David P. Boder Interviews Marcelle Precker; August 12, 1946; Paris, France

var transcription = { interview: [ David Boder

Sunday, August the . . . 12th, Paris . . . Monday August the 12th. Paris . . . [mumbling]. Paris, August the 12th, 1946 at the headquarters of the American Joint Distribution Committee. The interviewee is Mrs. Marcelle Precker born in France who spent here the time during the occupation. Also, Mrs. Precker, will you please tell us where were you born, how large was your family and where did you live before the war?

Marcelle Precker

I am born in Paris . . . and at the beginning of the war my family was composed by my father, mother and my daughter.

David Boder

And they think your husband died in 1939?

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

Yeah. Nu? What happened when the Germans came to Paris? [pause] What happened to you when the Germans came to Paris?

Marcelle Precker

I was just [arrested?]

David Boder

You? Were your whole family here?

Marcelle Precker

No. My family was in the southâin the south of France.

David Boder

With your child?

Marcelle Precker

With my child.

David Boder

Why did they go there?

Marcelle Precker

They went to south of France to escape from the Germans.

David Boder

To escape from the Germans. And you remained here . . .

Marcelle Precker

I tried to remain in Paris to save our apartment and my father's business.

David Boder

All right. And so . . . (mumbling) will you close the . . . yes. And so, what happened?

Marcelle Precker

But in July '42, I was arrested one morning at six o'clock by the . . . two French police.

David Boder

All right. Now why did they arrest you and where did they arrest you?

Marcelle Precker

They arrest me in the morning at my apartment.

David Boder

At your apartment . . . yes?

Marcelle Precker

And I escaped them in giving them all the money I . . . have with me.

David Boder

Yes. How much was it . . . about?

Marcelle Precker

Oh, I . . . I don't . . .

David Boder

Well in estimate, about . . .

Marcelle Precker

It was a lot because they take all the jewels we have in the apartment . . .

David Boder

Yes . . . they took what?

Marcelle Precker

The jewels we had in the apartment . . .

David Boder

Oh, the jewels. All your jewels and all the money you had in the apartment.

Marcelle Precker

. . . apartment [unintelligible] . . .

David Boder

[speaking over the interviewee] and they let you go?

Marcelle Precker

And they let me go. So I went in the south of France . . .

David Boder

You went to the south of France, yes.

Marcelle Precker

. . . to stay with my fatherâmy parents and my daughter.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

We stayed there . . . two years.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

And . . . in '44âJune '44âwe were arrested all together in the evening one day.

David Boder

In what city was it?

Marcelle Precker

It was at Cannes.

David Boder

At Cannes and you were arrested the whole family?

Marcelle Precker

The whole family. My father, my mother, my daughter and I.

David Boder

Yes. How old was your daughter?

Marcelle Precker

My daughter was at that moment eleven years old.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

We were put in the prison . . . in the prison.

David Boder

In the prison, yes . . .

Marcelle Precker

We stayed there some days and put in another prison at Nice.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

And after eight days we were put in a train.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

And bring in a . . . brought . . .

David Boder

And you were taken to . . .

Marcelle Precker

Taken to Drancy. The concentration camp Drancy.

David Boder

Yes, now Drancy is where?

Marcelle Precker

Is near Paris.

David Boder

Yes. Drancy is near Paris.

Marcelle Precker

Near Paris . . . about ten kilometers from Paris.

David Boder

Yes, and so? [pause] Well what happened in Drancy?

Marcelle Precker

I have to tell you that at Nice my father was . . . [trails off]

David Boder

[Well tell me who did it?]

Marcelle Precker

[Pause] [It's difficult in English for me?] [mumbling]

David Boder

What happened to your father, what [?] . . .

Marcelle Precker

[speaks in French] [tape skips]

David Boder

What in . . .

Marcelle Precker

. . . in Nice.

David Boder

In Nice your father was beaten by the Germans?

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

Why?

Marcelle Precker

Why, because we are . . . the Germans had found in our [unintelligible] for English papers.

David Boder

Oh. They found with you English papers?

Marcelle Precker

English papers.

David Boder

How did you happen to have English papers?

Marcelle Precker

Because my father was a . . . with a group of English [?] I received them so I don't know how we managed to keep them just at that moment because it was a very dangerous moment.

David Boder

Yes. Yes, and . . . so your father was mistreated?

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

And then you were all sent to . . .

Marcelle Precker

. . . to Drancy.

David Boder

Now was your family alone at the [eskaton?] camp or did they arrest all the Jewish families?

Marcelle Precker

No. Each day they arrested another family.

