, I haven’t been a doctor until this time. I be only a dentist, a licensed dentist in Poland. A licensed dentist in Poland.

Q: And how did it feel to, as a Jew, to be doing these studies in Germany after what had happened?

A: In general, the staff of the university, of each of these universities, they were very, very forthcoming and they were very gentle and very willingly to help us. Even we knew that some of them were with a Nazi past. The more Nazi they were before the war or during the war, the more forthcoming they were after the war. They didn’t know, they said, about anything what happened before. And they were always good with Jews and they had good relations and even there at the university there were professors Jews and so forth. In Bonn, for example, the head of the school was Professor Kirkhaus, which was known that he was a member of the Nazi party. And he was the first one who quit the Jewish professor who was there. I don’t remember this moment what his name was.

Q: So you’re there for three months and you’re studying in a German university. Did you feel angry? Or did you form any friendships with any Germans?

A: I can hardly say that you were angry, because nobody forced you to go. You have to, to have your attitude, you come there, you have to accept the reality. Of course, you knew exactly that you are stepping on the burning ground. You know this is not the place where you should be. But it is not only there. You start to think with the real terms even then already. This is the reality of life and this is the future of life. If you want to separate and if you want to be somebody else, chosen for something. There is no place for you on this world. You have to accommodate it to the future life. And this is the future life. This is the future. Now you see what happens. Israel has relations with Germany, with France. However we know there are still a lot of anti-Semites. And they are everywhere. They are everywhere. But they are not because they are special anti-Semites. There are anti-blacks, there are anti-yellows, there are anti-Asians, there are anti, all kinds of antis. This is the reality of the world now. You know, it sometimes is for me difficult to accept the general view of the Jewish world about the Polish anti-Semites, about Poland. I born in Poland. I got my education in Poland. I lived there. And I was a Polish patriot. And so were many, the majority. There were some Jews which didn’t accept never that they are Poles. And to say that the Poles were all anti-Semites, I will not put this category, put them in this category. There were some interests. And people are behaving very often, very different in different situations. But to say a priori all the Polish are anti-Semites, it is exaggerated. It’s not true. It’s not true. But the same you can say about Jews. They are anti-Arabs, they are anti-Poles or anti-this. There are Jews who are anti-Jewish. Everything exists. But mainly I don’t know how to categorize it, even with my most sophisticated thinking, I think in every human body there is some anti, some anti. Anti- this, anti-him, anti, is it anti-blacks or some blacks? Or anti-yellows or just some yellows? Anti-Asians. There is in every human being, there is an anti. But you have to come to some point that you are living in this world, which is very differentiated and if you will not accept this, there is no place for you. Because every day brings surprises. We are not done with wars. We are not done with discriminations. It was, it is and it will be forever, forever.

Q: When you first moved to Israel did you feel, I mean there you were among your own people, did you feel a sense of relief or a sense of being at home as you had hoped to feel?

A: Well, this question is a very sensitive question. When you came to Israel, how difficult it is to say, there was a gap between these born Israelis, long living in Israel and newcomers in Israel. Like everywhere, a stranger gets feeling of a stranger. You are a stranger for a while until you are not accommodating to the reality. And then some gap, some gap, it is sixty years after establishment of Israel state, fifty-two years, but there’s still differences between born Israelis, longest living Israelis and new coming Israelis. Is it good? It is reality. I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe it is human nature. It’s this kind of jealousy. But in the beginning when you came in, the feeling was a little bit different, because a lot of people in Israel, living in Israel, not born in Israel, but living in Israel for many years, who were the elite in Israel, came from Poland, Russia, maybe Czechoslovakia. Some came from Germany, too. Zionists. They felt the elite, and you felt when you came in with a feeling how could you survive? You must have done something which is not right, that you could survive the Holocaust. Because my parents, my uncle, my grandparents, my brother, my sister, they were killed. Everybody. Nobody is here. And you survive. You must be guilt of something. You have to feel this guilt.

Q: Did people actually say that to you?

A: I heard it. It wasn’t meant maybe special straight to me, but I heard it. I heard it in a quite clear voice. These people who survive, they were collaborating with the Germans. And that gave you a very, very strange feeling, very bad feeling.

