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George Salton Interview


The war as you know started in September, September 1, 1939. I as eleven, eleven and a half years old, and when the war started. I remember as it was starting, I remember the excitement of, excitement on the part of an eleven year old of seeing our parents, you know, getting ready and listen to the radio, listen to the news, and there was something kind of, I suppose exciting about it. Then the war started. My father, who was a reserve officer in the Polish army, expected to be mobilized, but before anything happened, the Germans came to our town, and to the best of my recollection it was on the eighth of September, about a week or eight days after the war started, and things have changed from then on. First, the day after the Germans came or maybe two days after, they broke into the synagogue and  burned the Torahs and destroyed the contents and the furniture. They imposed restrictions on the general population, but more severe restrictions on the Jews, arrested a number of intellectuals or people that they considered to be leaders of society. Among them was my father who was arrested by the Gestapo about a week or maybe two weeks after the Germans arrived and the life was changed. It was getting progressively worse. The restrictions were, that were imposed on us were by themselves small but progressively more severe, and the penalties were very, very severe, so therefore, for example, one was prohibited from shopping in certain stores or later prohibited from being, walking on certain streets or later required to wear a white arm band with a blue Star of David on it, or prohibited from using the trains or the buses. While each restriction by itself was not all that severe, the penalty was very frequently imprisonment or execution and consequently life was changed, and as time passed, life became more and more difficult. In addition to it, there were Jews, and my parents in particular, who were unable to exercise their professions or make a living and we had to sustain ourselves by slowly selling whatever possessions we had—furniture, fur coats, piano—and so the life was difficult and in addition to it, my friends, my former associates who were Christians now were quite sensitive to the fact that I was not one of them and made me, let me know about it. I remember the day when our synagogue was destroyed and when the Germans pulled out the Torahs on the street in front of the building and burned it, we youngsters were observing this and wanted to know what the Germans were doing. My Christian friends stayed and laughed and thought that that’s kind of a funny incident where I and maybe one or two other Jews who were there felt a sense of damage or destruction, and kind of left, you know, destroyed and so things like this have happened. So my life has changed both because there were restrictions on the Jews, because there was economic hardship, and because there was a general rejection by those of my friends whom I, with whom I associated prior to the war.

George Salton remembers the Germans’ arrival in his hometown. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum

George Salton was born in Byczyna, Poland, in 1928. German forces arrived in Byczyna about a week after the invasion of Poland. In this clip from his oral testimony, he remembers not only the hardships that the Nazis imposed on him, his family, and other Jews, but also being laughed at and feeling excluded by his Polish Christian peers whom he had known before the war began.

View George Salton’s full interview