I was born in Kórnik in 1930 to Jan Pohl and Konstancja Jankowska. I had three sisters: Krystyna was born in 1926, twins Teresa and Maryla were born in 1927. My brother Stanisław was born in 1936 and Edek in 1940. We lived in a house, in which a bank was located. My parents owned a grocery store downstairs (so called colonial goods).
The building was by Rynek and Pocztowa St. One side of the building of the bank formed one side of passage called Ucho Igielne. Then there was Laube’s building. After passing through the passage, few steps further there was a gate leading to Laube’s backyard and a bit further to the right, there was an entrance to the yard of the bank, which is where we lived. Going straight there was the Synagogue square [plac bóżnicy]. Szwendke the German lived by Pocztowa Street; the entrance to his house was located by the street, but his apartment ranged to the synagogue square.
The synagogue was not situated in the very center of the square but closer to Szkolna St. As if at the corner with Wojska Polskiego St.
And the roof was so beautiful, steep and angled. Windows were situated very high. On the other side, the wall was identical. And speaking of these windows I must say with shame that once a few thugs were throwing stones. And immediately, Mr Jarociński who was the community’s elder because there was no rabbi in our town. He would come for services and ceremonies from Środa Wielkopolska, 6 miles out.
To the right of the entrance, there was a little window. It was at such height that as a 9-year old girl I could stand on my toes and look inside.
Thanks to those big windows, it was quite bright inside. But back to the windows and those thugs. Immediately, Mr. Jarociński showed up immediately, the police came as well. And they started beating everyone with their batons. It was the innocent who got the most of it, the guilty managed to get away.
And they beat headlong. I scampered to our backyard and so did my sisters Teresa and Maryla, but Krystyna, the eldest, stayed and later told me that a clerk from Laube’s standing by the neighbors’ gate got the worst beating. And she felt sorry for him. But my father just summed up: „So why did he go there.”
Soon after Mr Jarociński came to our house and complained a lot. In general Jarociński was on very good terms with my father. He would come by every morning and change for a zloty or 50 groszy, sometimes he would bring a bill. And he always said „You, Mr Pohl have such a good hand... If I make a business here in the morning, then it’s good business for me all day”. They liked to talk and discuss a lot. Those discussions were creative. Sometimes they’d insist that something was so and so, or that it was not so and so, and I really liked to listen to them talking. And that day he also came by and lamented over those windows. But somehow the situation was solved, and Jews received some sort of compensation or something like this. There were two other houses at the Synagogue Square. One of the was parallel to Szkolna St and the second one was parallel to Rynek St. The first one was even in a pretty good condition, while the second one was so old it barely held together.
There was a Jewish woman living in the first one. I cannot recall her name, perhaps it was Jüttner as there were many Jüttners in the town. I think that there were either two families living in the house or that it was one multigenerational family, very very big. From the youngest children to the elderly. This woman, fairly young, had two daughters: Stefcia and Celusza, that is what she called them. They were so indigent.
Once Stefcia got 5 groszy from her mom so that she could buy a cookie at Szkolna St for herself. That is where the baker and paster-cook were located. I was there buying a bread and she was buing a cookie. Stefcia ran out of the bakery a moment after me, covered in tears. And behind her was walking Baśka, I knew her, she was a year older and she was showing something to me, but I couldn’t see what it was. I went back home and a moment after Stefcia’s mom came by and said that I took her daughter’s cookie. Mom got angry, but by the time she could find me and I could explain, Stefcia’s mom was already gone. My mom gave me 20 groszy and asked me to go buy Stefcia something in the bakery. So I bought something and I went to give it to her. It was the first time I saw their house. It was poor there. They lived in one room. And then her mother asked Stefcia: „Is this the girl who took your cookie?” And she said that it was not me. But still she snapped the cake, and was eating it so... Then her mother came to us to apologize, but of course she had been long forgiven.
In the second house, parallel to Rynek, from the front there were doors and two tiny windows, and the rear wall of the house was on the backyard of Ciastkowski’s, who lived at Rynek and had a shop there too. In that back wall there was a small window. I cannot remember for this window to be open on any other circumstance, but that day it was because one elderly woman died. And me, as a child, I had to take a look inside. There were so many men standing, all Jews with beards, so many of them that surely in Kórnik there weren’t this many Jews. And they saw me. And it was so quiet in there as if with that silence they wanted to honor the late woman. And I moved back. I didn’t see the funeral itself. I don’t know why I didn’t. I also haven’t seen any weddings even though I was able to see through this window.
Mr Jarociński once let us go inside the synagogue for a moment, only two, three steps in. “Take a look.” We were there only for a few moments. In the center there was a beautiful carpet. People said it was of coconut color. It was red, ranging from the entrance to – I don’t know if Jews call it that – to the altar. On this altar there were lamp-stands, I think two. Seven — branched ones. Mr. Jarociński had always asked Polish boys to lit the candles before various Jewish celebrations. Our father later explained to us that Jews have such custom that beginning on Friday at the sunset until the sunset on Saturday they could not, should not work, so that the very act of lighting a candle was in a sense work, too, which is why they preferred to let the Polish boys do it for them, and the boys were very happy to go. For them it was sort of an attraction. Through that little window by the entrance to the synagogue I looked a few times during the prayer too.
