David P. Boder Interviews Nathan Schacht; September 8, 1946; Bellevue, France

var english_translation = { interview: [ David Boder

[In English] September 8th, 1946. Bellevue under Paris, in a home for displaced children under the direction of the OPEJ, the society for the care of Jewish children. The interviewee is Nathan Schacht, a fifteen year old boy. His face is all in scars, and part of one ear is missing. He will tell us the story [of] what has happened to him.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] And so, Nathan, come over here. Move over. Tell me your name again.

Nathan Schacht

Schacht, Nathan.

David Boder

Nathan Schacht. How old are you, Nathan?

Nathan Schacht

Fifteen years.

David Boder

You are fifteen years old.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

And how long have you been in Paris? In France?

Nathan Schacht

I have been in France threee months.

David Boder

You have been in France three months.

Nathan Schacht

Three . . . four months.

David Boder

Four months. And how long have you been in this place?

Nathan Schacht

Here?

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

One month.

David Boder

Here you have been one month.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Well, tell me, Nathan, what has happened, as you remember it, when the war began . . . when the war began? Speak in here.

Nathan Schacht

In '41, when the mother and the father were taken away by the Germans . . .

David Boder

The Germans took away your father and mother?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Tell me, how did it happen?

Nathan Schacht

When they took them away at night [?] I ran away from Lemberg. I didn't have anywhere to stay, so I ran from Lemberg. [Words not clear.]

David Boder

Well, wait a moment. Where did you live?

Nathan Schacht

In Lemberg.

David Boder

Oh! In '41 you lived in Lemberg.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

What language did you speak at home?

Nathan Schacht

I?

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

Russian, Polish.

David Boder

Russian, too?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Can you still speak Russian?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

[In Russian] Do you speak Russian?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

You do speak Russian.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] Would you like to speak Russian or Yiddish?

Nathan Schacht

Hm? No. Yiddish.

David Boder

You will speak Yiddish.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Well. How many people were in your family? The father, the mother . . .

Nathan Schacht

Two brothers and a sister.

David Boder

Were the brothers older or younger than you?

Nathan Schacht

One brother was older than m- . . . than I.

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

The other one was younger.

David Boder

And the sister?

Nathan Schacht

Older.

David Boder

And the sister was older than you.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

And where are they now?

Nathan Schacht

What?

David Boder

Where are your brothers and sisters?

Nathan Schacht

I don't know.

David Boder

You don't know where they are.

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

Did you try to find them?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Where?

Nathan Schacht

I don't know. I gave it to . . .

David Boder

You don't know where they are.

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

Well, what happened in '41?

Nathan Schacht

The moment the Germans came they took away the father . . .

David Boder

Were you at home when they took your father and mother?

Nathan Schacht

Yes. They took me, too, but I ran away from the auto. And they took them away.

David Boder

What did you run away from?

Nathan Schacht

From the auto.

David Boder

From the truck.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Yes. And the father and mother were with whom?

Nathan Schacht

With the brothers and the sister together.

David Boder

Yes. And you ran away.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Why did you run away?

Nathan Schacht

They told me to run away, so I ran away.

David Boder

Who told you to run away?

Nathan Schacht

The mother. She was taken away separately with the father.

David Boder

Oh!

Nathan Schacht

[Words not clear.]

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

On another truck.

David Boder

Yes? Nu?

Nathan Schacht

And I remained with the brothers and sister. I told them to escape, too. They did not want to. They were afraid. So I escaped by myself.

David Boder

Who told you to escape?

Nathan Schacht

I escaped by myself.

David Boder

Oh, by yourself.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Nu, and they . . . Where did you escape from, from the truck?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

From the camion.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

All right. And where did you go?

Nathan Schacht

So I went to a gentile. I did not have anywhere to stay there, so I went to a gentile, to work. The gentile . . .

David Boder

Wait a moment. [Adjusting the equipment.] And so what kind of work did you do with this gentile?

Nathan Schacht

I worked in the field. I worked everywhere, whatever he asked me to do. I worked in the forest. And then the gentile did not want to hide me. I had nothing to give him. He wanted me to give him something for hiding me.

David Boder

Oh.

Nathan Schacht

I had nothing. I had no papers to show whether I am a Pole or a Russian.

David Boder

Nu?

Nathan Schacht

He did not want to keep me, so I left. So I ran away into the forest. I went to the partisans.

David Boder

Well, tell me, did the gentle know that you were a Jew?

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

No?

Nathan Schacht

He did not know. If I had told him that I am a Jew he would have handed me over to the police.

David Boder

Yes? But you had no papers.

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

So the gentile told you that he cannot keep you without any papers.

