Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Religious Life

Uh, was your family religious? Were they Orthodox or...

I would call them modern Orthodox. My father was uh, religious. Meant in the sense that we had a kosher house, there was no work on the Sabbath, there was no smoking on the Sabbath--my father was a smoker--no smoking on the Sabbath. Uh, we prayed every morning. On uh, Saturday, Friday night and Saturday, we had to go to shul. Uh, my father did not, did not, he was a modern man though, he did not have a beard or these peyas and these long thin locks. He was a modern man. As I say, we were kind of a poor family, but a happy family. My father was--I remember first he married into my mother's family. My mother's father was a shoemaker by trade. My father served in the Austrian Empire's Army. He was a soldier for the Franz Josef. After--my father was born in a town called Dombrowa near Tarnow, which was maybe, oh I don't know, thirty--forty miles away from Krakow. After the war, after he was discharged from the Austrian Army and that was, that was uh, before Poland was born in 1918. He got to know my mother and he was taken in by my grandfather, after whom I'm named. My Hebrew name, by the way, is Schlomo Zalmon, named after my grandfather. And my grandfather took him in and he became a shoemaker. And then, of course, he married my mother and I was the firstborn. And he was wo...making and repairing shoes out of the house. We--well we lived in an apartment house and we lived in like in a one or two-room apartment house, all of us, all the four children, my mother and father. And he--in the corner of a kitchen he had his little shop and customers used to come, used to be congregating in our house. Children--used to discuss politics and all kinds of whatever subjects were prevailing in those days. Uh, and then he did fo...I remember for a number of years, because later on he got tired of sitting home and working sho...he wanted to go out a little, so he became a salesman. And he was selling all kinds of school supplies. Eventually he branched out into selling, I remember, oddly enough billiard and pool tables. Occasionally he would even bring a table home that he couldn't sell and my brothers and I would quickly assemble it in a corner of our apartment--corner--one of the corners of our room and for several days we had a lot of fun because we could play pool. It was kind of very unusual. Sometimes he would go away for, for a few days or go on the road. Not carrying two things but with also, in addition to, with his school supplies. Also then, he diversified into other things too, always selling school supplies, but one of his big lines was again oddly enough selling toothpicks to restaurants.

Now when he went on the road and it was--would he be back for the end of the week?

Always back for the Sabbath. Always. He would go away maybe for two days, two days, three days, four days. In fact, I remember he was so hardworking that sometimes he did not have enough money to buy a train ticket or a bus ticket to go to a different town. He would walk, he would walk to the next town twenty-- thirty miles, it would take him a day or two and go and try and sell something and get some money and come back to us. But always come back before the Sabbath, so to have something for the Sabbath. So he'd come back, he'd always go out and buy a carp or a goose or both if he had more money. So we could always have a Sabbath, Sabbath was always a happy occasion. We used to sit at the dinner table, the whole family and a festive Sabbath meal was served. However little or big it was and always singing songs, after coming home from the synagogue, of course And it always, Sabbath was always somehow a happy occasion. No matter how bad it was during the week. Sabbath meant a lot.

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