Oral history
Zeugen der Geschichte

Amalia Reisenthel

Name des Gesprächspartners:
Familienname des Gesprächspartners:
Markiewicz Józef
Boruszkowski Piotr
18th März 2018
POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
März '68

Interlocutor biogram

Amalia Reisenthel (nee Sznajder) was born in 1946 in Wrocław. Artur Leon Sznajder, her father, came from Krakow and her mother Bracha (Bronisława) Bren from Dubno in Volhynia. Amalia Reisenthel’s parents got to know each other during their escape from the ghetto in Dubno. Since 1944, her father had been an officer of the Polish Army. Within the ranks of the army, he reached Wrocław, where he and his wife decided to stay. They had worked in the Polish Army until they were dismissed in the aftermath of the March ’68 events. When Amalia had graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the Technical University of Wrocław, and the Reisenthel’s younger daughter had passed her high school final exams, the entire family was ready to leave Poland. They were – several times - denied permission to leave due to the nature of Amalia Reisenthel’s parents’ jobs. Amalia decided to immigrate alone – she went to Frankfurt via Vienna and Rome, and then to Munich where she married and – together with her husband – was running a business. For 25 years she was was employed at husband company, as well at her own atelier Atelier als designerin i architektin. In 2011, she left for Israel, lives in Haifa where she “feels at home” at last.

Recording circumstances description

The interview was registered in the studio of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Recording summary

  1. Amalia Reisenthel’s parents’ war experiences - her father’s attempts, as a member of the pre-war Zionist organisation Akiba, to immigrate to Palestine; his imprisonment in the camps (twice) and his successive escapes; his voluntary entrance to the ghetto in Dubno; organising escape from the ghetto to the forest; . Amalia Reisenthel’s mother joined the escape and her parents were in hiding together; in 1944 her father joined the ranks of the Polish Army and as professional military was accomodated in Wrocław; 00:01:00
  2. Amalia Reisenthel’s parents’ wish to immigrate from Poland following the Kielce pogrom; their decision to remain in Poland due to the expected birth of Amalia; parents’ occupation; their residence in the military housing district, 00:07:50
  3. Amalia Reisenthel’s awareness of being a Jewess; her family’s attitude to celebrating religious feasts; her mother’s explanations concerning different national origins, 00:09:20
  4. Jewish schools in Wrocław; 00:12:00
  5. The atmosphere of childhood and home; military summer camps; Amalia Reisenthel’s mother’s recollections of Volhynia; 00:12:50
  6. Education, architectural studies at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology; plans to remain at the university as a scholar; 00:14:00
  7. Amalia Reisenthel’s parents’ dismissal from their jobs; loss of the opportunity to work as a scientist at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology – the first shock; submitting application by the entire family to leave Poland and the refusal to be granted permission; 00:15:00
  8. Amalia Reisenthel’s employment at the planning and design office at the Wroclaw University of Science and Technology; repeated refusals to be granted permission to immigrate due to the nature of her parents’ professional activities; Amalia’s decision to immigrate alone; permission granted in 1971, and departure; 00:19:00
  9. Finding a job in a construction company in Frankfurt; feeling of freedom; marriage, move to Munich; 00:21:40
  10. Working together with husband; development of a company – cooperation with the Cepelia and creating own collections, company from Poland; selling products in international markets; 00:25:00
  11. Perception of Israel by the European youth of the times; contacts with her parents who had immigrated to Israel – several visits a year; Amalia’s move to Israel in 2011; doctorate on the history of architecture at the Munich Polytechnic (subject: architecture with oriental strands at the Wrocław Jewish Cemetery); 00:26:00
  12. The post-war Wroclaw; the Jewish cemetery; ubiquitous destruction; awareness of the German origins of the city; Young Amalia’s lack of contacts with the Wroclaw Jews, 00:28:00
  13. Amalia Reisenthel’s father’s doubts as to the righteousness of his decision to remain in Poland after the war; books authored by her father on his life and that of his family; Amalia Reisenthel’s parents’ excellent adaptation to life in Israel – renewal of contacts with her mother’s relatives and pre-war members of the Zionist group Akiba from father’s side; 00:30:00
  14. Loneliness and the lack of the circle of friends in Germany; importance of friendships made during Reunion ’68; 00:35:30
  15. The importance of participation in Reunion ’68 for the children of March ’68 emigrants; Amelia’s children’s attitude to Jewish national identity and Jewish heritage; her children’s relations with their grandparents; her children’s feeling of identity – different in case of a daughter, and different in case of a son; her daughter’s marriage to an Israeli man, and Jewish upbringing of their children; 00:39:00
  16. Motivation of the move to Israel; inspiration by working on the doctorate connected with the Jewish heritage; need to supplement identity; 00:47:10
  17. Three stages of Amalia Reisenthel’s life – necessity and various ways of adapting to new conditions; awareness of differences in Polish and Western mentality (e.g. attitude to money); the most difficult period of her life – two years’ waiting for permission to immigrate; 00:51:00
  18. The atmosphere of openness and communication at home; Amalia Reisenthel’s parents’ personalities shaped by the Holocaust and pre-war experiences; shtetl in her mother’s recollections; 00:57:00
  19. Reactions of her parents and their friends to the outbreak of the Six-Day War; conspiratorial listening to the news from Radio Free Europe; 01:00:00
  20. Procedure of dismissing of Amalia Reisenthel’s father from his work; 01:01:30
  21. March ’68 events in the student community in Wrocław; Amalia’s meagre participation due hospital stay; feeling of estrangement; 01:03:00
  22. Participation in the Wrocław March ’68 celebrations in 2018 – speech at the Ethnographic Museum and in the White Stork Synagogue in Wrocław; cancellation of attendance by some of the March’ 68 immigrants due to the growing anti-Semitic sentiments in Poland, 01:06:00
  23. No will to regain the Polish citizenship - regaining citizenship by Amalia Reisenthel’s sister in order to have the gain citizenship of the European Union for her children; 01:11:40
  24. Amalia Reisenthel’s feeling of “being at home” in Israel for the first time in her life from the moment of emigration from Poland; 01:14:00
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