Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Brenda Reiss - June 23, 1983

Life Before the War

Okay, okay. Uh, can you tell me something about the town of Kalisz? It was a very old Jewish community.

Old Jewish community, that's right.

Can you tell me what it was like, what the town looked like and what it...

I don't know...


I was fourteen years old...


...when I left it...


...you know, I don't know.

Uh-huh, uh-huh. Uh, what about school?

I went until the seventh grade but I was always sad because I'm a Jew. I cannot attend the school for that. And I was very, very hurt by that, very. Because my father was a very religious and I was--they--always, always I was told to--that I'm a Jew, I'm a Jew, before Hitler would come in--even before Hitler was there.

Uh-huh. Uh, your neighborhood--was your neighborhood where you lived mainly Jewish?

No, no.

How did you get along with the Gentile people? How were they?

Sometimes good and sometimes bad.

Uh-huh. Do you remember any incidents of anti-Semitism?

Yeah, that's right. They, they, they hurt my mother because she wanted to make a living and not to buy by Jew. They, they, they told my mother that here's a Jew and here's a Gentile. They, they always told my brother to--because he was wearing a yarmulke, they took 'em off and my father with the beard. Always he was--I was persecute how I was come to my life as I was a Jew, even before Hitler. Very, very much--even the school, everywhere where I went.

Mm-hm. In the school, were, were Jewish students a minority in the...

No, no, very few Jewish was. They all tell me I'm a Jew, I cannot talk good Polish, you know, because I talk always Jewish in home. I was very a rough time, very rough.

Did your mother work also?

My--sometimes she worked and sometimes not because she had tend the kids. Sometimes she was staying on the free market and it was very, very rough.

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