Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Abraham Pasternak - August 13, 1984

Changing Atmosphere

When, do you remember when any of this began to change?

Well, it started to change around the uh, late thirties. In 1939, '38, '39 but up, even until then, there was always anti-Semitism. There was always uh, Jews always got beaten up by some Gentile kids one way or the other uh, because there were many more of them and uh, we were not uh, uh, we were never taught how to fight back. Besides they used to have a practice, I mean, in pulling our side curls, our payes, they used to do that and uh, and used to get us mad many a times while we were not allowed, I mean, to tie 'em up, uh... Then in 1938, when uh, Hitler started to become uh, you know, very popular and uh, and everybody's trying to uh, join the camp, the Romanians and the Hungarians, so uh, the uh, there were some laws, new laws, I would call 'em "nuisance laws," I mean, come out, I mean, for Jews, like I uh, like in '39, let me start there. The um, the Romanians wanted to show to the uh, Germans that they too are trying to uh, uh, punish the Jews because they are Jews, so they instituted a law that every Jewish store has to be open on, on, on, on Saturday. And when the Jews heard about it, they, they, they were, they were stunned. I mean, on Saturdays to, to go in there to, to, to open up a store on Saturdays, I mean that's to a Hasidic Jew, to a religious Jew, it's like uh, cutting uh, off an arm. So uh, the Rabbi uh, said that they... Since uh, it involves uh, uh, since one's life is dependent upon it, not to make the living, I mean, they could jail them and uh, so for the time being, let's hope that it's not going to last for long, we'll open the stores... I'll never forget this, my mother, since she was the businesswoman that she went into the store and my father and us, we went to shul and I remember those Saturdays, they turn into like Tisha B'Av, you know, the ninth day of Av, you know like the day that they mourn for the destruction of the temple. Was now, we really started to feel the, the pressure, so she went and opened up the store. But interesting, you know, everybody... There was uh, there was a blackouts. And I remember that they insisted upon that if you opened the store, you cannot just open the doors, let people go into the store, you have to open the, the, the windows, I mean, the, the show windows. Like our store had four, six doors; two doors that locked up where you were going into it and then the two doors where we used to have two window displays. Those had to be opened up but you had to open up those doors on Friday nights too, because stores were open from seven to nine o'clock. But if it's a blackout, what do you do? They insist upon that you display the window to know everybody that, that you're open, yet at the same time, there's a blackout. So naturally, the black... the blackout was more important because they didn't want the enemy to see that where you're located. So they punished you for the blackout, for not displaying out, for not opening up the doors to make it look like you were open. And if, uh... So you were fined for that. You paid a fine. And uh, I remember that uh, one Saturday, my mother came home and my father asked her and it was late, around seven o'clock... No, no, not seven it was five o'clock, and while we were sitting down there and having... eating ??? and my mother walks in and then my father asks, "Did you do any business? Ist es gemacht etwas Geschäft?" "Nein." And she broke down and cried. She said, "Yes, I did." And I, I can see the anger in my father but then he says, "Was kann ich tun? What can I do?" He was just angry. I know that he was crying but he didn't want to show it, he was just... And uh, some Saturdays we were doing business, some Saturdays we didn't do business. They were very unhappy days, people were torn.

How... Can you give me an example?

Well, for instance, like if you used to get certain packages, it used to be delivered through the post office. If your package was open or it was torn, I mean, you couldn't complain. You just had to accept it. I'll never for... I was there once at the post office and I was there to pick up a package and there was another Jew over there from some um, uh, you know, another um, person over there from the community who... And his package had a big package coming and it was opened up and he was starting to complain. He says, "Aren't you familiar with the law that you cannot complain against? Are you accusing us of stealing? Are you accusing the Romanian post office of stealing over there?" So, he had to pay a fine on top of it. Or then we, we were forced to go and, and do the, all the menial labor work for the, for the officials. Clean their toilets, sweep the streets.

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