Nathan Schacht

Of course.

David Boder

Nu?

Nathan Schacht

He told me that if I had no papers he would not keep me. I had no papers. I must leave. He did not want to keep me. He was afraid.

David Boder

Nu?

Nathan Schacht

Nu, so I ran away to the partisans. When I came there I did not see anybody, but one night I saw that there . . . partisans were there.

David Boder

In the forest.

Nathan Schacht

Yes, I saw them there. Afterwards I went there, but I did not see anyone. I walked towards the river, about two kilometers. I noticed a Russian partisan. I saw him.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

He asked me where I was going. So I said, 'I am going to earn something. I have no place to go.' He asked me who I was and what . . . He questioned me about everything.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

And then he took me to the captain.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

He introduced me. He accepted me. He gave me food, everything he gave me. I was there eighteen months.

David Boder

What?

Nathan Schacht

Over a year and a half I was there.

David Boder

A year.

Nathan Schacht

A year and a half.

David Boder

Half a year?

Nathan Schacht

A year and a half.

David Boder

A year and a half. And how old were you?

Nathan Schacht

I was then ten . . . eleven years old.

David Boder

Eleven years.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

What did you do there with the partisans?

Nathan Schacht

I went scouting. I went . . .

David Boder

Alone?

Nathan Schacht

No. With . . . with the Russians. I went scouting. I went for food to the gentiles.

David Boder

Yes? What does it mean, 'you went for food'?

Nathan Schacht

What?

David Boder

What does it mean, 'you went for food to the gentiles'?

Nathan Schacht

For all . . . for all Russians I brought food.

David Boder

You brought food.

Nathan Schacht

Food, yes.

David Boder

How did you get it?

Nathan Schacht

I went to the gentiles. I went with other Russians, not by myself.

David Boder

Did you pay for the food?

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

What did you do, take it away?

Nathan Schacht

Of course. We had nothing to eat, so we went and took.

David Boder

Aha. So you took [it] and ran away.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

And the gentile, what would he do?

Nathan Schacht

They would do nothing. We would take everything. But it was reported [?]. One day the Germans made an offensive . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

They made an offensive on the Russians there in the forest.

David Boder

Hm.

Nathan Schacht

They started shooting. They mined the whole forest with mines. But . . . we had . . . had nothing to eat any more.

David Boder

Hm.

Nathan Schacht

So I went for food.

David Boder

Nu?

Nathan Schacht

We went there for food. I went and two other Russians.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

We went near the German trenches.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

We jumped over the trenches. We were going to a gentile for food. There were mines there. I was wounded. The other two were killed. [The spool here is very weak.]

David Boder

Aha.

Nathan Schacht

The other two.

David Boder

Where were you wounded?

Nathan Schacht

Huh?

David Boder

Show me. Where were . . .

Nathan Schacht

Here.

David Boder

In the arm?

Nathan Schacht

Huh?

David Boder

Where were you wounded? In the arm, and where else?

Nathan Schacht

All over. In the legs, in the arms, all over.

David Boder

In the legs and in the arms?

Nathan Schacht

Yes. Here.

David Boder

What do you have on your face?

Nathan Schacht

Here? From a mine.

David Boder

By . . . by fragments?

Nathan Schacht

By fragments.

David Boder

With fragments of what?

Nathan Schacht

From the mine.

David Boder

From a mine!

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Oh, the mine . . .

Nathan Schacht

Burst.

David Boder

. . . had exploded, burst.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

And when was part of your ear torn off? At the same time?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

[In English] He is all rather mutilated. One half ear is missing, and he has shrapnel wounds, or wounds of . . . eh . . . shrapnel, or pieces of mines all over his body.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] Well, go on. Tell me, how many partisans were you . . .

Nathan Schacht

What?

David Boder

. . . in that forest?

Nathan Schacht

In the forest? There were a thousand men, an entire company.

David Boder

Thousand partisans? An entire company.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

What did one do there all day?

Nathan Schacht

We made mines. Put mines under trains. Put mines under . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

. . . the . . . everything, whatever we could. The front [lines] were not far from our forest.

David Boder

Which front?

Nathan Schacht

The German.

David Boder

The German front.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

And the Russian front?

Nathan Schacht

On the other side.

David Boder

On the other side.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

And you were in the middle?

Nathan Schacht

Yes, we were in the middle.

David Boder

You were in the middle.

Nathan Schacht

Yes. Here are the Germans.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

Here are the Russians, and here we were.

David Boder

Did it not happen that the Russians shot at you?

Nathan Schacht

No. The Germans were shooting at us.

David Boder

Yes. But the Russians did not shoot.

