Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Joshua Fishman - July 13, 1982

Life Before the War

Describe as best you can your, your community--the city that you were born in. How big was it? How many Jewish families? Were there a lot of synagogues?

Yeah, it was a small city, ten thousand population. Uh, Jewish community was about three-thousand-five-hundred and they lived mostly in the center of the city as uh, usually because uh, uh, they weren't uh, most Jewish people were uh, small, the small business. Uh, small business not, not like here small business. Here you call it a small business uh, uh, who don't, don't do uh, quite a half, half a million dollars business a year. But uh, there a small business could do maybe five thousands z?otys a year. That's the type of small business there.

I see.

Uh, and uh, there were already you could say about forty percent business people among the Jewish population. The rest of them were mostly craftsmen like uh, tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, build...you know, the, all kinds of carpenters: carpenters who build uh, houses, carpenters uh, for furniture and, and so on. There were very little industry in our city. The only type of industry was uh, uh, you, you would call it uh, wood mill where they make lumber from logs. For...there were quite a few--a lot of forests uh, around the area where I lived. So, that's the only type of industry there was. There was a railroad station about two kilometers from the city. Uh, the--it was a happy life. Uh, during the--before the war under Poland uh, Jewish community they lived a happy life. Here you call it happiness when you're well off, you make a lot of money. There we didn't call it this way. Uh, we lived out our life uh, socially, and uh, as children we did pretty good. Of course uh, anti-Semitism was uh, quite uh, ??? there. The Ukrainians--the children heard from their parents always uh, the, the Jew isn't good, Jews trying to cheat and they, they kept learning. They never used--it was from a time when I went to school--to a public school, on the way I passed through a long streets where non-Jews lived and small children, like this maybe two, three-years-old, they couldn't even talk yet, they used to sing a song uh, anti-Semitic song against Jews.

Do you remember the song?

Yeah. I remember, I remember but uh, who would understand uh, Ukrainian here?

Go ahead.

Uh, anyway, uh. "Zeed"... Uh, they couldn't pronounce Zid, is a Jew. So ??? and that means uh, it's a very insulting song. Uh, somebody will hear it they, they will know Ukrainian, he knows what it is.

Could you give me a little loose translation?

Loose translation? Uh, the, the Jew has uh, sometimes a skin disease on his head. It's a ???, they call it a ??? that uh, with, with excretion filled up, all filled up with excretion.


Yeah, excrement. And with a, with a wedge uh, ??? he shouldn't--so he wouldn't be mad. That, that's the translation.

Any other types of uh, anti-Semitism you encountered before the war?

Yes when I uh, when I was uh, learning that Polish school. On the way home, they used to--during the summer they used to throw us rocks on the Jews--the few Jews that were going to that school. Uh, wintertime they used to make snowballs and hit us with snowballs. And we kept running away until we came almost to the Jewish neighborhood. And there was a, a Ukrainian church there and it was a little--on a little hill. And we went up on that little hill and from there we fought back. Uh, we gave--it was--somehow we felt safer near the Jewish neighborhood, even though it was near a church. There was the--we used to chase them away. Uh, it was felt in the atmosphere. The anti-Semitism was in the atmosphere. They were very uh, the--as usually the Ukrainians...

Wife: Hello?

[interruption in interview]

??? you can go to the bedroom.

Wife: No, no that's okay.

No, no I mean next time.

Wife: Okay.

Okay uh, open up again?

Yeah, it's on again.

Wife: Did you want to listen to the ??? news, no?

I'll, uh...

Wife: ???

If you want to listen to the news but otherwise I can do it this week. I can listen...

??? does it come on later?

Yeah it comes on at nine o'clock and ten o'clock.

All right, we can, we can catch it later.

Wife: Sure, okay, okay, okay.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn