David P. Boder Interviews Valerius Michelson; September 26, 1946; München, Germany

var transcription = { interview: [ var english_translation = { interview: [ David Boder

[In English] Munich, September the 24th, 1946, at the UNRRA University in the Deutsches Museum, a university for displaced students from all over the world; about more than a dozen nationalities. The interviewee is a gentleman, Valerius Michelson...

David Boder

[In German] How old are you?

David Boder

[In English] 30 years of age, a student at the university, and he is [to Michelson] Lithuanian? Or Latvian? Or... or he is Russian!

David Boder

[In Russian] Then perhaps we could continue in Russian?

David Boder

And he will talk to us in Russian [this last sentence was apparently intended in English, but was said in Russian]. Turn around [apparently referring to the microphone]. Take it this way. Mr. Michelson, I should like to ask you [pause] to tell me where you were and what happened to you . . . ehh . . . from the moment either when the war began or when the movement of Soviet armies started towards the west.

Valerius Michelson

At that time I was in Estonia.

David Boder

Right. And . . . ehh . . . since what time did you live in Revel?

Valerius Michelson

I lived [there] since the year '19 [1919].

David Boder

That means right after the first revolution.

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

Did you live there with your parents?

Valerius Michelson

I lived together with [words not clear].

David Boder

And so in what year . . . ehh . . . did the Soviets come to Revel for the first time?

Valerius Michelson

In the year '39.

David Boder

Good. What happened to you? What were you doing then, and so forth?

Valerius Michelson

At the time I lived in Revel and [pause] occupied myself with drawing, et cetera. I was preparing myself to graduate soon from the technical school in Revel.

David Boder

Right. You were then a student?

Valerius Michelson

I was a student.

David Boder

Begin with that. Then you were a student of the technical school in Revel and were near graduation.

Valerius Michelson

I was near graduation.

David Boder

Well, what happened to you personally, and to your immediate family, when the Soviets arrived in Revel?

Valerius Michelson

At first we were waiting for the Soviets, as Russians [pause], and for that reason we were glad about their coming. [Footnote: Estonia belonged to Russia for centuries. It became independent after the first world war, but there were always certain elements, no necessarily communistic, who desired a reunification with Russia.] But [pause] in a very short time we became convinced that there was not much to be especially glad about. My father was the editor of a Russian [language] newspaper in Revel.

David Boder

What was the name of the paper?

Valerius Michelson

The name of the paper was Freedom of Russia.

David Boder

[With surprise] In Revel? And it was called Freedom of Russia?

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

How did the Estonians permit such a newspaper? Or what was it? Oh, it was [meant] the freedom of Russia and implied the freedom from the Soviets?

Valerius Michelson

No. It was a rather leftist paper.

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

But it was 'undercover' and on it were working communists [??].

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

And it was so secretive [unintelligible], my father worked as an economist.

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

. . . ehh . . . I specifically mentioned this newspaper because it was of very leftist views. It was constantly under attack [?]. My father was at one time an SR and therefore sympathized with the movement in Russia and thought that, if not directly Bolshevism, then, in any case, the socialist revolution in Russia is necessary. I was brought up on these same viewpoints, and I always considered myself . . . ehh . . . not a person . . . anyway not . . . ehh . . . of Fascist, nor even capable of capitalistic persuasion. [Pause] In spite of all that, after the arrival of the Soviets in Estonia [pause], in a short time, my father began to experience problems [pause] and at the end . . . the beginning of 1940 . . . upon establishment of a Bolshevik government [these sentences are not clear; the recording is poor] . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

And by the end . . . that is at the beginning of the year '40 . . .

David Boder

Right.

Valerius Michelson

he was called . . . he was twice called by . . . by the NKVD.

David Boder

What is the NKVD?

Valerius Michelson

This is . . . ehh . . . uhmm . . . Peoples' Commissariat.

David Boder

Soviet police or something?

Valerius Michelson

. . . of Internal Affairs of the republic. Some kind of . . . yes, some kind of a Soviet Gestapo. [Chuckle.]

David Boder

Intelligence.

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

What did they call the GPU?

Valerius Michelson

I don't know. At one time it was called GPU, and then it was renamed. When [that was done] I don't know exactly. At any rate, when they [father and others?] came there, there were [people from] the border forces and some kind of a secret police, et cetera. They were all under the same name, . et cetera. [Pause] And afterwards [pause], in March of the year '41, the father on his way to work in the morning . . . Of course, he did not expect not to return home. [Pause]

David Boder

Well . . .

