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Chapter 2: The earlier years


I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth (Fig. 11). My father was in the textile business and owned the largest wholesale firm in  Lwow.  His  store was  located in  a large  office-and-trade building and occupied the entire second floor (Fig.12).

Fig 11
Fig. 11:  The author as an infant

Fig 12
Fig. 12:  The firm "Brothers Israel and Izak Weissberg" was located in this building at 20-22 Kazimierzowska St., and occupied  the floor with the long balcony surrounding the building. This floor is now  occupied by the Regional Attorney's Offices.  Photograph taken during my visit in 1992

At birth I was named Bronislaw, in memory of my paternal  grandfather  Berl.  There  is  some remote  similarity between the two names. Bronislaw, a purely Polish  name, satisfied my mother's taste (Fig. 13).

Fig 13
Fig. 13:  My parents at their wedding

For as far back as I can remember, we had two full-time servants who lived at our home: a maid and a nanny. The maid, usually a simple country girl, lived in a small room adjacent to the kitchen. She would shop for groceries, cook,  clean the  house,  polish the  floors.  She did virtually everything, leaving no work at all for my mother. Sunday was her day off.  I  wonder how my mother managed on Sundays.  There was certainly no need to polish floors every day, but someone had to prepare lunch.  Telephones were a rare luxury in the 1930s, particularly in private homes, but we had two: one at home (No. 258-82), and another in my father's store (No. 238-46).  Gas for cooking,  radiators  for heating, and two radios at home (one in the children's room) when many families had none,  are just a few examples of our standard of living.
My mother used to be a French and German teacher, but she stopped working  after she got  married.  She  used to  spend her  days socializing, visiting friends and relatives, entertaining guests who were very frequent at our home, and studying English taught by Mr.  John  Halifax,  a real Englishman.  Various philanthropic activities,  such  as  collecting  funds  for the  Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund, a Zionist organization) occupied the rest of her  time.  She was  very much involved in helping the Jewish Orphans Home,  located  at Janowska  Street,  where she invested much energy  and time  in organizing  and collecting funds.  The Director, Mr. Czaczkes, was a friend of the family and visited us often. Mother was also  active in the Parent-Teacher Association (Kolo  Rodzicielskie) at  my  school,  the St.  Ann School For Boys. The school principal, Mr. Antoni Wladyka, was also our  frequent guest.  He  was a  former officer in the Polish First Brigade (Pilsudski's Legions) during World War I,  and was therefore held in very high esteem by my parents.
My mother did not do much cooking or any cleaning at home, but she loved  baking.  Her cakes  could probably have won  international prizes; too bad that she never participated in such competitons. Whenever there was a party at home, or some occasion at the Jewish Orphans Home or at the St. Ann School, the cakes were all provided by Mrs. Weissberg, all of her own making.
Since her youth, my mother had been convinced that children should be raised by a professional governess, not by their parents. There were a lot of  arguments on  that subject between my mother and her parents, but mother's belief remained unshaken. Therefore, we always had a nanny, referred to in later years as a governess. The governesses had to have had at least a high school education, and they had to know foreign languages,  preferably German and French. At first there was just me to raise and teach; two-and-a-half years later, my brother Marian was born  (Figs. 14 and  15).  The governess  was with  us at all times, except for her day off; she even slept in our room, so that we would  get  the necessary  attention (and education) around the clock. (Fig. 16).

Fig 14
Fig. 14:  The author, three years old

Fig 15
Fig. 15:  Marian as an infant

Fig 16
Fig. 16:  With parents and Miss Olga - the nanny

The maids and the nannies would change from time to time, for various reasons, such as their getting married or making mother angry. My own and my brother's relationships with the maid were usually much better than with the governess,  for the simple reason that the maid did not have to educate us, while attempts at education often created  friction with the governess.  The earliest maid I remember was Rozalia ("Rozia"). I liked her very much and so did my parents,  but  she got  married and  left.  The cakes for her wedding were baked, of course,  by my mother.  Then,  there was Andzia,  a great singer.  From morning till night she would sing the latest sentimental  hits,  all on  the subject of love, always very  loudly and very  much off  tune.  She was very stubborn and  quite arrogant.  This was probably the reason that she had to leave after only a few months. Then, there was Zosia, a lovely woman who later took Marian into hiding.