Q: Will you say a little bit more about how you dealt with that? I mean you had such high hopes of finding a place where you would really be at home. Did you, how did you deal with it?

A: I was maybe more fortunate than the majority of this newcomers. First of all, because I was involved in the Zionist organization and secondly because I knew the language. And that gave me a very great advantage not to be singled out. That was worse with people who couldn’t communicate. And they had to communicate in other language, which was in Yiddish or in German, and the Israeli-born children didn’t speak Yiddish. They didn’t want to speak Yiddish. I think they’re quite chauvinistic. I think they are quite chauvinistic. And the same thing can be said about the long living in Israel. They were maybe not so chauvinistic as they were the best one, the good one. ‘We came here and we built this country. We fought for this country and we gave us a country.’ You know, that was also a very strange feeling. A very strange feeling. But with the time you got used to all kind of treatment in your society.



Q: This is tape four, side B. Who were your friends then, mostly other refugees when you were in Israel?

A: It’s not only me, but usually people are always closer to their landsmen. Coming from Poland, get with the Polish people. Coming from Hungary, are living with the Hungarians because of the language. I cannot say. We had people from different, from Hungary, from Romania, from Czechoslovakia, from Germany. And in reality, the most educated people which we met in Israel, which were the leading intelligentsia in Israel, they were original from these countries. From Germany, coming from Germany. Because the aliyah which came to Israel from the Arab countries, they were merchandise mostly. Very, very, very few which were professionals. They all business men, all handy people, making something for a living. But in general, there were the poor people who came, that were the first who came into Israel. That was the big problem. They didn’t have the language and they didn’t have the… for them life was very difficult when they came poor. So there was difficult for apartment. They built temporary shelters for them. And they were living in these shelters for several years until they somehow came out there. There are some of them living until today. Some of them built houses on the places where the shelter houses were. They allowed them to build, so they gave them… because most of the land were belonging to the Keren Kayemeth. So they allowed them, these people to settle on this places because the government wasn’t able to give them stable living. So there are some slobs until today and there are some which built nice houses. And of course, with the time, the new generation there went to school and they make progress. And a lot of them came with their religious leaders, with their Rabbis. And then they settled in their own circles. And this is now Israel’s greatest problem, is their religious Orthodox problem. With the Sephardic, Sephardic those are those, Sephardic in reality means the Spanish people. They don’t have nothing to do with Spanish, except maybe their ancestors came from Spain. But generally they are Arabic Jews and they learn quite fast, Hebrew. And they arrange their life very nice. And they make terrible progress, very, very nice progress. But the problem of Israel is not solved and will never be solved in my opinion. That’s war… my son, for example, was in two big wars, in the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War. And that was one of the main reasons that he left Israel. He said he had enough of wars, when he came to the United States for studying his business, so he found that he would be better here. And he stayed here. And therefore we are here. We came after him, otherwise we wouldn’t be here in the United States. I would be here in Israel until today. And I’m not sorry that I did it, because I’m not sorry of one step in my life. I don’t look backwards. I take the reality. I am here happy. I live happy. And so is my son. I have two grandchildren. My granddaughter graduated now from the University here in Kentucky. But she lives also to Austin, Texas, where my son lives. And our grandson is in Virginia Beach. So now we are without children and without grandchildren, but we have here very good friends. And we are happy here, making our life here.

Q: When your son was growing up in Israel did he ask you about your past and about the Holocaust years? Or did you tell him about what had happened there?

A: Well the first years, I myself couldn’t talk about it, neither could my wife. And she is until today not so outspoken. And for her the language barrier in Israel was very difficult, very difficult. She learned the daily language, but usually she couldn’t live a cultural life, except going to concert and eventually from time to time with me to the theater. But usually it was a barrier for her. But we have a society where she could speak Polish, where she could speak German. And we had very wonderful company, very good friends. And then concerning our son, it came when he went to school, to elementary school. He asked in the first grade, he asked about whether we could help him with something in his homework. And mother told him, ‘I’m sorry but go to Father because I don’t know.’ So he ask a very simple question, ‘Mom, did you ever go in your life to school?’ So it is difficult to say that we spoke with him about the Holocaust because it was a painful thing to go on to put it on your children. But of course when he growed up, when he went to high school and later on to military, he realized what happened and he asked some questions. But not too many, not too many, not too many. And I think until we came here, to the United States, he learned more about all of this than all his staying in Israel.