Valerius Michelson

He disappeared, and since then I have not had from him any information.

David Boder

Neither you nor your mother, nobody?

Valerius Michelson

Not I . . . My mother had died already before.

David Boder

Hm.

Valerius Michelson

And I did not receive any more information.

David Boder

Who in your family was [unintelligible]?

Valerius Michelson

I had an aunt, who brought me up, [pause] and who managed to leave for Finland. [Pause]

David Boder

Did you hear from her [?]?

Valerius Michelson

I . . . ehh . . . received a letter from her sent through my cousin in Belgium. I have three [male] cousins who are in Belgium, and through them I have received these letters [about her], because there is no direct communication at present with Finland. [Pause] Well, after that episode, you know, . . . ehh . . . in the fall, rather in the early fall, [pause] in August, at the end of July, at the beginning of August the Germans arrived.

David Boder

Right. [Pause] So your father did not return? You couldn't make inquiries, ask around . . . ?

Valerius Michelson

I endeavored to inquire, but I received no information. I was even twice summoned, and I was questioned about alleged anti-Soviet views of my father and work, which [unintelligible].

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

But I was released, because I was at that time sufficiently on my own. I did not live together with him [the father], and so they did not find me in anything especially guilty. I . . .

David Boder

[Unintelligible]

Valerius Michelson

Yes, yes. I personally think that [pause] my father hardly had committed any anti-Soviet acts, because first of all he was quite old, and second, it is my personal belief, I think he could not have been an enemy of Soviet authority.

David Boder

What is your religion?

Valerius Michelson

Orthodox.

David Boder

I am asking your faith because I have encountered an Orthodox priest [Father Kharchenko, Chapter 15] among the . . .

Valerius Michelson

Yes. Now then. I told you that I am Orthodox, but I don't want to assert it definitely. I am baptized as a Orthodox, but . . .

David Boder

Well, I understand. It is your family. The family background [this word was said in English] is Orthodox.

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

That I understand.

Valerius Michelson

Entirely correct. Well, afterwards [pause] when they started calling to the NKVD, et cetera, et cetera, it did not give me in peace and . . . ehh . . . our financial situation was bad. [Pause] I had to work a great deal. Mainly I made all kinds of drawings, pictures, et cetera, in order to earn [something] for myself. [Pause]

David Boder

Well, continue then . . .

Valerius Michelson

I continued to do all of this until the moment when the Germans arrived. [Pause]

David Boder

Wait please.

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

How was life going on? You, for instance, were working. You yourself could sell your work, receive money for it? The stores were open? How was all that going on?

Valerius Michelson

Yes . . . ehh . . . It was thus: such abundance that prevailed before in Estonia as well as in the other Baltic countries was no more. But . . .

David Boder

You are talking about the economic organization?

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

Were there private stores?

Valerius Michelson

Private stores had remained, but started to close up [liquidate]. At that time there were already attempts to proceed with a kind of socializationâ- I don't know how to call it. At any rate . . .

David Boder

[Unintelligible]

Valerius Michelson

. . . ehh . . . state . . . ehh . . . [They proceeded] to convert all the separate businesses into state enterprises. At the same time . . .

David Boder

But not at once?

Valerius Michelson

Not at once. At the same time establishments were opened in which . . . uhmm . . . in which people traded who arrived from Russia.

David Boder

How was that? They traded on their own?

Valerius Michelson

No. In the capacity of government enterprises.

David Boder

Like cooperatives?

Valerius Michelson

Like cooperatives. Or I would even say that it was actually favorable . . .

David Boder

You would say what?

Valerius Michelson

I would say that they were . . . ehh . . . that they were not cooperatives, because a cooperative implies the existence of members, shareholders, et cetera, which did not exist in these establishments.

David Boder

[In English] This concludes Spool 153, in the middle of an interview with Mr. Valerius Michelson, age 30, a student of the UNRRA University at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. September the 24th, 1946. An Illinois Institute [of Technology] wire recording.

David Boder

[In English] Spool 154. We continue from Spool 153. The interview with Mr. Valecius Michel-...[correction] Valerius Michelson. Mr. Michelson is apparently an important person in the life of the university, and he has an urge to talk about it [apparently there was some non-recorded conversation while the spools were changed]. Well, we shall try to see what we can get [recorded] in this short program, because we have changed our rule, and instead of letting everybody talk as long as possible, we are taking them in one half hour turns, because it simply would be a very great hardship to them of [my] not having listened to the representatives of each nationality. Maybe scientifically this would not be immediately convertible into useful material, but we just have to do it.

