Oral history
History witnesses

Michał Lichtensztejn

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Józef Markiewicz
Przemysław Kaniecki
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
9th December 2016
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
Museum of the History of Polish Jews
March’68 Participants and Witnesses

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Interlocutor biogram

Michał Lichtensztejn (son of Szymon and Alicja nee Rosenbaum) was born In 1948 in Wrocław where his father was involved in providing social aid to Jews returning from the evacuation in the Soviet Union and settling down in the so-called Recovered Territories. In 1950, the family moved to Warsaw where his father was offered a job in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (as a diplomatic courier). In 1956, the interviewee’s father was dismissed from the Ministry and began to work in the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland. Michał Lichtensztejn began his education in the secondary school but he had resigned and began external studies. He was employed in the printing section of “The Express Wieczorny” newspaper, in the preparatory room. In 1968, his mother, working as a microbiologist, lost her job. Michał was fired from his job in the printing office. He and his father made a decision to immigrate to France. They left Poland in September 1968. As an immigrant, Michał’s father continued to work in the area of the Jewish culture: he worked as an operator of a linotype machine in Jewish newspapers. After having retired, he was publishing books in Yiddish. Michał Lichtensztejn began to work as a photoengraver and soon afterwards opened his own business. During the interview, Michał dubbed the enforced immigration from Poland “the last roundup”. „For many years”, he said, „we have been saying that we were a part of the last roundup in Poland, and we felt like that. Our immigration resembled – in a way - the wartime roundups. Not perhaps in the physical sense of the term but in terms of the atmosphere. We were not physically packed into the carriages but there were some indications in social life that we had to board the trains and leave.”

Recording circumstances description

The interview was carried out in Paris, in an apartment of the interviewee’s friends.

