Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Steve Collins - May 10, 1982

Family and Life in Płońsk

And um, what class of people would you consider yourself? Upper class, middle class, lower class?

The...over there the standard would be middle class over there, yeah over there the standard, the others. I mean, in our town, I would say middle class, yes.

So you would consider your family middle class. Were there um, did you have a large extended family, grandparents, aunts and uncles?

Yeah uh, never know--aunt, uncle, parent--the grandparents I never knew them.


They died long before me, I never knew the grandparent. Lots of aunts, yes. My aunt gots seven children, six sons and one daughter...who was six feet two...all killed, not one survived, none of them. Another aunt got children, none survived, none of them. But close, our family, close family about seventy of us. Me and my sister what survived.

Out of seven...was she older than you?


Younger than you.


Was your name Collins before the war?



Samuel Cohen.

You were born Samuel Cohen?



Shmuel Cohen, yes.

And um, how many synagogues were in Płońsk?

See in the Jewish ???, you got large synagogues, a couple. And then you got small, would call shtiebel. A group like Lubavitchers, Orthodox Jews...apartments held maybe twenty. They got their own place, like a little...a room they coming together. But lots of, they do. Like uh, each month you're not religious enough, you're religious, not enough religious to them. You see, Hasid...

So there were different levels of Hasidim?

Uh, Hasidim, sure, here too. For one you're religious but not religious enough for them, for them you still a goyim. See it's up to who you're talking.


To me it was, religious enough not to them, you know.

Was there a lot of talk in your town about going to Israel?

Yes, was very Zionist movement, very big Zionist movement.

Did you feel it yourself?

No, myself no. I was too young, no. I didn't plan to go to Israel, no.

How ‘bout your parents?

Not parents, didn't have a chance, was older, no... even the children was over there... no, didn't plan to go to Israel, no. Not from my family, no.

No, but...

But not Zionists, was not Zionists really, no. More Socialist.

More Socialist?

Yeah, Socialist uh, yes.

Did your father belong to political party too?

No, not at all. No, not hardly...one of the children...uncles, Socialist movement, only future. Plenty Jews in Poland, was very anti-Semitic country. In the future ??? true Socialism can dissolve down to Semitism. That's what you believed in that day. Only way a Polack be 100 years, maybe seven, 800 years, born in Poland, generation, generation. You still to the Polack, the Polacks, you never a Polack you're a Jew.


To them a Polack uh, have to be a Catholic to be a Polack. That you not... never a Polack, you're a stranger to them.

So, in other words, the people belonged to the Socialist movement because they felt that that would make them an equal to the...

Yes, equal right to people, yes. Equal right that's what only solution was, to them you was never, never... You couldn't work...

Did you read the Socialist newspapers too?

Uh no, I did not read, never uh, was reading the, it come from Warsaw sport in... was active in sport. Was going in the world paper, the, in the world news, however, was interested in the world news, what's going on. But political, the Jews always depend on the situation in the world. Survival depend what's going on in the world, wars and, and that way...the reason. Was very interested in politics, what's going on and from young on I was very interested in what's going on in Germany, in Spain.


Then there was the revolution in Spain, Franco ???, I remember like, now. I was so young, I remember like yesterday the names even, the incident of fighting in Spain, you know. I was very interested in what's going on in the world, politics.

Did you have a trade too?

Yes, there was work over there, yes.

What, what ???....

In the home, yes.

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