David Boder

[In Russian] And so, it means, Mr. Michelson, let us start thus: It means . . . ehh . . . your father disappeared during the time of the Soviets.

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

You made ends meet by making drawings and . . . ehh . . . pictures too?

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

For whom did you do it?

Valerius Michelson

I created them for sale.

David Boder

Good. Now tell us, how did the Germans come in? How did that change [of power] proceed?

Valerius Michelson

You see, I cannot tell you the details, because we . . .

David Boder

I don't want generalities. How . . . The environment you were located in.

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

There were people who fled? There were people who were evacuated? How did all that occur?

Valerius Michelson

Those people who had come from the Soviet sideâthere were quite a few of them; I had some acquaintances from there [pause]â they nearly all had fled before. There remained a very small number [of them].

David Boder

Right.

Valerius Michelson

What concerns the so-called old Russian immigration ['old time' refugees from the Soviets] who were thereâthey, in the majority, remained, and to some extent were even glad about the arrival of the Germans. But not all [of them]. I, of course, at that time was absorbed in preoccupations for existence, because [chuckle] with the departure of the father our [economic] status had become much worse. . . . ehh . . . The aunt with whom I lived together was already very old, and she, of course, in no way was able to help me, and I had to feed her and myself. And for that reason I had but little chance to get into conversations with strangers, only incidentally.. At any rate up to the arrival of the Germans I expected that there would be fierce battles, and endeavored together with my aunt, since we lived in a suburb, to penetrate still farther away from the suburb of the city of Revel to [name of the locality not clear].

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

And there we weathered through the whole [laughter] German advent. There were no big battles in Revel at that time, and everything proceeded rather quietly . . . ehh . . . Just not long before the march forward of the Germans I was astonished by the great confusion of the Soviet . . . Soviet soldiers, the army, and the few ships which were lying in the bay of Revel.

David Boder

How did the confusion manifest itself on the ships?

Valerius Michelson

Ehh . . . they . . . ehh . . . , as far as I know, were unable to get out, because they had no fuel. I had the opportunity to hear literally on the streets when they were yelling to each other, of course, in Russian, about, 'Where should we obtain fuel? We are not given any. there is no [word not clear].'

David Boder

What kind of fuel or oil?

Valerius Michelson

I donât know. Oil, probably oil or kerosene, et cetera. I was on the very coast . Ehh . . . on the coast of the gulf I could observe how . . . what do you call it . . . the ships maneuvered several times, how at night they would send [launches] ashore in order to obtain fuel from the shore, because at that time the German planes already endeavored to bomb these ships. The same occurred with the military forces below . . . ehh . . . meaning not below but on the coast where . . . ehh . . . in a very strange way [human] figures were running back and forth, individual figures, like messengers, or something like that, who made the impression of greatly frightened and perplexed people.

David Boder

Well, this is a general picture of [hasty] evacuation. Well, then the Germans came, and you continued working on your own [?].

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

Now what happened to you?

Valerius Michelson

To me personally? I returned to my apartment, to the two rooms, with my aunt, and we continued to live there together, and I continued to draw [paint] little pictures, et cetera, and did not experience, especially . . . ehh . . . at the beginning, any special inconveniences on the part of the Germans.

David Boder

What happened afterwards?

Valerius Michelson

Afterwards? This lasted about up to . . . ehh . . . the beginning of the year '42, that is, nearly a whole year, no, less than a year.

David Boder

Hm.

Valerius Michelson

After that I was called . . . ehh . . . to the Arbeitsamt in the center of the city. I arrived there, and they asked me a series of questions as to what my occupation was, et cetera, et cetera. And told me that actually . . . I spoke German satisfactorily, because at one time I had attended a German Gymnasium [the name not clear] Schule.

David Boder

Where? In Revel?

Valerius Michelson

In Revel. Yes.

David Boder

Hm.

Valerius Michelson

And . . . ehh . . . meaning . . . ehh . . . they [said] that was unimportant work, et cetera, et cetera. They asked me who I was by nationality. I told them I was Russian. They filled out a proper [index] card and suggested that I come around in another week. When I came in a week I was handed . . . ehh . . . some kind, how to say [chuckle] . . . they handed me a paper, in general, with a content or an order about me having to journey to Austria or they did not say Austria, just named the city of Linz . . .

David Boder

Hm.

Valerius Michelson

. . . where I indeed went after three days.

David Boder

Hm. They called this [Linz] Ostmark [name for Austria after the annexation by Hitler].