Nathan Schacht

No. The Russians, of course, knew that we were there.

David Boder

Aha.

Nathan Schacht

Afterwards, when I already was wounded . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

. . . the Russians came and took me away to a hospital.

David Boder

To a Russian hospital.

Nathan Schacht

Yes. I lay there about two days, and then the whole army came.

David Boder

The Russian army.

Nathan Schacht

Yes. They came and handed me over to a doctor.

David Boder

Hm.

Nathan Schacht

[Words not clear.] I lay in a hospital eight months.

David Boder

Eight months?

Nathan Schacht

Eight months I lay in the hospital.

David Boder

Nu?

Nathan Schacht

I was supposed to be operated on. I still have a piece of shrapnel.

David Boder

Do you still have a piece of shrapnel? Where?

Nathan Schacht

Here in the side.

David Boder

In the left side?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

[In English] He has a shrapnel wound and a piece of shrapnel right near the heart.

David Boder

[In Yiddish] Nu, were you operated on?

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

Why not?

Nathan Schacht

I could not be operated on, because there were no . . . no . . . there was no . . .

David Boder

Facilities.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

They could not. It was in the front lines. I had to go farther, so I lay in the hospital. I lay there eight months. Then I was healed already.

David Boder

Hm.

Nathan Schacht

Except this shrapnel wound. Then I left the hospital.

David Boder

Where to?

Nathan Schacht

To a home in Cracow.

David Boder

The Russians let you go?

Nathan Schacht

Huh?

David Boder

They left . . .

Nathan Schacht

They did not let me. They did not want to let me.

David Boder

Nu?

Nathan Schacht

But there came Jews, and they took me away. [They said,] 'Oh yes, you will go back there. Do you need more shrapnel fragments?' So I went to Poland. So I was in Poland . . . [ Here the recording greatly improves.]

David Boder

So you went to Poland. What happened there? To which city in Poland did you go?

Nathan Schacht

To Cracow.

David Boder

Yes. Speak slowly and loud. You understand?

Nathan Schacht

Yes. I was in Cracow in a children's home. Then I went to Zakopane. There we were in a children's home, too. We could not stay there.

David Boder

Why not?

Nathan Schacht

Bandits came at night, and we could not remain there.

David Boder

Tell me, where was that, in Zakopane?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Tell me, how did you get to Zakopane? Did you go there by train?

Nathan Schacht

Yes. I came there by . . . by auto.

David Boder

By auto. With many other children?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Who brought you there?

Nathan Schacht

What?

David Boder

Who brought you there?

Nathan Schacht

The woman director who is here.

David Boder

Oh! The woman teacher from here! Mrs. Kuechler . . . Kuechler? [See Mrs. Kuechler, Chapter 58.]

Nathan Schacht

Kuechler, yes, yes.

David Boder

She . . . she found you where?

Nathan Schacht

In Cracow. And she brought me to Zakopane to the children's home.

David Boder

Were you in Cracow with her in the children's home?

Nathan Schacht

No. I don't know. She just came for the children. [Words not clear.]

David Boder

Oh! She came to Cra- . . .

Nathan Schacht

Yes. And took away . . .

David Boder

. . . and took away the children's home.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

To Zakopane.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Well, tell me, what happened in Zakopane?

Nathan Schacht

It was all right there, but we could not stay there any more.

David Boder

Why not?

Nathan Schacht

They threw . . . on the house . . . The house had to be guarded by soldiers. We could not stay there any more.

David Boder

Why not?

Nathan Schacht

Because there . . . eh . . . eh . . . because in Zakopane . . .

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

there were bandits.

David Boder

Who? Polish?

Nathan Schacht

Polish

David Boder

Nu, what did they do to you. They . . .

Nathan Schacht

They killed Jews there.

David Boder

Oh! They were killing Jews.

Nathan Schacht

Yes. So we could not stay there.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

So she . . . so we went to France.

David Boder

Oh. How . . . tell me, how did you travel from Zakopane? Did you go by train, or by auto?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

What?

Nathan Schacht

From Zakopane . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

. . . to France? We went . . . we went by auto as far . . . as far as Czechoslo- . . . -slo- . . .

David Boder

Across the border.

Nathan Schacht

Across the boder. Then . . .

David Boder

All the children?

Nathan Schacht

Yes, all the children from Zakopane [?].

David Boder

And were there grown-up people, too?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Who?

Nathan Schacht

Mr. Zeeman [?].

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

And Madame Kuechler, the director.

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

And another . . . another two.

David Boder

Aha. And the very small children also?

Nathan Schacht

Also. Everybody, everybody.

