David P. Boder Interviews Ilmar A.; September 24, 1946; Munich, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] Spool 152A, Spool 152A. Ilmar A., that seems the name, it can be corrected later. Spool 152A. Boder. These are the short spools from the students of the UNRRA University.
  • David Boder: Munich, September the 24th, 1946, at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, the UNRRA University for Displaced Persons. The interviewee is Mr. Hilman, [corrects himself] Ilmar A., 23 years old, an Estonian, who is going to give us a half-hour report on his experiences. We are reducing it now to half-hours because the students want to have a cross-section to report.
  • David Boder: [In German] So, Mr. Ilmar.
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: Let me tell you frankly [?]: Do not tell me some general things about the political situation or the like. About this [possibly "we are informed"?]. What I want you to do in this half-hour is to narrate what happened to you and your family. You know? Not some general data or such, even if you [unintelligible]. You know? So, I want this: Would you tell me where you were and what has happened to you from the time the Soviets came to Estonia, you know?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . until today. But to you personally. Where did you live, with your parents. Where did you go? What happened to you? You know? So, please speak into the direction of this here microphone. [Bend down to the microphone?], come closer. Tell me, again, where were you and what happened to you when the Soviets came to Estonia?
  • Ilmar A.: When the Soviets came to Estonia I was, was a student at the, that was in 1940.
  • David Boder: How old were you then? What grade were you in school?
  • Ilmar A.: Then, I was seventeen years old. Then I was seventeen years old. And I was in the first grade of the "Gymnasium."
  • David Boder: What means "first grade"? The highest grade?
  • Ilmar A.: "The first" means the, the fourth grade, fourth grade . . .
  • David Boder: . . . of the "Volks-"?
  • Ilmar A.: of the "Volks-," uh, of the "Mittelschule."Literally "middle school," albeit with a different meaning than in the modern U.S. educational system1
  • David Boder: Yes. The fourth grade of the "Mittelschule." So that was after the "Pro-Gymnasium"?A type of school no longer existing2
  • Ilmar A.: That was after the "Pro-Gymnasium."
  • David Boder: Yes. So, and in which city were you?
  • Ilmar A.: That was in Tartu.
  • David Boder: In Dorpat?Dorpat is the German name for the Estonian city Tartu.3
  • Ilmar A.: In Dorpat.
  • David Boder: I see, that was the famous Yuryev University.Yuryev used to be the Russian name for Tartu.4
  • Ilmar A.: Yuryev University.
  • David Boder: Yes. And who were your parents, Ilman?Boder repeatedly mispronounces the interviewee's name. Ilmar, however, is one of the most common Estonian given names, which speaks for "Ilmar" as the correct name.5
  • Ilmar A.: My parents were farmers.
  • David Boder: I see, and where did they live?
  • Ilmar A.: They lived in [place name; sounds like "Tartaulag"?], in the municipality of [name unintelligible; sounds like "Saparau" or "Saparai"?].
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Ilmar A.: In [unintelligible; possibly the name of the larger administrative unit, such as county, district, or region].
  • David Boder: So, tell me what happened in the university when the Soviets came, and what happened at your home.
  • Ilmar A.: When the Soviets came to us I was not a [university] student, but a [high school] student. I was in Tartu in the, everybody was at home the first morning. But my father also had a factory and an, a farm, about thirty-five hectare.1 hectare = 2.471 acres.6 But until May 1941 nothing special happened. It wasn't until June 14, 1941 that several of my relatives were deported to Siberia. That's because, they were also Democrats. And . . .
  • David Boder: What was that?
  • Ilmar A.: They had democratic opinion.
  • David Boder: Yes, but what do you mean by they had "democratic opinion"?
  • Ilmar A.: That they used to be, uh, members of the [name of the organization unintelligible].
  • David Boder: I see, and? Continue.
  • Ilmar A.: And on the 19th, [corrects himself] in 1941, on the 14th of June . . .
  • David Boder: [unintelligible correction; possibly "June day"?].
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, on the 14th June-day [unintelligible] we got word that the deported could, we were in the forest.
  • David Boder: Who was in the forest?
  • Ilmar A.: My parents and I.
  • David Boder: Now, go on.
  • Ilmar A.: And . . .
  • David Boder: So, you were in the forest. How did you live in the forest?
  • Ilmar A.: We were in the forest. We, we hid in the forest.
  • David Boder: Well, did you have a house there?
  • Ilmar A.: No, we didn't have a house, but we had a . . .
  • David Boder: Tent?
  • Ilmar A.: Tent, or something like it. And we are hidden. And . . .
