David P. Boder Interviews Boleslaw Czolopicki; July 30, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In English] Paris, July 30th. July 30th, 1946. I am interviewing now a gentleman, a Polish refugee, Mr. Boleslaw Czolopicki.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] No family, forty-three years old.
  • David Boder: [In English] Alright, er, you understand English?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: Yes. I understand a little.
  • David Boder: [In English] Now, I will ask you in English, and you please answer in Polish. Understand? You can answer in Polish, because we want to have it in the language you can best speak. You understand? Where were you born, Mr. Czolopicki?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: In Poland?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: I must speak . . . in Poland?
  • David Boder: No, no, you speak Polish. Where were you born?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] I was born in Warsaw.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] In Warsaw? Do you have a wife, children?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] No. No.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Do you understand my Russian?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] I understand.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] I will speak in Russian, and you will answer in Polish. When did you leave Russia? Poland?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] It was after the Warsaw Uprising in '44.The Polish uprising against the German occupiers of Warsaw began on August 1, 1944. It was led by the Polish Home Army, allied with the Polish government-in-exile in London. The Home Army was joined by the smaller People's Army, a leftist Polish resistance organization which included some Jews who had fought in the Warsaw Ghetto rebellion of April 19-May 16, 1943. The aim of the uprising was to seize the city of Warsaw before the approaching Red Army could conquer it. The unequal struggle ended on October 2, 1943 with the defeat of the insurgents.During the uprising some 150,000 civilians were killed including several thousand Jews who had been living in hiding in "Aryan" Warsaw after the collapse of the Warsaw Ghetto rebellion and some 16,000-20,000 Polish insurgents.1
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Oh, in '43. And where did you go?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] I was deported by the Germans.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] In '43?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] Not in '43. In '44.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Oh, you left Warsaw in '44? Why did you leave Warsaw?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] Well, the Germans were deporting everybody out of Warsaw.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] And where did they deport you?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] They deported us to the Rhineland.The Rhineland is located in western Germany and is named for the Rhine river. After World War I, it was a buffer zone between Germany and the West with Allied troops occupying it from 1918-1930. It was then a demilitarized zone until occupied by Germany in 1936. Though this occupation was in defiance of the Versailles Treaty, there was no meaningful Allied response to it in keeping with the policy of appeasement at the time.2
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Well . . . Now I want you to tell me everything that happened to you from the moment when the Nazis had taken Warsaw to the moment when you had been liberated in Paris. Tell me . . . And don't skip anything, tell me all the details.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] The moment that on the 5th of October 1944 the Germans deported . . . the entire population of Warsaw . . . er . . . to Germany.With the collapse of the Polish uprising, the Germans expelled the bulk of the population of Warsaw to nearby detention camps and razed what was left of the city. About 100,000, including Mr. Czolopicki, were conscripted for forced labor, 65,000 were sent to concentration camps and the rest were deported to the Generalgouvernement, the Polish administrative unit established by the Germans in October, 1939 and comprised of those parts of the country not incorporated into the Third Reich.3 It's a bit hard for me . . .
  • David Boder: To speak in Polish?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: No. Just what form to take . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Speak freely. Speak as if you were chatting with somebody else. That's all.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] So . . . we were sent, I mean we were given the opportunity . . . to pack our things, just what we could put on ourselves . . . to walk on foot to Ursus, a place a few kilometers out of Warsaw. There, we were kept for about two days, and then in freight trains . . . er . . . under German . . . escort. They transported us for almost five days and nights into the heart of Germany, to the Rhineland.
