Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Krystal - September 19, 1996

Relations with Non-Jews

Did you have any non-Jewish friends among...

No. Well, my father worked for some non-Jewish people and we made some friends with them uh, through the parents, but not their children. And we were, because of our separate education, we were isolated from the non-Jewish population and children. And, and uh, housing was sort of uh, segregated too. And I was living in the center of the Jewish part of Poland and I, and I never met uh, any. But there was uh, a, a big field uh, that originally they used, there must have been a coal mine there or a steel mine. They, they unloaded the, um, uh, the waste products on that huge field. And eventually we were playing in it in the winter uh, with sleds and uh, in the summer various things we'd do. This was our playground. Well, whenever we encountered uh, non-Jewish kids, they would generally attack us. There was just no uh, friend...contact on a friendly basis that I can recall.

Do you know of any other personal or family incidents of anti-Semitism in Poland?

Well, the, the biggest one of all is that in 1938, uh, two men came into my grandfather's store.

The was your paternal grandfather?

My paternal grandfather and they beat him to death. He lived just a couple of days after that. My grandmother lived maybe a couple of weeks. And she was able to describe what happened; that these two men came in and she went to the cash register and she said "what do you want, money? Here's money." They didn't want any money, they didn't take any money, they just beat them and left them there. This was in a village outside of Kielce where, as you know, there were pogroms even after the Nazis left.

And how long had the Krystal family been there?

For as many generations as I have been able to trace back.

So they were not strangers.


You were thirteen then?

Yes, I was thirteen then.

D...do you recollect what happened when news came of this?

Well, we were, we were bereaved and shocked and uh, it was terrible. But it was not that surprising because there were a number of pogroms all over Poland in, in, at that time.

And no one in the family said, "Let's, let's get out of here"?

Well, my father wanted to get out of there for a long time and uh, uh, my uncle actually, one uncle who was well to do, he owned, owned a uh, um, sawmill. And he was able to get out in 1938, with his son and daughter uh, through a system that the British set up that he had to deposit something like £9,000 with the British and they were supposed to refund it to him when he got to Palestine, but they never did refund it. But he, anyway he made it and he saved his family. But we were not able to go that way uh, we, we as an alternative we were talking about coming to the United States. And my father had, his, his favorite older, older sister lived in Detroit and they were always writing to each other and, and dreaming of him coming here. Uh, but there were complicated, complicated things involved and uh, uh, we just never, never could make it.

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