  • David Boder: Who was there together, in this hide-out?
  • Ilmar A.: My parents. My parents, my sister [he possibly means "siblings"?], and I.
  • David Boder: Yes. How many, uh, how many people are there in your family?
  • Ilmar A.: Seven people.
  • David Boder: I see. And the entire family hid in the forest.
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now, how long did you hide in the forest?
  • Ilmar A.: We were in the forest only, uh, four, four weeks. Then, on the June 21, 1941 is, uh, we started in the direction of Germany, and . . . And that was in July. The Germans already came to us. And then we could return out of the forest. Then in 1941, in the fall we visited my brother Walter on the, that was in the year of 1942, [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Tell that again.
  • Ilmar A.: What?
  • David Boder: Go on. Did the, did the Germans interfere in any way with the school?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes. The Germans did interfere with the school in a [unintelligible] way. Because they, they could not have our organization and the like. Previously, we had a [unintelligible]-organization, which in the, that, for our house-organization. And when/if [unclear which is meant] they knew that they come to us we could lock [he possibly means "close down"?] the organization. And I, too, was a member.
  • David Boder: And that was "locked"?
  • Ilmar A.: That was locked.
  • David Boder: Well, and then? When the Germans came?
  • Ilmar A.: When the Germans came we could no longer open that [organization]. And, that was in the year of 1942, I went to the university then, to Dorpat University.
  • David Boder: Now. Will you tell me: when the Russians came, did you think that Estonia will become Soviet?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes. They said that Estonia will become Soviet Union.
  • David Boder: And goes over to Russia?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes. That, officially they did not say that.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Ilmar A.: But it appeared that way.
  • David Boder: Well. But officially they said that Estonia would remain alone [he means "independent"]?
  • Ilmar A.: No, they did not say because we had no inter—, inter—, no administration. Instead we all of a sudden had, uh, Soviet administration.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well. When the Germans go [Boder probably means "came"]. Did the Germans say that Estonia will be free?
  • Ilmar A.: No, the Germans did not say that either.
  • David Boder: What did they say?
  • Ilmar A.: This they did not say. They had occupation troops. And we should be Germans as [unintelligible]-occupied, too.
  • David Boder: Oh, I see. The Germans, did the Germans say that they would take Estonia to Germany?
  • Ilmar A.: Uh, for the time being they did not say, but it was an occupied territory. And they wanted us, uh, to extinguish everything of us.He probably confuses German words, trying to say either "kill everyone" or "take everything," or something along these lines.7
  • David Boder: I see. So neither the Germans nor the Russians incorporated Estonia? The Russians did not turn Estonia into a Soviet Republic, did they?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, they made Soviet, Estonia Soviet Republic.
  • David Boder: Estonia became a Soviet Republic?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: And when the Germans came, did the Germans say that they will take Estonia, or what?
  • Ilmar A.: No, they did not, instead it was an occupied territory.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now, you were in an occupation, [corrects himself] occupied territory. And you had to do certain labor for the Germans?
  • Ilmar A.: For the Germans, yes.
  • David Boder: Did the, the Germans arrest, uh, execute, and so forth certain people, or did they deport them, as the Russians had done?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes. The Germans did that, too, to a greater extent. Because in 1942 I was at the Dorpat University and, back then, I was very . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ilmar A.: The, the, the Germans did, uh, persecute our professors and our students. And SB-people [unclear what he means by SB], you know, police always and always followed/persecuted [unclear which meaning of the German word "verfolgen" is intended] me. And, uh, that was in 1943. In [unintelligible] very many, almost fifty percent, uh, [unintelligible] of our professors and also some of the students were arrested.
  • David Boder: I see. And what did they do with them?
  • Ilmar A.: They, they, brought them, uh, into prison.
  • David Boder: And, were you arrested, too?
  • Ilmar A.: No, I mean and, therefore, these were our students and that, that one organization or a . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Ilmar A.: . . . communal family.Literal translation of the German "Gemeinschaftfamilie," which is a grammatically correct German compound noun, the meaning of which is not clear.8
  • David Boder: Were you taken as well? You personally?
  • Ilmar A.: I personally was not taken. But I knew that they wanted to.
  • David Boder: Well? And then, tell me, uh, what happened then?
  • Ilmar A.: That was '42. Uh, then I went to the countryside to my parents and we had a farm in the countryside. The factory we no longer had and the Russians had [unintelligible; some participle ending in "-tiert"] the factory.
  • David Boder: What kind of factory was that?
  • Ilmar A.: That was baking-factory.
  • David Boder: Now, did the Germans return the factory?