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

And so you went alone or with an echelon?

Valerius Michelson

No. there went a rather large number, and some of the people were even . . . ehh . . . my acquaintances . . . ehh . . . from Revel.

David Boder

And how were you transported? What kind of train cars, and how were the conditions?

Valerius Michelson

Ehh . . . the conditions of travel were rather satisfactory. To be sure, the train cars were freight cars, but with plank beds, et cetera. Moreover . . . ehh . . . , we were given food on the road [pause] of average quality. At any rate we did not go hungry.

David Boder

Was anybody beaten?

Valerius Michelson

No. [Pause] The only inconvenience was that we hardly could get off [the train] except for . . . in such . . . ehh . . . instances when we stopped for a long time. And that was for me the cause of an accident.

David Boder

How come?

Valerius Michelson

Near Vienna . . . ehh . . . I went out . . .

David Boder

Hm.

Valerius Michelson

I don't know the nameâa little hamlet, just in the immediate vicinity of Vienna.

David Boder

Hm.

Valerius Michelson

There we stood for three days, and we were getting off to wash and get cleaned up. And near the water tower . . . ehh . . . next to which [laughter] we were washing,, during the re-arrangement of the rolling stock I was hit by a train car. I fell and broke a leg.

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

And for that reason I was [not?] transported farther with the echelon, but was sent from the start . . . ehh . . . to some small hospital or something of the kind in that little hamlet or suburb of Vienna. And afterwards I was transferred to Vienna proper, to the Samaritan Hospital. [Pause]

David Boder

Well.

Valerius Michelson

After I . . . I was put in a cast, and I remained there for quite a long time. And there . . . ehh . . . they took rather good care of me, and more so when I afterwards requested some paper and started to draw everybody who was there, my nurses, afterwards the doctorâsurgeon, a young and very handsome physician who was taking care of me. And I and this doctor became afterwards such friends that he proposed that I remain inâthe doctor was an activistâand he proposed that I remain in Vienna and help his wife, who was doing some Kunstgewerbe with her work. In this manner I remained in Vienna. Through the acquaintance [influence] of this doctor I succeeded in arranging with the Arbeitsamt [so that] I was considered . . . ehh . . . how to say, an independent professional man, and I was able to occupy myself during the following three years with the same activities with which I occupied myself already in Revel, that is, drawing all kinds of little pictures, et cetera.

David Boder

Yes. You came to be . . . ehh . . . , so to speak, a colleague of Hitler. He too was an artist.

Valerius Michelson

Yes, in some way. With the difference that [laughter] I occupied myself with the drawing of pictures, while he occupied himself . . .

David Boder

Well, go on.

Valerius Michelson

At the moment of liberation . . . I was in Vienna all the time, up to the moment when it . . . the Bolsheviks started approaching Vienna. Since I knew the Soviets from my experiences in Revel, or rather from the experiences of my father, because these were just [personal] experiences and not final complete conclusionsâsuch knowledge I did not haveâI did not want to remain in Vienna, and got out of there with a whole stream [of people] running away from Vienna. And moved from there to the West. [Pause] Ehh . . . At the beginning of May, about the 6th, I crossed the Bavarian border [pause] and [unintelligible]

David Boder

Tell me, you legally went over to the West?

Valerius Michelson

I went illegally together, as I told you, with those innumerable echelons. And, moreover, I managed to travel part of the road with my compatriots, who were running away from somewhere in Russia, from near Smolensk . . .

David Boder

Right.

Valerius Michelson

with whom I managed [laughter] to chat during the journey, and who told me about Soviet Russia a multitude of sad things [stories], about how they were left . . . left without a homeland, without anything. And when I asked them how come they are abandoning their homeland, they answered that for them it would also have been hard to sta . . . remain . . . How to say it?

David Boder

To live.

Valerius Michelson

. . . as hard to live as here in a foreign country. I parted afterwards from them, and together with another man I proceeded through devastated Munich. It was thus. Barely did I cross the border between . . . ehh . . . Austria and Bavaria when I met the first American forces.

David Boder

It was as simple as that.

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

Well, and afterwards, how did you get to Munich? Or . . .

Valerius Michelson

I . . . ehh . . . moved on to southern Bavaria and arrived partly on foot, partly on conveyances, in Kempten. In Kempten I went to a camp . . . ehh . . . for DP's where I remained for eight days. The life in the camp was very hard for me.

David Boder

Well, what did you eat en route? How did you . . .

