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A Jewish Boyhood in Poland: Remembering Kolbuszowa Hardcover – June, 1992
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From Library Journal
The former Naftali Saleschutz vividly recalls his 1920s childhood, capturing in all its savor the life of Hasidic Jews in the Polish shtetl . There is Cheder and Talmud Torah for Naftali, his earlocks falling onto his prayerbook; there are trips to the farm to drink milk fresh from cow or goat; observance of the Sabbath and all holidays in a large orthodox family. The Kolbuszowa marketplace evokes a long chapter replete with the taste of sour pickles and the aroma of horse droppings. But then come the ominous days and weeks of 1941, when the Jews of Kolbuszowa are ordered to destroy their homes, businesses, synagogue, and all their revered and invaluable books. After that, they themselves are killed. Norman, a lone survivor, made a new life for himself in America. Recommended.
- Gerda Haas, Holocaust Human Rights Ctr. of Maine
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Salsitz was born in 1920 in the Polish town of Kolbuszowa, population 4000, half Jewish, half Polish. He would grow up to dismantle, brick by brick, the ghetto where the Nazis herded his community in 1941. Then he escaped into the forest, the Polish army, and, later, the US. This memoir, written by Skolnik (History/CUNY; Money Talks, 1986) on the basis of taped interviews, recalls the life of the town in the 1920's and 30's. There's too much about the economics of rural Poland and not enough about Salsitz's mother and sisters--but Salsitz does serve up enough wonderful stories about tensions between Poles and Jews, Zionists and Orthodox, God and man (and even sometimes woman) to earn this book a place on the shelf with Isaac Bashevis Singer and Isaac Babel. Salsitz's anti-Semitic public-school teacher, for example, invited the author to sing a solo on Marshal Pilsudski's saint day. The Hasidic child arrived at the recital and found that a screen would hide him from view of the audience, who might find his long coat and curls offensive. A local rebbe claimed that when the Messiah returned he would make Kolbuszowa one of his first stops: Salsitz's accounts of activist piety and charity make it plausible. The local scribe, when copying the Torah, plunged into the ritual bath to purify himself before each writing of God's name, sometimes taking several baths per sentence. The community not only provided for the indigent but organized to spare beggars the embarrassment of waiting on line for handouts. Chapters on America and Palestine, the two dream destinations that had already drawn many from the town, suggest the centrifugal forces--Zionism and modern prosperity--that might have dissolved the tight little community within a generation. A final chapter tells how it was destroyed instead, within months of the Nazi invasion: bitter stories, briefly and forcefully told. On special occasions, the Jews of Kolbuszowa purified themselves in a bath set deep in the earth, with freezing water. Reading this memoir is a bit like that--you come out shivering but cleansed. (Thirty-four photographs.) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Top customer reviews
A reader can get a glimpse of how life was in the village and understand how hard it was for the Polish
people to get by living day to day. The chapters that included how America played a positive influence as well.
Overall it was highly readable, with a minor exception being that too many anecdotes took place in footnotes, which perhaps could have been included in the body of the text. There is a small amount of repetition; this is much more than made up for by the wealth of interesting details and insights about life in that town, how it changed over time, and then when invaded.
I think this book would be highly interesting to the general public and especially those who want to know more about: life in towns that were later destroyed by the Nazi's; life in provincial Polish towns/or Galicia before WWII; issues of rememberance and WWII; relations between peasants, Jews, Othodox, ultra-Orthodox, Zionists, and Christians/Catholics, Poles, Germans.
If you have any relatives that lived in or near Kolbuszowa, than it is an absolute, must-buy. I found it particularly intriguing and a valuable resource regarding family history and issues of memory of WWII, because I had relatives who died in that town and some who were able to leave before its occupation. Feel free to email me if you have questions.