Life Changes 1938-1939

I was there.

The year before the outbreak of war and amid a growing threat from Nazi Germany, many younger Jews planned on emigrating.

On 1 September 1939, a couple of months before Lea turned 15, Poland was invaded by Germany. Sosnowiec, where Lea lived, och Oswiecim – which the Germans called Auschwitz – were occupied and became part of the Third Reich.

When the war broke out, Lea's father Jonah was on a business trip and was in the town of Lviv (Lvov) which was under the control of the Soviet Union.

Lea Gleitman (1924), Poland

Lea Gleitman (1924), Poland

Consider here how life changed for Lea and her family

Youths Consider Emigrating

Lea talks about that she heard Hitler's ranting and threats against the Jews on the radio, and that many youths planned on emigrating.

1) Listen to Lea as she talks about how life in the 1930s changed when the threat of war drew closer. Then answer the following question:

  • One of Lea's uncles planned to emigrate. What made him change his mind and stay?

Lea's Father Ends Up on the Other Side of the Border

Lea talks about the outbreak of war and how her father Jonah ended up on Russian territory in the town of Lviv (Lvov).

2) Listen to Lea as she talks about the outbreak of war. Then answer the following questions:

  • The situation became more and more threatening. One week before the outbreak of war, Lea's father made various preparations. What did he do? Explain why he acted in that way.

  • Lea's father was away on business when the war came and ended up in an area under the control of the Soviet Union. What happened next and how did the family find out?

The German Occupation

A slideshow about the German occupation.

3) Watch the presentation explaining how circumstances changed during the German occupation. Then answer the following question:

  • Lea says that life in Oswiecim was idyllic. Even the Germans wanted to form their own idyll in the same town. What was the difference between Lea's and the Germans' view of what "idyll" actually meant?

Extra Material