Borke, Mitchell L.
Interview Date
April 19, 1999
Respondent PhD Pharmaceutical Chemistry, born 1919.
[T1S1] Respondent provides background information: maternal grandmother born in Poniewierz, Rabbinic family; maternal grandfather born in Wetebesk, Poland; little knowledge of grandparents early life; names two children, one Respondent's mother. Respondent notes mother's marriage in Poland, 1913; aunt came to United States, 1934, married in Chicago; gives detailed background: husbands education and work. Respondent explains parents remained in Poland, father noted surgeon with high position, changed family name from Borkowski to Borke; taken to concentration camp and disappeared. Respondent reflects on arrival in United States: came because of aunt and uncle, family not religious; mentions depression in Poland early 1920s, difficult time for Jews, family not affected due to father's high position; after 1926, conditions better for Jews. Respondent discusses family assimilation in Poland; learned Hebrew for Bar Mitzvah, father did not attend. Respondent recounts early high school education, able to enter best schools through father's clout; discusses life with aunt and uncle in Silver Spring, MD; move to Chicago to attend College of Pharmacy, University of Illinois, Chicago, 1947; remained for 10 years for undergraduate and graduate work; arrived in Pittsburgh, 1957; comments on attending Polish Church; notes Dr. John Adams, Dean, Duquesne University School of Pharmacy, influential in bringing Respondent to Pittsburgh. Respondent discusses marriage to Helen Finke, psychologist: 1949, now divorced; provides names of 2 daughters, careers, three grandchildren; their religious practices: Reconstructionist; notes 1 grandchild Down's Syndrome. Respondent explains requirements for university in Poland: good grade in religion (any religion); reflects on meeting wife, mother from Hungary, rejected Judaism, father from assimilated family; provides names of wife's siblings and careers; wife attended City College, New York, graduate degree: Chicago; family move to Pittsburgh. Respondent mentions health services in Poland: private doctors; notes parents move to Russia: better job opportunities, return to Poland.
[T1S2] Respondent explains assimilation: becoming part of Polish society, did not join church or observe Catholic holidays; comments on requirements for Jews: carried ID papers; Jews served in Army, not high ranks; originally no last names, took names from trades. Respondent provides detailed information on history of anti-Semitism: Poland and Russia; describes Jews had own community, spoke Hebrew or Yiddish; notes Jews granted equal rights in Constitution: 1791, adds information to anti-Semitism. Respondent discusses study of medicine in Poland, upon arrival to United States, changed to pharmacy, unable to get into medical school: gives reasons; expresses desire to remain in health services, comments on interest in nuclear pharmacy, nothing materialized. Respondent mentions publication of several papers; notes uncle great influence in his life; reflects on family vacations; no interest in Jewish community activities, observes no Jewish holidays; discusses daughters freedom of choice; pleased with happy life before retirement.
[T2S3] Respondent explains proudest accomplishment: helping young people, gives detailed examples; comments on 6 years spent in Soviet Union: unpleasant experience but useful and enriching; not concerned with what community thinks about Respondent, only Polish community important. Respondent reflects on his life in Warsaw: no ghettos: gives history; notes some areas had greater Jewish population than non-Jews; explains during Jewish uprising, Respondent in Russia; comments briefly on Israel and United States political situations. Respondent describes present Poland: difficult times, long years of occupation; good academics, students well schooled when arriving in United States; Poles now becoming accustomed to democracy and reforms in education system.
Antisemitism; Duquesne University; Pharmaceutical chemistry; Poland; University of Illinois at Chicago; Warsaw (Poland)
Birth Date
Pharmaceutical Chemistry
Duquesne University
Poland; Silver Spring, MD; Chicago, IL; East Liberty
Length (hours)
Herzog, Bernice
Herzog, Marvin
Berger, Betty
Collateral Materials
Box 100 FF 34
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