Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Samuel Offen - December 27, 1981

Culture and Education

D...now do you remember any um, apart from the political interaction, any kind of cultural activity? Were there, were there theaters uh, movies?

Oh yes, oh yes. We had a very rich cultural life.


Jewish cultural life. Of course, I was interested in both. I used to go to both the Polish theater and the Polish movies and also--because of my parents--go to the Y...Yiddish theater. Now, we did not go to the Yiddish theater that often because, again, it wasn't cheap. I--we really could not afford to go to theaters. We could not. We would go to an occasional movie. They used to have occasionally Yiddish movies. Um, they--we used to go to school plays, Polish school plays. Also our cheder would, would make occasional place like for Hanukkah or for Purim. That was big. That was to participate in. In fact, I personally participated in uh, some of the plays in, in cheder. I don't remember if I did participate in school, but in cheder, I did participate in some of these um, holiday plays.

In the Polish schools did you ever read or hear about um, Polish Jewish authors? Do you remember? Did they ever talk about the Yiddish writers in Polish schools?

Uh, I heard of them, you know, Peretz and uh, Sholem Aleichem and the others. But I can't recall if I heard it in the Polish school. Well, in...well, I don't. They would not be talked about in the cheder for sure. In Polish schools I don't remember, although I did read them because I did--I was a voracious reader. I loved reading. In fact uh, interesting enough, we didn't have libraries in Poland-- well, we had school libraries, I remember what kind of books they had there, they had all kinds of books--but most everybody if they wanted to read a lot had to go into a private library. There were a lot of private libraries which they have to pay a monthly fee. And it wasn't very cheap for our means. But yet, for years, I belonged to libraries in order to be able to read books because I enjoy reading. And that's why I read all these Polish or Russian--Yiddish authors. In Polish, of course, I used to read in Poland, in Polish.

Did you parents also encourage this?

Oh yes, they encouraged it. Except I can't say that they read very much, for the simple reason they had no time. My mother was--in addition to being a homemaker and living like in a one or two room house, she had to provide--make all our meals. And she was a dressmaker by trade. So she used to constantly be working 'til God knows how many hours to go to sleep. She used to still sit at her machine working and working, making dresses for other people in order to make ends meet. So obviously she didn't have time. But, the newspaper or some periodicals, they would never go by. They would always read, they knew what was going on in the world. Because Polish--and there was mostly Polish, it was just the Polish papers. I don't remember having many Yiddish papers in the house, maybe a...but they used to be Polish papers. And the Polish press was pretty good, it was--it may have been a biased view, I don't remember, but they were reporting news from all over the world. Very thoroughly and we used to enjoy reading the newspaper.

Um, did you ever read the "Krakauer Zeitung"? Do you remember that newspaper?

It was called "Dziennik Polski" that means exactly "Krakauer Zeitung--Dziennik Polski." Very much so.

The--even during the ghetto years?

No, only up 'til, up 'til uh, September 1, 1939 until the Germans uh, broke into Poland. Uh, then we have ???. In fact I used to walk by their uh, printing press by their building. Everyday I used to go to work.

Were they the leading newspaper do you think?

That was the leading Krakow newspaper. Except our favorite newspaper was Express It was called Express. It was printed in Łódź and this was a national newspaper. And the reason I remember it so vividly is because in addition to my father's enterprise--whatever he did. One of the benefits that he got out after he was discharged from the Polish Army was he got a tobacco license. Everybody's in, in Poland selling tobacco or liquor had to have a government license. Nobody could get it except by grant of the government. You had to do something for the government, like a veteran. So my father, in recognition of his services in the army and he was, he was a war veteran. So he got a license to sell tobacco. So, in our house we--through the window, we opened like, we made like an opening in the window and through the window, we used to sell tobacco, cigarettes. There was additional income. And in addition, we used to sell newspapers. So that's how I remember about what kind of newspapers we used to read. That how I remember that pa...paper called Express printed in Łódź was a national, it was like a, almost like a New York Times. And it was distributed all over the country. In addition to the Courier Polski it was more like a lo...it was a ver...excellent paper, but it was already more like a local paper. Loc...they printed national news.

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