Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981


The following is an interview with Mr. Samuel Offen on December 27, 1981 in the afternoon at his home in Southfield, Michigan. The interviewer is Sidney Bolkosky.

Now did you, you start already?

Yes. Can you tell me your name and where you're from?

My name is Sam Offen. My Polish name was Salek--S-A-L-E-K. Offen and I'm from Krakow, Poland. I was born in August of 1921.

Could you tell me uh, what life was like, do you remember before the war, in Krakow?

Well, I was the oldest child in our family. We were a family of three brothers and one sister. I had many uncles and aunts and my mother was also the oldest daughter. So therefore I was like the first-born grandchild in the family. And, if I remember correctly, they made a big fuss out of me because I was the first born son, somehow a son meant a lot to them and uh, I guess they were pampering me or whatever, as much as they could in those days. Although if I remember we were quite poor. Uh, I went to a Polish school. I had a Polish education. Some of my best friends were Polish people. I also went to cheder. I went to a Polish school in the morning to about two o'clock. And then from three o'clock to seven I went to, to cheder, it's called the Talmud Torah. It was difficult to really learn in the Hebrew schools and the Talmud Torah because as I mentioned before, I had a lot of Gentile, Polish Gentile friends who after school were free to do almost anything they wanted. You know, go and play ball and do almost anything you wanted. And I was sort of like practically forced to go to cheder. And it was also difficult to find time to do my homework for my regular education. But I guess somehow I managed, I cope with it. I had fairly decent grades. I was interested in a lot of things and a lot of subjects. And I have to admit that the education in the Polish school was excellent. Teachers created a lot of interest in kids. Of course, you had to have interest too to learn, because I knew there were a lot of kids who failed their grades. And the teachers were rather strict. Like for instance uh, we had, the average--we had about eight subjects in which we had to, well you either excel or pass. If out of the eight subjects, if you failed, like if you had an "F" for instance--equivalent to an "F" in this country, if you fail in just one subject, there was no recourse. You had to go back to school for another year. You just failed. And you went, put back for one whole year. Now fortunately that never happened to me but I remember it happened to quite a few of my friends. Then in the uh, Hebrew school, as I said--I mean, I was also, I always liked education. And even here I tried to learn as much as I can and in a way I'm glad I did because I can still remember a lot of things now. It's all, through the war years and stuff we have not used our Hebrew knowledge and knowledge of prayers, knowledge of the Bible and of the Torah. But I seem to retain memory of a lot of these things yet and I think it's ba...basically due to the fact that I was interested in it.

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