  • David Boder: [In English] And then?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] . . . Of course the people were very mixed—meaning women, children, men, everybody together. The conditions were dreadful because, for example, in the freight cars there were no . . . suitable facilities . . . they sometimes stopped so that one could go to the toilet. All of this, of course, under supervision by the guards, men and women together, nothing else was possible . . . And the food was also very poor, we ate just once a day . . . When we found ourselves in [Wanne?] near BochumBochum is located in northwestern western Germany northwest of the city of Essen and in the heart of the Ruhr district, the industrial heartland of Germany and one of the world's largest single industrial regions with ironworks, steelworks and coal mines.4 we arrived at the precise moment that Bochum was being bombarded by . . . the English. The result of this air-strike was that five of our wagons were burned, several people burned too, killed . . . The rest of us were transported to a camp, to a distributing camp . . . near Essen.Essen is located in northwestern western Germany. It was the largest industrial city in the Ruhr coalfield. It suffered a great deal of destruction from Allied bombing during World War II as a center of the German war industry.5 There, of course, we were also kept under very primitive conditions. [Unintelligible] in the floor, crowded conditions, one person on top of another, no bedding. There we were kept . . . a month, or two months, I think. Then, we were taken to various factories, or else placed on a list for farm work. I found myself . . . in Geldern-KapellenGeldern-Kappellen is located in the same area as Bochum and Essen.6 . . . I was employed at a camp which . . . deportees worked there, digging trenches . . . There, I spent . . . remained, until . . . liberation by the Americans. March 3, 1945 we were liberated by the AmericansIn early March, 1945, General Eisenhower's armies began an all-out advance towards the Rhine during which Mr. Czolopicki was liberated.7 . . . So at that time German deportations ceased. Am I to go on to talk of further . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Yes, yes.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] . . . Then with the Americans . . . I signed up to work for the Americans and came to France with the Americans. For a while, I worked with Americans in France. Then I resigned, came to Paris where I began further studies at the school of design.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Tell me the following. Did you work [or] did they keep you in "concentration camps"? Konzentrationslager?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] No, it wasn't really a concentration camp, but a camp for those deported specifically to work.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha, you were working. How was the food?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] The food was, of course . . . rutabaga, it was [background noise; unintelligible]. Food.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha, and who were your supervisors: Germans or Poles?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] No. Germans, of course. Those who served in those yellow uniforms. It was their—I can't remember what it was called—members of the German People's Party.It is unclear to which party Mr. Czolopicki is referring since at this time Germany was a one party Nazi (National Socialist German Workers Party) state established in 1933. The Storm troopers of the party wore brown uniforms.8
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha, aha.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] In yellow uniforms with those armbands
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha, aha, SS swastikas.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] It probably was [background noise; unintelligible] . . . which will go on for a while.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] And where did the Americans liberate you? In which town?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] [Inaudible] Moers.Moers is a town located in the Ruhr just west of Duisberg. It is west of the Rhine river. American troops did not cross the Rhine until March 7, 1945. Contrary to what is indicated in the interview, Moers is not over the Rhine. 9
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Moers . . . over the Rhine?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: Yes.
  • David Boder: Aha. Do you plan to return to Poland?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] At present I plan to finish my studies here [inaudible]. Which will still take a while.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] And what are you studying now?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] At the moment I'm learning the radio.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] The radio. Are you paying to study at this school?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] Up to now, I'm paying at that school.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] You're paying?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] But here, I'm to be paid for. In this school . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] And your school, is it a day school? Do you have some job in Paris?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] No. I mean, so far, I worked, but now, because I signed up for that course, I've stopped working. And here that course will be paid for.Mr. Czolopiciki indicated earlier that he had begun studying at a school for design. It was for this school that he was paying. He then switched to the study of radio. There is no indication as to which organization was paying for his training in this area. It is possible that he was enrolled in an ORT training program.10
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha, and where in Paris do you live?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] At Le Bonoir [?]
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Do you pay for your lodgings, or is it communal living for many Poles?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] No, I live in a hotel.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Have you any relatives in America? Any members of your family in the U.S.?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] No. I have no relatives in America.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] You have no relatives in America. And what do you plan to do: will you stay in France, or something else?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] I would most like to emigrate.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Where to?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] Let's say precisely to America.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] To America?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] If it were possible.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Tell me something. When you lived in Warsaw up to '44, were you there during the destruction of the Jewish ghetto?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] Yes. I was. I was there the whole time up to '44. I was in Warsaw during the entire period of the war. Of course, I also had to keep hiding from the Germans.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] Even . . . under an assumed name.Was Mr. Czolopicki living under an assumed name because he was Jewish or because as a non-Jewish able-bodied Polish male he feared deportation by the Germans for forced labor? The battle of the Warsaw Ghetto, the first urban uprising in German occupied Europe, was the longest of any Jewish uprising against the Germans.11 At the time of that Pogrom . . . I was in Warsaw. And . . . I kept observing and seeing, of course, the battle of the ghetto.It is interesting that Mr. Czolopicki refers to the battle of the Warsaw ghetto aa as "pogrom", a Yiddish word derived from the Russian meaning an organized massacre of Jews.12
  • David Boder: [In Russian] And you think that having no relatives in America, it would be possible for you to travel there? Would you like to go to South America?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] Brazil.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Brazil. Do you speak French well?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] A bit. I understand it, I mean.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] I can read it . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] You can read it?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] I write it quite well . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha.
