Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001

Religious Life

Was it a religious family?

Before the war most Jewish people were religious, but not Orthodox. Religious meaning that Saturdays they went to the Synagogue. And some of them prayed everyday in the morning. Uh, I don't remember, no one weared a beard in, in--that I remember. My grandfather had a beard, uh. Uh, but otherwise it was quite modern Jews, you, you may say,, uh.

Modern, modern Orthodox.

Modern, not...Orthodox doesn't fit.

Not, all right.

It, it would be, by, the word be possibly, today's word would be Conservative. Because it was a different times and there was not such a thing as a Reform or, or Conservative. By today's standard uh, since they take--since they went to the synagogues on Saturdays and they, they were religious, they observed Saturdays, Sabbath day uh, but that was the way of life before the war.

Hmm, hmm, how many Jewish families were in, in uh, in Chorzow?

In Chorzow.

How many Jewish families?

In Chorzow there were quite a number of Jewish families. Chorzow was not an Orthodox town. We didn't have any Orthodox families, so to speak. Nevertheless, all Jews were eating kosher meat. That was the way before the war. Practically no one ate any other meat. So everybody was kosher. We had a synagogue, a modern synagogue. Uh, once again the man and the woman sat separate...separately. Uh, by, by today's--no one, no one wore, wore beards at that--in Chorzow. Uh, so it was not a religious town like you may say other towns where there people were uh, deeply religious.

Well tell me--could you--what a Friday night was like in your house.

Friday night in our home was probably not much different from most other homes. It was a family night. Uh, before Friday night everyone uh, felt the holidays, the, the Shabbat coming in. We all got cleaned up and my mother uh, was mak...baking or cooking whatever she could for Saturday n...for Shabbat night because the Friday nights were always different from all other nights. Even at times when there was very little money to go around or very hard to purchase,, uh. T...t...things were not going so good for us, Friday nights were always very, very special. Uh, then my mother light the candles, lit the candles uh, uh, we came in, we sat at the table, there were lights uh, the, the candle lights at the table, and, uh. My mother said the Friday night prayer before uh, sitting at the table. We sang the different songs


Zmiris for Friday night. And it was very festive. It was very festive. Uh, the, the wine that we drank for uh, uh, saying uh, saying uh, the uh, saying the Bruchot uh, in English would be the prayers, were usually homemade. My mother made them herself,, uh. So it was, it was beautiful, it was festive, uh.

On Saturday, would you go--did you go to shul on Saturday?

Saturday we don't, did not always go to shul, no. We did not always go to shul Saturdays. We prayed at home...

But it was Shabbos.

...because--we prayed at home every morning, but it was Shabbat. There was not even such a thing as turning on the lights. Uh, everyone uh, by today's standards we would be considered extremely religious. By the standards of the 1930s that was the, that was part of life. So Saturday we didn't tear paper, we didn't turn on the lights and didn't do any menial work. It was a very special day. It was uh, it was Saturday, day of rest. Uh, we went out, we went for walks. My father was dressed up, my mother was dressed up, we were dressed up. We went through the, on the major streets over there in uh, in, in Chorzow. And uh, and yes, we did go to synagogue quite often also. But not every Saturday.

Tell me, tell me, I don't know if you said this. How, how many brothers and sisters did you have?

I had one brother. He was a year younger than I was. His name was Paulek. Paulek Ferber.

Did he survive?

He did not survive. He did not survive. He uh, he survived the ghetto. He was in Płaszów. We were fortunate to get into Płaszów. But then, on, on a, on a very eh, somber day, he uh, he was taken away and sent. And as we found out later, he was sent to, to Auschwitz with many other children. I'll tell you--see you're asking me different times how it was before the war, eh. I can bang it up to you very quickly of how life went through and during the, these pre-war, pre-war years and during the war and then if you want to maybe ask me specific questions I will, okay. I, I'll get through it quite nicely.

[interruption in interview]

We had a wonderful time, a wonderful life before the war. Eh, there were times that my father eh, when he lost the business was extremely poor, had extremely tough times. But then he, he became a, a, a painter eh, and he was very fortunate--got the position eh, with Woolworth. Eh, I mean, he, he got the job to paint the Woolworth, Woolworth store in Chorzow which was the largest store around. So he got the contract to paint it. Then he painted many other large stores. Things begin to look up and we were uh, uh, in very good conditions the last three, three years before the war and things were looking up in a great way. Eh, people didn't believe that war is coming. There were, there was talk of war at all times. Eh, papers were writing about it. And finally one day eh, actually a few days before the World War, before the war, my father sent us all to Krakow. We all went to Krakow. We packed up everything we had or most of the things that we, that we owned and put it in different suitcases eh, and went to Krakow.

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