Q: So it wasn’t so much a part of cultural life in Israel then to even talk about it, even though it’s a society mostly composed of Jews? People weren’t, the children weren’t being taught necessarily about what had happened in Europe with the Nazis’ extermination of Jews?

A: Well, I, I cannot agree with this what you ask for. My culture life in Israel was very, very developed. First of all in the professional way because I was very active in my profession and I studied a lot. And except of which I went to concert and I went to theater, all Jewish theater, I mean Hebrew theater. I understood and I could take it. And then I had a very rich library in Hebrew language and I was reading in Hebrew and for me Hebrew became my, really to say, my first, or my second language if I would say the truth, because the first always remains the Polish language which you have your basic education.

Q: My question was more about whether your son, your son was… or even in this, I would maybe have guessed that in the schools he would have been taught about the Holocaust because he’s living in Israel. But from what you’re saying it sounds as if there was not very much talk about the Holocaust.

A: You are right. In the first maybe ten years there was no talk about the Holocaust. Later on bit by bit it came out and they start to open more the world and exchange of knowledge of the world, with all other countries in Europe and the United States. And the Jews from the United States, tourists used to come, family members looking, searching for family and some of them finding. And there was always exposed to the Israeli informations in the papers and everywhere that was always the corner, the sensitive corner of Jewish life, to find families, far families and families and friends from shtetl. Here they found a sister, here they found a brother after not knowing that they survived, because they disappeared and they went to different corners of the world, to Australia or to New Zealand and to Africa and wherever you want, you have everywhere people in the world. So when they start to come somehow together it was more exposed in the reality of course, with this knowledge it came always a history and development of knowledge about Holocaust, how it came to it, and this opened the door to more knowledge about the Holocaust.

Q: How long did you live, oh, here’s what I wanted to ask you. How segregated were you from your Arab neighbors? Did you have any interaction with them at all? Or were your lives just completely separate?

A: My personal life was never involved with any Arabs. With any [INAUDIBLE] Arabs, I didn’t know. Well, I can say that I knew nothing, but from the press and visiting to go to the South to Beersheba and passing some villages where Arabs was living going to Nazareth. If you go to see the country, you met the Arabs and their way of living. But in my place where I lived there was no Arabs at all. At that given time there was no Arabs. In Tel Aviv, for example, there was a section which was Jaffa, the port of Jaffa, the old port of Jaffa is the oldest port in the Mediterranean. There are living Arabs until today. The majority of them are Arabs and they are Christian Arabs and there are Muslim Arabs. There are churches, there are mosques. So when you are going to Tel Aviv, because there is not separation between Tel Aviv and Givataim, Givataim was on the rand [ph] of Tel Aviv, that’s like a suburb of Tel Aviv. And then when you want to go for a good meal, you went to Jaffa there. Good restaurants. Were Arab restaurants. And Oriental Jews opened oriental restaurants. So this is the way where you came together with the Arab world. You want to go to buy some fresh fish in the harbor there. So you could buy it at Arab fishers there. There were Jewish fishers, too. But generally we didn’t have any, any, any connection and live together with the Arabs. We knew from the press and we knew from the medias how they live and where they live and what their problems are, but we didn’t have nothing in common, nothing in common. You came to Jerusalem, of course, after the Liberation, I mean after the Six-Day War there, western part of Israel, or Jerusalem which they annected. So you learned something. When you came to Jerusalem before when it was divided, you came always to the gate, where we saw the Arabs here. It was always a danger to approach close because there were shootings.

Q: When did you first go back to visit Poland?

A: I went to Poland after, to be exact, about after fifty years.

Q: Fifty?

A: After fifty years I went to Poland. The second time I went after three years.

Q: So it was about 1995 that you first went to Poland?

A: Something like this, yes.

Q: Will you talk about that, that trip?