My first encounter with antisemitism occured when I was 5 years old.  Although we  were a Jewish family,  being Jewish was never emphasized as something important. In fact, I was never told that I was a Jew.  On the high holidays my parents would go to a synagogue, but the word "Jew" was never uttered. I was born in a purely  gentile  section of  town,  in an  apartment house at 6 Sobinskiego Street (Fig. 17). We were the only Jewish family in the building.  I  had a  girlfriend who lived in an apartment on the same  floor.  Irka was 2 years older than I and had just started attending  school.  One  day I  was at  her home  and we  played together,  taking turns on my tricycle,  when suddenly she asked me: "Are you a Jew?" I did not know what to answer, never having heard the word before. But she had immediate advice:  "Go and ask your mother". A short while later I was back with the answer "Yes, I am", and she told me: "Then take your tricycle and get out of  here! I am  not going  to ride  on a Jewish tricycle any more!" I did  not understand  what she  was talking  about,  but having just lost my first girlfriend,  I was heartbroken. A short time later we moved to a bigger apartment in a different section of town, and I never saw Irka again.

Fig 17
Fig. 17:  House in which I was born

My parents paid a lot of attention to the purity of our Polish language and  did not  want us  to be exposed to Yiddish-tainted accents.  For that  reason, all our maids and governesses were Polish Catholic.  The  governesses  in particular had  to  be  respected, and had to be addressed as "Miss", not just by their first name.
Miss Stasia was with us for several years. I have only pleasant memories of her. Her German was less than perfect, and she did not know any French, but she was friendly and understanding. She would walk  with us  to a nearby city park in which there was a large playground. While we played, she busied herself with the gardener. I never found out how she became pregnant during those walks,  but the time came when she had to stop working.  Another nanny was found for  us without difficulty,  but  what  about  Stasia? An  unmarried  girl becoming pregnant  in  pre-war  Poland  was  a  serious  scandal.  A self-respecting family could not let such an "immoral" girl stay with them and raise their children. Without my mother Stasia would have been lost.  Mother arranged another job for her with the family of Dr. Szmajuk,  a friend of ours.  They lived in Zbaraz,  where no one knew  about the  girl's amorous  past,  and she continued to raise Jewish children.
An interim period of several short-lasting nannies followed, and then we got Miss Elzbieta ("Liza") Wanda Zablocka. Miss Liza was a real "professional". She was very proud. Proud of her German and  French,  proud  of  her  previous  experience  with  some "important" (i.e. rich) families,  proud  of  her aristocratic-sounding name, and proud of her Polish father. (Her mother was  Ukrainian - no  reason for pride in pre-war Poland.) In contrast to Stasia, she was neither friendly nor understanding. With Liza in attendance, constant tension could be felt in the air. Our room had to be in perfect,  military style order,  and her methods  included scolding and disciplining.  She attributed great importance  to our  personal appearance,  particularly at the table. Our elbows were never permitted to rest on the table. This was best achieved by holding encyclopedia volumes between the arms  and the  body during  meals. Initially, eating this way was difficult, but we became used to it,  and after a while the elbows stayed down.
The very demanding Miss Liza provided living proof that my grandmother  was  right:  children  should  be  raised  by their parents,  not  by  an  enemy.  Her  German  and  French did  not penetrate our heads; until this day I do not know any French, and whatever  German I  learned was  not from her. My progress in  school slowed down, and I find it impossible not to ascribe this drop in my learning ability to Liza. For example, she did not like our homework to take too long,  and insisted on helping us.  In a  short while  she was  doing most  of the  homework by herself,  much more quickly than we could,  but our interest in the studies and our  marks dropped  considerably.  This continued  until the beginning of the war.

