Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Manya Auster Feldman - August 11, 1998

Pre-War Life

And so what would a typical day be like for you?

Okay. Get up--I, as a matter of fact, my father--this we knew, my father had to go to Shul, to daven. So somebody had to open the store. When I was about eight, I was the one to--to go and open the store and wait until nine o'clock before uh, they used to come--my father or my mother used to come to the store and relieve me. And I had to go to school. A lot of times I cried, "I'm going to be late." So they said, "Well, that's life. What can you do?" Then after school, I used to pass the--I didn't go home. I used to come to the store and help out in, in the business. And my mother go--went home. Or if I went, I had to do certain chores, cleaning and wash and, and do housework. We had a huge garden I--that we raised our own vegetables. There was always something to do.

You said school. Was this public school?

No. The school that I went to was called tarbut. It was a private school. You had to pay tuition. It wasn't a cheap school. But it was a private education. We um, we learned everything was in, in the Hebrew language except Polish, the Polish language and Polish history and Polish geography.

In tarbut you learned Polish history and Polish geography?

Yes. Because, you know, you had to be geared to the land where you live in.

And who taught it?

Teachers that--Jewish teachers that were educated uh, had got a little bit of a higher education to be able to--to transmit their education to the children. Most of the--all of the teachers were Jewish. You know, was very--it was very hard to get a higher education in Poland. First of all, Jews were not allowed to Polish schools. But we had private gymnasiums, you know, gymnasiums is like here, a high school, the extension of a elementary school.

But you, did you, you didn't go to gymnasium, did you?

No. I wanted to very badly. But uh, it cost a lot of money. We--in our city, we didn't have a gymnasium. We had uh, I finished elementary school. And whoever could afford sent their schools out of--their children out of town. And it cost money. And I cried bitterly. I wanted to go. So my father said, What are you talking about? I have four girls. And they'll have to get married. And I don't have the money to send you kids to school. You have to do the best. So when we finished elementary school, my sister went to--to become a seamstress and I helped out in the business. And my brother was still in school, so they planned to send him to become a watchmaker. It was very hard life, extremely hard life.

So your brother wouldn't have gone to, to higher education either?

No. None of us. But some--I have friends that went in higher education. The higher education was, was just the gym...gymnasium. Later on, they couldn't get into colleges. There were very, very few professionals in, in, in our little towns. But we had a d...uh, uh, one of the doctors was a Jew. So it was very unusual. But most of them were gentiles.

When did this start do you think?

The what, the...

The discrimination against the Jewish children?

Oh, we go--against Jewish children, against Jew and Pol... Poland was very anti-Semitic.

Do you remember Pilsudski?


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