Recording summary

  1. The life story of the interviewee’s father: childhood, political involvement; evacuation to the USSR during World War II; professional career after the war; 00:00:50
  2. The house at Wajnert Street in the Warsaw Mokotow District – the residence of the interviewee’s family; 03:20:00
  3. Dismissal of the interviewee’s father in 1956 and the beginning of his employment in the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland and in the “Yiddish Buh”; 00:04:00
  4. Biography of the interviewee’s mother, a microbiologist; 00:05:30
  5. The interviewee’s school education and his work in the printing office (preparatory) of “The Express Wieczorny” newspaper; 00:06:00
  6. The outbreak of the Six-Day War; press commentaries; 00:07:30
  7. The 1968 events – reactions of the Jewish community; 00:08:00
  8. The idea of immigration suggested by the director of the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland (Leopold Tepper); 00:09:30
  9. Formalities connected with the immigration; obtaining the Travel Documents; giving up the citizenship; 00:12:00
  10. Departure from the Gdanski Railway Station to Vienna; aid by the Hajas Organisation; c. 13’
  11. The choice of the place of final destination by the interviewee’s family; 00:13:45
  12. Problems with obtaining the French visa – the interviewee’s father’s records in the French Prefecture as a communist activist; Leopold Tepper’s help in obtaining the visa; Mr Tepper’s activities during WWII; 00:15:00
  13. The interviewee’s father’s work in French Jewish newspapers; organizing conferences on Yiddish; 00:17:00
  14. The interviewee’s work as an immigrant as a photoengraver; 00:18:00
  15. The interviewee’s comments on the consequences of immigration for personal life; emotional costs of immigration; getting used to the necessity of remaining in France and gradual loss of contacts with Poland; 00:18:30
  16. The decision made by the interviewee’s family to immigrate from Poland; the increase of stress and fear; Władysław Gomułka’s speech; Mr Tepper’s encouragement to immigrate; 00:21:20
  17. The interviewee’s reluctance to immigrate – social life, friends; fear of going abroad; 00:24:00
  18. The interviewee’s feeling of identity at the time of immigration; problems with adapting to the French lifestyle; 00:26:00
  19. The interviewee’s comments on how unpredictable life can be; 00:28:00
  20. The interviewee’s schoolmates; the residents of the housing district at Wejnert Street; 00:29:30
  21. The influence of the March ’68 events on the stimulation of the interviewee’s Jewish identity; trip to Israel at the beginning of the 1950s – the interviewee’s reminiscences; 00:31:00
  22. Summer vacation camp organised by the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland in 1967; the ceremony commemorating the 22 July holiday (taking over power in Poland by communists in 1944); 00:32:30
  23. The interviewee’s Polish-language dreams; 00:38:00
  24. The farewell at the Gdanski Railway station and a train journey to Vienna – the feeling of something unrealistic happening (“I’m saying Good bye to my friends and at the same time I do not believe that it’s really happening”) – the interviewee’s emotions; the customs clearance; the sale of property and the purchase of crystals and rags to sell them in Israel; the anti-Semitic behavior of the customs officers; 00:39:00
  25. The comments of the interviewee on Polish anti-Semitism – “the frontal anti-Semitism”; 00:41:30
  26. The stay in the Viennese “Urania” Hotel; 00:43:00
  27. Using food stamps during the first months in Paris; 00:44:00
  28. The atmosphere of the “Urania” Hotel in Vienna – ‘the emigrational microcosm”; 00:45:40
  29. The interviewee’s last vacations in Poland in 1968 – news on the invasion of the Warsaw Pact armies of Czechoslovakia; propaganda slogans; 00:48:45
  30. Depositing newspapers from 1968 by the interviewee – hiding them under the window sill in the apartment at Wejnert Street; 00:50:20
  31. The social views of the interviewee’s friends; the expression of compassion and solidarity by neighbours and friends of the interviewee; 00:53:30
  32. “The Polish schizophrenia” – the reactions of the Polish society as perceived by the interviewee; political support for Israel versus inherent anti-Semitism; freedom of opinion and expression in the totalitarian society – the interviewee’s comments; 00:58:00
  33. The interviewee’s opinions on the Polish Philo-Semitism and anti-Semitism; 01:02:00
  34. The interviewee’s travels to Poland; 01:14:00
  35. The immigrant’s identity – the process of adaptation and assimilation of the interviewee to the French environment; quick process of assimilation of the interviewee’s wife; c. 01h17’
  36. The history of the interviewee meeting his future wife; the attitude of the interviewee’s wife to Poland; 01:20:00
  37. The reasons of the interviewee’s father’s unwavering faith in the idea of communism; social origins and the context of growing up; the interviewee’s wife’s doubts about communism after her stay in the USSR; 01:24:00
  38. The interviewee’s meetings with pro-communist activists of the French trade unions; their expressions of disbelief, negation or justification of the Soviet Union crimes; the communist party in France in the 1970s; discussion about the German Democratic Republic; c. 01h30’30”
  39. The impact of the March ’68 events on the atmosphere in the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland; 01:36:00
  40. The picture of the Jewish community in Paris at the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s; the reunions of the March ’68 immigrants; the life stories of the immigrants in France; 01:41:00
  41. The adaptation of the interviewee’s parents in France; the contacts of his father with Jews from Warsaw; social gatherings; 01:47:00
  42. The attitude of the interviewee’s parents to Poland after their immigration and to the media information from Poland; 01:49:45
  43. The reactions of the community of Polish Jews in Paris to the news on the introduction of martial law in Poland; the reactions of the interviewee’s parents’ generation; 01:53:10
  44. “We – from the last roundup” – the interviewee’s comments; 01:57:00
  45. The emotional, psychological, social and physical costs of the immigration for the generation of the interviewee’s parents; 01:58:00
  46. The attitude of the interviewee’s wife to Poland; the awareness of the Jewish identity of the interviewee’s children; the reflexive attitude and interest of the interviewee’s daughter in Israel; 02:02:00
  47. The interviewee’s self-declaration as to his identity: “I am an emancipated Jew”; his attitude to religion; his anxiety over the situation of Israel; 02:06:00
  48. Scientific passions of the interviewee’s daughter; potential topics of discussions with the interviewee’s daughter; 02:14:00
  49. The interviewee’s work as a photoengraver; 02:19:00
  50. The social and cultural activities of the interviewee’s wife; expanding the knowledge of the history of Paris by the projects realised in social media; 02:24:00
  51. The interviewee’s mother’s professional work in Paris; 02:29:00
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