Genrykh Zinger began a tailor apprenticeship at the age of 14 in his hometown Velykyi Bereznyi, then in Czechoslovakia. His father worked as tombstone carver, glazier and frame builder. He was drafted into the Czechoslovak army in 1936 and served for three years. During World War II, he was a forced laborer for the Hungarian army from 1940 to 1943. After the Red Army defeated the Hungarian army, Zinger was captured along with other POWs and sent to a gulag in Voronezh, Russia, where he worked as tailor. He returned to his hometown in 1946, but joined his sister in Uzhhorod soon after.
Other Interviews:From Hungarian to Russian Forced Labor
Communal Matzo Baking
Genrykh Zinger recalls in this clip how he helped out his father, baking matzos with other families, in his home before Passover. As Genrykh points out, there was no possibility to buy machine made matzos in stores, as nowadays. The Jewish community of Velykyi Bereznyi, therefore, relied on their own strong hands to complete the often week-long matzo baking processes. Jewish communities in prewar Soviet shtetls, like Kopayhorod and Ternivka, also baked shmurah matzos in combined effort that took place in secrecy.
In oral history interviews, informants - like Genrykh - are often glad to receive questions about their childhood. It brings back memories about a distant and seemingly perfect family life. When talking about the past and fate of relatives during World War II, childhood memories are a welcome diversion.