Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Dorfman - August 11 & 25, 1989


You went to cheder.

Yes I did went to cheder.

Did--you also went to public school?

Yes I did. I had a problem because my grandfather wanted--not agree for me to go to public school. But my mother and father--we got already more modernized to say yes. So I went to school--public school started at eight o'clock in the morning. And again, going to school was not an easy thing in Poland. The first thing, they expect us to be better than, than, than anybody else. We were the same people, the same human beings, but they didn't like us. They hated us in a way. So they tried every measure to give us a rough time. And I'll tell you one thing what happened to me in school--so first I want to tell you. So eight o'clock, I went to school to twelve. I come home twelve o'clock. I had to help home for a couple hours because we had our own cows, couple cows. To help uh, cutting grass and, and we had some little help and then uh, to mix food for them for the things. Or in summertime they went eh, on the pastures it was a lot easier. And then about three o'clock I went to, to, to cheder, to the Jewish school, which I didn't get home until eight, nine o'clock at night. That's right. But I'll tell you, I finished s...seven, the seven classes in Poland. This is uh, from six, you were ready to go through like I would say, Abitur-Gymnasia.


Abitur-Gymnasia. In my case, I applied because we weren't--to applying to go to a higher school after the, after the, the seven years eh, public school, which probably it was like over here maybe a couple years high school. But we were very much, we did not, we were not uh, our academics did not um, I would say focus like for an example here in sports. By us if you knew language, we had numerics. This was first class. Geography. Calculations. This was really the, you know, the four items that everybody concen...you could be the best athlete, if you didn't know those three items you never passed a class if you sit there ten years. And the focus was specifically on the Jewish boys and girls because there were not too many. A lot of them did not make it to go even--they went to first and second class and then afterwards what they learned is the cheder. And uh, and then after, if--so I applied. Now to any uh, to any private school we couldn't afford because it was very expensive. As much as we made a, a decent living. But what do you call a decent living, I mean. We had enough to eat because uh, we were in, in the food business and, uh. But otherwise, everything was a struggle. I don't know, I was young, I don't know. But I know one thing, my, my mother and father would be--discussed it and he says there's no way in the world I can send you to a gymnasium to Radom or to Lublin, whatever. Just living alone, you know. I didn't have any family there so it was very rough. And on top of it you had to be--you had to study maybe a year before to be a genius. Now the other end, the people, for an example, for the, for the poorer people, let's--for example, if I need to go, I had to be a genius, plainly. I had to know everythings in my mind and my head just like a machine to get in. Not to the private school but to the uh, state school or, or government school, you know. But I don't know, I was lucky my father had some connections. And, and I was, and I was accepted to a, a train school, you know, I mean, they called it, I mean, what do you call it over here, you know. Like to be a, a conductor or whatever, you know, to have a function on, on trains.


I was accepted. And I went to the, for the uh, tests. And I was sitting with people, and this is the truth, nothing but the truth. It was ninety-nine percent Gentiles. I made the test probably maybe the fifth or the sixth--there was maybe two or three between, between a hundred, there was probably two or three eh, Jewish kids and I was one of them. And one Jewish boy was sitting next to me and I made it pretty fast. It was calculations, there was a um, from mathematic. And I made it, when I made it I made a little cup and I gave it to him because he was struggling a little bit. And whoever made it went out to the other room to wait until everybody gets finished. And I didn't know if I made it or not. Few days later I received--I was called in for the professor and he says, "Here is the blackboard, I want you to do what you did in the class, do it on the blackboard." He didn't tell me what's right or what's wrong, nothing. I get to the blackboard and I made on the blackboard. And he says to me, "It's wrong, you can't--you didn't make the test and nothing I can do." I remember like today I said to him, he--I says "You know what, would you please take me to the board, I know that mine is right." Because I failed the--I made the test and I, and I went back home, there was a Jewish professor in my little town, which I took lessons before I went to that, to that test. And before I went--I want to make sure that I am okay. And he, and he looked at it and he says, "You're one-hundred percent right." Make the story short, I was not accepted. I wrote letters to the board, my test, later on came out, that my, my, my, that my writing the paper the way I, the way I, I mean, the way I did it was right and he was wrong. I was called to, like I say to a, to, to the principal of all, all the profe...whatever and he said to me that I acquired that paper from somebody else. I says, "Why do you say so?" Make the story short, all three of us, all the Jewish three kids were not accepted. Because this was a state school. There was, you know, big subsidies. To get subsidies, like I told you, or you had to be a genius to get to a higher school. So finally I applied to Warsaw to ORT. I do not know if it was called ORT today, because, but it was on the same fashion than ORT and I think it was. I can't remind, I can't really. It was on the, on the Gesia Street 26. I was just in Poland and I stopped off to see where this is. The, the, the building, everything is down because it was in the ghetto. There wasn't--there's nothing there and--but I asked people on, and they remembered some of them that this was the, this was like uh, like ??? you know, eh. Something to upgrade your profession. Not to be a scholar.

Technical school.

Technical school. And that's where I wanted to go too because I wanted to improve my food business. You understand? I was brought up in the food business and I wanted to broaden this and you could do that, because they had probably about twenty faculties eh, all. And, and like I say, if your father was a, was a tailor, you understand, so the kid was a tailor. Because from, from, from going here and there but you come home and you help work home. So, we were killing cattle or, or whatever. I, I made the masters, to be a master and I was fourteen years old. In--because in Poland or in Germany or all over Europe, you just couldn't be in the food business or in the meat business if you didn't have an apprentice or a master from, from that industry. And you were interviewed usually from the industry--from the people, from all the people which were there in business for hundreds of years to, you know, we had a class. And I made that I remember like today from the whole state I would think there was probably about ten of us which made the masters and I was one Jewish boy, the rest were all Gentiles. And uh, like here, from that, that thing was like, like here, like if you want to be an electrician or a plumber, you understand or uh, any mechanical, I mean, whatever. If you want to be, you, you had, you had to, you had to be a master, that's all. I still have it, it's right here on my, on, on, on my wall. It's translated from German to uh, because I had to make it in Germany all over again. And I, and I did it. That's what the business I am now because, like I say uh, I done what I knew best.

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