My Childhood 1924-1937

I was there.

Lea Gleitman* was born in 1924 in Oswiecim, southern Poland. Her brother Jehuda and sister Miriam were a couple of years older, and her sister Balcia three years younger. Her father Jonah ran a fabric shop and her mother Szprinca was a housewife.

In 1932, when Lea was eight, the family moved to Sosnowiec. It was a modern town and Lea used to go to the cinema and theatre. Some of the inhabitants were hostile towards Jews and every so often Jews were attacked in the town.

* Lea's maiden name was Posner.

Lea Gleitman (1924), Poland

Lea Gleitman (1924), Poland

Consider here what life was like for Lea before the war

My Family

Lea talks about her family: father Jonah, mother Szprinca and siblings Jehuda, Miriam och Balcia.

Lea was 13 years old when this picture was taken. She is standing at the back to the left. At the front to the left is Lea’s mother and, behind her, Lea’s father.

1) Listen to Lea as she talks about her family. Then answer the questions.

  • 1a. Lea says that Oswiecim was an idyllic town. Why do you think she describes it like that?

  • 1b. Which of the following words do you think match Lea's feelings about her family and relatives?

See the list

                     Demanding                Insecure           

              Open                     Warm              Rivalry        

           Non-judgemental               Judgemental                 Generous

                       Controlling                                  Tolerant

Life in Oswiecim

Lea talks about life in Oświęcim, the Sabbath (the Jewish weekend) and the Jewish holidays.

2) Listen to Lea as she talks about life before the war. Then answer the question.

  • 2a. The Sabbath and other Jewish holidays were special to Lea. What does she discuss about these?

The Family Moves to Sosnowiec

Lea talks about the time when the family moved to Sosnowiec and what life was like there.

3) Listen to Lea as she talks about the move to Sosnowiec. Then answer the questions.

  • 3a. Why did Lea and her family move from Oswiecim to Sosnowiec?

  • 3b. Lea says she had a secure upbringing and was never afraid. Do you think she had any reason to be afraid? Are there examples of threatening situations or antisemitism in what she discusses?

Jewish Life in Oswiecim and Sosnowiec Before 1939

A slideshow about Jewish life in Oswiecim and Sosnowiec.

4) Watch the presentation explaining Jewish life in Oswiecim and Sosnowiec. Then answer the question.

  • 4a. Oswiecim was known by the Jews as Oshpitzin (אָשפּיצין) in Yiddish. When the Germans occupied Poland they renamed it Auschwitz. Why are there different names and what do you think when you hear them?

Extra Material