Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Leon Salomon - June 18, 1990

Religious Life

Tell me a little more about your immediate family, what was your father like, was he religious?

My father was a Hasid, a very religious person. In fact, we thought Orthodoxy, most of the people were Orthodox in those days, let's put it this way, on a Sunday if I wanted to go skating, it was forbidden for me and as much as I love to do it, I just couldn't because you had to carry the skates through the city and you would have been noticed.

You mean on Saturday?

Yeah, also, as far as swimming was concerned, you're not supposed to do it either, but I did it because there were so many people there, so you mixed up in the crowd and so I was always a little rebel, even before ...

So, you were not quite as religious as your father?

I had no choice, but not voluntarily.

What about your mother, was she the same way?

My mother is a daughter of a rabbi from town which he was called dayyan, a dayyan is a judge and he was even a higher level than a rabbi, but yet my mother was a very moderate woman, she always looked ahead. She's the one who pushed my older brother to go gymnasium rather than go to yeshiva. She said you, I'm going to gear you the same way, although my father said I have already one goy, I don't want to have another one at home. And naturally my mother said, "Well let them talk, we'll see what we can do." And of course she was gearing me to go to gymnasium just before the war broke out I was supposed to go to ??? which is a Jewish gymansium.

Did you go to secular school, or public school?

Secular school it happened to me, it was...we had a rabbi who we use to play piano with us, in other word he use to break our fingers if we didn't learn our lessons. Oh, I used to lay down on the chair and with a whip, he whipped you and it happened to me one time, he played piano and I ran away, I was only 11 years old and I came home and I said I'm not going back to school and it didn't help anything. Neither my mother or my father could do anything with me except hire two separate teachers, one for Talmudic studies and the other for secular studies.

So you weren't really going to a public school?

Yes, my mother prepared me for one year, I had these two teachers privately at home and then after a year I went to secular school, Jewish secular school. But everything was taught in Polish.

Was there some tension in your household between your parents over the religious orientation of the boys?

Well, it's ironic that my father and my brother had very good relations in spite of the fact that he went to secular school and a higher secular school, where the school religion was far away from, but they had disagreement but not open disagreement, which you call rough arguments.

What about other kinds of Jewish organizations, was there a Zionist group, Bundist group?

Oh, we had a lot of groups there, we had Bund. Bund was the strongest and of course, the Bund organization was a socialist organization who said we have to make our home in Poland and the best condition we possibly can, this is our home, this is where we are supposed to stay, then we had Zionist organizations, many like Batar and Hashamir Hatzir and too numerous to mention, I just don't remember, but we have quite a few, yes. I, as a kid, I belonged to the Agudát Israel, you know this is the same party that belongs now to, in Israel, but at those days Agudát were not advocating the land of Israel, we were waiting still for Messiah to come, that's the only way you can go to Israel. I myself did not believe in those things that much, nor did I adhere to those things.

Do you think there was some resentment on the part of the Zionist and even Bundist groups towards the religious groups?

Oh, there were big resentment, because there is a big difference. The Bund advocated we have to live in the country where we were born, stay there, mingle with the people, and make the best of it. The Zionist group looked forward to a Jewish state, eventually.

What about their relationships with the religious groups?

Their relationships with the religious groups, okay the Bund was non-religious whatsoever. Other Zionist groups, if you take Hashamir Hatzir, it was not a religious organization either, because they actually were the working class, like a socialist group, except their aim was for the land of Israel. Batar perhaps had some religion, the main and only one, it was Mizrachi. Mizrachi was a religious organization but yet still forward their aim was to go to Israel, rather Palestine, I'm sorry.

And in your house, were these things discussed at all?

In our house not much. I can tell you this, you must have heard of this writer Peretz, I found it out when I came to United States through my aunt. He happened to be a cousin of my father on my father's side. Peretz the writer.

A Jewish writer?

A Jewish poet, right.

So, Zionism was not an issue in your house?

Zionism was not an issue in the house, no.

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