Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

George Vine - July 5, 1983

Religious Life

Were you from a religious uh, background?

Yes, uh, uh, I would say that ninety percent, ninety-five percent of the population in Ciechanów was Orthodox. Uh, it was a way of life and uh, it meant to be very religious, go to Hebrew school, cheder and uh, I am not trying to say that being religious is a uh, is a, how should I put it uh, a liability, not at all. What I'm trying to say, and as history has proven itself, is that you can be religious and you can also be uh, and, and can also defend yourself. In other words, I think that, we have a, a saying where it says, God helps those who help themselves. And I think that our problem was that we depended on God and we didn't, we didn't follow with the percept, or concept, of that you have to help yourself. Uh, so that God can help you. So to, to uh, answer your question whether we came from a religious family, yes. Uh, my father was very religious. Observed all uh, Jewish laws uh, Shomer Shabbos, Saturday our business was closed. Uh, I should mention also that in the 'thirties uh, there was a movement of breaking away from the old ways and what I say by old ways I mean strictly of religion dominating our complete lives without also being aware what's happening around us out of our spheres, out of our ghettos. And I think that uh, had the Second World War not broken out in 1939, I feel that a lot of changes might have come about in Eastern Europe uh, where things might have been different. Uh, different in a sense where I think that there would be more Jewish organizations that would emphasize self-defense. There would be more youth groups that would be thinking in terms of setting up organizations, or in case anti-Semitism uh, keeps on increasing, as it did in the, in the few years prior to the Second World War, there would be some kind of defense set up. I know I'm belaboring that uh, situation defense but we seeing it today. That uh, that you have to protect yourself and that had we have listened to some of our leaders, not very uh, uh, uh, accepted leaders in, in, in, by the majority of Jews in Poland but, but we did have leaders that uh, that were preaching, way back in the early 'thirties, while I listen, when I read in history, cause now as an adult, many years later. Uh, about this uh, defense uh, uh, situation. But I guess that we were so uh, brainwashed maybe that's a little extreme, but nevertheless, with this concept that you got to live exactly the same way that we had done for maybe hundred years in Poland, in that little ghetto. Go to your synagogue, uh, uh, uh, don't get involved with anybod... with anything outside and I think that this was more so in the smaller towns probably than in the big city. And I'm sure that if you will talk to people who grew up in the larger metropolitan cities in Poland you may get entirely different slant of the way things were for them, than was for me. But because I lived in a small little town and very uh, small, congested Jewish ghetto and uh, probably I experienced things differently than maybe uh, these people the same age that I was lived maybe in Warsaw or łód? or any one of the bigger uh, Polish metropolitan cities.

Were you a member of a Zionist, Zionist youth organization?

Uh, no uh, I don't even know whether at that age--like at, at the time eleven years old that you belong to any organizations. You went to a regular public school and then you went to cheder and think that pretty much took care of most of your uh, day. So no we--I, I didn't belong to any organizations and I don't believe that uh, it was because I didn't want to belong to, but I just think that there wasn't any organization for ten, eleven year olds beside uh, shul uh, I mean cheder or school.

None of your friends went to uh, summer camps uh, that you recall?

Yes, I think I did go to a summer camp, uh...

A Zionist one?

Uh, no, I think it was uh, just a summer camp uh, and I think it was maybe a year or two before the war which I'm, of course would be maybe 1937 or something like that and I think I was about ten years old. And I don't know, for some reason it just seems to me that, that I was very immature at that age. Maybe a ten year old is that way, I don't know, but I think it just, the only thing that it seemed at the time uh, that um, I can recall was just strictly going to school and uh, uh, playing with friends and that's all. Uh, maybe because uh, having a business on our own and we were a little better off maybe than the average person was. And uh, you know that the European family was very close knit and parents uh, especially mothers, Jewish mothers were very uh, uh, were spoiling especially the young--I was the youngest from a family of about four, and I was terribly spoiled and uh, spoiled in a sense of uh, my mother was after me all the time, with eating, and eating, and eating, you know. And uh, so I didn't have any worries or anything like that. I know that whatever I needed I had and uh, and I really didn't begin to realize what's happening in the real world 'til the Second World War broke out. So my pre-war experience is practically zero uh, very, very uneventful.

What was uh, a typical Shabbos like? What did you...

Okay on a Saturday morning, of course, we all went to shul with my father. And that was number one we came back from shul uh, we--my mother would prepare a big dinner and uh, 'til today I remember yet that the Saturdays I didn't care too much for because my father made me lay down, take a nap with him. And what I used to do of course when he fell asleep I would sneak out, you know, from the house and meet my friends and play ball. Which was, of course uh, very much against my father's uh, uh, instructions 'cause uh, Shabbot you don't supposed to uh, play ball or do any of these uh, type of situations. But I used to do it and many a times uh, uh, I used to get punished. But I do have one memory that uh, that haunts me very much, looking back today. And I recall that it was one of these Saturdays and I uh, snuck out of the house and played ball hoping that I'll come back before my father wakes up. But in the mean time you, you're, you're, you're eleven years old and you are not aware of it and you were all--I was all dressed up in the Shabbos clothes, you know the nice suit and everything. And I got all messed up with mud and what have you, chasing the ball. And it must have been, I think, pretty close uh, to the, it must have been around 1939 and I was already by that time maybe twelve years old. And I came home and my father was waiting for me. And he got very aggravated, and I remember that I picked up my hands, like to protect myself. And I remember the look on my father's face and I think what it told me is, is, this is what I brought up a son he's gonna hit his father, you know, he didn't say that but I could see it in his eyes. He just turned around and walked away from me. And I could never uh, forget that. It, it, it, it uh, bothers me, you know, bothers me that uh, that it was something that I look back today and of course uh, it uh, it left a certain imprint on me that uh, that I think under normal conditions probably uh, if I had opportunity uh, and my father had opportunity, my parents, to live a normal life that this thing might have worked itself out and it would've not meant much because we would have laughed about this many, many years later. But since I didn't get opportunity uh, to talk to him very much after that uh, that leaves a uh, a uh, a sad period in my life. Uh, because events were really moving very fast at that time--but of course, I'm getting ahead of myself so just, if you want to ask me certain questions.

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