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Childhood

Children in the lower market of Bodzentyn in the early 1930s.
© Photo adapted from the original by Bodzentyn.net | Original photo: courtesy of the State Archive in Kielce

In October 1939 all Jewish children were excluded from the Polish state school system. Rachell and Irene Szachter recall that their family, and others who could afford it, made clandestine arrangements for groups of children of similar ages to be taught privately by both Polish and Jewish teachers. Dawid Rubinowicz continued to study on his own. The school notebooks that Dawid had came in handy when he started keeping his diary on 21 March 1940. Dawid wrote in Polish, the language he was taught at the local school, as were the other Jewish children of his neighborhood.

We can assume that Dawid, like his contemporaries, spoke Polish at home along with Yiddish, if not with his parents, then with his closest elder relatives. This is how Rachell Szachter recalls it. She spoke Yiddish to her grandparents and at home most of the time, but sometimes also Polish, and Polish of course in her conversation with gentile friends. Pinchas Frimerman however remembers speaking Polish in school and only Yiddish at home.

It is most likely that, in addition to public school, Dawid attended a religious elementary school (cheder), which was customary in those days. His family was religiously observant. Dawid’s mother laid the table more formally (festively) every Friday evening, lighting two candles to welcome the Sabbath (Shabbat). Also, Dawid and his father went to pray even when it was prohibited; this was the situation on 8 May 1942. In the ghetto communal prayer was held by secretly forming groups of ten male Jewish adults, (a minyan)—the required quorum. Rachell Szachter recalls that the men got together "without entering the main streets […] just by passing through the courtyard. Younger children kept watch".

Even in the time of war Dawid describes the everyday life in the rural setting of Krajno with great fondness, gazing at the green fields from his window, going to the woods, picking morels (mushrooms), bilberries et cetera. His depiction of the area is very much the same as those of survivors recalling their own childhood in nearby Bodzentyn. Rachell Szachter recounts: "I recall being outdoors a lot, summer and winter. In the summertime we would—just ten minutes from our house—we would walk and roam and play in the meadows and go and pick blackberries […] We very seldom were chaperoned by adults […] it was really a joyful childhood."

Rachell Szachter remembers having a lot of gentile friends from school and that Jews and non-Jews led a reasonably good life together. Poles and Jews would visit each other during holidays. However, "we knew that we were different and separate," she says. Shlomo Fish recalls that he used to play with Polish kids too. He saw himself "both as a Jew and as a Pole".

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