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Joy Kestenbaum
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Joy Kestenbaum



Historical Sources:
  • Krzywcza nad San - Polish text from: Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich, Tom IV, Warszawa : nakł. Filipa Sulimierskiego i Władysława Walewskiego, 1880-1914, pp. 801-802. English Translation: forthcoming

Translation: Krzywcza. a small town, district of Przemyśl, court of distr. Dubiecko, district court of Przemyśl, 168 meters above sea level, 928 inhabitants, (19 km) Przemyśl Krzywcza n. Sanem  Babice n. Sanem Dubiecko. Municipal Office. 1 Roman Catholic church, 1 Greek Catholic church, 1 synagogue. Market or Fair: 15/1, 3/2, 4/3, 23/4, 6/5, 3/6, 24/6, 2/8, 21/9, 9/10, 11/11, 20/12.

  • From: Pinkas HaKehillot Polin (Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, vol. 3, Western Galicia): "Krzywcza" (link to text forthcoming.)


Jewish Life in Krzywcza Between the Wars
From Witness: Voices from the Holocaust, edited by Joshua M. Greene and Shiva Kumar, New York: The Free Press, 2000, p. 2-4. 
Edited from Joseph W. Holocaust testimony, (HVT-2681). [videorecording] interviewed by Dana L. Kline and Susan Millen, September 21, 1994, New Haven Conn.: Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, 1994.

Joseph W.
Born Przemy
śl, Poland, 1922
Raised in Krzywcza, Poland

The small town of Krzywcza was, as is known in the Yiddish vernacular as a shtetl  - a hundred Jewish families out a population of two or three thousand. And they all clustered around a central square. We lived with my grandparents, who had a house, a large house.
     My mother was the oldest daughter. She was the first one married. My father had just come back from the [first world] war. He was a soldier in the Austrian army. I guess it was a shiddukh, [which] means an arranged marriage, but they knew each other. . . . I do remember going to cheder, which was a Jewish school. And boys, particularly, started at the age of three Jewish instruction, especially reading, learning the alphabet, and learning the prayers, which was the most important. The morning prayers, the Modeh Ani, which means, "I thank you, God, for waking up and being alive." Then the prayers before, making the Motzi [prayer over bread] before you ate anything.
     My father had two sisters living there. Their children, we were very close. We knew each other -- houses all around. And what I remember distinctly was a certain spirit there, a spirit very Jewish, deeply Jewish, religious, but custom, traditional. The Sabbath, was the centerpiece of the week. Starting Thursday, people starting preparing for the Sabbath. The women would prepare starting with the flour and the baking. I remember my grandmother's house. My mother was not [baking] because she was in business. But my grandmother used to send everything over. By my grandmother everything was turned upside down. The stove was going. I used to go Friday, and she had a little pletzl there, a little piece of dough was left with some onions, delicious. And the smells of the baking! Thursday was the preparation, Friday afternoon nobody did any more. The men went to the mikvah [ritual baths] to get themselves purified. The women started preparing the children. So, it was certain, it was a way of life that is - I don't know if it's duplicated any place unless in the Hasidic communities. But that was a way of life that was the culmination of hundreds of years of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. That was the spirit in this little town.
     The Sabbath was an expression, it was a deep expression, made a deep, deep impression on children. But the outside world beckoned. We loved it, and we wanted to break free. It was like a tug-of-war. Then after the Sabbath, the evening at the end of the Sabbath, was also a feeling that you're losing something, something very precious is passed. And you prepared yourself for the week. So people had to work. People had to make a living. You had to go out to the villages. Either they bought up produce or cattle or chicken, whatever, or selling them in your stores. We had hardware stores, textile stores. There were no ready-made goods yet. Manufacturing was not very well developed.
     Ninety-nine percent of our clientele was non-Jewish. People from the surrounding villages used to come in and buy. Of course it was tough. There was competition. And they didn't have money, so they paid in kind. They paid in eggs and butter and potatoes, whatever. But somehow this worked. This was right after the prayers that separate, Havdalah service, which is a separation between the holy and the profane. The weekday was profane, the Sabbath was the holy. So right after that people went out, opened their stores because the peasants were coming in, because Sunday was a big day.
     This was how life went. We were enveloped in this. The outside world was only through the books, through contact. But the contact with the peasantry was not much. It was just the day-to-day. The Jewish life was the essential.

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Compiled by Joy Kestenbaum (
Last updated November 2016
Copyright © 2016 Joy Kestenbaum

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