Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Josef Slaim - February 7, 1982

Life in Czepiec Before the War

Uh, tell me a little bit about Czepiec when you lived there.

About Czepiec?

Yeah. What do you remember from it?

Well, as a little boy like--I can't remember to much, you know. The way we brought--was brought up, like it was in the house, it is not like it was here. Uh, usually um, childs was born not in uh, in a hospital like today, because everybody was--come up mit uh, in a house mit a mid-mother uh, woman.


Midwife. It was a small little town. My father used to be in the Jewish congre...a committee. He was one from the members of the board. He was also a little um, uh, officer in a small shul. Besides this he was uh, um, consulate in the Rathaus--in the city hall. We had also--the court in our town used to be as a tenant in our house. And just happened that my father was also ??? on the table there called um, like a journeymen. Always. And we made a nice living. It was a quiet, nice little town. And this was the childhood. I remember we used to go to school, they, they, they--in, in the Jewish school, and we went in the--the uh, Polish school. And later on when I uh, the aspirations for my father was always--about me-- to make me as a lawyer, in case I could if the time comes. But somehow it doesn't work out because the time changed. It was bad, get worse. Gotten mit the Nazi's already started walking in--I mean uh, start coming over; they're very dangerous. And uh, the whole situation start becoming not, not too good. Then he decided myself, uh decided for my...for me, to make me as a violinist. He sent me to Katowice, it was a nearby city, like a German city. I went twice a week in the school, for two hours uh, to learn violin, but this doesn't work out too much because on account of the uh, time.

Were you going to regular school at the same time you were studying violin?

Yes. We had regular school in our town, but to study violin I went to conservatorium Katowice, because I had to go by train. It took me about uh, about an hour a half to go from our city.

How old were you traveling by train?


You travelled--how old were you?

How old I was there to this time? I was still in the teens, you know? What uh, like, um...

You travelled by yourself?

Like uh, like twelve years, something like that. I cannot remember, because we didn't keep track on it.

You traveled by yourself on this train?

Yes. Yes. Uh well, the first time he went mit me, but uh, showed me the way and then I went myself. Just happened it wasn't too bad.

Were there a lot of uh, Jews in your town?

Well the community--the whole town was a very small little uh, town. There was like 5,000 people, I believe--5,000 families. They said it used to be like 500 Jewish families. But they'd gotten smaller and smaller because the Jewish people started getting bad so they'd run away to the larger cities. They could find more uh, work or whatever, you know. Th...there, there was not so easy to make a living so they left this town and went to the bigger cities, you know. And uh, on the end--they end up, probably, 150 families on the ends, when I remember because uh, just happen when I was growing up and I was already in the age when uh, eh, to register to the army. I was drafted to the Polish army. So I was actually--the army, almost-- in the Polish army uh, four and a half years. The regular army service was just two years. But I had to serve more. Why? Because um, the time was like in uh, I went to army--to the army in 1935. In 1937 I supposed to be released. They didn't want me to released, because the situation to this time--1937-8, but the war was already a little uh, shaking everything, so um, I don't got released. They released a lots of people, as a matter of fact I have hear a friend--he served mit me in the army but he was released. They just kept me. They just kept from every uh, uh, company. So much people they left over. Of course, if just kept you back, they don't want to release you they had to give you something uh, uh, like, how you call? Um, ??? like uh, a little, uh...

[interruption in interview]


A stripe.

A stripe. And then I got two stripes and become a corporal. And uh, when the war broke out they raised me to uh, sergeant. I become--which means three stripes.

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