Joe speaks about his parents and discusses the problems his father had in the 1920s because he was Jewish in Poland.

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INT: Today is the 15th of August [2012] and I’m here with Angela to interview Joe. I’ll begin Joe by asking you when and where you were born and what was your name at birth?

J.C: I was born in France in the town of Valenciennes on the 20th of March 1937 and my certificate of birth has me as Joseph Samuel Centnerszwer.

INT: Thanks. You were obviously very young; are you able to tell us a little about your family life before you came to Britain?


J.C: Not really. My mother had a hairdressing salon and my father was an engineer, a locomotive designer, and worked in various companies in the north of France. He had studied in Poland and finishing his studies he had come to France and studied in Paris and when he finished he sent for my mother from Warsaw and they got married in 1927 in Paris.

INT: Had she been in Paris or in France for a long time?

J.C: She went in 1927 when my father finished his studies in Paris in the Sorbonne, when he had finished.

INT: Right.


J.C: But my father started off studying in Warsaw at the Polytechnic and he was there in a time when Jewish students only sat in the one row on the left, you know.

INT: Is that right? In a segregated way?

J.C: Ah ha yes. When he finished his studies he was offered work there and he could have stayed in Poland but he was told that he would have to become Catholic and even though he was not, you know, following any Jewish religion I think he was a bit thrawn and decided it was not for him. And he got the opportunity of a scholarship to Sorbonne to do engineering and mathematics and physics and he went and never went back.


He had no intention of ever going back to Poland so as soon as he could, when he finished his studies he sent for my mother and they got married.

INT: Yet he did have to serve in the Polish army.

J.C: He did.

INT: He couldn’t avoid that.

J.C: Oh yes,

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