Early Childhood Years (until the outbreak of World War II, September 1, 1939)
(from Jack Glotzer’s Memoir “I Survived the German Holocaust Against All Odds”)

[This is a chapter from Jack Glotzer’s memoir, “I Survived the German Holocaust Against All Odds“. Click here to return to the Table of Contents.]

I was born in the town of Rohatyn (Poland before World War II, now Ukraine) on January 12, 1925. Rohatyn is situated on the Lwów-Stanisławów highway, approximately 70 km (43 miles) southeast of Lwów. Before the war the total population of Rohatyn was 9,000; one third (3,000) were Jews.

Jack's parents Toba and Mayer Glotzer

Jack’s parents Toba and Mayer Glotzer.
Source: Glotzer-Barban Family Collection.

I was the oldest son of Toba (née Barban) and Mayer Glotzer. I was named after my mother’s father Jacob Barban, who was called Yankel. My nickname was Kuba because the Ukrainian anti-semites made fun of my name Yankel; Kuba sounded more like a Ukrainian name.

The Rohatyn rynek ca. 1938

The Rohatyn rynek ca. 1938. Source: Pavlyna Beley.

We lived in our house on the outskirts of Rohatyn on Cerkiewna street No. 20. We had several horses, cows and a barn for them. Adjacent to our house was a big garden. The house was surrounded by orchards of fruit trees, currant bushes and lots of greenery. The scenery was magnificent. Close to our house was a river called Gniła Lipa (meaning rotten linden) where I learned to swim. My father owned a butcher store at the rynek (the market place, in Polish).

I had two brothers: Samuel (Shmul) who was a year younger than I. My youngest brother Moshe Emanuel was born in April 1930. I adored my little brother; he used to follow me everywhere which was somewhat bothersome. However, in as much as I loved him very much, I did not object to his following me.

One incident stays in my memory. One time when my little brother was following me, we had to cross railroad tracks. The crossing gate was down and my brother ran across the tracks; the train was approaching, but he made it in time. I was in shock and hardly made it back home. After this episode I had nightmares.

My grandfather Kalmen Glotzer built our house exclusively for his children. My father’s sister Malkah Altman [1] and her three sons, my grandfather’s son Iser Glotzer with his wife and two sons, and our family (my parents, I and my two brothers) lived in this house. Because we lived so close together, I played with my cousins very often and I enjoyed it very much. My father had another four sisters who lived in the USA and a brother Jacob who lived in Bielsko (Poland) with his wife and three daughters: Tonia (Tosia), Clara and Adela. Tosia was a big disappointment to the whole family. She converted to Catholicism and married (in church) a Polish man, Joseph Czekay. Tosia was very talented; she finished music conservatory and became an accomplished pianist. Tosia’s father sat Shivah [2] for her; nobody in the family was allowed to mention her name. Jacob and his family used to come to us during vacation time; but, since this episode they stopped coming to us which made me very unhappy.

My father’s cousin Shiye Glotzer also had a butcher store at the rynek; his wife’s name was Malkah. They had three daughters: Lusia, Rózia and Gittl. We were very close to them.

Izie Huber and Jack Glotzer in Rohatyn

Lifelong friends Izie Huber and Jack Glotzer in Rohatyn, 1930s and 1998.
Source: Glotzer-Barban Family Collection.

I had many friends with whom I played and spent a lot of time. Since the river Gniła Lipa was so close to our house, I learned to swim early. As I think now, we gave our parents much aggravation by going alone to the river. My best friends were Shlomo Laufer (he lived with his family very close to us), Buszko Kleinwaks and Izie Huber. Having had so many cousins and friends nearby, I was never lonely. I enjoyed my life as a youngster.

My mother’s mother Leah Barban and my grandfather Yankel Barban were very loving grandparents. My mother’s side of the family was considered more aristocratic than my father’s. My grandfather was a mailman; it was unusual for a Jew to have a government position. My grandmother Leah was a midwife; she delivered almost every baby in Rohatyn. She was very respected, even by the gentiles [3]. They always took off their hats when greeting my grandmother. She was very generous to us. Every Passover, we three boys used to receive from her new suits and shoes.

My mother had a sister Zissl. Zissl emigrated to the USA long before the war. She married Joseph Loew (who was Rosette Faust Halpern’s uncle). They lived in the Bronx.

My mother had also a brother, Zev Barban. Zev was a very talented actor. He left for Israel (Palestine at that time) and became a famous actor in the Tel Aviv theater Ohel. He married Dvora Kostelanetz who was an actress and sang professionally. He used to come to Rohatyn with his troupe and perform there.

My mother had also another brother Morris Barban who was a lawyer.

My mother was a beautiful woman. She was very talented with her hands. She used to make beautiful needlepoints and to crochet curtains. She sent some of her needlework to the USA which is now in my possession. I remember her always doing something and singing. She was a very devoted mother.

