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Oral history interview with Alex Konstantyn

Oral History | Accession Number: 2015.340.1 | RG Number: RG-50.106.0249

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

Alexander Konstantyn (born September 1, 1937 in Northeastern Poland near Bialystok) discusses his childhood in the only Jewish family in the town; his father Baruch, who was a wheat merchant; not having any problems between 1939-1941, though they saw Polish women and children refugees in the summer of 1941 and heard that Jews were being sent to labor camps; his mother’s suggestion that they leave; joining a Polish group who was heading south in the summer of 1942; sleeping outside or in barns; staying for 10 days with a farmer who brought them a poisoned pie that killed Alex’s father; leaving immediately; begging for food and being taken to a police station and put in a cell with other Jews; his mother facilitating their escape from the camp; his mother dressing Alex like a girl; returning to their village in the beginning of 1943 to Mr. Burka, who did business with Alex’s father; giving Mr. Burka their gold and asking for shelter; living in a hole in the ground in a woodshed in the dark for almost two years; his mother rubbing his muscles to help him grow; the inventive stories his mother told him and made him repeat back to her; hearing Russian and German voices in the end of 1944; being liberated by Russian soldiers; coming out of the hole and being frightened at first of the soldiers who then made him a mascot; his mother remarrying another survivor, Mr. Diament; going to Lodz, Poland and attending a Jewish school; getting beaten up by Polish children; having nightmares and bitter memories; taking a train to Italy in the summer of 1950 and then going by boat to Israel; living in Herzliya and learning Hebrew; still having nightmares in high school; going into the Israeli Army in 1958; seeing a large parade of tanks for Ben Gurion’s visit, which ended his nightmares; going to Newark, NJ, where his uncle lived; his work unloading merchandise; attending Jewish Theological Seminary and Pace University; getting married in 1969; being a school principal and retiring in 2009; speaking to school children but still getting emotional when talking about the death of his father; and not wanting to get reparations.

Interviewee
Mr. Alex Konstantyn
Interviewer
Gail Schwartz
Date
2015 October 08  (interview)
Language
English
Extent
1 digital file : WAV.