Valerius Michelson

En route I sustained myself in the most varied ways. Until I reached the American forces I sustained myself by going to various peasants, and asking for something, et cetera. And it must be said that in Austria the people in this respect were much kinder than afterwards [the people] in Bavaria.

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

But in Bavaria I spent one day without the Americans. There was a frightful confusion, and . . . ehh . . . I was not surprised that nobody cared to feed me, because all people were in frightful agitation and fear.

David Boder

Germans?

Valerius Michelson

Germans.

David Boder

And where were the troops?

Valerius Michelson

The troops? . . . ehh . . . I happened to meet only in one of the villages which I passed. I endeavored not to walk on the main highways . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

. . . because I proceeded without documents, and that was dangerous, and I think that I managed to pass through because of the reign of a peculiar and tense mood. [Pause]

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

Ehh . . . At any rate, I attempted not to march on the large highways, but tried to walk from farmhouse to farmhouse through the little villages.

David Boder

Right.

Valerius Michelson

And in this way . . . ehh . . . I sustained myself until the instant when I met the first American division. And this first American division supplied me with dry [food] packages, and on these dry packages I managed to get to southern Bavaria to [the city of] Kempten.

David Boder

On foot or . . .

Valerius Michelson

Part by automobile, a short distance across from the border of Bavaria and as far as . . . ehh . . . Munich, and through Munich, a short distance past, I covered by automobile, on an American . . . a truck. And afterwards I still walked a short distance, and in fact this was the most interesting part of my recent life. At that time I had paper with me, I had watercolors, and I sketched all kinds of particular . . . ehh . . . buildings which had impressed me and aroused my interest. I sketched pictures of Bavarian life. That was most interesting, and I felt myself trulyâfor the first time after many yearsâfree and gained . . . full of hope for the future.

David Boder

Right. Well, tell me this. [Pause] . . . ehh . . . You told me that you wanted to tell me something about your . . . the UNRRA University. What faculty are you personally attending?

Valerius Michelson

The faculty of architecture.

David Boder

Architecture. I kind of suspected it, but did not want to jump to conclusions. Well let us take ten minutes, and tell me something about the [UNRRA] University.

Valerius Michelson

Good. I really did not want to talk about the university. I wanted to talk about that which interests me personally . . .

David Boder

Yes, that is not in the university.

Valerius Michelson

. . . concerning the university. I told you already that in Kempten I got into a camp [apparently for non-Jewish DP's]. I . . .

David Boder

Kempten?

Valerius Michelson

Kempten.

David Boder

Where is it [located]?

Valerius Michelson

That is in the AllgÃu in southern Bavaria. In the DP camp [unintelligible]. I withstood this camp for exactly eight days, because to live doing nothing, to get help for nothing, it was so painful for me . Life itself with a kind of people who do not see for themselves a way out, do not see that they could become useful to other people by starting to work [see Jacob Oleiski, Chapter 30], and [with] people who rely on . . . ehh . . . getting help from somewhere without deserving it in some way, that was very difficult for me [see Note 1 at the end of this chapter].

David Boder

Do you mean to say without deserving [being worthy] or without earning?

Valerius Michelson

Without earning.

David Boder

There is a difference.

Valerius Michelson

Yes. Without earning.

David Boder

You understand that people who were for years in Buchenwald . . .

Valerius Michelson

I would say thus . . .

David Boder

. . . and who . . .

Valerius Michelson

People who were in Buchenwald, people who worked hard for the Germans, worked very hardâbecause I know many people who had to do things which hardly any other nation could compel [a person] to doâ. . . ehh . . . such people, of course, deserved a rest, and, of course, earned the opportunity to . . . ehh . . . for some time, really relax, so as to be capable again in the future . . . ehh . . . of creativity and work . But [pause] I, however, want to say that I not only earn but in addition deserve, because I have seen these camps [for DP's], and particularly in the camp where I had a chance to be, an enormous number of people who by their psychology [personality], by their [pause] . . . ehh . . . [some distance of silence on the wire] were no sufficiently high morally and . . . ehh . . . [pause], how to say ethically . . . people who took advantage of the possibility of being supported at the cost . . . ehh . . . of somebody else's wealth . . . ehh . . . , took advantage in the sense that they attempted to organize all kinds of [unintelligible] in the sense that they tried to arrange any kind of sale [pause][black markets], or . . . ehh . . . [pause] devoted themselves to all kinds of love affairs, and simply rob the peasants in the vicinity, et cetera.[See again Jacob Oleiski, Chapter 30.] I understand the burst of anger, the burst of hatred towards people who oppressed us for a long time , but to enrich yourself at the cost of these people, in my opinion, is shameless and immoral [unscrupulous]. And these circumstances compelled me to leave the camp. I left and told myself that never again shall I enter into such a camp.

