Life Changes 1938-1940

I was there.

Max experienced several incidents of antisemitism before the war. But when the Germans occupied Poland, the situation changes dramatically. After the German invasion a Volksdeutsche arrives and demands that Max's father must give up his sawmill. When his father asks for some saw dust to warm his family and survive the winter, he is threatened by the man who is now running the mill.

The conditions are hard, and Jews are no longer allowed to walk everywhere. They must wear special armbands with symbols showing that they are Jewish. One day Germans arrive and take Max and his big brother Feivl away.

They are deported to a work camp close to Cieszanow where working conditions are very hard and many die. Max misses his mother very much, but luckily has his brother Feivl for company. One day Feivl has an accident and Max is now all alone. 

Max Safir (1925-2020), Poland

Max Safir (1925-2020), Poland


A growing threat against the Jews

Max gives examples of antisemitism in Kielce.

1) Listen to Max as he talks about the time before the war and the antisemitism in Kielce.

  • 1a. Give some examples of antisemitic attacks that Max family experienced.

A Volksdeutsche takes over his father's sawmill

Max talks about life under German occupation.

2) Listen to Max as he talks about life during the German occupation. Then answer the question.

  • 2a. What was a "Volksdeutsche" and why did he take Max’s father’s sawmill? In the historical text, you will find clues that can help you answer the question.

To the work camp

Max talks about how he and his brother Feivl are deported to a work camp in Cieszanow and about the hard labour they must do there.

3) Listen to Max as he talks about how he and his brother Faivl were deported to a labour camp.

  • 3a. Max and his brother Faivl were deported to a labour camp. How does Max describe the conditions in the camp?

  • 3b. Faivl meant a lot to Max especially as he missed his mother so much. In what way did Max show how important Faivl was to him?

Jewish life in Kielce

Slideshow about how people in Kielce were affected by the outbreak of war.

4) Watch the presentation talking about Jewish life in Kielce. Then answer the question.

  • 4a. The German occupation greatly affected Jewish life in Kielce.
    What examples of these changes can you find in the presentation?

Extra Material