I attended the St. Ann School for Boys, at the corner of St. Ann  and Kazimierzowska  Streets,  a few minutes walking distance from  our home.  In the first and second grades I was a very bright  student.  I could  read and  write before I went to school, and I understood and was interested in everything.  This was before  Miss Liza.  My  teacher in  the first grade was Miss Marysia  Litwinowna.  I  was  her  favorite  pupil  and I  still remember receiving more  than one  kiss on the forehead from her. My second grade teacher was Mrs. Romanowska. Her daughter, a pretty if slightly too  plump young  lady,  was my  first piano teacher.  After Liza  became our governess,   my interest in my studies dropped a great deal,  but my relationship with all my teachers remained very  good.  I  do not  remember ever  being disciplined at  school,  although in the 1930s disciplining by teachers was very common. My third and fourth grade tutor was Mr. Henryk Ringler, who also taught Polish. Not just a teacher, but above all an educator, he stressed the importance of honesty, of being a good citizen,  of personal hygiene.  A  real gentleman,  he  himself was a perfect example  of  what  he  preached.  Mr.  Franciszek  Sobol  taught mathematics.  A lovely  grandfatherly figure,  he  died after an operation for cancer of the stomach in 1940. His funeral was the first  one  I ever  attended.  I had  never been  to a  Catholic cemetery before  and it seemed strange to see photographs of the deceased on the graves.  The gym teacher,  Mr.  Marian Karwowski, was an  active sportsman:  once  he broke a leg while skiing.  I visited him at his home and brought him flowers.  Mr.  Wladyslaw Lukomski  taught  history and  biology.  Like the  principal Mr. Wladyka, he too was a veteran of Pilsudski's Legions. Lessons of religion were obligatory, and twice every week the class parted: the Catholics were taught by a Roman-Catholic priest Father Kunc; the Jews by Mr. Aron Streicher.  Mr.  Streicher taught us stories from the Bible.  He did not demand anything,  and at the end of the year all his pupils had very high marks.  Because the religion classes were separate, I do not know much about Father Kunc's lessons,  but he apparently  was much more demanding, and the marks did reflect interest and progress.
My best friend in school was Ludwik Tott. He was the youngest of three brothers. His father was an attorney. His mother, like mine,  was  active  in  the  Parent-Teacher  Association  and socialized a great deal.  Ludwik and  I frequented  each other's home. He was a great expert on sex and my primary sex education was  all  provided by  him.  My other  good friends  were Henryk Klapp,  Marian  Karpel,  Dunek  Losch,  Henryk  Arzt.  The  most brilliant student in the class was Sever Streicher,  a nephew of Mr.  Aron  Streicher,  the  religion  teacher.  Sever  was  an intellectual and read many books.  Whenever a teacher had to leave the class,  Sever would take charge,  go to the podium and tell us stories from books he had read recently.  He had a wonderful ability to tell stories and to keep the class under control, and everybody listened attentively. With antisemitism on the rise, Sever's parents started preparing for emigration to Australia. In 1939 his father left, to prepare a base there for the family. They were supposed to follow him shortly, but the war separated them. Sever, his  mother,  brother Karol  and sister  Blanka remained in Poland  to  face the  Holocaust.  None of  my Jewish  classmates survived the war.
My musical education started when I was in the second grade, and lasted nearly  three years,  until the outbreak of war.  Twice a week a piano teacher came to our home to give us lessons.  The first teacher  was Miss  Romanowska,  the daughter  of my second grade tutor.  She was soon followed by Miss  Flora,  an extremely patient young lady who had to face two  pranksters constantly thinking of tricks to  shorten or postpone a  lesson,  and definitely unwilling to learn.  We used to hide when she came, and had to be looked for, until we were eventually found in some closet, in the bathroom, or under a bed.  Homework was simply  not done,  or was abbreviated from the requested one or two hours  of daily playing to barely a quarter of an hour.  With this approach to  musical studies it should have been clear from the beginning that Miss Flora’s  efforts would  lead nowhere,   but our  mother insisted that boys  from  a self-respecting  family must  have a  well-rounded education,  which    includes playing  on some  instrument. The piano fit her taste best. For the same reason, boys from a good Jewish  home  had  to  know some  Hebrew,  although Yiddish  was forbidden. Thus two years before the outbreak of war, a teacher of modern Sephardic  Hebrew started coming to our home twice a week to teach us. Mr. Tennenbaum was a passionate Zionist and a law student at the  University of  Lwow.  When he  emigrated to Palestine in 1938, Mr.  Artur Zieser,  another  Zionist law  student, replaced him.  Our willingness to learn Hebrew equalled our eagerness for music; our respect  for the  Hebrew teachers was the same as for Miss  Flora  of  the  piano lessons.  And  we achieved  the same results.  In 1950, when I came to Israel,  I could neither write nor  speak  a  word  in Hebrew.  In  the language of my ancestors I was totally illiterate.