David Boder

Hold on, let us ask you another question. It is very interesting for us because. You say 'to become enriched' . . . ehh . . .

Valerius Michelson

Yes.

David Boder

You were . . . you had a chance to earn all the time. During all that time you probably were not struck [beaten] a single time. Were you struck [beaten] at any time during your whole stay in Germany?

Valerius Michelson

No, no.

David Boder

And now you take people who were searched, whose things were constantly taken away. These things were distributed among the Germans [pause] as gifts, and [or] were sold. [unintelligible]

Valerius Michelson

I understand.

David Boder

And then, meaning, if we assume, entered the village and took away [their] trunks, took away [their] things

Valerius Michelson

That is not theft . . .

David Boder

Then how could you say 'to enrich themselves at the cost of the population of the region'?

Valerius Michelson

I shall say something else. That I understand. And I said that I understand the burst of anger and I understand the hatred for the Germans. And I would say that I do not like the Germans. And they are obnoxious to me. And I wanted to talk about it then, when I thought of talking about it, why I am with this university, why I work in this [UNRRA] university as my social activity [public service]. But I would say [that] in order to answer your question about the methods they use . . . I know that there were a large number of purely criminal elements, partly from Soviet Russiaâbecause I am in good command of the Russian language. I talked to them. I saw that they had remained . . .

David Boder

Were these war prisoners?

Valerius Michelson

Not necessarily war prisoners. People of all kinds. I talked to them, and I saw to what kind of psychological depths they had sunk. What were they thinking about? They did not think of taking back what was taken from them by force. What they thought about was that in Soviet Russia they had no chance to steal, they had no opportunity to rob people, to kill. Here they literally organized in gangs in order to promote their own [selfish] business, and not for the purpose of having avenged the evil which the Germans had done to them. No. And precisely these people I consider people who under no condition are deserving of the help of any nation.

David Boder

And were there many such people?

Valerius Michelson

I reckon that from among those people . . . I reckon that from among those people who came from the East [pause], predominantly from Soviets regions, only a small part of those not belonging to the intelligentsia was not of that kind. All those who came here honestly, who were dragged over here [to Germany], who were compelled to work here, peasantry, [industrial] workers from Russia, they have returned. However, those who have remained here, in most cases, were people of a criminal bent of personality, and I figure that there are no reasons whatsoever to lend support to such people. Only those people who have felt a kind of spiritual oppressionâand these are for the most part the intelligentsia who had come from Soviet Russiaâthey have remained honest, and for that reason poor as well. And [pause] in the majority, they did not want to live together with these [criminal] elements. [pause] I now meet these people rather often. I know they are people from Soviet Russia, but I associate with them, I like to talk with them, because in them I see the real characteristics of intelligent [pause], understanding people, who know why they are here. I divide . . . ehh . . . the Russians, those who have come now from Soviet Russia, into two categories. They are either people who knew why they are going away from there, [pause] because there there was no opportunity to develop their creative abilities. There was no . . .

David Boder

You mean they took advantage of the invasion of the Germans to get away from there?

Valerius Michelson

To get out of Russia, or, if they were taken out by force from Russia, to remain here. Or in part [the second category] they are the element which left Russia, because they did not have there a chance to make use of the other . . . the other one's [person's] property, the other one's possessions, and live here day in, day out by a chance to live on the labors of others. [Pause] Those people who have come from there or were taken out of there [by force], who were accustomed to work there, those also went to work here. And these are mostly the intelligent . . . the group of the intelligentsiaâin part, of course, not only the intelligentsia. And these people are also working now. They, in most cases, don't conglomerate in [DP] camps, but endeavor to make a living in some other way away but away from those people [the criminal element].

David Boder

And the Germans? Do they permit them to work here?

Valerius Michelson

In some instances, yes. It is very difficult, but possible. I know quite a few cases where people live . . . ehh . . . outside the [DP] camps and work, say, for the American forces and

David Boder

And where do you live?

Valerius Michelson

I live near [name not clear].

David Boder

In a dormitory?

Valerius Michelson

Privately, like the majority of our students.

David Boder

Not with UNRRA?

Valerius Michelson

Not with UNRRA.

David Boder

How? Were you billeted with the Germans?

Valerius Michelson

Yes. That was done nearly for all students of our university.