A: We decide to go, when the parents of our good friends which live here in Kentucky came to visit here. It was a very old Krakow family which knew the business of Fryda’s parents and he by himself helped one Jew to survive. And they are very, very nice people. We met them and became friendly, very friendly. They really embraced us and they asked us to come to Poland, to be their guests there. And to see, you will see it is not so bad. Just try, come and you will see your sights. That was one thing. The other thing was we wanted to see our savior, this Muschau, who got his righteous papers there, and his family. We wanted to see him because he was older than we are and we wanted to see him alive still. We supported him from Israel. We were sending parcels and money from time to time. And we supported him and he was very thankful. They were not rich people, very poor peasants. And he also wrote us that he will be happy to see us. So we decided we will go, we will see how it is. We went there and as I told you maybe before, I was a member of Rotary International in Israel and I became a member of Rotary here in Lexington, too. And as a Rotarian you are obliged to visit a club wherever you go. You should go to meet. Rotary have to come together, whoever it is. The Rotary in principle, Rotary has to have the best people. That’s what the principle of Rotary is. And we went there to see Rotary in Krakow on their meeting. And one of the members was a Jesuit priest, who was a professor at the University there. And he was a doctor of biology and a doctor of philosophy. A very bright person. After I had my speech there, at Rotary they are always asking guest Rotarian to give his impression and his greetings from his club to bring there. He came to me, and we became very friendly, very friendly. So that even when I came back to the United States, we were writing to each other. I have maybe fifty letters from him, which he wrote to me and I wrote to him exchanging of some ideas. He was very fond of the Jewish religion and of Judaism. Which I, I have studied a lot about Judaism, biblical Judaism and Talmudic Judaism. So I could give him some answers. We had some very, very interesting talks about this subject. We had a very good time there. We went there to the village. One of our Polish friends which we became friendly, he visited here with the University of Kentucky for a year. We became friendly and he invited to visit him in Krakow. And he went with his car with us to these villages where we used to be in hiding there. And we went there and met the people. There was a very exciting experience. And we really enjoyed to see this everything from perspective, it gives us some good feeling that we could do it. And therefore we went for the second time, too.

Q: Had you kept in touch with anybody in Poland apart from Muschau?

A: Yes, we saw Muschau for himself.

Q: No, had you kept in touch with anyone other than Muschau during the years that you were not in Poland?

A: No, no, not at all, not at all, not at all. Except these people here from the United States which we met here and this people who visited here and the Jesuit priest which we visited, otherwise we didn’t have.

Q: So, Mrs. Soltys or her son, did you see them?

A: Oh yeah, we saw them. We saw both sons. They were, well, they were very touched. Madame Soltys didn’t live anymore, she was gone. The second time we were even the Soltys son, the oldest son passed away, too. Only the youngest son, Kazimierz Soltys, which writes us until today and we send him from time to time some money. Otherwise no.

Q: What about, there were people who, I assume you had left Poland and they didn’t know at the time that you were Jewish, but you were friendly with them, such as the people who hid you. Did you have any encounters with people like that?

A: No, I didn’t meet more people. I will tell you, I didn’t want these people to have different feelings, that I was Jewish and they couldn’t know and could even help me, maybe they will be sorry that they did it. I don’t want to put them in this conflict. I don’t know. You can never know human thinkings, human spirits, human soul. You never know. I don’t want to hurt people.

Q: But overall your visit was very good it sounds like.

A: Yes, my visit was very good. Short. Very good. Well, we experienced one a very, very peculiar experience while we were walking in Krakow. In the market place, in the most important place in Krakow, in the most beautiful place in Krakow and I am not sure that the person who did it knew that we are Jewish and it wasn’t directed to us. I think because this person run away from the market, screaming, ‘Death to the Jews.’ And that was a very, very strange feeling, very, very strange feeling. I couldn’t blame my friends. I couldn’t blame nobody. Maybe some crazy. You never know what people are able to do and who they are.



Question: This is tape number five, side A of an interview with Oscar Haber. And you wanted to mention about your visit?

