Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Ruth Kent - May 4, 1982

Family's Education

Okay then, then, let me ask you a, a couple of other things about uh, um, about your school experience. Did--you went to a public school...

I went to a public school.

Was there religious...

Not very long.


Um, no we did not have uh, neither Jewish or a Catholic education, we didn't. I don't remember having said any prayers. Uh, no, not even, I don't even recall to sing the national anthem except when uh, the time when a General uh, what's he called, General Piłsudski, no he was sort of like a president, um...

Do you remember when Piłsudski died?

Died? Marszałek Piłsudski died I know the year I think it was '35 or '36 because my great uncle who lived across the street a beautiful family my great aunt um, they, they died the same year and we sort of had these national anthems and sort of songs on um, I spent a lot of time across the street where my great aunt was always there. She was a sick lady but she was always there so after school I would run over there. I had a--I got a lot of attention there I understand but I was told by her son the reason why I was coming there so often because my mother was always in business. And um, we had--I, I, we had just a very beautiful warm home the family was very close knit uh, when it came to uh, holidays um, as I said my mother was not really a housekeeper as such but her closets were always uh, beautifully lined with linen. And um, when it was Passover or another holidays our home was just like an open house. We had a lot of relatives come if they didn't come for dinner they came after dinner, joined in the festivities after dinner for cake and the singing that went on. So I had such a beautiful home and I think that uh, when I talk about my home as a child, I was about, about, my father died I was about eight years old. Uh, I had the most beautiful childhood I wish I could have given this to my children, instill this and I tried but it was sort of very difficult to recapture these um, moments in life. Uh, my mother was extremely devoted to our children. My brother Larry went to this private school and uh, this took a lot of our income and my father never really was aware of the fee that my mother had to pay for his schooling because it was the school uh, the most uh, the wealthiest children would go to this school--I mean wealthy because you had to pay, it was not pay uh, per income or anything like this there was a quota and you had to pay what they asked for because they were self-supporting, I believe. So as a result the students' parents had to pay for full tuition.

This was the Katzenelson?

Katzenelson, yes. And my brother Larry would go to uh, would take a winter vacation which was almost unheard of, even I didn't go on winter vacation. He would go to Zakopane which was a resort area in the mountains south of Łódź and sometimes they would go to Gdynia uh, which was quite expensive and basically my father never knew where the money came from. My mother managed um, to take care of our family and kept us very well-fed. And, and when he died um, people still envied her because she had children that she took care of so well and uh, she was still envied how well she took uh, she managed our home.

She continued in the business?

She continued in the business. There was as far as business there was no change for her. She perhaps worked a little harder, maybe longer hours. But she was really the brain behind um, our business.

Do you remember even as a child maybe. Any um, do you remember Piłsudski's name?

Oh yes, I know the songs I was uh, devout to uh, Polish citizens, right, I mean I loved the songs and...

Do you remember any politics, political discussions of any kind?

I know the Jews were never liked and that really is the extent of my knowledge of to be honest with politics. I know we're never liked although it didn't really touch me that much but of what I knew my mother would say that if there was, we had to close our stores at 7:00 promptly we could not have stores open till 9, 10 o'clock as you like it. We had to close and if you kept the store open for a minute late, right away there was a policeman giving my mother a fine. So in many ways we're persecuted um, more um, than the Gentile people. They would just like wait for you to hold, not to put the key, a minute before seven and they right away they will give you a ticket. And I said I believe we were taxed much higher than the uh, Catholic people were perhaps because Jewish people were predominantly in trade and in business more so than working as factory workers, I...

Now the--did anybody ever talk about Zionism then with all this was going on?

Um, as I said I was young but one couple one that lived downstairs on the first floor across from us their name was ??? I remember the name and I don't know how my memory doesn't fail me. They uh, immigrated to uh, Israel in 1938. They were Zionists, I remember the word Zionist. I really didn't know much what it stands for because my family was not involved uh, at least to my knowledge in any politics or even Zionism or communism. They were very busy raising uh, our family and as I said um, my mother was only thirty-nine when the war broke out and she had all this responsibility 'cause my father died. Um, her only uh, enjoyment in life was her children she was devoted and the children were devoted and she adored, as much as my father adored me and I was the it, I was the only girl, my mother worshiped my brother Larry and in the shuffle, sort of my brother Jack who was um, in the middle was sort of might have been a little bit neglected in many ways. And ironical he was the one that adored and worshipped my mother, my brother Larry was spoiled uh, he had lovely clothes and as I said he had all these vacations and he had spending money and he would pay us to um, go to the library every day and we'd get paid like a quarter, or money which was a lot of money we would go to the library for him and exchange his books. He used to be called sometimes the uh, nutty professor 'cause he was a very well read man, he'd read at least a book or so every other day. But she adored him and I remember when she--when he would leave the house she would just follow him until he would disappear out of her sight. And my brother Jack adored her in, in, in turn but I don't know if he got out as much of uh, the love that he had given to my mother.

And Jack became the professor.

And Jack became the professor yes, he is the one that has all the degrees. But my brother Larry has never stopped his learning process. He uh, is an avid reader. And uh, he has a lot of knowledge about all--he is very well aware about what's going on in the world and he's a self sort of uh, learned man, he did go to school.

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