Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Fred Ferber - September 11 & 25, 2001


Did you experience any anti-Semitism?

From Poland?


Before the war or after the war?

Either one.

Let me tell you before the war first of all. Before the war I was a child and I only went four classes. Listen. Started very early. We went in Chorzow to a Jewish school. Jewish means that was only for Jewish people. We were taught only, we were taught Polish by Polish profess...by Polish teachers for five, six hours a day. And then after these five, six hours which was extended course, we had additional two hours sometime only one of Hebrew, only being--also being, being translated into Polish. Not into Jewish, into Polish. That's how we learn. Because, as I stated before w...our community was not an Orthodox community, it was not really a Yiddish speaking community, even though everybody did. More--were more German speaking community. The problem was going home from school. Maybe not in the first grade, but second or third grade. On the way home we were stopped, I was stopped. Not only I, all other kids, by one or two other Christian boys. Bullies. Sometimes they were older than I. Always asking us for a penny or two pennies or a pen or a pencil or else they're going to beat us up. That was a constant fear. I remember when my brother and I were going from school, I had a, a double problem. My brother didn't run as fast as I could run. I was, I could be extremely good runner, I was. I remember many time, there's, there's one or two times specific, that they stopped us, they told us they're going to beat us up. I sent my brother home to get something, but he knew he's not going to get something. Because he knew he's just going so he can get home before I do because I could run a lot faster. And many, many times I either sometime hit someone extremely fast, extremely strong and there was a procedure. I used to hit the stronger one in the stomach, right as fast--as strong as I could in the stomach. And if that someone bent down a little bit, etc. I put another hit and begin to run. I had maybe three seconds head start or two seconds and that was enough for me to, to get home. There were times that I had to give him a, a, a pen. At that time the pen was different from our regular pens. There was the kind ink pencil, just the ending of the pen. But if you didn't give him sometime and you had no recourse because they were too big, you had to do something. So, talk about anti-Semitism, just give you a little, a little problem that we went through day in and day out. My father came home one night, there was a club, he belonged to the club, they played cards or whatever. One night he came in with a black eye, beat up all over. On the way from the club a gang eh, picked him up because he was Jew and they, and, and they beat the heck out of him. And, and they took the wallet and everything else. And, so, I tell you, we lived with it. It, it wasn't a question. It's, it's there, and once again, once again, it's, it's a, it's a p...prob...it's a religious problem.

What did you think when your father came home beaten up?

We all got scared, you know. Scared is, would he be able to work. That's my father, you know, I mean. Eh, my father came home from work many times quite late, he was a painter. At the end, I told you I think at the end he became very successful painter.


Woolworth's in Katowice. There were many other department stores in Katowice, Sosnowiec. He became eh, eh, he was dreaming of a car already to move to Katowice, we had high aspirations. We talked about eh, people talked about going to America, my father says why, I'm going to work, I'm getting better. We have all the eat, all the food over here. Why do we have to run to America? I remember these discussions with my mother and him. Because people were talking there's going to be a war, but nobody believed. Anyhow, that was anti-Semitism before the war, eh. I, I, I want to tell you something. I--I'd like to bring this up. Before the war the, the voice always was that the Jews have all the money. The Jews own, they own the banks. Listen to me, it was stupid thing in the world. Before the war, in major factories in Poland, Jews were not allowed to work. In the steam factory in Batory, Huta Batory, right next to Chorzow, Jewish people were not allowed to work. Jewish people were allowed to be tailors, shoemakers eh, fiddlers, eh. Menial work or what would you call this eh, eh, text...they, they work in textiles.

Lower-middle class.

Now. Now before the war Jew was hardly allowed to walk into a bank with his money. For Jew to own a bank in Poland and it was total stupidity, impossibility, a dream that could never have happened. So Jews did not own any banks. They didn't have any high position. Jews that were doctors didn't, were not allowed to study to become a doctor in Poland. There were uh, thirty some million Polish people and some three million Jews I believe, I may be wrong.

Three and a half million.

Three and a half million Jews. Mostly in the villages. They, they, they were just small farms. They live off of the, the, the chickens and the milk, what they got from the cows everyday, eh. So...

But the Poles accused them of being in charge of all the big bus...

That's, that's correct. So they couldn't get the jobs in any particular place, they could... Banks is totally stupidity of owning banks or factories or any other major, major development. In one town, Bielsko before the war, there were some Jewish people, very well to do. There were some Jewish people well to do. But there were three and a half million Jewish people, some were well to do, of course some were well to do. In Bielsko the number one textile mill belonged to a Jewish guy. And the Polish people were proud of that mill before the war. And the Poland was proud of, is proud of the mill after the war. He created that mill. And we had a, a Polish eh, eh, pianist eh, Rubenstein. And also in Bielsko. So we had some, and there was eh, eh, young Kipura who was a, who was a, a film, a star, a movie star, eh. But, but it was negligible. Most people were starving. And in all the villages people constantly fear eh, fear to be eh, beat up and eh, and, and, and eh, taken advantage of.

Let me ask you one quick thing. You mentioned Passover and Easter. What was it...


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