One of my great pleasures as a child was visiting my father's place of business. It was a great empire, with many storerooms, bales of  cloth and  places to  hide.  The 15 employees were (no wonder) very  friendly.  There  were two  accountants:  Freiwald (with fiery  red hair) who  had two  children,  a daughter and a son,  both very  close to  my age; and  Bernard Dov Kutyn, a bachelor,  the only one of my father's employees to survive the Holocaust.  Kutyn was drafted to the Soviet Army in 1941, and so avoided the German occupation. Now in his eighties, he  lives  in Tel  Aviv.  The secretary,  Ziuta Rappaport,  was my father's cousin (Fig.  2). Her  two  sisters (one  married) emigrated shortly before the outbreak of war to Australia,  where both still live; Ziuta and her mother, aunt Liza (Fig. 2), died in the Belzec gas chambers. I remember a few other names: Artek,  Moldau,  Julek - the errand  boy,  and the  porter, Chaim Bogner.  I remember more faces, but no other names. An important attraction in the office was Ziuta's typewriter: an American Underwood. I could use it,  but had to  be careful  not to  break it.  I enjoyed typing the alphabetical  list  of my  classmates,  parts of  which I  still remember by heart.
Another great pleasure was visiting my maternal grandparents (Fig. 18).  They always pampered us,  always had gifts; even the food (strictly kosher) seemed tastier than the food at home. We used to  visit them  with our mother,  usually taking a horse-drawn carriage (then  a common means of transportation in town,  not a tourist  attraction),  but  sometimes a  taxicab.  We preferred taxis  because  of the smell of the gasoline,  the  noise made  by the engine,  and the  impression that a motor-car made upon the kids in our grandparents' neighborhood.  Transportation in that part of town was mostly by foot, sometimes by tram,  and when a  taxicab stopped at 3 Podzamcze Street, there was always a gathering of children surrounding it,  admiring,  touching, and expressing  expert opinions  about the  quality and  various features of  the cab  and its driver.  On Saturdays mother would take a  tram,  in order  not to  make the taxicab driver or coachman work on  the Sabbath.  In her interpretation of the halacha (Jewish religious law), trams run on Saturday anyway, so boarding one would  not make  much difference  as far  as the  Sabbath is concerned.

Fig 18
Fig. 18:  My mother's family in 1912. From left: Dora, Jozek, Frieda, Salem, Lorenc, Stella

We used to spend every Passover dinner with my maternal grandparents, at their home (Fig. 19). Invariably, I was seated in the  honorary chair next to my grandfather (Fig.  20).  After dinner, the family  would return  home,  except for me.  As the eldest grandchild,  I  was the  favorite one,  and staying at my grandparents' home was considered a reward, for them probably as much as  for me.  I  tremendously enjoyed  those nights at their home.  There was  a special  couch for me in their bedroom.  The next day,  after  breakfast of  fried matzo and very sweet wine, my grandfather  would  deliver  me  home.  By  foot,  of  course. Grandfather never accepted my mother's interpretation of the halacha, which permitted a tram ride on a Sabbath or a holiday.

