Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Rene Lichtman - August 13, 1998

Connections to Father


Connections, yes, somebody to, I mean, I don't even know, my father was such a uh, an enigma that, my mother told me once he, he wasn't really from Lubartow. Because I, I look in the, in the book, in a, in a Yizkor book, in a remembrance book and um, there's a picture of my father there, you know, because he died, even though he didn't um, this beautiful picture of him. He was a very handsome guy. And then there's a picture of his sister. I don't know anything about her. And that's all there is. I said, Ma, how can it be that in a town like Lubartow, where everybody had eleven, fifteen, you know, these Orthodox Jewish families, because everybody was Orthodox. My, my step dad was, I mean, my...

The whole town was Orthodox?

Well, my mother's father was, was religious, let's say.


You know. I said, how could the, where there's two of them there in the whole town? She said, "Well," she said, "he was really from Warsaw." So how the heck did he get from Warsaw to Lu...so there's all these questions, right? And I have no i...so I went there and I said to these people in Chicago--they brought in this, this specialist from Israel who had lived in that town, which was north, northwest Transylvania, which, right next to Poland, right? The, the Li...the Lichtman-Jonases were, that's where they were.


And it was--and I looked at--I said, "you know what?" so everybody I ask, I says, I said, "Do you guys have any connections to Poland?" "Nah, no, no connections." I said, "You sure Lichtman, this guy Lichtman didn't have ties to Poland?" "No, no, no." When she showed up and she lived there '68, in that little town, you know, she was the big person who would um, give them the latest information about their roots and all that stuff. And I asked her and she said uh, she said, "Oh, we hadn't, the Lichtman-Jonases hadn't been there very long. No, he just, maybe one generation." She says, "It could be very, it could very well be that he came from Poland." And I looked through the map and Warsaw to where they were was not that huge.

Well, if he's, when she said he came from Warsaw, he--what was the implication of that?

I, I have no idea. I didn't know what it meant. I don't know what it meant to her. I don't when he came to, but it was one of these things, I didn't pursue it.

Do you think it maybe meant he was more sophisticated?

I, I think so. I, I think he was. I think he wa...I think he was a guy that she didn't know. I think he was a complete stranger to her, because I don't know how many times I said to my mother, I want you to tell me something about my father.

But she wouldn't tell you anything.

She said, "Vos is doh tzu zogn?" What is there to say?

He was tall and handsome.

He was tall and handsome. I said, "You know, Ma, I don't give a shit if he was tall and handsome. I want to know something about, you know, what was inside." And then I thought to myself, I says, you know, the woman marries this guy in '33. He leaves right away from Paris. '36, she shows up. I'm born in '37. 1940, the Germans come in and he gets killed.


She's known him, three years? Now, you can fall in love in three years and you can have, you know, a passionate relationship, but, you know, maybe she didn't know him that well.

Are you still looking?

Yeah. Now I do the internet. Now I, I um, I'm still looking, because uh, I, I don't have too many leads. But there's more, there's more Lichtmans in Detroit than there were in New York. I never met any Lichtmans in New York. The first time I ever saw the Lichtman name, it um, blew me away. It was, I think, in Toronto we were traveling. And, and I see Lichtman Book Store. I go, "My God, that's my name!" Oh, that was, yeah--so still looking, yep. It's the strangest thing. I don't know what happened to my cousin, I mean my, my uh, you know, my, my, his, his, his um, You know, my mother's side of the family is really Zeidemann . Now, there's Zeidemanns. There's Zeidemanns in Toronto, you know and stuff. But I don't have--I mean, I'm very curious about Lubartow and what happened to all those people, you know. Anyway...

Well, as a child you must have idealized him in some way.

Oh, yeah. He was a hero.

He was a hero.

He was an anti-fascist, well, I think that I learned later on, that, no, I think, you know, what I learned was, I mean, here was these terrible people trying to kill us, these Germans, these Nazis and my father tried to do something about it. And he gave his life. And, and even the French government uh, you know, Mort pour la France, die for France, is a big deal in France, a big deal. They really um, they, even, even if you're a foreign Jew, they, they respect that. So um, so I, I, I idealized him a lot, sure. And um, I respected what he did. And I, I think I always kind of projected ulterior motives for him doing it, because that--I think he, I mean, partially it might have had to be with, with um, my becoming a citizen. But I, I think there was also, I think he was part--I mean, of people like him who wanted to fight the Germans. And I think there was a consciousness about fascism. And um, he didn't want to run away. He had, yeah, like that story that my uncle told is so--I mean, he had a chance to, to go to the south.

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