Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Mark Webber - December 13, 2004

Life Before the War

Tell me a little bit about life in Pułtusk before the war.

Pułtusk was a nice, lively town. It was on the banks of the river Narew, which is um, I think, second largest river, I think, in Poland. Uh, was very cute, and some people referred to it as the uh, "Venice of Poland," because the river was sort of uh, surrounding in a semi-circle the town, and then we had some canals going also--starting on one side on the river and going into another part of the river, so there was canals going through the town. Um, it was uh, like, the population was about fifty-fifty uh, Jews and Gentiles um, and close to about, total population of about 20,000. Was a vibrant uh, Jewish uh, communal life. There were uh, um, schools in my days. We were going--I was going to a public school, which was uh, just for uh, Jewish people--Jewish kids. And this was only uh, like a middle school here, up to about the seventh uh, grade. Um, most of the uh, Jewish children did not go beyond the seventh grade. Um, for one thing, it was expensive to go into the gymnasium, which was the high school, and um, and second of all, they were needed to do chores at home, so um, even though my brother, for instance, was the oldest, and um, I don't remember him going to school. I only know stories about his going to school. But uh, he was taking part, and running my father's business, and uh, and the household and everything else, so he did not have any more schooling. Schools um, uh, was regular school, we had about six or seven hours uh, at school every day, and after that boys were going to cheder. I think uh, I don't know if I need to explain what a cheder is, but um, that was another hour or two hours of studies. And life was uh, centered mostly--the Jewish people were clinging to their own. The Polish people--they only uh, got together, they were coming in uh, the Gentiles were coming into my father's store. In addition to that, my father was a candy maker, and um, so we were selling--we had a retail store, we were selling candy--our own make, as well as makes of other manufacturers. And uh, so...

Uh, there were non-Jewish customers then?

Well, a lot of non-Jewish customers, especially around this time of the year uh, when the store was packed, and uh, and everybody was uh, helping out. Uh, we didn't employ any outside help, just the family.

Let me ask you, in the public school, did you, did you speak Polish in the public school?

Yeah, the public school was only in Polish, although we had one teacher um, and ironically he's the only one that I remember his name--was also Mordechai--my Hebrew name is Mordechai--Stern, and he was teaching the Bible in Polish, and then, after that, I was studying the Bible in Hebrew. So...

And, and what did you speak at home?

At home, the, the language was Yiddish.

No Polish?

No. We all knew the language, but um, it was only used um, I would say most of the population--the Jewish population spoke Yiddish. Ninety-nine percent, probably.

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