Warning! The text retains the original spelling of surnames and place names by an Israeli researcher; in many cases it may not be correct. Fragments that could contain current personal data have been removed from the interview.

Interviewee Name:  Matityahu Mintz.
Interview Subject: Matityahu Mintz and his family.


The family

Matityahu Mintz, Professor (Emeritus) of the Department of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University. Born in Lublin on 11.10.1922. His parents were Yitzhak and Perla (nee Blass) Mintz.

Yitzhak Mintz, son of Matityahu and Ruchl (nee Blass) Mintz, was born in 1900 in Warsaw. Matityahu Mintz, the interviewee's grandfather, was a Gur (Ger) Chassid (the Ger Chasidic Dynasty was the largest and most important Hasidic group in Poland) and conducted an orthodox religious way of life. Grandfather Matityahu Mintz died before the interviewee was born. Ruchl Mintz, the interviewee's grandmother, was killed in Warsaw by a German bombardment in September 1939. Matityahu and Ruchl had nine children. Yitzhak was the eldest. They all perished with their families in the Holocaust. 

Yitzhak Mintz, the interviewee's father, was a Zionist, a follower of Yitzhak Gruenbaum [Izaak Grünbaum], a prominent leader of the Zionist movement among Polish Jewry between the two world wars, a member of the Polish Sejm and later the first Interior Minister of Israel.

The parents

In 1921 Yitzhak Mintz married Perla Blass and they moved to Lublin, Perla's hometown. Perla Mintz (nee Blass), the interviewee's mother, was born in 1899. Her parents were Yossef and Chuma Blass. Perla was the ninth of her parents' ten children. Yossef was, prior to WW I, a prosperous man. He owned a country mansion in Filipówka, a very small village located near Góra Kalwaria and Garwolin (southeast of Warsaw). As a result of the events of WW I, Yossef was impoverished and was financially assisted by two of his sons who were affluent.    

When Perla got married in 1929, her parents were already very old and Perla lived with them and attended to them. All Perla's siblings with their families perished in the Holocaust. Only one niece and one nephew survived.    

In Lublin

As mentioned above, Yitzhak and Perla settled in Lublin after their marriage and lived at 16 Bonifraterska Street with Perla's parents. In 1922 Yitzhak and Perla had their firstborn son Matityahu (the interviewee) and in 1924 they had their second son, Avraham.  

Yitzhak was the sales agent of a coal mine in Pszczyna (a town situated in southern Poland, near Katowice). He used to buy coal which was sent to him by freight train to Lublin and then sell it to various clients of his.

Matityahu, started to attend the "Tarbut" Jewish primary school in Lublin in 1928. His parents, who were very anxious about his education, preferred to send him to the "Tarbut" school, which was a good, private school and therefore expensive, and were ready to pay the tuition despite their difficult financial situation. The teaching language there was Hebrew and Matityahu's father was very proud of his son who began to speak Hebrew fluently after a while.       

In Warsaw

In 1929, within the world economic crisis, Yitzhak's business deteriorated and he became bankrupt. In 1931, Yitzhak returned by himself to Warsaw, his hometown, to better his financial situation. The year after, his family joined him. The following years were very difficult financially for the Mintz family. In Warsaw, Matityahu was again sent to the "Tarbut" private school (located at 20 Pańska Street) where he studied for the next three years, until 1935. He continued his schooling at "Laor", a Jewish high school, and completed his studies in 1939.

Joining Hashomer Hatzair

While he was a high school student, Matityahu was approached by Mordechaj Anielewicz, who was one of the leaders of the Warsaw branch of Hashomer Hatzair Zionist Youth Movement. He convinced Matityahu to join his movement (September 1937). Anielewicz would later be the head of the Jewish Fighting Organization and one of the prominent leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943.

Matityahu became an active member of the Hashomer Hatzair movement. His group ("battalion") was called "Tel Amal" and consisted of about one hundred trainees. Their direct leader was Mordechaj Anielewicz.

On September 6, 1939 a departure assembly of the Hashomer Hatzair members in Warsaw was held at their center (Heb. Ken) on Rymarska Street. About seventy members participated in the meeting including Mordechaj Anielewicz. At that meeting it was announced that due to the war, the branch's activities would cease and the members were instructed to move eastward to the Soviet occupied territories.


