Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Krystal - September 19, 1996


What was your father's name?

Herschel. Herman.

And your mother?

Dora. Her Hebrew name was Devorah.

And, and her maiden name?


Um, brothers and sisters, did you have?

I had one brother who was seven years older than myself. His name was Samuel.

And what about extended family? Grandparents, aunts, uncles? You said your father had brothers.

Yes. My, my parents' family, families, lived in the area of Kielce in more, more central Poland. We were right next to the German border. But they were in central Poland, in that area. And uh, my, my uh, paternal grandparents lived in a village called Bialogon and uh, my, my grandfather uh, had a country store and a piece of land on which he, mainly he had an orchard on it. And also there, there was a foundry in this village and the Krystals had a hereditary privilege that they were the painters. They painted the potbelly stoves and other things that turned out. They painted them silver or whatever they did. They had this kind of a concession as it were.

How did they get that?

Well, the, the story was that my great-grandfather, after whom I was named, found a, a purse filled with money and somehow he, he returned it. He found somehow that it was uh, be...belonged to the owner or to the director of that foundry and he returned it to him and he was awarded. This was, he got that job and it became sort of a tradition.

Which would have stopped with your grandfather, it seems.

No, it didn't. It didn't. It went on for three generations.

Um, so...

For two generations because then my uh, my father had uh, uh, three brothers and three sisters and they all left that village and went different ways. And they were of course not interested in stay, in staying there and painting. They went into various kinds of enterprises and, and uh, uh. So uh, as I was growing up there were just my grandparents living there. And that--excuse me uh, my maternal grandparents uh, lived in a shtetl called Bodzentyn or in Yiddish Bajichin and that was considerably larger. Uh, and it had a larger Jewish population. And my grandfather had been a rather well to do uh, merchant of uh, uh, cloth uh, that he sold for people who worked on it and took it to the tailor, had the suit or, or clothes made or they made it themselves. Um, and my mother was brought up in this atmosphere. She was the oldest of uh, four daughters. And the youngest of them, the youngest of my grandparent's children was, a, my uncle. One son, they had one son and four daughters. And my mother was brought up during the period of prosperity. And she was a very ambitious and interested person, especially in acquiring education for herself and sharing it with the young people of her age and, uh.

How did she do that?

Well, for one thing she, apparently she uh, organized some teaching and she organized a library. And uh, she, she had some activities that brought the people together outside of the synagogue.

Um, and, and how did that sit with uh, with her parents or other members of the community?

Well, not very well, especially since they, at a very early age, I believe maybe between thirteen and fifteen, they were trying to arrange a marriage for her. And she absolutely refused to go through with it and had the, somehow the, the stamina or the, the, the stubbornness to make it stick.

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