Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Krystal - September 19, 1996

Pre-War Life

Could you tell me your name please and where you're from?

Henry Krystal and I'm from Sosnowiec, Poland, um.

Tell me a little bit about uh, what you remember um, of Sosnowiec before the war.

Well, it was uh, in a way a kind of a border town uh, between the area called Zagłębie, which was more Polish and the Eastern Upper Silesia uh, which was more German. And uh, throughout the area there were coal mines and uh, uh, steel uh, smelting and other industrial plants and there was a great deal of commerce. Uh, people coming to Sosnowiec uh, to do their shopping uh, from further west all the way to the German border. And the population of Sosnowiec uh, the Jewish population of Sosnowiec was about 30,000 and uh, um, had a main synagogue and many smaller synagogues and a uh, religious and, and secular schools. There was a, a, a uh, Jewish secular Zionist uh, Gymnasium which I also attended. And uh.

You, you were born, I'm, I'm sorry, you were born what year?


Um, did, did you attend public school besides the Zionist school or was it?

Uh, yes, I attended public school until the fourth grade and then uh, I went to that private school, from, from the fourth grade through the eighth grade. After I finished the eighth grade was the, the, the German invasion.

And um, what, what language was spoken at home?

My parents spoke to us Polish. Uh, the, the, sometimes they spoke to each other in Yiddish. They, they were brought up on Yiddish but they were both trying, especially my mother uh, was ambitious for our own, for our uh, preparation to go to, as far as we could with our education. And that was one of the, the means of doing it.

So you, you w...would have had plans to become sort, sort of integrated into Polish society.


Um, what was, what was the curriculum like at this, at a Zionist school in Sosnowiec?

Well, we had all, all the subjects that were taught in the Polish, in the public schools in the Polish uh, uh, state uh, sponsored schools. Plus, from the first grade on we had uh, Hebrew and uh, then as the time progressed we had uh, Jewish history uh, He...Hebrew literature and a, one course on the study of religious laws. And both the Bible and these religious laws were two different subjects and we studied them in Hebrew. We could speak in Hebrew and we were discussing them uh, more or less like a course "The Bible as Literature and as History."

This was, was not a religious school was it?


Um, I take it then your family was not a particularly religious family?

Well uh, not, not totally. My father still had attachments to uh, orthodox religion since that was the only kind that was available but, as he was growing up there was a rebellion. His brothers, you know, rebelled and his cousin and so on from the uh, orthodox way of living and dressing. They shaved off their beards, they moved, went places. My father went to Łódź where he learned to be a, an accountant, a bookkeeper, accountant. And his brothers also uh, rebelled in certain ways. But the framework was still of the Orthodox Jewish religion which he followed uh, somewhat inconsistently, but uh, he had an attachment to it.

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