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Oral history interview with Zalman Orensztein

Oral History | Accession Number: 2009.29.21 | RG Number: RG-50.590.0021

Zalman Orensztein, born on September (November?) 16, 1902, in Sokołów Podlaski, Poland; being one of five children of religious parents; his father, who was a clerk in a bank; attending cheder at the age of three; the BUND movement, which wanted the teachers to be on strike, and children not being able to attend school; the professions of the Jews in town; all the Jews living in the same neighborhood; the accidental burning of the town on the eve of the festival of Shavuot in 1909 and taking refuge in the cemetery with his family; going with his siblings to the home of relatives in Siedlce and attending a Talmud Torah (a Jewish elementary school); being poor and having to find a different home where he could eat each day of the week; the family returning to Sokołów Podlaski; the beginning of WWI and his father losing his job; being a water-carrier to help support his family; receiving help from the JOINT beginning in 1915; his work cutting trees; reading on his own since he was unable to attend school; helping the cantor in the local synagogue; the various Zionist youth movements, including BUND, Poale Zion, and Tze'irei Tzion; identifying with Poale Tzion Left and being the librarian of the youth movement; his father joining Agudath Israel (Agudat Yisrael); the Keren Kayemet (Jewish National Fund) visiting Zalman’s home frequently; being active in the party and slowly shedding his religiosity, to the chagrin of the father; the Balfour Declaration and the responses of the various Jewish organizations; being recruited into the army for 9 months when he was 18 years old; returning from his military service in 1923; planning to go to Palestine with his older brother Yekhiel; deciding to go to Argentina and getting married a week before his departure; finding his grandfather’s brother (Pietkovsky) in Argentina; receiving help from the HIAS to purchase passage to Buenos Aires; arriving in Buenos Aires in September 1926; working as a painter at construction sites; going to work for a German company, Bajter, as a foreman in 1933 and leaving his job when WWII began; the assimilated Jewry in Buenos Aires; the Jewish schools, including the Akhiezer, the Arbeter Shule (a school of the Communist Party), and the Borojov Shule (a school of Linke Poalei Tzion (left wing) that had begun in 1921); details on how the different Jewish schools were started and by which different political streams; the government intervention and school closings in 1930; the Poalei Tzion School reopening in another location by the name Duv Geizer; the relationship of the different Jewish schools (both religious and secular) with the Chevre Kadishe and the Jewish Board of Education in the mid-1930s; a movement to unite all the secular schools in 1934 under the Organization of Secular Jewish Schools (TZWISHO) and its first director Haim Finkelstein; his company, La Puntual, and hiring many Jewish painters; the Mendele Club; the Jewish Communists; being on the Board of Directors of the AMIA for two years (1952-1954); and the antisemitism in Argentina since 1933.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Zalman Orensztein
Efraim Zadoff
Ana E. de Weinstein
interview:  1986 July 22-1986 October
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, acquired from the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina-Communidad de Buenos Aires
Record last modified: 2020-09-15 09:25:41
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