Answer: Because I was talking about Krakow, about the unpleasant what happens to me, I will try to make some remarks about the Sharoka [ph] which is called the high street. And there is the oldest synagogue in Europe, called before the world the Alte Shul. And there is now a Jewish museum. There is another thing there on this street, which is one of the oldest, maybe oldest too, maybe in the same time. I don’t know exactly. The Remu Shul, the shul which is named after Reb Isserls, which was a Rabbi in Krakow in the, I guess it was in the fifteenth century if I am not wrong. There is still a shul and there are still Jews coming and there is a minyan and praying in Shabbas. And they’re of course coming curious. And there is always a meeting of Jews who come visit Krakow. They are always coming there. And the site of this shul is the old cemetery which a gravestone of this famous Rabbi, Rabbi Isserls. They called the shul and they called the Rabbi ‘Remu’. Rabbi Moshe Isserls. About him, used to say, ‘From Moses, to Moses was not like Moses Isserls.’ Was a very great Rabbi, who corrected one of the main Jewish religious books, the Shulchan Aruch, on which the Jews, the Western Jews were living their daily life. That was included every point of life from the Jews. But I will go back to the museum. There are remnants from Jews in Krakow. There were several severed Torahs, Bibles, and all kind of religious utilities. And last but not least, there are many photos of old Jewish life in Krakow. And we were there for a Shabbat prayer at the Remu Synagogue which I mentioned before. And there were a minyan, there were even a group of young students from Canada came to visit Poland and they were visiting this shul and sitting all the pray and praying. And another thing which is to see of Jewish life, there is a Jewish cultural center on the Meilzel [ph] Street. A foundation of Canadian Jew, a [INDECIPHERABLE], and there are also kind of all Jewish life in the past and the present Jewish life. And they are cultural meetings. There are coming writers and meeting there and presenting their books. And there are Jewish books there in this unit there.

Q: Did seeing all of this inspire you at all to, to think about the possibility of Jewish life continuing in Poland? Did you ever consider living there yourself again?

A: To answer this question is not easy. From a historical point of view I’m sure Jews will live in Poland. First of all because of the root, of the roots. It may be even second, third, fourth and fifth generation, they have their Jewish ballast, if you want to say, which asks them to go back to the sources. This is one thing. The second thing is, of the globalization of the world. The world is globalizing. It has united Europe. In another few years if it will continue this way there will no be borders between European countries. It will be a united Europe and Jews are living in Europe and will live in Europe. We have the best example, Spain. The Jews were driven in the fifteenth century from Spain and there are Jews living there. There is a Jewish life in Spain. And there will be everywhere. There is Jewish life in Germany. We may not like it. We may not want it. But life is stronger than all our views. May it be political, philosophical, whatever it is, life has his right. Bread is easier. Where life is easier, people will always go. And that’s my view. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. But I am sure and I know that the last visit of the Pope in Israel gives a great contribution to somehow living together, Catholics and Jews. It is maybe ironic that in general even in the United States, people, Jewish people in general are more involved in general Christianity, maybe less in Catholic. Because there is a minority of Catholics. But Poland is ninety percent Catholics. And the Pope, his origin is Wadowice in Poland. And he was during the war behaving as a fellow Semite. And he now with his visit in Israel and his approach to the problem of Jewish–Christian connection, I think opens more the door for Jews to go back to Poland. Maybe I am wrong, maybe I am right. It is still a stereotype of American Jews which have a guilty feeling that they didn’t do nothing, nothing in time of the Holocaust to help their brothers. That they are putting all the guilt of the Holocaust on Polish people. I know the truth is that the majority of extermination, gas chambers and so forth was in the Polish territory. But I find my very answer, I think the main reason is that it was much easier for the Germans to make it where the biggest concentration of the Jews were. There was, in Poland was more Jews than all over the world. So instead to go to Holland or to go to Belgium or to go to Germany, of course they didn’t want to take them because they were ashamed to bring the Jews to Germany. So I mean to this other little countries, to bring million of Jews it was for them impossible. Impossible. Physically it was impossible. Maybe it would be good if they had come to this idea. But their idea was to do this fast, fast and more able to do it was in Poland That’s my opinion. Maybe I am wrong, but that is the reason. And of course, there is something to it that in Poland were no many objection to it. But there is another answer, Poland was the biggest country of this all occupied territories except France. But France has its own Anti-Semitic history, so we can put it in another perspective.

Q: So, if you knew that you had another hundred years to live, could you conceive of living in Poland, moving back to Poland for part of that?

