Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joseph Birnholtz - July 28, 1982


This is the morning of Sunday, May 9th, 1982. My name is Lawrence Berkove and I am now interviewing Cantor Joseph Birnholtz of 17320 Revere Avenue in Southfield, who is a survivor of a, of a Holocaust.

Uh, Cantor Birnholtz, you understand that we are making this tape for the records of Sharit Ha-Platah so that the information that you remember about your experiences will not be forgotten, and so that future researchers and scholars may have access to this and use it if they need it.


And do--will--do you give your app...permission for us to use this?

Yes, I do.

All right, thank you very much.

You're welcome.

Uh, Cantor Birnholtz uh, could you please tell me something about your background uh, something about what town did you come from, what your father's occupation was?

I come from Poland, the town is called Częstochowa and it's near--close by to the German border. And uh, my parents were in the clothing business for many, many years. We had a lot of people working for us. We had a very good business going and uh, and we had a very nice family. I come from--we were five brothers and two sisters.

What were their names?

The name uh, the three of them is uh, my sister that left before the war--that's why she's alive, she went to Israel. And my oldest brother just passed away two years ago. He lived in Israel. His name was Chaim Birnholtz. And uh, my brother one was lives in ??? he was hiding in the Polish army. He was in Poland and now he's been living since 1948 in Israel. And uh, I lost two brothers. One brother was uh, was hiding out with Polish papers in Poland and he was killed about--what we know--the last week before liberation. My other brother was taken away by the Germans. They killed him in Treblinka and with my mother and father. And my other sister--I have a twin sister that lives now in Toronto--she was with me in concentration camp together.

All right. Did you have--was there a large fa...did you have a large family in your hometown?

Yes uh, you're talking about our family?

And relatives.

Yeah, we had a lot of relatives, a lot of relatives.

Who was uh, and they all lived in this town or...

They all lived in this town and mostly they were all killed. There is maybe a couple that I know of--I think they were hiding out or something or I think there was one cousin left before the war also so that's why he's living. He lives in Israel.

Were there many Jews in your area?

Yes uh, there were uh, in Częstochowa there were--when the war broke out must have been around 60,000 Jewish people.

In Częstochowa?

In Częstochowa, yes.

How about in the outlying towns and villages?

Well, that I don't remember. It was just a very small amount. But mostly they lived in this big city.

How old were you when the war began?

Well, must have been uh, twelve or thirteen-years-old, something like that.

Uh, uh, ere there many synagogues in Częstochowa?

There were many synagogues, they were all uh, burned and just walls were standing up, that's all.

What kind of educational system was there when you were young?

Well, I was going to cheder. I was going to regular public school when the war broke out and I just couldn't finish it.

Were there many, uh, uh...

Universities--there were cheders. There were many schools and all that.

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