Fig 19
Fig. 19:  My maternal grandparents Salem and Frieda Klinger

Fig 20
Fig. 20:  Salem Klinger

In contrast, staying with my paternal grandmother overnight was unthinkable. Grandma had a gas oven for cooking, which during my earliest childhood at 6 Sobinskiego Street we did not yet possess, and I was terribly afraid of it.  As the war approached,  more and more could  be heard  about the dangers of poisonous gases which would probably be used  in the  event of war,  and I associated these rumors  with the cooking gas in my grandmother's kitchen. All attempts to convince me that I would not sleep in the kitchen, and that  the cooking gas  was  not  poisonous, were fruitless. Later, when cooking gas came to our home, I was not afraid of it anymore,  but the question of staying overnight at grandmother's home was never brought up again.
Among the pleasant experiences of my childhood were times spent with uncle  Jozek (my mother's brother) during his rare visits from Italy.  Jozek studied medicine,  initially in Modena,  later in  Bologna.  He had a very pleasant nature,  was extremely kind,  always  willing to  explain  secrets of the Italian  language  or of the human anatomy.  He  played violin  and guitar, he painted  and  some of  his paintings  decorated our walls, he sang  beautiful Italian  songs (in  Italy he supported himself by singing during the Jewish holidays as a cantor in the Modena synagogue),  and everybody liked him.  I admired him,  and missed him when he was abroad. Subconsciously, I probably identified myself with him, and saw him as  a perfect  example to  follow.  When eventually  I chose medicine as  my calling  in life,  I  believe that it was due to this subconscious identification.
Jozek studied in Italy because of "Numerus Clausus", the restriction on the number  of Jews that could be admitted to the universities in Poland. The restrictions were particularly severe in the medical schools.  For a Jew, to gain admission to a medical school was extremely difficult.  Many  who did  not get  in,  went to  study abroad. Those who stayed and studied in Poland often experienced harassment and offensive provocations, such as demands that Jews occupy a separate part of the lecture halls, a kind of "ghetto": "Jews to the left side of the room!" The Jews objected to this discrimination,  and  often,  as  a  sign  of  protest,  remained standing  while  listening  to  the  lectures.  There  were also instances  of  violence,  ranging  from  beating  to  throwing explosives at the Jews.  I remember a funeral of three students from the Lwow Technical University (Politechnika):  Zellermeier, Proweller and  Landesberg,  all killed  in one  such incident in early  1939. Their  funeral  procession  with  thousands  of participants passed in front of our house on Janowska Street, on the way to the Jewish cemetery. At the end  of his studies in 1938, Jozek had an option to remain in Italy. Italy had just completed the conquest of Abyssinia (today Ethiopia), where the shortage of physicians was very severe. The Italian government offered an authorization of permanent stay in Italy to  foreign medical  graduates who  would agree to serve 5 years as physicians in Abyssinia. However, this prospect was not attractive to him, and Jozek returned to Lwow.

Lwow was a wonderful city. It was a great metropolitan center, third in  size in Poland after Warsaw and Lodz,  with a population of over 340,000. There were three main ethnic groups: Poles, Ukrainians  and Jews, with  more Poles than  Ukrainians  and  about  one third  Jews.  The  city was beautiful,  with  a  distinct  European  character,  many parks, monuments and wide boulevards. It was a great center of cultural activity  and  an important  center  of commerce  and communication.  The  central railway station was the most modern in Europe.  Eastern Fair was held annually.  There was the famous  Johann  Casimir University, a Technical  University (Politechnika), a Medical School, a permanent opera and many theaters.

Tension between Poles and Ukrainians has existed throughout history, culminating in the 1918-1919 war. This ended with a decisive Polish victory, but the enmity did not  disappear.  Ukrainian separatism  persisted. Ukrainian children attended almost exclusively  Ukrainian schools. Nevertheless, because of the large Ukrainian  minority, study of the Ukrainian (Ruthenian) language was obligatory in Polish schools from the second grade. Until this day I understand spoken Ukrainian, although I can speak very little of it.

With business doing extremely well and expanding, my parents bought two plots  at 56 and  56A Janowska Street, intending to build apartment houses. In addition,  father wanted to invest some money in Palestine, perhaps to build a house in Tel Aviv. He did not want to move to Palestine, only to have some financial reserve  there,  just in case...  But my mother suspected Zionist inclinations, perhaps some remote idea in father's mind to move  to Palestine,  and prevented the investment.  She was a Polish patriot, a great admirer and supporter of Marshal Jozef Pilsudski, and very emotional about it.  She cried bitterly when Pilsudski died  in 1935. The idea of  leaving Poland was far from her  mind:  "Here we  were born,  here  we shall  die!". How prophetic were her words! So we stayed in Poland (Fig. 21).