A: It is like I said, it’s a very, very difficult answer. Maybe yes, maybe no. The yes is I would like to be the first one, not the second, not the third, not the fifth. But if I live fifty years and there will be a community of a million Jews, I am not sure if I would not prefer to live in Poland. Well of course, my first priority is Israel, but I don’t know what will happen to Israel in the next future. I am very worrying and it is one of my greatest pains to think about, about a bad outcome of this situation. I don’t want to be a prophet and I don’t want to put my words in tapes or in history. But I am very afraid of the, what happens in Israel.

Q: How do you feel about life in the United States?

A: It is the same question like you ask me before.

Q: Hard to answer?

A: If I am living in the United States, it is the most wonderful place to live. If you ask me to live between Jews and the United States, I am not comfortable with it. I was more comfortable in Jews to live in Israel or to live in Poland. And there is a reason to it and it is very difficult to raise out from history the past and the relations between American Jews and world Jewry at all. It is a very difficult task. And even now, with their best will, with their greatest contribution to Israel—which is a feeling of guilt, of course—the relations between old American Jews and the new American Jews, except this which became very rich and involved in commerce and science and so forth, but the Jewish volks, volks… that means the Jewish Jews. The Jewish Jews which are speaking still Jewish, which are reading Jewish books and they have the Jewish folklore and they still have the memory, the heritage of European Jewry, is still differentiated.

Q: Do you consider yourself an American now?

A: Yes, I’m an American, loyal American, a loyal citizen and I know about what happened in the United States, politically and socially and I am very involved. I mean spiritually, because physically I can’t more. But I was a member and I still am a member, but not so supportive as I was, I am a Republican. I cannot say I don’t like Democrats because they are democratic. But I don’t like Democrats because they are more socialistic. And whatever smells of socialism or communism is for me, a red flag. And this is also a part of my Israeli past, which was the Labor party, which was the priority movement for many years. And still they are trying to be, I don’t know what the outcome will be. Barak is a Socialist and a member of the Socialist Labor party. And so are many of the desert members. And I don’t like the religious extremists in the same way like I don’t like the liberal extremists. I am used to a middle way, to a way of tolerance and living in harmony with everybody.

Q: When did you come to the United States?

A: In 1980.

Q: And did you come directly to Kentucky?

A: Do I come?

Q: Did you come directly to Kentucky?

A: Yeah, because my son was living in Kentucky, I came to Kentucky.

Q: Do you remember your first impressions of the United States and of Lexington?

A: Well, I came to the United States before I came to Lexington. I came to New York several times. And I make tours in Canada and California and Florida. I make Caribbean. And I knew about American life and I met American people. I had my own idea about America. And my idea about Jewish America didn’t change from the beginning until today. However my two brothers are living here since ‘48, here. But they are still Polish Jews. They are Americans, but they are Polish Jews. That’s what I meant before what I said.

Q: What is your idea about, what is your idea about Jewish America?

A: Jewish Americans are Jews which speak Yiddish, love Israel, enjoy their life in the United States, are good citizens here and live a Jewish life. It mustn’t be Orthodox, it mustn’t be strictly religious, but humanitarian Jewish life, with everybody humanistic. That is my Jewish life, very humanistic. Our great Rabbi and teacher, however it is a Rabbi, but a great Rabbi, the Orthodox Rabbi, when it came to he, to him one famous gentile person. ‘I will become a Jew if you will teach me the Torah, how long I will stand on one leg.’ He says, ‘No problem, love your neighbor as yourself. This is whole Jewish religion and whole Jewish Torah, the most important thing.’ And that’s what it is, what I mean, a Jewish American or an American American or a Polish American. Love the people who you are live with and you have to live with and everybody to see a human being. That’s my opinion.

Q: Are you a member of a synagogue here in Lexington?

A: Yes, I am a member of the conservative movement. I accept it. There were asked about many things which they change in the meantime when I approach the synagogue. There were no women called to the Torah. There were no women Rabbis. Now there is. But if they ask my opinion and I said, I will not be an exception. I am for the majority. You decided that you want it this way, I will agree. But not that I am fond of it, not that I like it. And that it my opinion.

Q: You think that women should have the same traditional roles that they had in Orthodox Judaism?