David Boder

Yes. (mumbling instructions) Get your hands down . . . Each day they arrested a few families? All right. And how many people were you taken to Drancy?

Marcelle Precker

We were there at that moment . . . forty people.

David Boder

Forty people. In what kind of railroad cars did they take you? [pause] In what kind of railroad carsâwere they passenger cars?

Marcelle Precker

Yes, in passenger cars.

David Boder

In passenger cars they took you from Cannes to Drancy.

Marcelle Precker

To Drancy.

David Boder

All right. In Drancy where did they put you? Did they separate the men from the women?

Marcelle Precker

No. Had to . . . we're to . . . go in Germany after that.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

We were all put together men and women.

David Boder

Where, in the same room?

Marcelle Precker

In the same room

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

Sixty by room.

David Boder

Yes. Sixty people in a room.

Marcelle Precker

Sixty people in a room.

David Boder

And how long were you in Drancy that way?

Marcelle Precker

Actually we stay only a few weeks. Because after that was the liberation.

David Boder

Oh. You stayed in Drancy three weeks?

Marcelle Precker

Three weeks.

David Boder

Yes. Now tell me something about your stay in Drancy, you say you were men and women and children all in one room?

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

So did you remain with your family in the same room?

Marcelle Precker

In the same room.

David Boder

Well your little daughter with you?

Marcelle Precker

She was with me.

David Boder

Well, what was the child doing all the time in the campâor in the prison?

Marcelle Precker

The Germans at that moment were very nervous because the Americans were coming near Paris every day so it was terrible to meet them in the . . .

David Boder

In the hallsâcorridors.

Marcelle Precker

In the halls. So some people took all the children together and made sort of little school for them.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

To keep them away from the Germans.

David Boder

Oh.

Marcelle Precker

And they were spending all day with those people.

David Boder

Yes, a kind of a teacher or so.

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

Was it a Jewish woman or a French woman?

Marcelle Precker

It was a Jewish woman.

David Boder

It was a Jewish woman and she took the children together . . .

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

. . . and she kept them in a kind of kindergarten or a creationâarrangement.

Marcelle Precker

Exactly.

David Boder

All right, did you pay for that or what?

Marcelle Precker

No we did not pay for that because all the money we hadâhaveâwas taken by the German [with their things?]

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

Now, uh, how were you sleeping?

Marcelle Precker

We were sleeping in a very large room. On . . . straw beds.

David Boder

Straw beds.

Marcelle Precker

[unintelligible] . . . all sort of beast, it was terrible and awful.

David Boder

Yes. You had lice?

Marcelle Precker

[unintelligible] was not possible . . . to haven't.[?]

David Boder

Yes. It was not possible not to have them.

Marcelle Precker

. . . it wasn't possible.

David Boder

Yes. How were the facilities to wash yourself? Where would you wash yourself?

Marcelle Precker

[Actually?] we have . . . uh . . .

David Boder

Showers?

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

There were showers. Were they separate from men and women?

Marcelle Precker

Yes. They were separated for . . .

David Boder

Yes. They were separated for men and women. But you slept in the same room, men and women?

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

All right so how were the beds arranged? [pause] You had a bed? Did you sleep alone in a bed?

Marcelle Precker

Oh sureâwe sleep alone in a bed.

David Boder

You slept alone in a bed.

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

And where did your child sleep?

Marcelle Precker

She was in a bed near me.

David Boder

In another bed alone.

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

And your father and mother had a bed for themselves each?

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

Yes. All right and um . . .

Marcelle Precker

We were all was occupied doing something . . . peeling potatoes . . . doing mattresses and . . .

David Boder

Yes. You were always doing something.

Marcelle Precker

Everybody was occupied.

David Boder

. . . was occupied. Did they allow people to bring you some food?

Marcelle Precker

No it was not possible.

David Boder

It was not possible to bring you some food. All right . . .

Marcelle Precker

[unintelligible] . . . write to somebody. It was impossible to write.

David Boder

It was not permitted to write to anybody also. And how long were you in Drancy?

Marcelle Precker

We stayed three weeks in Drancy.

David Boder

Yes. And then what happened?

Marcelle Precker

Then we were liberated by the . . . the Swedish Consulate.

David Boder

Oh.

Marcelle Precker

Who give . . . two . . .

David Boder

. . . yes?

Marcelle Precker

Two German . . . who liberated . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Marcelle Precker

Two German prisoners . . .

David Boder

Prisoners.

Marcelle Precker

. . . prisoners. For one Jewish . . . people.

David Boder

For one Jewish person?