David Boder

Does anybody pay for their apartments?

Valerius Michelson

According to the latest . . . ehh . . . orders . . .

David Boder

The Germans?

Valerius Michelson

The German government has to pay, or rather the Bavarian government, to be exact. Up to now we paid ourselves, and we ourselves earned the money. But I have to say that now . . .

David Boder

How did you earn?

Valerius Michelson

I earned all the time in the same way. Like before, I was drawing, make all kinds of . . . ehh . . . sketches for coloring, and sold them in German stores. And the German stores accepted them. In this respect the Germans did not exercise any special pressure over me. [Pause]

David Boder

Yes, and?

Valerius Michelson

For some time I worked here and for one firm. In a firm, however, managed by a Russian. Ehh . . .

David Boder

What Russian?

Valerius Michelson

A certain engineer of [the] Kaiser . . .

David Boder

How can he manage a firm?

Valerius Michelson

Here are quite a few firms which are managed mostly not only by Russians but by many foreigners. Construction firms and engineering firms.

David Boder

Are these, so to speak, new firms?

Valerius Michelson

These are firms which were founded after the Americans had arrived and liberated prisoners . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Valerius Michelson

. . . because there were quite a few [businesses] here either taken out of Russia or taken our of Czechia, or other countries occupied at one time by the Germans, who [the employees] have remained here and endeavored, at any rate, to work in some way so that they could make a living.

David Boder

And they intend to remain here?

Valerius Michelson

In the majority of cases, no. I don't know a single case when the foreigners wanted . . . [correction] would have wanted to remain.

David Boder

Now why is that?

Valerius Michelson

Why? I will tell you about that right away together with our talk about the university in order to . . .

David Boder

Yes, yes, yes, I won't interrupt you.

Valerius Michelson

I myself [pause] found out that a university is being organized in connection with UNRRA [pause], and I went to that university not withstanding [in spite of] my knowledge of the German language and not withstanding my knowledge that here is a definite norm for the admission of foreigners into the Germans educational institutions. I considered that to go to people who have started this war, and who according to their psychology, as previously, hate foreigners, that would mean to go into an environment known to be hostile. On the other hand, during this war, especially here, I had the opportunity to meet not only with Russians who had come from the East, but also with Poles, in part war prisoners who worked with farmers, in part . . . ehh . . . people taken out of there [Poland], and with Ukrainians, and most recently with Balts. And in all of them I noticed one common [character] streak, a streak of desire, after the war [pause], in some way to build, life on a new foundation, especially among the young people. On the basis of understanding each other, and friendship with each other . And it appeared to me that if this university, which is just now being created, would gain strength, if this university [pause] will come to be an entity which could really live and exist, then it could bring about a real collaboration of work with one with another, and especially for us, the people from the East who, as I observed for the last three years, could never come to terms to be friends with each other. They wanted it, but always continued thinking, 'No, I am a Ukrainian.' 'I am a Pole. We can't be together,' or 'I am a Ukrainian, and you are a Muscovite, a Russian. You . . . ehh . . . are oppressing our nation,' et cetera. And it appeared to me that in this university we, the youth, who after [pause] sufficient preparation will become the leaders in their own countries, in their own lands . . . if we should be friends among ourselves we would be able to create a rapprochement between our countries to an extent necessary in order that there will be neither wars nor these horrible totalitarian regimes which humiliate man and [oppress] his abilities to think and to create for the good of other [his fellow] men. And with this idea I came to the university. The first thing that I noticed at the university [pause] was that there was no such idea, that people have come here after the long years, during which they were torn away from learning, in order to study. That was good. But [pause] that was not all. What was missing here was unity, and for that reason the scholastic, academic spirit was also missing. [Pause] And already during the first month [pause] I, we, meaning, at the faculty started to talk thus: That in order to live actually in friendship, and in order to create academic conditions not akin to an average DP camp, which very many have experienced and which very many have left for the same reasons that I have left, we have to hold together and demand toward ourselves a different attitude, different than accorded to the average masses [of DP's], an attitude toward us as students, as studying youth.

David Boder

Now what kind of a special attitude toward students at the university [are you talking about]?

Valerius Michelson

This I can describe by means of an example which not long ago happened among us in a camp. I think that would interest you. We had here a strike, a very real hunger . . . hunger revolt, I would say. Ehh . . . That may appear strange. However, there were reasons for it. When the students once arrived in the morning at their university, they were not permitted to enter the university by the so-called DP police, that is, DP's who were organized to maintain order.