  • Ilmar A.: No. The Germans did not return that either but they [verb unintelligible] everything, uh, all things, all machinery.
  • David Boder: [verb; unintelligible]?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, continue. Were you trying to say that the Germans took away your machinery, or did they have the machines work for the Germans, so to say?
  • Ilmar A.: At first, they let them work for the Germans and at last, when they did not come [he probably means "get," which is similar in German; "kommen" and "bekommen"] anything anymore, then they brought the machines back . . .
  • David Boder: . . . evacuated?
  • Ilmar A.: . . . evacuated them to Germany.
  • David Boder: Yes. And you were at the university?
  • Ilmar A.: Uh, I was, during winter I was at the university.
  • David Boder: Yes. And what happened to you next? To you and your family?
  • Ilmar A.: Then, uh, I was, in summer, I was in the countryside. And in the fall I returned to Tartu. And I was able to study until 1944, February.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Ilmar A.: Then I wanted [or: "should"] to go to the countryside again, because they, otherwise, I, again [nearer and nearer?] came [unintelligible, possibly "nearer and nearer"] . . .
  • David Boder: [unintelligible, Boder suggests some verb]?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, [repeats what Boder said]. And our university should lock its door. [unintelligible], I was in the countryside what [he means "when"] the Germans again made an arrest, our professors and of the, also a group of students.
  • David Boder: And what did they say as to why they arrested them?
  • Ilmar A.: They arrested them because they had doubts [he means "suspicions"] about us, that we were having connections to Finland and Sweden. And we were indeed helping, and this is the truth, that we were helping people flee to Finland and Sweden.
  • David Boder: I see. But Finland was fighting with the Germans, Finland was on the side of the Germans?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes. Finland was on the German side, it was supposed to be on the German side. That's why the Russians wanted to occupy Finland.
  • David Boder: But why, then, were the Germans afraid of you going to Finland?
  • Ilmar A.: They did not want to send us to Finland because we, the people that wanted to flee to Finland said [unintelligible], they were neither "directed" [he perhaps means something like "politically oriented"] as Communists nor directed as Nazists [sic] or Fascists. They were, uh, so . . .
  • David Boder: Impartial?
  • Ilmar A.: Impartial, free Democrats.
  • David Boder: And, go on.
  • Ilmar A.: A few of us then fled to Finland and Sweden. Now, we are having 35,000 people in Sweden, we have them there as underground people and mostly intelligent.
  • David Boder: And, how do they live there in Sweden? Do they live the same as here, like the, the . . .
  • Ilmar A.: They, they do not live in Sweden like the [unintelligible], but they have to work. And they have already learned the Swedish language. And are working somewhere in the trades and are having very simple work. But, such, specialized work they were not able to secure because they are professors, or the intelligence and they could not get adequate work but have to . . .
  • David Boder: . . . work physically?
  • Ilmar A.: Make, perform physical labor.
  • David Boder: And the UNRRA is helping there, or, uh . . . ?
  • Ilmar A.: Of that I have no clue. But I believe the UNRRA is not there but . . .
  • David Boder: They are simply there . . .
  • Ilmar A.: . . . simply . . .
  • David Boder: . . . like migrants, like emigrants?
  • Ilmar A.: . . . like emigrants, like emigrants there.
  • David Boder: Now, continue, what happened to you?
  • Ilmar A.: Here I could, [unintelligible] from, until September 1944. Then I should come away from my house, should leave my house.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Ilmar A.: That was because the front came closer and closer, and I wanted to flee to Sweden. But my parents stayed behind. And they could not come with me because they were, uh, old. Health was no longer good. That was September 20, 1944; I wanted to go away to Sweden from [some place name; sounds like "Atrau"?]. We had a boat and wanted to flee to Sweden over the Sea. We had been on our way already for a day or so, but at night we had an accident and the Germans caught us.
  • David Boder: Where was that?
  • Ilmar A.: That was on the sea.
  • David Boder: And what, you, you went by boat?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, by boat.
  • David Boder: What kind of boat?
  • Ilmar A.: That was simply a small, small boat.
  • David Boder: Motor boat?
  • Ilmar A.: No, [inaudible]. Yes, it was a motor boat.
  • David Boder: And where did you want to cross over?
  • Ilmar A.: We wanted to cross over to Sweden.
  • David Boder: Was it possible to drive over to Sweden in such a boat?
  • Ilmar A.: No, you were not allowed to cross over.
  • David Boder: Yes, but I mean, can such a boat drive over to Sweden?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, we thought that we could drive over. It was, uh, the last option.
  • David Boder: How many people were in the boat?