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

Oh. Now let me see that . . . [where were?] German prisoners?

Marcelle Precker

It is impossible for me to give you any information on that.

David Boder

You don't know?

Marcelle Precker

I don't know.

David Boder

Well where did they get the German prisoners that they said they liberated two German prisoners for one Jew? Who had the German prisoners?

Marcelle Precker

Oh I think that the . . . [?] American and English peoples.

David Boder

Oh [you were told that?] . . .

Marcelle Precker

. . . had them.

David Boder

Oh, at least they told you that. You really didn't know, you were just told.

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

And you think that the Americans gave two German prisoners back . . .

Marcelle Precker

I suppose.

David Boder

. . . and the Germans gave back one Jew.

Marcelle Precker

One Jew.

David Boder

One Jew. To whom? To the Swedish Red Cross?

Marcelle Precker

I think it was maybe . . .

David Boder

You cannot tell who it was. But it was to the Swedish?

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

And where did you go then?

Marcelle Precker

Then we were allowed to go . . . in family . . . where at home . . .

David Boder

Oh you were released in . . . barracks? Oh, they let you go? All right. Now where did you live after that?

Marcelle Precker

After that our apartment was taken by . . . French people.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

We were obliged to go in . . . friend's family. But after that we found back our apartment.

David Boder

When did you get your apartment back?

Marcelle Precker

In September.

David Boder

After the liberation?

Marcelle Precker

After the liberation.

David Boder

But before the liberation what did the people say? You came home to your apartment and wanted your apartment . . .

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

What did they tell you?

Marcelle Precker

They were put in our apartment by the Germans.

David Boder

Yes. And where was the furnitureâwhere was your furniture?

Marcelle Precker

All the furniture was taken away by the Germans.

David Boder

Your furniture was taken by . . .

Marcelle Precker

All. Everything.

David Boder

Did you have good furniture?

Marcelle Precker

Yes. Very good furniture.

David Boder

You had very good furniture. Did you have rugs?

Marcelle Precker

We had everything it was possible to have.

David Boder

Yeah . . . You had everything that was possible to have.

Marcelle Precker

And . . .

David Boder

And that is what they . . .

Marcelle Precker

. . . nothing remained.

David Boder

. . . the Germans took away? And what furniture did the people have that lived in your apartment?

Marcelle Precker

They had . . . their furniture . . .

David Boder

. . . their own furniture.

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

What did they say? That the Germans put them there and that they are going to stay?

Marcelle Precker

Yes. But we succeed to . . .

David Boder

That was while the Germans still were here.

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

All right. Now we will come to that. Then, what . . . where were you when the liberation came? [pause] When the . . . who . . . where were you when Paris was liberated?

Marcelle Precker

It was at just at that moment that we were liberated from Drancy.

David Boder

Oh. You were liberated from Drancy when . . .

Marcelle Precker

Just when . . .

David Boder

. . . Paris was liberated.

Marcelle Precker

. . . when . . . Yes. One day before the American entered in Paris.

David Boder

Oh, so why did the Swedes have to negotiate with the Germans?

Marcelle Precker

Because.. you know . . . [unintelligible] concentration camp . . .

David Boder

Yeah.

Marcelle Precker

. . . just before the Germans leave.

David Boder

The . . .

Marcelle Precker

The . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

[unintelligible]

David Boder

Oh, they hear it was that before the Germans left they would kill all the people.

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

So the Swedish intervened and they freed . . . what? Did they free all the Jews?

Marcelle Precker

All the Jews who were in Drancy.

David Boder

All the Jews who . . .

Marcelle Precker

We were about two thousand at that month.

David Boder

Well so they really didn't count whether that they got that many Germans or not. I mean they freed all the Jews.

Marcelle Precker

All the Jews.

David Boder

And where did everybody go?

Marcelle Precker

Some went in . . . [unintelligible] as we do.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

Also . . .

David Boder

Yeah . . . uh-huh. Yeah . . . Then . . . others went where?

Marcelle Precker

At separate time . . . [?] in other places . . . we [traveling?] by the . . . at that manner that was called "ugit[?]"

David Boder

Yes. And?

Marcelle Precker

And stayed there . . .

David Boder

By who was it arranged?

Marcelle Precker

It was arranged by a Jewish organization . . . "Fugita[?]".

David Boder

Uh-huh. That was . . . Did they work while the Germans were here?

Marcelle Precker

Yes it was . . . [speaking over each other]

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

Yes. And then, so that's where the people went?

Marcelle Precker

Went . . .

David Boder

All right.

Marcelle Precker

[difficult to understand] . . . before it [?] to them to [?].

