David P. Boder Interviews Janis B.; September 24, 1946; München, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 9-152-B, the second half of the original Spool 152. It is Mr. Janis A. [sic]; he does not give his full name, he refuses to give his full name. Chicago, November the 11th, 1949, a reproduction for the U.S. Public Health Service. Boder.
  • David Boder: Munich, September the 24th, 1946 . . . as a part of the German tour. I am now here at the Deutsches Museum which houses a UNRRA center and [serves also as?] the UNRRA University. The interviewee is Mr. Janis B . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Are you a Latvian?
  • Janis B.: Yes. So.
  • David Boder: [In English] . . . who is here as a Latvian. He will talk to us in Russian.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Mr. Janis, Janis, how old are you?
  • Janis B.: Forty-three.
  • David Boder: [In English] Eh, he is forty-three years old . . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] And what are you studying [at the university?]?
  • Janis B.: Natural science.
  • David Boder: Natural science. What area are you [unintelligible]?
  • Janis B.: Ah, botany.
  • David Boder: Botany. What, were you in natural science before?
  • Janis B.: Yes. I had already begun earlier at a Latvian university, ah . . . ah . . .
  • David Boder: To study botany?
  • Janis B.: . . . to study botany, but on arrival of the Bolsheviks, [I left?] my studies and now I am continuing here.
  • David Boder: How many years ago was this?
  • Janis B.: It was in 1940 [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Well, ah, that mean you were thirty-eight years old then.
  • Janis B.: Yes.
  • David Boder: And what were you doing before the university? Were you [not from?] a gymnasium or [unintelligible and weak] gymnasium?
  • Janis B.: I was working as a [digger?].
  • David Boder: So. And, and in the city of Riga?
  • Janis B.: In the city of Riga.
  • David Boder: So, you, as you told me earlier, worked [unintelligible] before you [went?] to the university. Well, okay, now start and tell me in details, because it is also important in order to finish all the history. Do you understand? But that what you have told me, I would like you to tell me [regarding everything?] in detail. I am interested in your personal history, [not?] the history of [Riga?]. Do you understand? Not the history of the [Bolsheviks?]. But I am interested in your personal history. [Translator's note: "history" also translates as "story."] Ag, when did the Soviets arrive in Riga?
  • Janis B.: The Soviets arrived in Riga in July 1939.
  • David Boder: And you were there at the university then?
  • Janis B.: As a student.
  • David Boder: You were at the university?
  • Janis B.: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me what happened to you and what happened [at the university?].
  • Janis B.: It was like this, upon the arrival of the Bolsheviks, and part of the students were supposed to [keep watch?].
  • David Boder: Of the lessons.
  • Janis B.: . . . of the lessons, because everyone who was considered to be nationalists began [to wash out?] the investigations from the [Bolsheviks?].
  • David Boder: So. And what [happened?] to you?
  • Janis B.: Since my father had property [with a house?] in Riga, ah, I was considered a capitalist, another kind of capitalist, and therefore, they already looked at me as a person who [unintelligible] the enemy [after the Fascist?] regi— . . . regime.
  • David Boder: Well . . . Then what happened to you?
  • Janis B.: Our house was nationalized and . . . and [passage itself?] [stumbles], at the same time I was at [unintelligible], I also was working at the same time, ah, at a private, ah . . .
  • David Boder: At a private [business?], ah, in a private, ah, office.
  • Janis B.: In an office. We [unintelligible] there, again [our own?]. [Unintelligible] and since I [it made the chief?] organization, that [here?] I was considered suspicious and after this [definition?] I also was [convinced?] to be [unintelligible] being contemplated to be exiled to Siberia.
  • David Boder: Well, what did you do then?
  • Janis B.: I, since there [already?] was the frame of mind . . . well, we began, ah, [among?] acquaintances already, some part was, ah, some parts of the acquaintances were [incorrect grammar] already . . .
  • David Boder: Arrested.
  • Janis B.: . . . arrested, who were not able to be involved at the university, because already . . . [audio becomes very weak]
  • David Boder: [Well, yes?]. [Unintelligible]. Because what?
  • Janis B.: Because [interrupted by Boder] already—
  • David Boder: [Unintelligible] [police?] if [everything?] falls out [weak and unintelligible, speaking over each other]
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis B.: Again it [unintelligible] [would try to load there from?] [Turshchina?].
  • David Boder: Well, go on. [Unintelligible]. Afterwards [better now?]
  • Janis B.: [Unintelligible].
  • David Boder: [Stop?]. Well, what you consider important, what you have personally. What happened then personally to you?
  • Janis B.: So. My father's house had been nationalized [unintelligible] residents to stay [unintelligible] in their [unintelligible] apartment and the whole family move to another smaller apartment.
