Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

David Kahan - April 29, 1982


Now how large was your family?

My family, we were uh, six children, five boys and one girl. My father uh, was um, a Talmud Torah teacher in the town and at uh, one time we had a store, a grocery store that uh, didn't work out too well and uh, after a while it was closed down. I guess my parents gave out too much credit and didn't collect the money and basically was a Talmud Torah teacher. And we had our ups or downs in our family and I remember uh, many happy times that we had everything and then I remember many times that we were poor and we didn't have enough to eat and I went to bed hungry many times.

We were you the youngest in the family?

No, I was not. I was the fourth child. I had my oldest brother, who was called Zalman, he uh, he was a, was about twelve years older than I was. He was uh, a very, very bright, brilliant scholar in Jewish uh, he went to the Yeshiva in Tasnad in Hungary, where he was Rosh Yeshiva; that means he was the best student. And then he also studied in Krakow in a Yeshiva where it was also very learned uh, Jewish boys and it was quite a distinction. And when he was eighteen years old he already had what they call a Torahs Horoa, a diploma to be able to be a rabbi. He was my oldest brother. He uh, perished in the Ukraine when he was taken by the Hungarian army. He was at army age and they took the, the Jewish boys in labor battalions and he refused to eat non-kosher food, even in the army and he perished there. My second oldest brother is Ephraim who lives in Israel right now. He uh, was also in the labor battalions, but he survived the war. My third brother is Meir Josef, who uh, hid in Budapest during the war as a non-Jew. Uh, none of us looked too much Jewish, as you can see for yourself. But he went to Israel in 1948, immediately after Israel was proclaimed and he died in the war with the Arabs. And I was the fourth child, the fourth boy. Then there was a girl after me, two years younger, who perished in Auschwitz and I had a brother four years younger than I am who also perished in Auschwitz with my father and mother.

Did you have other family members, extended family?

Yes we uh, I had extended family. My father came from Sighet, a city called Sighet in Maramaros. As a matter of fact Elie Wiesel knew my grandparents. I asked him once when him once when he was here in Detroit. And there was a large, the Kahan family was a rather large family and rather proudly I can say a well-known family, in uh, as far as learned people. Uh, my mother came from Czechoslovakia from Kosice and there was a large family in her part. Unfortunately, I have tried to find out after the war. As far as I know not a single person has survived from either of our families except my own brother Ephraim, who I had mentioned before. But our total families from my father's side and mother's side I would say were probably in excess of a hundred people, but I, I know of no survivors.

Do you remember um, did your family go uh, um, to cultural events together? Was there a Yiddish theater, say, that came to the town?

Unfortunately--yes. There was a, we didn't have too many cultural events in a small town like we had. I think uh, uh, larger Jewish populations had more of a cultural life. We used to have a Yiddish theater come to our town once in two years or once in three years especially...

Did you go?

...and then the whole town went. I was too young. My mother used to go, but my father was very Orthodox and he would not go to theaters. But I remember that my mother uh, went whenever the Jewish theater came to town. She was very, it was quite an occasion because we just didn't see that too often in our little town, so.

Would you say that life then revolved mainly around your family rather than around the city?

I would say that was under the family, yes, yeah. I think we didn't have too much as far as, compared to America, there was no uh, get togethers or dances or social gatherings. We had very uh, social life intermingling beside going to Shul every Shabbos in the holidays. It was mostly around the family, yes.

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