David Boder

Now tell me what do you remember of the liberation? The day after liberation? How did that come about?

Marcelle Precker

[difficult to understandâcar horns in background] It was a [performance?] to . . . win them there because I [?] from Drancy that I should do it with my friend and I . . . didn't go . . . [?] moment.

David Boder

Yeah. But you hear that the Germans have left Paris?

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

All right. And who came in?

Marcelle Precker

At that moment, French troops came in Paris with American after that.

David Boder

And the Americans came in after that.

David Boder

All right and then how long did it last until you had to get your apartment back? Tell us how did you get your apartment back?

Marcelle Precker

As the people who had taken our apartment were put in by the Germans it was able for us to take it . . .

David Boder

To take it back?

Marcelle Precker

Back. Because the French troops tell us that if they don't . . .

David Boder

. . . move out?

Marcelle Precker

Move out . . . we'll move them [from it].

David Boder

So you just came and told them to move out.

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

And they moved out.

Marcelle Precker

They moved from the flat.

David Boder

And then, you moved in your apartment? Where did you get some furniture?

Marcelle Precker

My father had a very big country house near Paris.

David Boder

He had what?

Marcelle Precker

A very big country house.

David Boder

Oh your father had a country house near Paris.

Marcelle Precker

Which was occupied [?] by the Germans.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

And [for the?] rooms . . . [we were?] furniture.

David Boder

What? . . . yes.

Marcelle Precker

We . . . had to change to us from furniture remaining in the . . .

David Boder

In the house there.

Marcelle Precker

So we put them in our apartment in Paris.

David Boder

Oh you had a house in the suburbs so you moved that to the apartment in Paris. All right. And then . . . the people moved out from your apartment without much argument.

Marcelle Precker

Not very much because at that moment it was not very good to have be the friend of the Germans.

David Boder

Now tell me how does it happen that still here people are suing others for their apartments and so they have difficulty in getting their apartments back? They say that there are still some people who have not gotten their apartments back by now?

Marcelle Precker

Yes. But it's very [intertwined?] if it is people who have lost a house . . . demolition by . . .

David Boder

Oh . . . if there are people you have had their apartments destroyed? Was everything destroyed in Paris?

Marcelle Precker

Not in Paris but many of them . . . [?] who were living in the . . .

David Boder

In the country and other cities and came here

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

. . . and they have nowhere to go.

David Boder

And that is why some people don't get their apartments back.

Marcelle Precker

Yes. It's the only reason.

David Boder

All right. What does your little daughter do now?

Marcelle Precker

Now she's at school.

David Boder

She's at school? How old is she now?

Marcelle Precker

She's nearly fifteen.

David Boder

To what school is she going?

Marcelle Precker

Now she is in school only for [?]

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

Near Paris, at BuffÃmont. It's a very beautiful place.

David Boder

Yes.

Marcelle Precker

After that she'll be in a college in Paris.

David Boder

What kind of a school is it in BuffÃmont?

Marcelle Precker

It's a French feminine . . .

David Boder

Is it a private . . . private school?

Marcelle Precker

Yes it's a private school.

David Boder

Yes, and so . . . Is your father back in business?

Marcelle Precker

My father is back in business since one year.

David Boder

Yes. He has his fur business again?

Marcelle Precker

Yes sir.

David Boder

Uh-huh. And you are working here with the Joint?

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

Well, do you have many French friends that are not Jewish?

Marcelle Precker

. . . I have some.

David Boder

Well uh . . . how do they feel now about the whole situation? [very long pause] I mean this . . . Well there were of course all kind of French. There were some who were collaborating with the Germans . . .

Marcelle Precker

Yes.

David Boder

And there were others who were fighting the Germans and so on. Now, uh, what do they think? How soon will France come back to normal?

Marcelle Precker

It's difficult . . . to know exactly.

David Boder

Well what do you think? [pause.] Can't tell, huh?

Marcelle Precker

No.

David Boder

You wouldn't be able to tell.

Marcelle Precker

No.

David Boder

Now uh . . . tell me this . . . did you know somebody when you were in Cannes or so on . . . did you know something about the resistance movement in France?

Marcelle Precker

In fact, I was [?] in Cannes [?].

David Boder

You didn't see much of it.

Marcelle Precker

No sir.

David Boder

There's not much of a resistance movement there.

David Boder

All right, Ms. Precker that is some very interesting material and I thank you very much. This is a Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording taken from Ms. Marcel Precker working at present at the American Joint Distribution Committee and . . . she was born in Paris and continues to live here. All right, thank you.