A: No, they have to have more liberal. But I still cannot accept a woman going to the Rabbi, because it is against the Halachic teachings. I mean, I accept it, but I don’t find it nice. And the teaching there is, if a woman is not clean, she shouldn’t come between the community. She is not clean, that means when she has her menstruation. Only after she goes, she has menstruation, after she finished and take a ritual bath, she is clean. And she is even with everybody. I don’t say she is not even, I don’t say this is a dirtiness or an illness, but it’s against the teachings of our sages. And if you go on to take off barriers one by one, officially as permissible, you take the balance off Jewish religion. One of the two. You want to be Jewish you have to follow the teachings. Even when you don’t follow, but you don’t have to revolutionize it. That what I think. I am not kosher, for example. I am not doing a lot of things. I am riding on Shabbat. But my opinion it is in those times, Shabbat there was no cars to ride on Shabbot. There was no electricity to light. There was many things which I found it. But that’s for me, but I don’t say it is permissible. It is not permissible, but I find it, I can do it. If somebody doesn’t like it, it’s not my problem. It’s his problem. But I can do it. I can do everything which I found, in my opinion, it is an answer which is logic.

Q: Do you have friends here in Lexington, who are Jewish or non-Jewish or what kind of community do you have here?

A: Well, I can say really friends are non-Jewish. This is the majority. Maybe there are some numbers really which I can say they are not Jewish. Three, four families maybe or something like this. But not to count as a really friend. These are really the Polish people, which are helping me in need, when I had to go to an emergency, I call to the Polish people. They come even in the middle of the night and they bring me to Emergency. My wife is not driving and they bring me. I don’t have to go in ambulance. And other things also, they are really good friends. So, I really don’t differentiate it. Because you ask me I say they are accidentally Polish or Christian or Catholics and they are accidentally not. But they are my friends and they are my friends, but not because of they are Polish, because they are Catholics or they are Christians. I don’t know if I have even one Catholic, exception of Polish people.

Q: Has it been important to you at all, did it, was it… let me start over. Was it ever important to you to talk about with other people your experiences during the Holocaust. Did you get to a point where you felt like I really have to tell people that’s what I experienced and to be around people who understand?

A: I was talking several times in school, whoever invite me to give them, I give them my own experience. But there was now a Remembrance day in the St. Luke church where there are members, two or three Christians which are my friends. And they are always counting on me that I will be the speaker. And I for nine years will be making the Remembrance. They make it this year, too and I went to them, I don’t know I show it to you or you have it? No? I promise you to give it to you, my talk. I have to make a copy. I forgot to make a copy. I will give it to you someday if you will ask for it. And they make it in such a honorable day that was really a pleasure to talk to these people and to explain to them, this time I spoke generally about the situation. In the previous I gave from my personal experiences. And they are always anxious and they are…



A: Well, you asked me if I spoke to people. I must tell you, to my disappointment… I don’t know, maybe not disappointment, but take the reality like it is. I didn’t have occasion to say my opinion or even something about the Holocaust to Jewish people. If they invited me to the Temple when there was Remembrance Day, they were asking me to light a candle. That was all. And they were making some prayers. And the same was here in our synagogue, when they make. And they come such a small number of people that it is really not worth it even to open your mouth to talk to them. But I wasn’t asked to talk about the Holocaust. I wasn’t asked. They talk, they make some prayers and that’s all. And that was very miserable, miserable. I was ashamed that I was a part of this Remembrance Day. And that’s it. Jews are not interested in it. Maybe they have it enough in books. Maybe they read about it, if that’s possible. I don’t know. But even when it is written, even when they read about it, I think, in my opinion, they have an opportunity to hear it from the first source. They should ask to hear of it, they should. But I don’t know why they didn’t. Very ignorant, very ignorant. And then they are not interested. The people, the few people who survive, they are not interested, because they know the same, they have their opinion. And the other people are here, born here or for years are here, they are already, they are already accustomed of the American habits, of the Jewish habits. That’s what it is. They are not interested.

Q: Do you feel that the people who were born here and who are from here, are less, have been less receptive to you personally than have the newcomers?

