Oral history
History witnesses

Bernard Behrens

Interlocutor name:
Interlocutor surname:
Józef Markiewicz
Catalogue number:
Recording date:
9th August 2018
Recording location:
Recording duration:
Recording language:
Recording copyright:
POLIN Museum of the History of the Polish Jews
The Decendents of Polish Jews Around the World

Related places

Interlocutor biogram

Bernard Behrens was born in California in 1950. His maternal grandfather's family emigrated from Łódź to the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. His grandfather Abraham Penzy (formerly Pencki) graduated from medical school at the New York University and became a physician. Due to his knowledge of the Polish language, he treated many emigrants from Poland. His ancestors ran a printing house in Piotrków Trybunalski. Bernard Behrens' father came from New Mexico, from a wealthy farmers’ family. Parents met in Japan after World War II, where his father worked and his mother was a volunteer of the Red Cross. In 1970s, Bernard Behrens lived and worked in a kibbutz in Israel. He became fascinated with family history, collected and translated available documents and family related stories. For many years he sought to organize a large family gathering, which finally took place in 2005. To learn more about family history, he learned Polish. In 1990 he came to Poland on a scholarship and watched with interest the changes taking place after the fall of communism. Bernard Behrens graduated in history.

Recording circumstances description

The interview was recorded in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Recording summary

  1. Information about the family of the interviewee’s mother - emigration from Łódź to America; 00:00:20
  2. Interest in family history; discovery of a document on family history made by great-grandfather; circumstances of writing the document; 00:02:40
  3. History of the printers’ family from Piotrków Trybunalski; 00:05:11
  4. The need to pass on the history of ancestors; 00:07:48
  5. Well-known people from the Pencki family (scientists, politicians, philosophers) – Aleksander Pencki, Antoni Pencki, Jerzy Pencki, Władysław Pencki, Arnold Pensen; scattering around the world - both in the US and Israel; 00:09:24
  6. Reading and translating manuscript prepared by great-grandfather; 00:13:40
  7. Memories of grandparents from Poland; 00:19:40
  8. The way the interviewee's parents got to know each other as they came from different worlds; 00:26:55
  9. Grandparents' desire to raise children as Americans; 00:30:00
  10. Father’s family; 00:33:05
  11. The figure of the doctor grandfather and his medical ethos; contexts of communicating in Yiddish; 00:34:50
  12. Reasons for the departure to Israel; experience of living in a kibbutz; searching for the family; 00:38:55
  13. Communication with family in Israel; 00:42:00
  14. Memories of childhood; time spent with the mother's family; following uncle’s example in taking interest in family history; 00:44:45
  15. Memories of the kibbutz; 00:48:15
  16. Desire to learn Polish resulting from interest in family history; stay in Poland on
    a scholarship in 1990; 00:51:15
  17. Falling in love with Poland; subsequent visits to Poland; observing changes taking place in Poland; 00:55:20


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