Jews sat downstairs, there were benches on both sides. They were all covered with white towels, and I think that on their head they also had something. And I also think that during that prayer they were moving as if swinging a bit. They would lean back and forth. On the left side of this sort of an altar, there was kind of a couch, so richly silvered and gilded, it was beautiful, but why it was there, I do not know. I was staring at it because one could not go there since there were no stairs. If anyone could even get there there was no railing, so I did not know what purpose is served. Besides, on walls there were no paintings — or at least I do not remember if they were any.
In the other building there lived many members of the Jüttner family. And we all knew Bertold Juttner. He was very obese. When walking he panted and kept holding his chest. He was a sick man. When outside, he could barely walk, yet he did not use a cane. And he walked through Ucho Igielne passage. He sat on our stairs, that is on those that led to our shop and those that led further to the corridor, long strairs, which are no longer there because the bank was slightly reconstructed and no longer that many families live in there.
In the same building Mrs. Żeni lived. She was a spinster, very kind and always smiling... And she always wore a clean apron when she was going to the town center. She loved to come by to our shop and talk. She always had that apron ironed, starched and shining white. And she liked to chat with everybody, which is probably the reason why she prefered to walk down Pocztowa St, where there were many people instead of through the Ucho Igielne passage. She would stop to chat with every single person. She smiled to every single child. And she was never angry with us even though we always asked „Miss Żeni, when will you get married” (which rhymes in Polish). And she would tell us „I don’t have a husband, I don’t have a husband.” And whenever she came to our shop, she looked at my sisters, the twins, with regret and she would tell my father: „You know, Sir, I also had a twin sister, but she died soon after birth.” We had no photo of her, but my sister Teresa, who was a teacher by profession and by calling and of of pleasure, a painter, she painted her by heart. It was a pretty big painting. She showed it to me asking: „Do you know who that is?” And I knew it right away” „Miss Żeni!” And in this painting you can see a fragment of the Ucho Igielne passage and a fragment of the stairs on which Bertold Jüttner sat so willingly. And there’s a store window of my parents. Before the war there were many such shops. There were shops everywhere, so there wasn’t much traffic, only on market day there was a lot of people, but on every other day, one could come to our store, sit down on a chair in front of the counter, that was there, with my father behind the counter, and just talk. Mr. Jarocinski used to come particularly often.
On the Ciastkowski’s backyard there were stairs that led to the basement. Above them there was an inclined plane on which you could go to the roof. And we used to go to the roof all the way to the chimney. There was one chimney. I once accidentaly knocked off a brick piecie into it. When the Germans were destroying those houses, I saw that there were two apartments. In both of them there were these inclined chimneys connected one to another to make one on the rooftop.
Jewish and Polish children played together, we played tag and other games, but younger children usually played alone and someone looked after them from afar. And it was so that sometimes children would call out after the Jewish children „Jews to Palestine.” And I, not knowing what it meant, called out too. And then everybody started screaming in one voice: „Giewałt, giewałt” I tried to pull off, and then that pretty girl, the one living next door came up to me and said „Why did you call that? We did not do you any harm.” These words will burn me for the rest of my life. We went to the same school, she was at the fourth grade and I was at the second. Herman Jüttner was in the third grade. In the fifth grade there were no Jews. And only in the 6th grade there was Hilda Jüttner, my sister Krystyna’s best friend. Hilda was a year older because she once did not pass. Our teacher made a list of those who wanted to attend gymnasium and who wanted to go to the 7th grade (the 7th grade was mandatory for those who would not attend the gymnasium). And Hilda said to my sister: „You know, if I was better at school, I would go to gymnasium.” And Krystyna asked her „And who would pay for you?” And she said: „the Jewish community would pay.” And she also told Krystyna: „we’re on the community’s welfare now”. Her mom was a widow and she did not work, and they lived in a house at the Jewish cemetery.
On September 1st the war broke out. Germans marched into Kórnik on the 10th of September and together with them came Commandant Major Frosch, nasty man. On some holiday, while the Germans introduced a curfew, on a very early hour. I remember that it was not yet completely dark, and we were all at home already it was maybe 8 or 9 p.m. Mr. Jarociński came to our father and they talked for a long time. Mr. Jarociński was worried “What should we do? We want to pray, but there is this curfew.” And finally after many discussions, he himself decided that he would go to speak to the Commandant Frosch. Mr Jarociński went to him, and soon after he was back and said “How wonderfully was I greeted. Simply lansadach. ‘Jawohl, Mr Jarociński, we, Germans do not fight with religion. You can pray all night up until the end of the curfew.’ I must add that all Jews spoke German.