A: Well, I feel it, I feel it maybe personally, but I don’t blame them. Maybe they were expecting more involvement from my side in their community life, which I couldn’t do, first of my age, secondly my language is not good enough to expose my… it is maybe improved already, but in the beginning my English was good to read, to understand. But to speak with my accent, to talk about my experience and to be active in their community, it wasn’t easy. It was maybe difficult. I even proposed and asked the Rabbi I can help him with the Hebrew lessons in the Sunday school maybe. But he never asked me. And nobody did ask me to give a hand to something like that. Maybe to a money drive, maybe they will ask me to do it, but that’s not my specialty. I will not do it. And that’s one thing. The other thing is, which one influential person told me, that they feel humiliated in my company. That I am too special for them, so therefore they are hesitating approach me. Well, I don’t know what is true, what the reason is, but this is the reality what I told you. I am a stranger for them and I will remain always to them a stranger. However they are friendly. If I approach them they answer my questions, but that’s all, that’s all. What can you do? That’s the reality. And you have to live with it and we take it. And we learn after so many years of life, you learn to live with the reality, with each reality. This is the main source of our strength, to take the everyday reality in our life as custom life. And that’s it.

Q: Last time after we finished our interview you mentioned off tape, something about the “business” of the Holocaust or the business that the Holocaust has become and I wonder if you would say something about that. Does it bother you or do you feel that the Holocaust has been overly commercialized?

A: Again, I don’t know who will hear this tape, but in the meantime there will be more business in this field. You know, each community tries to make a museum, a Holocaust museum, which in itself is maybe a nice deed. But who will come to this museum? I think the Holocaust museum which is in Washington is the one which was a necessity, very important. And it fills all the spectrum of Holocaust and of Jewish life, before the war, in the war and after the war. Maybe there are some nuances which come out which are not of value. But to make so many, I think people will not be interested to go to the main museum where they have everything. And this happens because of the way how Jewish society is built in the United States. It has to be a society, it has to be a president, it has to be a vice-president, it has to be a secretary, it has to be members of the board and so forth and so forth. Maybe in itself it is as a social thing, maybe it is good, maybe. But I think a majority of the raised funds goes to administrative use, the paperwork and to expenses which are not profit of the social needs of people who really needs the help. That is what I think. And about commercializing the Holocaust, I think when you take thousand books and you put them in a computer and you take the essence, I think from these thousands you will make one book which includes everything. So there is no need, in my opinion, for so many editions, for so many work with it in… I don’t know, I don’t know. Of course, you can see a lot of people who became very famous because of the Holocaust, very famous. But I don’t want to criticize them. I don’t want to criticize nobody. But I think it is a crime if somebody makes it only for the business.

Q: I’m coming to the end of my questions. Is there something that we haven’t talked about that you’d like to talk about?

A: Well, I gave, I gave a sketch about my experiences and about how I see it. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have, in general, what to say about. And especially to the future generations of Jewish people. Maybe somebody will listen to it. Maybe somebody will try to understand my point of view. But it is in the moment, I am ninety years old and I passed through all kind of Jewish life with joy and suffering. It is like one Jewish sage said: “It is good to be born a Jew. It’s good to die a Jew, but what do you do in the meantime, this is the problem.” From the beginning until the end, the Jews have a very rich historical experience of life, which many other religion or communities don’t have. Not because they wanted, but the wind of history put the Jews in the center of cultural life. Even in the world. Not only in Germany, not only in Poland or in Russia or in Palestine or Spain or in the United States. Everywhere where the Jews were the center of civilized life, of cultural life was concentrated in the Jewish communities or singles. Jewish Nobel Prize winners, there were scientists in the United States in medical field, in general science are not compatible to no one other people. Maybe this is the reason that the jealousy of other people brings them to hatred. I cannot wish that the Jews wouldn’t concentrate of all this progress and culture and civilization. A country they have to do everything possible what brings progress to the world. But I am turning to the other point not to cover this with egocentric religious or national use. To take it more in human general perspective and civilized ways. This is my advice and this is my way of thinking. And that, and we will remember this, this can maybe, maybe some day bring to make us even with other nations in civilized world. That we will not be scapegoats in any way, which we were during all our history from the beginning until today. To avoid it, listen what I said. Thank you.

Q: Thank you very much.