  • Ilmar A.: There were six people in the boat.
  • David Boder: I see, and it had an engine?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: And did you have enough gasoline to cross over?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, we did not have so much gasoline, but we also had, uh, oars.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, and at last we maybe would have, uh, rowed.
  • David Boder: And where did the Germans catch you?
  • Ilmar A.: The Germans caught us about halfway across the Sea.
  • David Boder: How many days had you been away from, from shore?
  • Ilmar A.: I was about a day.
  • David Boder: I see. Well, [disbelieving] that was not halfway across, I mean, one cannot . . .
  • Ilmar A.: [unintelligible] one day, and in two days you are already across.
  • David Boder: [surprised] To Sweden?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, to Sweden.Given the distance, this may be impossible. He may be talking about Finland?9
  • David Boder: Ok, continue.
  • Ilmar A.: And they brought us to Germany.
  • David Boder: And what happened then?
  • Ilmar A.: That was in the lager and I am the son of a farmer. Then I said that I can do field work somewhere. Because then I believed that possibly that was the best way to stay alive. Because the food was very bad.
  • David Boder: In which lager were you?
  • Ilmar A.: That was in [Gotenhafen?].This phrase is difficult to discern, but it appears he says something ending with "hafen." The most probable place would be Gotenhafen, a subcamp of the Stutthof concentration camp. Many Baltic slave laborers were evacuated to Stutthof in August-September 1944.10
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]. How many people were there in this lager in general? Was that a big concentration camp?
  • Ilmar A.: That is, that was not a concentration camp, but it was a "Durchgangslager" [transit camp] or some such, and the number of people I cannot tell.
  • David Boder: Roughly, how many would you estimate?
  • Ilmar A.: There were a thousand there.
  • David Boder: A thousand.
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: And how, how did the Germans behave toward you personally?
  • Ilmar A.: At first they were [unintelligible]. But in the end they said, "yes, you can go to work there and you can go away then, they/you [same word in German] were there only three days." I told that I was the son of a farmer and that I can do field work.
  • David Boder: You were in the camp only three days?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Well, go on.
  • Ilmar A.: Then I went to . . .
  • David Boder: Did the Germans beat you at any time?
  • Ilmar A.: No, I personally was never beaten.
  • David Boder: Why not? Did they beat anybody else?
  • Ilmar A.: I saw that, but me, they never, no.
  • David Boder: And who were the people whom they did beat?
  • Ilmar A.: This I cannot say. I do not know what nationality or what they have, they were, uh, of many nationalities, Lets, Lithuanians, Poles, all sorts of people.
  • David Boder: Well, go on. Did you go to the countryside?
  • Ilmar A.: And I was in the countryside and I worked there until, uh, May 5, 1945.
  • David Boder: What happened then? (One moment.) [Boder as if talking to someone in the background]. How did the farmer behave toward you? Did he give you enough to eat?
  • Ilmar A.: Enough food he did not give, but I ate separately.
  • David Boder: What does that mean, you "ate separately"?
  • Ilmar A.: Ate extra in, in a room and the farmer ate in the dining room.
  • David Boder: And what did they [no verb] you, [corrects himself] and did they pay you anything?
  • Ilmar A.: There they paid us twenty-three marks per month.
  • David Boder: And who was with you?
  • Ilmar A.: I beg your pardon?
  • David Boder: You say "us," who was there with you?
  • Ilmar A.: Well, I meant that, uh, . . .
  • David Boder: . . . in general?
  • Ilmar A.: . . . in general, [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Twenty-three marks per month. And what was there to buy with twenty-three marks?
  • Ilmar A.: For the money, you could not buy anything.
  • David Boder: Did you have a ration card?
  • Ilmar A.: No, I did not have. Instead, the farmer gave me. Gave food.
  • David Boder: Gave food. How did the farmer, how did the farmer behave? Was he decent? Was he friendly?
  • Ilmar A.: At first, he was not friendly. But in the end I worked well, because I am a young man after all, and the farmer was quite decent.
  • David Boder: Well. And what happened on May 5, that's what you said, right, March 5 [sic], what happened then? What was that?
  • Ilmar A.: Then the American occupation troops arrived and we were freed from the Germans, and we could be supplied for by the Americans.
  • David Boder: Where was that? Was that in . . . ?
  • Ilmar A.: That was in Oberlungwitz, that was . . .
  • David Boder: Is that in the American Zone?
  • Ilmar A.: No, this is not in the American Zone now, it is now the Russian Zone.
  • David Boder: It is the Russian Zone?
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: And, did you get from that zone to here, to Munich?
