Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Franka Charlupski - November 19, 1981

Life Before the War

Was your family assimilated at all? Did they try to assimilate?

No. no. no. Hasidic to the end.

So you lived among Jews, mainly.

We lived among Jews, yes. And uh, we had contact uh, with uh, with Gentiles. Wh...where I was I was born--in the hou...in the house that I was born there were Germans uh, Volksdeutsche at that time and uh, were very friendly. But in 193...no it had to be before 38. It was about '34. When Hitler came to power in Germany--I might be messing up the dates.

That's okay.

Don't quote me with the dates. Uh, we used to go every summer--my mother would take the children, go out to a um, farm. And the farmer would go in someplace else, and give us his home and we stayed through the summer. And my father would come every Friday nights, you know for Shabbos and go back. And with the children, and with the farmer, we were like a family. And one year I think it was '3...I'm not sure the date. That particular summer the children--the German children--they were all--it was like a Volksdeutsche village. We always played together; we always went on the hay, when he was bring the hay in on the wagon. We didn't know the difference. I didn't know they were Germans and they didn't know I was Jewish. We didn't, we didn't discuss it. It wasn't a problem. But in that particular year, they uh, a group came in. I didn't know that a group came in, but uh, in the evening some of the children said, "Come let's go to a dance. Somebody--some children came in." And it was the Hitler Youth. I didn't know. We didn't know what the Hitlerjugend was. And I went with them. I could feel a strain--I didn't know what it was. I couldn't understand it. I couldn't have been more--I probably was fifteen-years-old. And uh, I came home and I told my mother what was going on. That there were talk--there was talk about Jews. And uh, uh, uh, Germans, and Hitlerjugend. That was the last summer that we ever went there. And that whole summer was a miserable summer. It wasn't the same. And these were children that we played since we were little kids. But they changed the whole picture.

Your family spoke German then?

Yeah, all of us. As a matter of fact I spoke German to, to that extent that uh, during the concentration year that I was in Bremen, I could go into a store--when I took off my yellow star, and I put a babushka on my head because my hair was shaved--my head was shaved uh, I could go in and buy bread. It was an incident that another group worked in a place where there was a cash register with bread uh, stamps and the place burned down. A bomb, a bomb fell, and the place burned down, but the cash register stayed intact. So the girls took out the stamps, and then they needed someone to go and buy the bread. And you couldn't go in if you didn't speak it perfectly because they would catch you. So I would get a loaf of bread. They gave me the stamps. I would go and risk my life and get the bread. But I, I did it and it worked out fine. My German was almost perfect--at that time, not anymore. [laughs] So these are--my, my mother, my father, we all spoke German.

Let me ask you a couple things about, just the um, a little bit about your home life. What, what kind of plan did you have...

There were no plans.

...for your future, say in the 19...1932, '33? Somewhere?

There was no plans. You lived in Poland. You tried to make a living and raise your children and marry them off and uh, there was no--there was never a thought in our house--first of all we didn't have family in the States. And, um...

Any talk of Israel?

No, not really. I don't know why. Maybe they were so absorbed with making a living and raising a family. We were large family and [pause] I never heard it.

How many aunts and uncles who, who lived by you?

I had one uncle--matter of fact he just passed away a year ago--had nine children. Another uncle had four children. Ruth that was with us at Wayne University her family was--three were alive--four children, three, three survived.

Did everybody live close?


Close by. So you had extended relatives?

Yes. Yes. Very close family, very close ties. Uh, we always knew on Saturday you went to visit your grandmother, and your uh, aunts and uncles. This was a ritual, you know, until we got a little older and went our own way.

Was anybody in the family um, political in any way?


Did they--you never heard them talk...

No. Not in our family. No. No. We didn't belong to any organizations like uh, um...

Like the Zionist?

Zionist--no, nobody did. I don't know why. I--I really think because my father worked very hard.

What did your father do?

My father was in the busi...not scrap iron, but scrap um, fabrics. What do you call it? It was the schmate business then, but I don't know...

Mine too [laughs].

Oh, is that right! They probably-- my father might have known your father. Not your father, but your family. I don't know what you call it. What do you call it?

My grandmother used to call it--they used to make up all kinds of euphemisms ??? but basically it was the schmate business.

That's what it was. And uh, we had a lot of family in other towns who might be alive and we wouldn't even know it because you know, we didn't travel like we travel now.

Do you get--do you know how large the Jewish community was in Łódź?

In Łódź? You know what...

How many synagogues...

...I have--I was in Tel Aviv in that museum uh, that they have now uh, from the Diaspora, and I got the uh, paper and I don't remember how many. I read it, but I ??? You know it tells you all about Łódź: how it started; what year it started; how many Jews went this year and that year. But I don't have it here. It was a large Jewish community. It's possible Mickey will be able to fill you in on that. I don't know. I'm not sure.

I think it was about 160,000 Jews.

In Łódź?


You know better than I do.


??? I remember the German synagogue. It was bombed uh, when the Germans came in which was a monstrosity. It was the most beautiful synagogue, then. But other than that, there weren't synagogues per say. There was--it's called--it was called the shtiebel. There was a little rabbi, and he had uh, in his house, he had one room where he had the Sefer Torah, you know. One of my uncles had that. This is what I remember.

Well, during the...

I don't think there was--there's no conservative that's for sure.

No ??? the Germans.

And, and the Orthodox.

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