Fig 21
Fig. 21:  With mother and brother Marian, 1939

There was certainly no economic reason for us to emigrate. Every summer the governess and we boys would go for two months to some resort in the Carpathian Mountains (Jaremcze, Worochta, Muszyna-Zdroj,  Iwonicz),  every winter - the same for two weeks (Fig. 22). Our parents sometimes accompanied us,  but more often they  traveled  separately,  to a  different resort,  or  abroad (Figs.  23 and 24).  In 1935 they were in Yugoslavia.  From that trip  my  mother  brought back a new  camera,  a  German-made Boxtengor-Zeiss,  and hundreds  of photographs,  which everybody admired.  She  had  an  inclination  and  talent  for  artistic photography.  From her I inherited that inclination and received my first photography lessons (Fig. 25).

Fig 22
Fig. 22:  On the bridge in Jaremcze

Fig 23
Fig. 23:  My mother in Muszyna-Zdroj, summer 1939

Fig 24
Fig. 24:  My parents at a summer resort, 1930s

Fig 25
Fig. 25:  My brother riding upon me

Building the house on 56 Janowska Street was the culmination of my mother's dreams. In this apartment building, the entire second floor  was  supposed  to  be my  mother's private  palace. She  wanted a  perfect home; perfect in every way. It was  supposed to be a palace of her own creation, executed according to her own dreams, taste and plans. In short, HER home.
Construction started in 1936 and was expected to last two years. The engineer in charge of the work was Mr. Kogut, a  nice man  about 60 years  old,  handsome,  with white hair and a large white mustache. He was always smiling and always wore a brown felt  hat  permanently  turned  to  the  side of  his head  in a frolicksome  fashion.  Mother  conducted frequent  conferences with him, discussing and offering plentiful advice on every aspect of the construction. Mr. Kogut listened patiently,  smiled,  nodded confirmatively,  and never  showed a  trace of impatience.  As a surgeon who  often has  to listen  to the advice of my patients and their families, I can imagine how he felt and I try to be as patient as he was. My mother’s involvement in the construction did not end with her advising Mr. Kogut.  All her time was free, and she  visited the  construction site  almost daily and became personally acquainted  with every mason and carpenter who worked there. She talked to them, asked questions, and even gave advice at the level of manual labor. I do not know how much of that advice they accepted,  but they seemed to enjoy these conversations with the pretty  and  very elegant  young lady  who always  offered whole packs  of  cigarettes (my  parents did  not smoke) and beer money,  told  jokes,  and  probably slowed  the work  down.  For  them, conversations  with the  landlady ("Pani Gospodyni") were a welcome rest.
Construction ended in the summer of 1938. When we returned from the summer vacation,  the move to the new place had already been accomplished. The last touches were so typical of my mother,  that without knowing who was the creator,  one could safely diagnose a "Vintage Dora Weissberg" home. A few examples: There were no heating stoves; the apartment was centrally heated with radiators in all the rooms. There were  two bathrooms  - an exceptional luxury  in pre-war  Lwow. The bathtub was sunk into the floor: one entered  it  by stepping  down.  The furniture  in all the rooms was  the latest  word in  fashion and style.  The chandelier  in the entrance hall  was fashioned  after a  street lamppost  which my mother saw in Venice. Of course, no such lamp could be purchased in any store: the chandelier was made to order,  according to my mother's sketches.  The  chandelier in the room was also made  to  order and  was the  exact replica  of the  one in  the private library of Adolf Hitler. My mother saw a photograph of it in some magazine.
There were two small gardens: one in front of the house, another at the backyard. A professional gardener came, and mother helped him as well. He was told exactly what to do, and how to do it. Of course, when the gardens were ready,  the children were not permitted to step  on  the  grass,  or,  God  forbid,  pick flowers  from the flowerbeds. But mother did, knowing well what flowers she wanted to have in the house. Apart from  her,  only the janitor Franciszek and his wife Pazia could enter the garden in order to clean and take general care of it.
The floor above us was occupied by Uncle Izak (my father's younger brother and his partner in business), his wife Mina (Fig. 2) and their son  Marek,  three years  my junior.  Their apartment also occupied the  entire floor; its  general outline  was similar to ours,  but  aunt  Mina  was  considerably less  involved in  its planning and final touches. She just wanted a comfortable home.