David Boder

By DP you mean displaced persons? [The interviewer was apparently surprised that he used the English term.]

Valerius Michelson

These DP . . . this DP police aroused the indignation of the students by their sheer appearance, because it is proper that there be no police in the university. But what was most strange was that they permitted themselves first to push and chase students from corner to corner, and when our professors arrived, after detaining the dean of the university, they submitted him to a meticulous . . . ehh . . . search, compelled him to present all kinds of documents, and treated him most impertinently. This aroused the students most of all. Afterwards quite a few professors of advanced age, in order to get into the university, had to jump over benches, among them a lady . . . ehh . . . , a microbiologist, most respected among us as a professor, was obliged to do the same and this was the reason that the students started a frightful noise and literally were beside themselves [Pause]. For me as the president of the student organization of our university it was very hard to quiet down the aroused students. After assembling them with great difficulty in the yard of the university, I asked the people to calm down, not to cause great debauchery, and if they want at all to do something . . . I agreed to the demand of the majority of the students to decide not to take any nourishment, not to eat, until we would be promised that the police will be removed and police method will not be used in our university. The strike lasted, all together, one day, only two times [meaning twice they staged a hunger strike] but it proved that during the six months which we had spent in the university all the students, without distinction of nationality or creed, had united into such a family that all went out on such a risky venture as a strike. There was complete solidarity. This is just an example, an example of that which we consider a wrong attitude towards students, and which arouses our indignation. That is precisely why we are talking about the academic spirit and relationships.

David Boder

Now permit me. How did they explain it to you? How did that whole police episode come about?

Valerius Michelson

It had come about by mistake. By a big mistake . . .

David Boder

But since it was a mistake [?] . . .

Valerius Michelson

Entirely correct. But it seems to me that concerning students such mistakes are not permissible, [as if correcting himself] and in general concerning people, not only students. After all, there exist different norms of conduct . . .

David Boder

Well, yes, but here is a theater of military operations . . .

Valerius Michelson

That is correct. But in spite of that I don't think that we have given any grounds for such treatment. We endeavor [unintelligible] always to behave correctly, and [pause] I personally consider that the strike was a very bad thing. I . . . personally do not like it, because it is not proper to do such things.

David Boder

What was improper?

Valerius Michelson

It was improper to organize a strike, et cetera. I think it would have been possible to come to terms without it. But it was provoked, because that was not the first time, and that is why it occurred, due to the mood.

David Boder

You see, I think we have to give here some explanation. Deutsches Museum is not only a university. You have here also a center for the registration of DP's.

Valerius Michelson

Entirely correct.

David Boder

And it is possible, when the police was posted, they . . . [apparently coughs] police were posted, they were not exactly told which points . . . ehh . . . to say, to guard and which to open.

Valerius Michelson

Unfortunately this did not take place. The fact of the matter is that there are entrances from two sides. At one side the DPs enter, and this was directed definitely against the students, because on that day . . . ehh . . . there was a check-up on the attendance of the lectures, which the student body exercises on its own, on its own initiative, since we don't want to have idlers in our university, or people who would come to the university solely to take advantage of the privileges given by UNRRA, and for which we are very grateful to UNRRA, but only . . . ehh . . . [people who would come] to study. And people who study we want in our university. And that is why we maintained through our student organization such registrations, and we were able to furnish information about who the people were, et cetera.

David Boder

Well, [pause] is there anything else that you would like to tell us or you would like to tell the American students?

Valerius Michelson

To the American students I should like to say this, that the students, the foreigners who study in our university and who in a very large part study in German universities, all of them endeavor to rally together, endeavor to overcome all the hatred among nations, which is still up to now very strong in Europe, in order to work towards the construction of their countries in the spirit of cooperation [friendship] with the rest, in the spirit of actual all-human friendship, so that there be no more events like the past war, that here would be no more events similar to Hitlerâs state. And we want the creation of an international university. We know that what we have here now in Munich is not an international university. Or better, it is international, but not yet a university, because we are short of very many things. Even we ourselves, in our own views about the world, [and] in our . . . ehh . . . opportunities, needed to call ourselves a real international university. But we think that we could serve as a kernel for such a cooperation, and for such a university in which would be brought up the intelligentsia of the future. That is about all.

David Boder

So. [In English] This concludes the interview of Mr. Valerius Michelson, a student of architecture at the International University of UNRRA. Munich, September the 24th, 1946. We had here quite some interruptions of some very important visitors which [whom] I could not stave away, and from that standpoint we have lost at times quite a bit some time [of material]. An Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.