Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Dorfman - August 11 & 25, 1989

News of Hitler

Now during the late 1930s, did you ever--had you heard about what was going on in Germany? Did you know who Hitler was?


What had you heard?

Yes, I, we--I didn't ask, yeah, but in the, in the late thirties--because I'll tell you in the beginning of the thirties when we were ten, eleven, twelve, eight, you were so busy with yourself, with attending eh, work at home and attending school and having problem with anti-Semitism all the way. And with even with your best friends. [pause] I mean Gentiles.

You had non-Jewish friends.

Maybe I, maybe I had a couple. But listen, they, they looked upon us that we are dirt. That something is wrong with us, you understand. And I'll tell you, sometimes they just talked us into it. That something is wrong! We didn't know what. We were just--we were good and better than they are any time, but that's the bit. This was the slogan and nothing you could change. But I remember that uh, about Germany that Hitler--I just remember when he--they called him "the Chancellor," you know. Eh, when he got to the post to be chancellor and Kaiser Wilhelm, I think was demoted and he took it over with the Nazi party. This I remember like the day that Kristallnacht I do remember. Because I remember there was like, like a mourning like Tishah B'Av. You know what I'm talking, Tishah B'Av, in our house because we start feeling, what's going to happen because when--nobody believed that anything is going to happen to the German Jew because they were assimilated, they were more modern. And uh, when this happened in, in, in the cities uh, and it started happening in the cities and in all of Germany, we really very much got concerned. So the concern was two ways to do. To leave Poland. How many Jews could afford to leave Poland? Those what could afford I don't remember probably left. I remember one thing from our town, a few of them, a few of them left. We had about fifteen hundred families in my small--in my little town, Jewish families. The whole town had about two thousand five hundred, fifteen-hundred were Jews. It was--I mean, you know. Have to know, one thing that, there was three and a half to four million Jews in Poland. If you're not thirty million people--but the cities, in the small towns on the waterways and here, the Jews could make a living here and there, you know. They were the saturated you know.

That's about 5,000 people?


Fifteen hundred families, about 5,000 people?

Five thousand, yeah. So this was the uh, so when this was happening in Germany we really got concerned. But like I say again, who could afford to, to, to e...e...emigrate. We didn't have, we, my family did not have nobody else. Maybe they did, but I didn't know. But I remember that our--they're still alive, the people, that was probably about '37 when they left for Israel. There was three couples from our town. I mean, they called that I am, you had to have a certificate to go. And they had--from England, from the English government or whatever. One, one, one couple is still alive. Live--they still live in Israel. If others left, I knew one thing, some of my cousins left for Russia. They escaped.

Before the war or after the war started?

Before the war.

Before the war.

This was about '37, '38.

Were these Ha...um, the people who went to Palestine were they Ha-Shomer ha-Tsa'ir?

Yes. They were all, all or Allgemeine Zionischten or Ha-Sh...you know. Or, I, I mean, mostly Halutzim, mostly Halutzim. We did not have in mind of leaving. Father, I mean, he says, "Where I'm going to go?" or whatever, you know, it's--listen, we were down to earth people working hard, pro...providing, like I said before, I know we did not hunger. We, we did, we, we had enough food because we were in that business, you know, so.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn