Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

George Vine - July 5, 1983

Encountering Anti-Semitism

Had you heard of Hitler at the time?

Yes, I heard of Hitler that uh, Hitler is beginning to uh, put through certain laws which would affect the Jews. And there were certain rumors that uh, uh, Jewish people, Jewish stores are being boycotted and that uh, uh, a lot of Jews are leaving Germany. But I don't recall of experiencing uh, an alarm, or a fear, or anything. Uh, it was something like I believe that it could possibly be because the Jews in Poland were so used to various different persecutions. Uh, I recall that in the last two years prior to the Second World War the Poles uh, set up a very big anti-Semitic organization. I, I don't recall the name of it today. And they used to carry these uh, these arm bands. And they used to stand in front of Jewish stores and uh, whenever a non-Jew tried to walk into the store they would tell 'em not to buy from Jews, and uh, to buy from their own. And we got so used to it that listening stories from Germany, similar type of situations, it just didn't seem very serious to me at the time.

Did they do that in your grocery store? The...

Yes, there was uh, they appointed people, that organization, and there was a man standing right in front of our store. And uh, stopped the customers from coming in, so my father complained to the authorities and they just didn't bother. They said they're gonna send over somebody but they never did, because the uh, policy, I think of the government was uh, permissiveness. And they sort of uh, pretty much approved of this type of tactic and uh, we had to do with the situation as existed. So yes, we, we did have uh, uh, uh, harassment from these people and things were getting a little bit tougher. But most of our customers were Jewish and the only problem that we had uh, was primarily market day, where all the farmers used to come into the city. And that used to be a uh, a problem because they were afraid to come in. Although they liked my father, because we had the business for many years and we uh, had a very fine reputation in the city and a lot of them went in regardless of the harassment from uh, these anti-Semites. Um, but it was becoming more difficult, I believe, in the last two years, for Jewish people uh, and Jewish businesses in Poland.

Did someone stand by everyday and uh, so... someone with the, with the armbands?

Uh, primarily they did it on market days, which was twice a week, which was the biggest days of business because during the balance of the week wasn't much business, only those two days and I think they knew about it and they plant them there to harass the Jewish businesses and to uh, uh, prevent the customers to--from going into these stores. And there was really very little we could do about it.

They were not uh, this was not an official government organization?

No, no, no.

But it was...

It's, it's, it's a...

Tolerated by the, by the government but not...


They would not do anything to prevent hara... to prevent their harassment.

It was, it was absolutely not uh, a government uh, uh, people who were the ones with armbands, who were uh, trying to prevent customers coming to the store. But I believe that the government sort of closed their eyes uh, and uh, and let it go on pretty much so.

And this was a national organization, not just in, uh...

That was a national organization all over, all over uh, Poland. But I think it's important to emphasize here that for the last uh, uh, two or three years before the Second World War broke out there was a systematic uh, increase of anti-Semitism of Poland. And we could see it uh, uh, uh, year by year as, as the years go, go on. Starting, I believe, uh, after the President Piłsudski died in Poland. Uh, and I believe that he was a friend of the Jews and once he died there was a deterioration I think, of, of the uh, well not a deterioration but I think it was a, a, a, a systematic increase of anti-Semitism in the uh, government, Polish government. And uh, there was so much hate to begin with among the Poles, against the Jews. So especially when a government uh, permits it and looks away from them then it was a, a uh, a increase in various different uh, uh, happenings. Uh, kids uh, gentile kids uh, would come out of church I recall like, especially after a, a holiday uh, where we would, bunch of uh, of Jewish kids would walk on the street and when they would come out from chur... from their churches they would attack us, chase us. And uh, it was getting worse as time was going on uh, that I can recall.

So this is what happened to you, you're saying. Um, you had cases you recall citizens ???...

Yes, I have a situation where we were going to the movies and uh, and we would get out of our neighborhood. And then a, a bunch of uh, Poles would come after us and uh, and chase us, and they, and uh, we had quite a time uh, uh, getting away. Looking back at it today uh, I see that the philosophy of our leaders, I'm talking about the Jewish leaders in Poland, maybe all over Europe but I can only talk about Poland because I lived there. Has been so uh, the, the elders, which were the uh, rabbis uh, in Europe, have indoctrinated the youth that God will take care of everybody. That not to worry about anything, that if they uh, if dangers will come about uh, God will be there to protect you. And we have never been told to defend ourselves. And I think looking back at all those years, I regret deeply that we weren't given uh, we weren't taught or given the opportunity to defend ourselves. And I think things might have been differently if we had leaders uh, uh, which if they would have told us to fight back and protect us instead of turning the other cheek. I think things might have taken an entirely different uh, turn in history. History might have read entirely differently if we were brought up differently. And I regret that very much today, that uh, so many of us were killed, slaughtered uh, uh, uh, and, and, and not being able to prepare to protect ourselves. That's a very sad uh, commentary I have to say in regard to my pre-war experiences.

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