  • David Boder: [And tell me?]. The house was nationalized. Who took it? And who [moved?] there?
  • Janis B.: Ag, no one arrived, but it was [open?] and we were not able to [an apartment?] . . . oh . . .
  • David Boder: [unintelligible] did you take?
  • Janis B.: One part [unintelligible] was left.
  • David Boder: So, and the apartment payments you also were not able to take.
  • Janis B.: No.
  • David Boder: And were other people left there to live?
  • Janis B.: Others [already?] had remained.
  • David Boder: [Unintelligible] they live?
  • Janis B.: [Unintelligible].
  • David Boder: So. And you [forced yourself?] and they paid for the apartment, but how [unintelligible] taken the money?
  • Janis B.: Well, for the apartment myself, ag— [interrupted by Boder]
  • David Boder: [Unintelligible].
  • Janis B.: [Unintelligible].
  • David Boder: So . . . And where did you yourself then, what did he do with you? Are you a married man?
  • Janis B.: No, I am not married.
  • David Boder: So. Well, so. Then what happened to you?
  • Janis B.: I continued . . .
  • David Boder: What did you propose to do? To work?
  • Janis B.: Ag, I continued working.
  • David Boder: Printing—
  • Janis B.: [interrupts] . . . the printing business, because I worked there as a bookkeeper and the director [also?] was sent from the Communists, but he [unintelligible] only twenty-two, ah twenty-two years, ah . . .
  • David Boder: He was only twenty-two—
  • Janis B.: [interrupts] Only twenty-two years old. He didn't know a thing about bookkeeping or about the printing business, but since he was supposed [to find room?] for some time in, ah, the old [unintelligible]. But gradually [those?] who he was unable for [any?] of the others [months?] everyone was released.
  • David Boder: And were many Latvians Communists? [Didn't anyone say?] that they were Communists?
  • Janis B.: It is difficult to say, because at all the meetings where and if someone forgot [to deviate?] from them, then the meeting chairman always [hid?], there is someone against the [wise one?] because [there will be?] the understanding and no one was able to say that he was against it. So, that [all these?] people were being accepted [it was acceptable in part perhaps seventy-eight there, almost?] ninety percent would be against it.
  • David Boder: Well, and what about you, did you work there until the Germans arrived?
  • Janis B.: Yes, until then. Ag, because, ag, the large, ag, massive exodus to Siberia began only on 14 June, but . . .
  • David Boder: Of what year?
  • Janis B.: 1940.
  • David Boder: And the Germans arrived when?
  • Janis B.: July 1, 1940.
  • David Boder: So that they had time [unintelligible] only two weeks?
  • Janis B.: Two weeks. And on the 22nd of June the war started, so that ag, this ex . . . exodus was stopped.
  • David Boder: The war. Ag, they began [to send?] on July 14.
  • Janis B.: Hmm.
  • David Boder: The war started on the 22nd.
  • Janis B.: The war.
  • David Boder: This means, [all?] they sent [unintelligible] eight days.
  • Janis B.: Yes. [Unintelligible]
  • David Boder: [How many do you think?] they [sent?]?
  • Janis B.: Presumably . . . ah, presumably sixty thousand.
  • David Boder: So . . . [Over?] sixty thousand people were [unintelligible].
  • Janis B.: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Do you know what happened with them?
  • Janis B.: I don't know because almost no one came back, because afterwards after this the Germans arrived and the front was now . . .
  • David Boder: [Unintelligible]
  • Janis B.: [Same words, also unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Well, okay. Just where were you yourself? What [was the example?] not to send you?
  • Janis B.: Everyone [unintelligible] time . . . there [such?] [unintelligible] ah, it was explained [let's say?] of the foundation was a so-called personnel [department?] and there were, there were [unintelligible] lists from, ah . . . from, ag, from those [unintelligible] who considered [them] suspicious. But, [unintelligible] were not, [only for years?] themselves ah . . .
  • David Boder: Suspicious.
  • Janis B.: . . . suspicious. So [my?] [unintelligible] [was a customs man?] made hats after this [unintelligible] [about two months?] in a kitchen. Well, since the war had started, then thanks to it they did not succeed [to achieve?] everything.
  • David Boder: Well, okay. Well then [for the Germans?]. What happened with all those who were your chiefs [weak]?
  • Janis B.: [Large?]. Ag, all the chiefs who had been repressed in Bolshevist times ah, they all left with the Bolsheviks.
  • David Boder: Were they Estonians, too? . . . [unintelligible] were they also Es— [stops]. Where, ag, I'm sorry, were they also Latvians?
  • Janis B.: No. Ah, ah, ah, the director was not a Latvian, the director was a Russian, and the chief bookkeeper, too [unintelligible] Russian . . . who left together with the Communists out of Rus— . . . [corrects himself] from Russia.