David Boder

Also.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Nu?

Nathan Schacht

Then from Czechoslovakia we went by automobiles to France.

David Boder

[Words not clear.]

Nathan Schacht

To Barbizon [?].

David Boder

Where?

Nathan Schacht

In Barbizon [?] we were . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

. . . in the house.

David Boder

Aha.

Nathan Schacht

We could not stay in Barbizon [?]. The house was too small.

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

We could not stay, so we went to [name not clear].

David Boder

Aha.

Nathan Schacht

And from [name not clear] we came here to Bellevue.

David Boder

And what do you do here all day?

Nathan Schacht

Here?

David Boder

Here.

Nathan Schacht

Well, we are divided into groups here.

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

One group has . . . they do work in the kitchen, another group in the house.

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

Another group keep the yard clean. [Words not clear.]

David Boder

Aha. Are you learning something?

Nathan Schacht

Yes. We study here [?].

David Boder

Aha. Do they feed you well?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

And do you know anything about your brothers, sister?

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

What?

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

No.

Nathan Schacht

They all were taken away.

David Boder

What do you think of doing? What do you want to be?

Nathan Schacht

I want to . . . I want to go for a . . . for a . . . to learn . . . I want to learn . . .

David Boder

What do you want to learn?

Nathan Schacht

Locksmith [mechanic?].

David Boder

A locksmith [mechanic]?

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Aha. And where do you want to go to live?

Nathan Schacht

I do not know yet.

David Boder

You do not know yet.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

You have no relatives in America?

Nathan Schacht

I had. I do not know. I had some in Argentina . . .

David Boder

In Argentina.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Do you have relatives in Eretz [Israel]?

Nathan Schacht

No.

David Boder

The others want to go to Eretz. Do you want to go to Eretz.

Nathan Schacht

Of course.

David Boder

Of course.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Nu, and so let us hope everything will be all right.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Can you tell me some special story from your partisan life?

Nathan Schacht

What?

David Boder

When you were in a special . . . in an especially frightful situation? In an especially dangerous situation. When . . . what was the worst moment in your partisan life?

Nathan Schacht

The worst moment was when the offensive came.

David Boder

By the Germans?

Nathan Schacht

On the 21st of July . . .

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

The 21st of July the offensive came, in '43.

David Boder

Yes?

Nathan Schacht

When the Germans made an offensive. They bombed the forest terribly.

David Boder

The forest.

Nathan Schacht

Bombed so that the trees flew in the air.

David Boder

Aha.

Nathan Schacht

We could not stand it any more.

David Boder

Were many killed [?]?

Nathan Schacht

Many.

David Boder

Yes.

Nathan Schacht

Many. [Words not clear.] And in three days the Soviets made an offensive. It was the same way.

David Boder

Aha. Tell me, did you carry a rifle? Did you shoot people?

Nathan Schacht

No, no. I threw grenades.

David Boder

You threw grenades?

Nathan Schacht

I planted mines.

David Boder

And you planted mines.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Did you yourself threw grenades, or other people?

Nathan Schacht

Well, on a bridge.

David Boder

On a bridge.

Nathan Schacht

On a bridge.

David Boder

And it exploded.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

Did the partisans like you?

Nathan Schacht

Of course.

David Boder

Were these partisans also gentiles?

Nathan Schacht

Yes. Russians.

David Boder

Russians.

Nathan Schacht

Yes.

David Boder

And Jews.

Nathan Schacht

Jews, yes.

David Boder

Did you get along well?

Nathan Schacht

What?

David Boder

You were . . .

Nathan Schacht

Yes, yes.

David Boder

Did you have enough food?

Nathan Schacht

Yes, food I had, clothing. I had everything. In the summer [?] I had everything.

David Boder

Did you wear a Cossack uniform?

Nathan Schacht

No, I did not have it. I wore civilian [clothes].

David Boder

Civilian.

Nathan Schacht

Of course.

David Boder

What kind of rifle did you have?

Nathan Schacht

What . . . whatever I could lay my hands on I had.

David Boder

[Chuckle.] All right, Nathan Schacht. Would you send in the girl that you said . . .

Nathan Schacht

Yes, yes.

David Boder

Send her in.

David Boder

[In English] This concludes at fourteen [?] minutes [of the indicator, which does not necessarily mean duration of the interview] the report of Nathan Schacht. September 8th, 1946. In Bellevue near Paris. A home for displaced children which [who], under the direction of their teacher Lena Kuechler and a staff of about ten instructors and medical assistants, are living here in expectation of transfer to Palestine.

David Boder

The record of Nathan [unintelligible] concludes at fourteen minutes of the spool.