A class of the Rohatyn "Red School" in the 1930s

A class of the Rohatyn “Red School” in the 1930s. Source: Steinmetz Family Collection.

I attended the grammar school named “Marszałka Piłsudskiego” (after the Polish Marshal Józef Piłsudski). We called it “Czerwona Szkoła” (Red School) because of the brick trimming. I did not enjoy my school years; we, the Jewish students, constantly fought with the anti-semitic boys. The Jewish boys were always blamed for starting the fights. My favorite school subjects were history and geography. I hated to memorize poems. I was more preoccupied going along with our workers in the wagon pulled by our horse. I finished seven years of elementary school. My grades were average; I never had a failing grade.

As was the custom, when I reached my 13th birthday, I became Bar Mitzvah [4]. I did not like to study with the Rebbies (Jewish teachers) because they used to beat me and other Jewish children. (It is to be noted that Jewish boys who attended Hebrew schools, private or public, were often subjected to bodily abuse at the teacher’s discretion.)

Jack's family in Rohatyn

Jack’s family in Rohatyn, after his father’s departure for America. Left to right: Jack (Kuba), his mother Toba, his middle brother Samuel (Miko), and his youngest brother Moshe Emanuel (Munio).
Source: Glotzer-Barban Family Collection.

My life changed considerably in 1937 when my father left for the USA. The reason for his decision to go to the USA was the refusal by the local government to permit ritual slaughtering of cows and calves. This regulation was called obrót rytualny (ritual turn). Our business started to deteriorate because of this situation. My father had four sisters in the United States: Chane Kuperman, Rose Altman, Jeni Hecht and Charne Schwartz. They sent proper documents to my father so that he could go to the USA. My father went to the USA with the expectation that he would bring over his family when he had established himself in the USA. My life changed considerably when my father left. I became the head of the family. My mother’s family helped us financially. My mother was depressed and suffered very much. I still have in my possession postcards written by my mother and my brothers to my father.

A group of HaShomer HaTzair in Rohatyn

A group of HaShomer HaTzair in Rohatyn,
ca. 1932. Source: Steinmetz Family Collection.

We had very active Zionist organizations in our town. Among them was Hanoar Haivri and Hashomer Hatzair. These organizations prepared their members for emigration to Palestine (today Israel) using spiritual and physical (Hakhshara) [5] methods. I was too young to be actively involved in any particular organization. I and my friends used to attend their meetings where we met the prettiest girls. My favorite organization was Gordonia because the prettiest girls were members there.

Rohatyn was famous for its young Jewish people. There were two gimnazjums [6] in Rohatyn. Jewish people were not admitted to pursue higher education; they had to go to Italy or other countries to continue. We had a famous soccer team named Maccabi.

The situation before the outbreak of the war was tense. We were aware of Hitler’s activities in Germany. We were still hoping that my father would be able to send us the documents for our emigration to the USA.

Samuel Glotzer at work in Rohatyn

A young Samuel Glotzer at work in Rohatyn before the war. Source: Glotzer-Barban Family Collection.

My brother Shmul was very bright. He worked for my mother’s brother Morris Barban who was a lawyer: this helped us financially. Life was very difficult. My mother developed arthritis; she had extreme headaches. She did her best under very difficult circumstances to be a good mother to us. She kept a very clean house and we were always well dressed. Our lives were “put in limbo”. We missed our father and waited for his letters which were scarce. This made my mother very depressed.

I remember a Jewish doctor from our town, Dr. Leventer and his wife. They left for New York in 1939 before the outbreak of the war to visit the world exhibition there. Dr. Leventer promised that he would speak to our father. He left his only son Marcel with his family in Rohatyn. Dr. and Mrs. Leventer could not return to Rohatyn because the war broke out. They never saw their son again.

We envied everyone who was leaving for the USA. We were hoping every day to receive the letter from my father and the visas which would have permitted us to emigrate to the USA. My father was very disappointed in the USA; he missed us very much. I always had a feeling that his sisters in the USA were not too eager for my father to bring over another four persons to the USA. My father talked about returning to Rohatyn. I really do not know exactly the whole story. The visas from my father never came.

[1] Her husband Max Altman went to the USA before the war with the intention of bringing over his family to the USA.

[2] A Hebrew term meaning “seven” which refers to the first seven days of mourning after burial. It is customary for the closest relatives of the deceased to “sit Shivah”.

[3] People of non-Jewish faiths.

[4] A Hebrew term meaning “son of commandment” applied to a Jewish boy who reaches his thirteenth birthday and attains the age of religious duty and responsibility.

[5] Physical training of Jewish youth to prepare them for emigration to Palestine.

[6] A high school in Poland.

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