  • David Boder: And what language were the books in?
  • Janis B.: The books [unintelligible] again in Latvian.
  • David Boder: Well, yes. This means, the Germans arrived and what happened to your printing house? What was it, a state printing house?
  • Janis B.: A state—
  • David Boder: [interrupts] What did they print there?
  • Janis B.: They printed [all?] the money, stocks and also books there.
  • David Boder: Well, yes.
  • Janis B.: I am not, not [confirming?] our print from that [unintelligible] [students?].
  • David Boder: [It was not confirmed from that?]?
  • Janis B.: From the arrival of the Germans. [I/It remained?] until— [stops]
  • David Boder: Well, yes.
  • Janis B.: Right now it was not [whole?], it was not destroyed.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Janis B.: So, that work had been able to continue. Ag, the money was no longer great, they didn't print more because then a new currency was [introduced?] again, German, they sent all, ah, the German money from Germany, but [printing?] continued [unintelligible] to print books and various necessary papers.
  • David Boder: Well, and tell me what . . . it . . . and did they print money there during the Soviets [occupation]?
  • Janis B.: They [also?] printed money during the Soviets.
  • David Boder: Latvian? [unintelligible].
  • Janis B.: No, not Latvian, [it means everything was?] rubles were introduced everywhere.
  • David Boder: Well . . . So the Germans arrived. What happened to you and your family then? Did they give the house back to you?
  • Janis B.: No, not right away. They only said that [after this?] we would get it back.
  • David Boder: Did you get it then? [sound totally disappears for a few seconds]
  • Janis B.: It was necessary to take different evidence there that this house had belonged to us earlier, but since, ag, but we did not receive an official paper that this house belongs to us again.
  • David Boder: And the apartment money, did you begin to receive apartment money?
  • Janis B.: We began to receive apartment money, but they were supposed to have been [a regular fund?] and were able only one part [a month?].
  • David Boder: And the remaining [unintelligible]. Well, go on. What did you do then? Did you continue to be a bookkeeper?
  • Janis B.: I continued to be a bookkeeper.
  • David Boder: And . . . how did the Germans relate to your then later? [He forgot about?] [unintelligible] so?
  • Janis B.: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, how did they relate to you, ah, to the population?
  • Janis B.: Well, when the Germans arrived at first, everyone was very happy, because they thought it would be a lot better. But, [after?] it turned out that it was especially good with the Germans, because as we know, the Germans [liquidated some other?] peoples [unintelligible] [self?].
  • David Boder: Well, and . . .
  • Janis B.: But, but . . .
  • David Boder: Did they start to arrest someone?
  • Janis B.: They arrested in several places those who had been avoiding, ah, ah . . . about whom they thought that they were working with the Bolsheviks.
  • David Boder: [Did they start?] to arrest many people?
  • Janis B.: Not from our establishment—
  • David Boder: [interrupts] No, I am thinking [about Jews?].
  • Janis B.: Quite [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: And well, in particular? Latvians?
  • Janis B.: Latvians too [unintelligible] Russians and Jews.
  • David Boder: So. Well, and what did they do with the Jews?
  • Janis B.: With the Jews they . . . they [sent?] to live in a separate quarter—
  • David Boder: [interrupting each other] to a ghetto [weak], right?
  • Janis B.: Yes, [to a ghetto?].
  • David Boder: Well, go on. And then what did they . . . and what did they do with them afterwards?
  • Janis B.: Then it was [discussed?] that one part of the ghetto leave, leave, but one can only guess what happened to them, than something [no longer was all good?].
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 152 in the middle of an interview with Mr. Janis from Latvia. We will continue on the Spool 15— ah, 153.
  • Herman Barnett: Spool 153, Spool 153. Spool 153, this is Herman Barnett.
  • David Boder: Spool 153. Munich, September the 24th, 1946, at the Deutsches Museum which houses the UNRRA University for displaced persons. The interviewee is Mr. Janis B. . . . forty-three years old. Continuing from Spool 152.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Well, what then happened? . . . You [unintelligible] were left to work there until when? What happened to your parents?
  • Janis B.: When, when, when the Germans arrived in Riga, my mom ag, from, was killed by exploding grenades. From a grenade.
  • David Boder: What? Did they capture Riga with a huge battle?
  • Janis B.: Yes. [Unintelligible] battles took place in the outskirts of Riga. There . . . There after the Germans arrived [there were hand . . . hand-to-hand battles?] on the streets [for several more days?] with the Russian, the Russians there because the Germans [buried them from Poland?] at once, but the Russians [surrendered worse?] for several more days.
  • David Boder: So . . . Well, your mother was killed [unintelligible] grenades. Ah, your father?
