Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Benjamin Fisk - November 8, 1982

Life Before the War II

Can you tell me...

I didn't go to college but I read a lot you know, so I learn. Never went to school in this country, not a day.

What was schooling like in Poland when you were growing up?


Yeah, did you go to public school?

Yes, I had to go, I lived in the building--in the same building, you know. Yeah I finished seventh grade, you know, well I didn't finish seventh grade. I started to work when I was twelve years old, you know, I finished under sixth--actually not even sixth, you know.

Did you...

We had to work, you know. We didn't have enough money to live. It all counted. We had to give a dowry, you know, we had three sisters. And somebody had to, had to make some money, you know.

Did you go to cheder?

Oh yeah, I went to cheder, sure, 'til I was about thirteen years old after, after--until bar mitzvah. After bar mitzvah, so, so, you know, yeah.

Um, did you encounter a lot of anti-Semitism before the war?

There was a lot, there was a lot of it, there was a lot of it. I knew it because, you know, I had a guy who used to make uh, he worked with my brother but shortly before that, he used to make uh, glass and windows shortly before the war, you know, when I worked with him, you know, they, they didn't do it anymore. He turned over he was making kitchen cabinets, you know. He used to make carvings, you know. He had a Polish guy, you know, including myself, good carver, you know. I used to walk way out of town, you know, to pick it up, you know. Every time I went--the first time I went I got beaten up, you know, and later, every time I went, they used to make a piece of pipe, stick a rope on it, you know, stick it on my arm, you know, I was ready for them, you know, after this, you know. He used to wait for me. He knew when I was coming so he would wait for me by the shortcut and he used to take me over to his house, you know.

In the school itself were there any Christians going to school--to your school?

Not in our school, no. It was separate, the Gentiles have the way the blacks they had here. They had a main kośció?. You know what kośció? means?


Kośció? means a church. You know, they put--there was one church in our town and there were over 200,000 Gentiles. You know, there was one church probably was like for uh, three, four, five blocks. It was tremendous, you know, you could see it from thirty, forty kilometers away, you know, tremendous building. We used to go there when the neighbors used to die, you know, like when all the people died. I used to go to church, you know. Tremendous building.

Did you and your family have any friends who were Christian?

Sure, we had Christian friends. You had to have, you know. We had a lot of Christian friends, you know. Matter of fact, during the war, my, my wife met this lady, you know, she wanted, she wanted to keep me, you know, during the war, but I said, "No, I'm going with everybody." I didn't want to--she uh, her husband died shortly before the war, you know, and I didn't want to take advantage, you know. When they took my parents away later on, you know, she--I talked with her and she wanted to take me in, you know, but I didn't want to go. She had only one boy, I figure let him live, you know. They think they have a Jew--if somebody should find out, you know, they going to perish with me, you know, so I didn't want to go.

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