Early in the morning, on October 17, Matityahu, along with 16 other Hashomer Hatzair members, left Warsaw. With the city train they reached Radzymin and from there they walked to Jadów where they spent the night. The next day they continued their journey and reached the border near the town of Małkinia Górna (a large village in Ostrów Mazowiecka County). They passed through a German checkpoint and the German soldiers let them cross the border after robbing them of their spare clothes and some of their money. Upon arrival at the Soviet border checkpoint they were welcomed by a Soviet officer. They reached Zaręby Kościelne (17 km east of Ostrów Mazowiecka) were they boarded a train to Bialystok (19.10.1939).

The group which left Warsaw dispersed in Bialystok and Matityahu remained alone with his friend Yitzhak Michalski. Bialystok was flooded with refugees at the time and it became very difficult to get basic products. In late October or early November, Matityahu and Yitzhak decided to move southward. They boarded a train and reached Łuck, a city located in north-western Ukraine. Matityahu and Yitzhak found accommodation in a private house and a few days later, they started to study at the local Polish secondary school. They stayed there during November and part of December, but they soon ran out of money.

Matityahu went to Lwow where his father's uncle Chanoch Blass lived. Chanoch Blass lived prior to the war in Warsaw and was a wealthy man. Chanoch gave Matityahu 100 Zlotys and the following day he returned to Łuck. There he found that his friend Yitzhak had gone, leaving behind him a letter in which he wrote that Mordechaj Anielewicz had been in Łuck and instructed them to move to Wilno, Lithuania.

On 17.12.1939, Matityahu left Łuck heading for Wilno. He initially reached Rowno [Równe] and stayed there overnight in the Hashomer Hatzair center, where he met Mordechaj Anielewicz himself. Anielewicz again directed him to reach Wilno. From Rowno he went to Lida a city situated 160 km west of Minsk.

In Lida, Matityahu was attached to a group of people who were aiming to enter Lithuania. They managed to smuggle over the border and after encountering trouble with Soviet border guards and Lithuanian patrols, they reached Eišiškės (Polish: Ejszyszki), a small town near the border. On 26.12.1939, Matityahu together with his group members, eventually reached Wilno. They were housed in apartments that were prepared by the Hashomer Hatzair movement. Hundreds of Hashomer Hatzair members gathered in Wilno at the time.

Matityahu initially studied in the Hebrew Tarbut high school which became later a Yiddish high school. Matityahu, as many other refugees, especially members of the various Zionist movements, waited to move on to their final goal, immigration to Palestine.

In Palestine

In June 1940, after Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union, the Zionist movements had to be disbanded and great effort was made to travel from the Soviet-Union to Palestine. During his stay in Wilno, Matityahu corresponded with his parents Yitzhak and Perla and his brother Avraham, who remained in Nazi occupied Warsaw. The connection was kept until he left Wilno. Matityahu's parents and brother perished in the Holocaust.      

On 25.1.1941 he left Wilno and reached Kowno where he boarded a train to Moscow. Two days later Matityahu with other Hashomer Hatzair members, was accommodated in the luxurious Novo Moskovskaya hotel in Moscow.

On March 3, 1941, he crossed Rosh Ha-Nikra, the northern border crossing and entered Palestine. Upon his arrival in Palestine, Matityahu was sent to Gan Shmuel, a kibbutz near the town of Hadera, consisting of members of the Hashomer Hatzair movement. Over the following years, Matityahu lived in Gan Shmuel and worked as a farmer.  

Matityahu married Chaia (nee Kerschberg) in May 1948. In July 1948, he was sent to Poland as an emissary by the Hashomer Hatzair movement. He was posted in Wroclaw. 

In 1949 the communist Polish authorities did not extend Matityahu's residential permit, so he had to leave Poland. He was transferred for Hashomer Hatzair activities to Switzerland. They returned in October 1950 to Gan Shmuel, Israel.

The Mintz family stayed in Gan Shmuel until 1955. Matityahu started to study Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1956) and attained his B.A degree in 1960, M.A. in 1964 and his PhD degree in 1968. Matityahu worked as a Bible teacher in a Tel Aviv Municipal high school from 1960 to 1968. From 1968 until his retirement in 1991, he was a lecturer of Jewish History at the Tel Aviv University. In 1987 Matityahu was granted the title of Professor (Full Professor) by the Tel Aviv University.  

Matityahu and Chaia have three children and ten grandchildren [...]