In 1938 my parents went to Italy for the summer. Uncle Jozek had a  girlfriend  who  studied  medicine  with  him.  Some friction developed  between  them,  and  mother decided to go to  Italy  on  a peace-making mission. This mission ended in failure; Jozek and his girlfriend  parted,  and after  their studies she emigrated to Palestine while  he returned  to Poland.  While my parents were in Italy, we spent the summer in Jaremcze. This time, apart from Miss Liza,  our maternal  grandmother accompanied us (Fig. 26).  Her impression of  Liza was  the same as ours,  and strengthened her belief that children should be raised by their parents, but this did not change my mother's convictions.

Fig 26
Fig. 26:  With grandmother in Jaremcze, 1938

Returning from Italy, my parents brought us many beautiful presents,  and lots  of photographs.  All  this made  a profound impression on me and resulted in a powerful desire to see Italy.  It persisted for  decades,  and when  nearly a quarter  of a  century later I went on my first trip abroad from Israel,  Italy was the first country I visited.

The summer of 1936 was particularly memorable. I was always very thin and rather "pale", which in both my grandmothers' opinions gave me a "sickly" appearance. In the 1930s being thin meant the opposite of being well. Therefore,  in spite of being strong and healthy,  I  was  sent  for  the  whole  summer  to  a  special sanatorium,  where  "sickly" kids such as I,  who  were actually perfectly well, were supposed to become fat and strong. It was located in Rabka,  near Krakow and was the best and no doubt most expensive sanatorium for healthy children. It was owned by Dr. Cybulski, a pediatrician, who personally supervised and examined every child every  day.  He  was  sometimes  assisted by  his son,  a  young physician and his heir-apparent.  The kids were well fed (five meals a day), and had enough entertainment,  comfort,  fresh air,  and everything else  necessary to  keep them well and make them gain some weight.
Besides being very expensive, there was an air of exclusiveness and aristocracy in Dr. Cybulski's sanatorium.  As a result,  few parents could afford to send their children there,  and many who could,  did not  try. The place  had a  reputation for antisemitism and was not attractive for Jews. Those who  reached the  sanatorium were mostly from  very rich,  non-Jewish  homes.  The company  in  the  summer  of  1936 included the sisters  Princesses Radziwill (top  Polish aristocracy),  the  son of  general Jozef Haller (Marshal Pilsudski's prominent political opponent and one of the  leaders of  the antisemitic  movement),  and many others with no  less familiar  names.
Besides myself there was only one other Jewish youth: the son of Dr. Löwenstein,  a prominent attorney from Lwow.  Löwenstein was two or three years my senior, and much bigger and stronger. This left me  as the  most attractive  target to  be picked upon,  and, literally, to be persecuted.  Both Doctors Cybulski were nice,  and I have  no  recollection of  any impropriety  on the  side of  the tutors, instructors and nurses. But the kids were cruel,  no one would stop them, and I was their victim for a whole month.  When mother visited  me at the end of July and heard from me the whole story, she signed me out immediately.

On the way back to Lwow we made a 3-hour stop in Krakow, in order to see Wawel,  the  ancient castle that until  the 16th century served as the residence of the kings of Poland.  Because of the  late hour,  we  could not enter. Nevertheless, its majestic outside appearance made  an unforgettable impression  on me, intensified by  mother telling  me that  all the kings of Poland and Marshal  Pilsudski were  buried inside.  It  took another 53 years before I could return to Krakow. This time I entered the Wawel.

For the second month of my vacation I was sent to a summer camp in Jamna in the Carpathians.  There were no children of princes, barons and  generals there.  It was a Jewish summer camp.  I was an equal among  equals and thoroughly enjoyed the remaining part of my vacation.

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