  • Janis B.: My father survived, because ah, we [lived?] before, ah, across, across the river, which flows ah, through Riga, across the Dvina. And during the arrival ag, of the Germans, I was not in my apartment because [it had been described?] that the Bolsheviks [unintelligible?] [departure?] of the troops [beyond the "plyatina" of the dry?], therefore, I hid with my acquaintances in another apartment.
  • David Boder: So. And really [were?] they weren't able to find you? What did they do, capture [them] using a list or did they search [for people there?]?
  • Janis B.: No. They used a [list?] because [the residents had lists?] [unintelligible] [arrived?] for a home ah, they hung on vehicles and collected [everyone?] using a list.
  • David Boder: So. Well, okay. Then just how and when did you leave Latvia?
  • Janis B.: I left Latvia in 1944, on 4 October.
  • David Boder: Is this when the Germans left Latvia?
  • Janis B.: Yes. The front then already was nearly [only?] thirty kilometers from Riga and a decree was [introduced?] that all men were supposed to e—
  • David Boder: Evacuate.
  • Janis B.: . . . evacuate, right. And German gendarmes came to the house and said that if [supposed to meet?] [unintelligible] the men will [many unintelligible].
  • David Boder: And then you what?
  • Janis B.: And they said that . . . that it was possible to go [to the harbor?] and get on a steamship there and, and go to Germany.
  • David Boder: So. And, and they where did they take you?
  • Janis B.: They took me to Danzig.
  • David Boder: And your father?
  • Janis B.: My father was seventy-three, ah, seventy-three years old. [He was left?] and, and . . .
  • David Boder: And he stayed in Riga.
  • Janis B.: . . . and [he got ill?] so he was left, he stayed [home?].
  • David Boder: Did the Germans allow him to stay or did he simply stay there?
  • Janis B.: He simply stayed there because it had been said that [unintelligible/weak].
  • David Boder: Well, so they took you to Danzig. What did you do then?
  • Janis B.: They brought me to Danzig and at first said that [we would] stay two weeks. But then [we were put?] onto a train and taken to [unintelligible], [prison?] so-called [unintelligible] camp.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Janis B.: And from there they didn't let us out [anywhere?] for two weeks.
  • David Boder: And then you worked with the Germans?
  • Janis B.: Then they put us on a train again and . . . and [again?] they took me and nearly 30 people to Hamburg.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis B.: And there we were supposed to work ah, in a factory.
  • David Boder: And where did they ah, where did they liberate you?
  • Janis B.: Me? The British liberated me on 1 May . . .
  • David Boder: May. Where? In Hamburg?
  • Janis B.: Yes. [In the outskirts?] of Hamburg
  • David Boder: [interrupting each other] Did you work there in a factory?
  • Janis B.: Yes, in a factory.
  • David Boder: Well, and what German . . . did you work together with German workers?
  • Janis B.: No. They gave us the most difficult work.
  • David Boder: Difficult. And who worked? Only Latvians?
  • Janis B.: No. Also [removed?] Ukrainians, [removed?] French and [unintelligible] worked there.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Janis B.: And I worked there as [unintelligible] [transport?] work [unintelligible] steamship of a train.
  • David Boder: So. Well, and just how did you reach Munich from the British military?
  • Janis B.: I from, ah, after, ah, [the arrival?] of the British, I continued to live ah, there in the camp because in, in the time I was still working at the factory I lived in the camp. German [unintelligible?] [did not give?] us, but they gave us food in the camp. And after the arrival of the British, I [personally?] found out that the UNRRA University was opening here by the Germans. I wanted to continue my [pre-war?] work there. [Unintelligible].
  • David Boder: And tell me, do you have relatives in America?
  • Janis B.: No. I have [again?]. [Unintelligible].
  • David Boder: And what do you intend to do [when graduated?]? . . . Or if UNRRA leaves, what do you intend to do?
  • Janis B.: For the time being I [unintelligible] all the time [for everything?] [unintelligible] [perhaps?] I should go back to [the motherland?].
  • David Boder: What? If you can go [interrupted by Janis]?
  • Janis B.: [Yes, yes?]. [It is known?] the Bolsheviks are there again. Since I already have left the Bolsheviks twice in my life, 1939 and 1940, and I know what . . . they have . . . I . . . I [unintelligible] [it will be?] in my home town, it again will be [something in another?] [unintelligible] for the time being I am unable [unintelligible] [to be in a hurry?]
  • David Boder: So. And what are you [weak and unintelligible] father?
  • Janis B.: We have hope . . . [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: So . . . I [was?] very thankful. [I?] have wanted to speak with you [unintelligible] to speak with many students and therefore, we have concluded this interview.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the interview with Mr. Janis, a Latvian, forty-three years old, a student at UNRRA University at Deutsches Museum in Munich. September the 24th, 1946, Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Roy Cochrun
  • English translation : Roy Cochrun