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Oral history interview with Leon Kowner

Oral History | Accession Number: 2005.603.2 | RG Number: RG-50.637.0002

Leon Kowner (né Kovner) describes his early life; living comfortably in a rented apartment in a good neighborhood in town; attending a private school (called Nasza Szkola) in Łódź, Poland; finishing elementary school in 1939; how all the teachers in the school, except the caretaker, were Jewish; growing up in a patriotic, Polish atmosphere at home because his father was an officer in the Polish Army; his family having social ties with German and Polish veterans, some of who were already members of the Nazi party at the beginning of the war; the Germans entering Łódź; Nazis coming to their home; being warned by friends to escape the ghetto; the roundups of Jews for forced labor; the restrictive laws; having to wear an armband on the left arm and the changes in the style of the band and badge; his father finding a house, which belonged to a railway worker and had a garden; the gymnasium for Jews; the first winter in the ghetto (1940-1941) and his mother rationing food; the death of his sister (Nina, born in 1935) in Auschwitz when she was nine years old and his guilt over her dying illiterate; being an avid reader; the custom in the ghetto to refuse food if it was offered to you during a social visit; making Jewish figurines and arranging scenes from Jewish life in show cases; meeting the poet and painter Melania Fogelbaum and how she influenced his life; reading poetry and living more as a bohemian; visiting Melania at the other end of the ghetto, on Marynarska Street; being among several of her admirers, including Hela Zymler (Helena Zymler-Svantesson); Melania’s illness; beginning to paint and write poetry because of Melanie; how creating art helped him distance himself from the reality of the ghetto; children being hidden in apartments; the deportation all of his mother’s family; spending little time at home when he was living in the ghetto and the tension he had with his parents; wanting to volunteer for labor to leave the ghetto; and deciding not to volunteer because of his father.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Leon Kowner
Ms. Teresa A. Pollin
interview:  2005 March 29
1 videocassette (DVCAM) : sound, color ; 1/4 in..
Record last modified: 2021-02-16 15:53:13
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