  • Ilmar A.: I flee—, I fled from that zone again.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Ilmar A.: That is because I heard that the Russians would be coming there. And I was afraid already because I flee already from the Russians in 1944 and I know what that means; that was . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] In '44 you were not fleeing from the Russians, were you? '44 you were fleeing from the Germans, right?
  • Ilmar A.: From the Germans and here as well from the Russians.
  • David Boder: Oh, that the Russians are coming, yes.
  • Ilmar A.: The Russians were coming and I know what it means, a Russian occupation because, that, uh, in 1941, on the 14th July one was, were deported sixty thousand men and women to Siberia. Sixty thousand of us.
  • David Boder: Sixteen?
  • Ilmar A.: Sixty.
  • David Boder: Sixty-thousand.
  • Ilmar A.: Yes. That means, uh, one, uh, seven percent . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, of the whole.
  • Ilmar A.: of the whole population.
  • David Boder: Well? [short break in the recording] What happened there?
  • Ilmar A.: Here I lived and I wanted to go on with my studies and I asked to be given the chance to continue studying somewhere in Germany. Now I have heard that . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Ilmar A.: . . . I heard that here in Munich is, founds a UNRRA University, that is an international university where there are studying nineteen, twelve . . .
  • David Boder: I see. What are you studying here?
  • Ilmar A.: I am studying "Bauwesen" [Building or construction].
  • David Boder: What? "Bauwesen"?
  • Ilmar A.: "Bauwesen."
  • David Boder: Architecture?
  • Ilmar A.: Archi—, no, not archi—, but subject area "Bauwesen."
  • David Boder: Well, building houses?
  • Ilmar A.: Houses, "Tief- und Hochbau.""Tief" means "low"; "Hoch" means "high." These two terms designate two branches of construction –- having to do with constructions that are either below or above the ground.11
  • David Boder: What means "Tiefbau"?
  • Ilmar A.: That, also hydraulic engineering, uh, and canals, channels, and [unintelligible] and so forth.
  • David Boder: I see, and how long is that going to take?
  • Ilmar A.: Here in Germany it will take three years. We have tri-semesters, we have three semesters a year.
  • David Boder: Yes. And what is the language of instruction?
  • Ilmar A.: Instruction is in the German language.
  • David Boder: Now, tell me. Where do you think of going from here? Are you hearing word from your parents? What happened with your parents?
  • Ilmar A.: I have not heard from my parents, that is because we have no connection. In my opinion, my parents have already been deported to Siberia. That is probable.
  • David Boder: And what are the people doing when they are deported to Siberia?
  • Ilmar A.: They are, uh, skilled laborers.
  • David Boder: Now, tell me, how and, uh . . .
  • Ilmar A.: . . . have an uncle in America, but I know no address, I know no address.
  • David Boder: Now, Mr. Ilman, there are so many more things I want to hear from you, but I have resolved that I from all half an hour, that I talk with everyone for half an hour. We have been together now for half an hour.
  • Ilmar A.: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, will you please send in the next gentleman?
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the interview with Ilmar A., he doesn't give his full name, twenty-three years old, Estonian student of the UNRRA University in Munich, September the 24th, 1946, Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  • David Boder: This is reproduction 9-152-A, the continuation of Spool 152 will be then on 9-152-B, split up for convenience. This is the spool re-duplicated for the U.S. Public Health Service. November 11, 1949.
  1. Literally "middle school," albeit with a different meaning than in the modern U.S. educational system
  2. A type of school no longer existing
  3. Dorpat is the German name for the Estonian city Tartu.
  4. Yuryev used to be the Russian name for Tartu.
  5. Boder repeatedly mispronounces the interviewee's name. Ilmar, however, is one of the most common Estonian given names, which speaks for "Ilmar" as the correct name.
  6. 1 hectare = 2.471 acres.
  7. He probably confuses German words, trying to say either "kill everyone" or "take everything," or something along these lines.
  8. Literal translation of the German "Gemeinschaftfamilie," which is a grammatically correct German compound noun, the meaning of which is not clear.
  9. Given the distance, this may be impossible. He may be talking about Finland?
  10. This phrase is difficult to discern, but it appears he says something ending with "hafen." The most probable place would be Gotenhafen, a subcamp of the Stutthof concentration camp. Many Baltic slave laborers were evacuated to Stutthof in August-September 1944.
  11. "Tief" means "low"; "Hoch" means "high." These two terms designate two branches of construction –- having to do with constructions that are either below or above the ground.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Christian Schmidt
  • English translation : Christian Schmidt
  • Footnotes : Christian Schmidt, Elliot Lefkovitz, Eben E. English