Collected Memories of the Holocaust



Life in Pre-War Lodz


  • born in 1925 in Lodz, Poland
  • family: parents Chaim (d. 10 Jul 1942 from Unterernährung, i.e. malnutrition) and Jentla (d. 14 Jan 1943 from Urämie, i.e. uremia) Pisarek; sister Manya, fate unknown
  • address in Lodz pre-war: ul. Kamienna 10
  • addresses in Lodz Ghetto (German):
    Sulzfelderstrasse 100 Flat 12;
    Mühlgasse 31 Flat 27 (10 Jan 1942-3 Nov 1944)
  • inhabitant of the Lodz Ghetto
  • inmate at Buchenwald Concentration Camp



"We lived in the center of Lodz in an apartment with four or five floors, and the windows faced the street. Our address was ul. Kamienna 10. We had a bedroom, a living room and a workspace. The building had a "dazoltza." In the big houses, we had a gentile "shtrush." He took care of the house, cleaning and whatever. At twelve o'clock, he closed the house. Nobody can get in, nobody could get out. And when you came late, you had to ring the bell. He came out and you had to give him a tip to open the door.

My father was a tailor. He had people working for him. When we were put into the ghetto he became a supervisor of a tailor shop and made German uniforms. Before the ghetto and the war my father had a tailor shop in his home. We had four machines--one lady working and three men. We had a man who was a presser, who specialized in ironing. They sent him material and we did the work and got paid for what we did. We made clothing from scratch. This was my father's specialty. My mother helped my father sometimes with the sewing, but mostly she took care of us kids, the kitchen and other things. I had a sister named Manya too. She was about two years younger than me."


"Lodz had the biggest Jewish population in Poland, bigger than Warsaw. This was because Lodz had two big factories, two Jewish factories. There they made textiles. Lodz had been known as the second Manchester (England.) They made the material and they shipped it out all over the world.

We didn't live too far from the big synagogue. There were also little synagogues, shtiebels they called it. Most of the elderly Jews, they didn't drive on Shabbos, they didn't write on Shabbos, so they got together there. In the shtiebel they had a torah, and I remember that my zaide, he had a beard and payes, he went there three times a day, went to the shul. My father at the beginning was religious, but later he had to make a living. So sometimes he had to work on Shabbos.

The Hasidim, they went around on Friday. They went around like Orthodox Jews and knocked on the windows. 'Close the door, (it's) Shabbos, Shabbos!" At Shabbos, you had to close the store."


What was it like to be a Jew in Lodz?

"No problem. It was the same thing to be a Jew in Brooklyn, the same thing. We didn't feel much anti-Semitism because we lived in a Jewish section. Lodz had a very big Jewish population. One time I did get harassed. I was about twelve or thirteen, I think it was in 1936 or '37. I was going to my aunt's wedding and I had to go to a children's tailor to get measured. My father either didn't make children's clothing or was too busy. The children's tailor was in a Polish section of the city. So I went to get measured for the suit. I think I had to go twice to get measured. All of a sudden, three goyim jumped on me and they tried to beat me. I defended myself. But one almost scratched my eye out. And they ran away, the Poles. I went home. My cousin--he's now in Canada--and my dad said, "Come, show me what happened." I said, "Dad, they ran away. It's no use to go there now. You won't find them." So I almost got a licking from my dad because he didn't think I defended myself. I think I still have a scratch on my eye somewhere..."

Left-click on the earphones icon and listen to a second telling of the story above as told by Alter Pisarek.


"I went to cheder when I was about four years old, for one or two years. I learned the alef-beis, and I learned to sing different things, songs too. Later on I went to a private school, a Hebrew school. I learned History, the Chumash, the Rashi, and that kind of thing.

I remember that it was so cold in the wintertime. The cheder had been on the first floor, and my cousin, my dad's cousin in Canada, he took me to school. In the wintertime it's very dangerous. The streets are full of ice in Poland. We had severe winters. And he took me to school because I was a little schmendrick. I remember on the first day that the cheder was still closed, and I sat like that (with my arms folded, bent over), waiting 'til they opened the cheder. The first thing I learned was the Shema (he recites it from memory.) I had to memorize that. After the first day of cheder, I went home and I memorized it, the whole night. I went the next day to cheder. I figured the teacher would ask me what I learned. He asked the others, but  he didn't ask me. I went home. I was crying. I didn't show my dad that I was crying, but I had been crying. I said to him, 'I memorized the whole night, Dad. And he didn't listen to me. He listened to the others." That's the experience I remember from the cheder. Then I went to the public school, and then the ghetto, and that was it."


"In1939, before the ghetto, before the war broke out, I had my bar mitzvah. I had to say a 'drasha,' a speech. I can't remember the speech (laugh). It was held in my home. We didn't have a rebbe. My zaide was like a rebbe. That's what I remember. They served cholent. I had to go to the bakery and get the cholent and take it home. My mother was an excellent cook. Any dish she made had been good, excellent. My father never complained. And she'd make beer and put it in the salad. There was a sweet beer, a non-alcoholic beer. We had a good life."


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