Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Relations with Non-Jews

Um, did, did your parents have non-Jewish friends as well as you?

No. No, my parents, although my--as I said, my parents were thoroughly modern, they spoke Polish as well as they spoke Yiddish.

At home too?

At home. But at home, most of the time we spoke Yiddish to our parents, although it was a mixture of sometimes a lot of Polish, some--but mostly I would, if I r...correct, if I remember correctly it was...our parents would talk Yiddish to eh, to us and we would answer in, in Polish. Especially I answered in Polish. And they spoke with, spoke Polish, also.

You mentioned that people would congregate in the house and they would discuss politics. Um, do you remember what kind of political discussions there were? Was your father at all um, politically minded or were you?

Well, at that time, when I was young, of course, I wasn't. Uh, my father was not really that politically set in his way. Actually, a big discussions were anti-Semitism, if a change of government came into Poland, what was the new government going to be. And a lot of people looked down to my father because he was sort of a little different. As I said, he served in the Austrian Army. In, in 19...I believe it was 1918, Poland was born. And in the 1920s I, I was a small boy maybe five or six, so it'd be 1926, '27. For some reason a uh, Polish Army was mobilized for some re...I, I, I just can't recall for what reason, whether Russia was threatening Poland or something. Poland called a quick mil...a quick mobilization of the armed forces. And since my father was a soldier in the Austrian Army, he was called in right away. And I remember he was one of the second or third soldiers to report to his unit. And for that, for that accomplishment, many uh, a little latter, I mean, a year or two later, he got an award. He got a silver cigarette case with a, with a, with an inscription from--I remember, from--maybe, maybe it was from the, from, from his commanding officer or maybe it was from some general higher-up, I don't remember, but it said, "In recognition of your, of your patriotic duty as a Polish soldier"--not Jewish, it wasn't mentioned, it wasn't uh, just Jewish--as a Polish soldier you're getting this award. And he was always proud, always showing off his silver, his silver cigarette case. And because of that, some of, of his friends were sort of looking up to him because he knew something more about the, the world, he was in the Army, he was in two different armies. And the people used to come to our house, especially big discussions were mostly during the summer sitting outside of the house in nice warm weather. To a lot of this was sitting and it was always like men were set, men were s...men were sitting by themselves and women were sitting, sitting by themselves. The women, of course, were discussing their, I don't know, their cooking and their r...recipes and their, what kind of meals they had. And men always discussing kind of politics, what the new government was going to bring, if it was going to be better for Jews or worse for Jews. And everybody who sat down seemed to have an opinion, whether right or wrong, someone said, well, Marshal Pilsudski is a great friend of Jews. Others disagreed. So it were all kinds of politics, in that sense, being uh, discussed. Also they were also the politics of discussion about elections to the local council, local Jewish council. We had a local Jewish--in addition to our regular Polish uh, like we have a city hall here in say Detroit on, in Southfield. We also had a Jewish, it's Kahal, it was called the Kahal. The Jewish community was internally governed really by the Jewish Kahal, which was the, was elected also by the Jewish people.

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