Bernard Warshaw discusses growing up in Walterboro, South Carolina, and the periods he spent in Charleston, first, from age nine to thirteen, when he was studying for his bar mitzvah and, later, while attending The Citadel. His parents, Murray and Dotty Bebergal Warshaw, emigrated as children from Poland in the early 1900s. They met in Charleston, where each had family, and moved to Walterboro after they married. Bernard talks about his family’s business, Warshaw’s, and Walterboro’s other Jewish merchants. He served in the army during World War II, and saved the photographs he took of the concentration camp in Dachau, which he visited the day after it was liberated. He married Ann Wagner of Boston and they raised three daughters in Walterboro. Among the topics discussed: intermarriage; the importance of religion and involvement in civic and political matters; the reason his children and grandchildren are more observant than he was as a child; and relations between Jews and African Americans. Note: See also Bernard Warshaw Holocaust atrocity photographs, Mss. 1065-027, Special Collections, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston.
Sam Siegel, born in Anderson, South Carolina, in 1915, describes the hometown of his boyhood as “a very hard town . . . mean, nasty, completely controlled by the Klan.” Sam’s parents, Bess Silverman and Max Siegel (Shul) emigrated from Latvia in the early 1900s and settled in Anderson where Max worked as a peddler before going into livestock sales and slaughtering. The family did not keep kosher, and the Siegel children had little Jewish education. Sam’s playmates were Christian. “I had my friends, but it wasn’t comfortable.” Sam talks about his seven siblings, in particular, his brother Reuben, known as “Jew Boy Siegel,” a star boxer and football player for Clemson. As the number of Jewish residents in Anderson increased in the early 1900s, they began to meet in a large hall over a store for High Holy Day services. Sam remembers teaching Sunday school there as well. He mentions some of the Jewish residents of the 1930s and ’40s, who pooled their resources to build a temple for the growing community. Sam describes helping to place nearly a dozen Jewish refugees in Anderson, including one young man, Kurt Sax, whom he helped get his start in his own small business. Sam married Leona Novit of Walterboro, South Carolina. When he visited Walterboro, he “fell in love” with the town, which was a popular stopping point for travelers driving between New York and Florida. Walterboro, Sam says, “has always been a very liberal town. It’s made up of people from up north and out west.” Sam and Leona moved from Anderson to Walterboro, where they raised their four children and Sam ran a dry goods store. He discusses a number of other topics including intermarriage, Camp Blue Star, the journal in which he has made daily entries since 1932, and the Walterboro congregation and how it acquired a Jewish section in the local cemetery. He also describes his service in the army during World War II and his role in the Battle of the Bulge, in which he lost a leg in an attempt to rescue two American soldiers. Note: the transcript contains corrections made by Sam’s daughter Gale Messerman.
Connie Karesh Franzblau was born in Brooklyn, New York, where her father, Leroy Karesh, ran a shooting gallery in Coney Island until he was drafted at the outbreak of World War II. His wife, Frances Frankel, and their four children moved to Eutwaville, South Carolina, where Leroy’s parents, Abram and Katie Cohen Karesh, and a number of Katie’s relatives lived. Leroy was excused from military duty when Frances became ill, and the family moved to Charleston where he took a job at the shipyard. Although they lived only briefly in Eutawville, Connie recalls fond memories of the town where she spent her summers and extended family gathered for holidays. Connie’s family was Orthodox and kept kosher, but the Orthodoxy was “southern style.” “You do what you can, and then after a while you do what’s easy, and then after a while you do what you can get away with . . . .” When they moved to Charleston, they attended the Conservative synagogue, Emanu-El, because it was in their neighborhood and, therefore, convenient. Connie discusses her family history, how she met Arnold, and Camp Baker when it was located in Isle of Palms. Arnold, the son of Nathan and Nettie Franzblau, was born and spent his early childhood in New York City. When he was seven years old, the family moved to Aiken, South Carolina, where they hoped Nathan, who had a lung condition, would enjoy better health. The Franzblaus joined a small, close-knit community of immigrant Jewish families who, generally, did not socialize with the town’s gentiles. Arnold recalls attending Sunday school and holiday parties at the synagogue, Adath Yeshurun, and identifies some of the Jewish families in town. He moved to Charleston to attend The Citadel and the Medical College of South Carolina. He met Connie while working as a urology resident at Roper Hospital and the two married in 1953. They lived in a number of locations across the United States, and raised their two children in New Mexico. Arnold describes his family background and the antisemitism he encountered in Aiken and among medical school fraternities. Both interviewees discuss intermarriage and assimilation, and recall the discrimination blacks faced in the South before the civil rights era.
Judy Kurtz Goldman was raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina, the youngest of three children born to Margaret Bogen (Katzenellenbogen) and Benjamin Kurtz. The Kurtzes, who owned The Smart Shop, a women’s clothing store, were one of twelve Jewish families living in Rock Hill in the 1940s and ’50s. Although the family was observant and highly involved with the local Jewish community, they were fully assimilated into non-Jewish life, which, according to Judy, was not the case with all the Jewish residents in town. Benjamin was on the board of Guardian Fidelity, a mortgage company, and was a founder of the Rock Hill Country Club. Margaret put up Christmas decorations every December and their house was on the tour of homes one year. Judy attended Winthrop Training School, a K-12 school where Winthrop College’s student teachers trained. As a cheerleader and a member of the “in” crowd, she felt fully accepted. Judy discusses her siblings, family history, the saleswomen at The Smart Shop, and Mattie, the black woman who worked in the Goldman home and was a second mother to her. She recalls her feelings, as a child, when she observed the Jim Crow laws in action and their effect on Mattie. After college Judy taught for two years at Roosevelt High School in Atlanta, where she witnessed first-hand the start of integration in Georgia. She describes the response of the white students and her fellow teachers to events such as the end of segregation and the assassination of President Kennedy. Judy married Henry Kurtz, an optometrist who was practicing in Charlotte, North Carolina, a few miles from Rock Hill. Just prior to this interview, her first novel, The Slow Way Back, was published. She discusses the characters and the scenes in the story and the degree to which they are derived from her life. Judy notes that while she “felt more aligned with the gentile community” than the Jewish while growing up, in the process of writing her book, “I had sort of come back home again . . . into my Jewish skin. . . . I became comfortable with my Jewishness through writing the novel.”