Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Henry Dorfman - August 11 & 25, 1989

Outbreak of War

Do you remember when the war started?

Yes, the war started in '39.

I mean the day. Do you remember where you were when you first heard about it?

Yes, let me tell you what happened. All right, the beginning of '39, the war started in the fall.


September of '39. The end of '38, I was in Warsaw, I was going to that eh, like I told you, the ORT school. Because I finished the seventh class between '37 and '38. So I was accepted in '38 and I was going '38 in the fall to school to Warsaw. I met over there, I mean, a guy which was in the orchard business from my home town. His--he has a, he had a daughter, Moishe Meppan was his name. He had a daughter and a son which both escaped to Russia. Their un...they, they, they run to, to the Russian side. I didn't see them after the war--I don't if they, if, if they were alive or not. I looked for them but I couldn't find them so they probably were dead. Because the Russians killed, killed a lot of them too, so. So he proposed to me--because I was good, I was a tremendously good knife man, breaking up cattle and so forth. And I was good in the orchards to package apples, pears and I was really, really good at it. He come to me, he says, "Henry, I would like to tell you, my kids are gone, I have a lot..." And he was very--to our standards, where we lived and things, he was wealthy. Listen, like, like I say here, what does mean wealth? One can have ten million dollars and mean nothing, the other can have a hundred million. You know this evaluations you don't know. But he was in standard wealth and he wanted me. He says, "I'll give you twenty-five percent of the profits in, in the business, and I want you to come to work for me." Make the story short, I went to my father and I told him, my father says "Go ahead. If Moshe Meppan wants you, he's..." you know, he's like, like--like Max Fischer would want you over here for a partner wouldn't you go? Same thing was over there. So I went and I worked for him and I-- until--in, we both saw, even if I was going to school he took me out because I was really good to look at trees to see if, if, if they're going to have good fruits for next year, you know. No fruits were on it. I could look at the branches and tell you if that tree is going to have you know good fruit and so forth. I was good at it. And I was going to school. And when the, before the, the war broke out--I mean, I was going to school for about seven, eight months because the, the war broke out, you understand. I, I wa...I, I was starting in '38 in October. You know when the school starts right, right after the holidays. And when the war broke out in '39, this was the end, you know. So we had orchards and I brought in all the apples and pears because I was wearing uh, that--I had that school uniform on me, you understand, so. And I was white blonde, I looked like, like a Pole, you know, like, like Irish, whatever. And I brought in all the apples and pears, which there were probably thirty, forty kilometers from Warsaw into Warsaw to a Gentile. Gentile firm. And I uh, and I was selling and, and this helped me, this helped me and uh, him and, and my family that we accumulate money because if--listen, apples, pears all this was very precious in 1939. And I was lucky to bring it in because the Germans took away all that stuff or made a mess out of it, you understand. And, but we were lucky to bring in, not that we could bring in everything we, we had, but we brought in, brought in about seventy-five percent. And then we made good money. That was the end of my school and then when the uh, when the Germans started taking over.

So on the day that the war started you were in Warsaw?


And what--do you remember what your reaction was? Did you want to get home? Did you want to, uh...

Oh yes, I wanted to get home. I got home. I, I, the war started. I mean uh, you see, we had the orchards, like I told you, about forty kilometers eh, from, from Warsaw, in my, in my town it was sixty kilometers you know. So, from the--I don't remember exactly the first day if I went back, but I went back home. But first I took all the, I mean, all the apples that I could and pears, you understand, whatever, to get into Warsaw. And this took me about probably a week to ten days. And after I got this all in Warsaw, you understand, packed all in crates, sitting by that Polish, you know and he was selling it for me and he was pretty good. Jehovitch was, was the name. I went back home to see what's happening in my, my home.

Did you think you were going to join the army?


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