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] It's just that speaking . . . when it comes to speaking it still presents certain problems . . . [background noise; unintelligible] . . . very quickly
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Thank you, Mr. Czolopicki. I was very interesting to talk to you. I would like to propose one small experiment . . . I have some pictures. What do you think this picture represents?As a psychologist, Boder was interested in Mr. Czolopicki's reactions to the pictures he showed him, a variation on the Rorschach test.13
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] It's a photograph of a woman [background noise; unintelligible]
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Speak up. Well, and what does it represent?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] . . . a boy, lost in thought, sitting on [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Good. What does this picture represent?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] . . . [long pause] And this represents . . . a sick person, dead, or dying, and above her stands . . .
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha, and what is happening in this picture?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] It looks as though women are running away from some air raid.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Aha, and this one?
  • Boleslaw Czolopicki: [In Polish] [background noise] It's farm work. On one side . . . work on a piece of land, cleaning or [background noise; unintelligible] . . . on the other side some mountaineer with a book in his hand is teaching. A woman [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: [In English] Alright.
  1. The Polish uprising against the German occupiers of Warsaw began on August 1, 1944. It was led by the Polish Home Army, allied with the Polish government-in-exile in London. The Home Army was joined by the smaller People's Army, a leftist Polish resistance organization which included some Jews who had fought in the Warsaw Ghetto rebellion of April 19-May 16, 1943. The aim of the uprising was to seize the city of Warsaw before the approaching Red Army could conquer it. The unequal struggle ended on October 2, 1943 with the defeat of the insurgents.During the uprising some 150,000 civilians were killed including several thousand Jews who had been living in hiding in "Aryan" Warsaw after the collapse of the Warsaw Ghetto rebellion and some 16,000-20,000 Polish insurgents.
  2. The Rhineland is located in western Germany and is named for the Rhine river. After World War I, it was a buffer zone between Germany and the West with Allied troops occupying it from 1918-1930. It was then a demilitarized zone until occupied by Germany in 1936. Though this occupation was in defiance of the Versailles Treaty, there was no meaningful Allied response to it in keeping with the policy of appeasement at the time.
  3. With the collapse of the Polish uprising, the Germans expelled the bulk of the population of Warsaw to nearby detention camps and razed what was left of the city. About 100,000, including Mr. Czolopicki, were conscripted for forced labor, 65,000 were sent to concentration camps and the rest were deported to the Generalgouvernement, the Polish administrative unit established by the Germans in October, 1939 and comprised of those parts of the country not incorporated into the Third Reich.
  4. Bochum is located in northwestern western Germany northwest of the city of Essen and in the heart of the Ruhr district, the industrial heartland of Germany and one of the world's largest single industrial regions with ironworks, steelworks and coal mines.
  5. Essen is located in northwestern western Germany. It was the largest industrial city in the Ruhr coalfield. It suffered a great deal of destruction from Allied bombing during World War II as a center of the German war industry.
  6. Geldern-Kappellen is located in the same area as Bochum and Essen.
  7. In early March, 1945, General Eisenhower's armies began an all-out advance towards the Rhine during which Mr. Czolopicki was liberated.
  8. It is unclear to which party Mr. Czolopicki is referring since at this time Germany was a one party Nazi (National Socialist German Workers Party) state established in 1933. The Storm troopers of the party wore brown uniforms.
  9. Moers is a town located in the Ruhr just west of Duisberg. It is west of the Rhine river. American troops did not cross the Rhine until March 7, 1945. Contrary to what is indicated in the interview, Moers is not over the Rhine.
  10. Mr. Czolopiciki indicated earlier that he had begun studying at a school for design. It was for this school that he was paying. He then switched to the study of radio. There is no indication as to which organization was paying for his training in this area. It is possible that he was enrolled in an ORT training program.
  11. Was Mr. Czolopicki living under an assumed name because he was Jewish or because as a non-Jewish able-bodied Polish male he feared deportation by the Germans for forced labor? The battle of the Warsaw Ghetto, the first urban uprising in German occupied Europe, was the longest of any Jewish uprising against the Germans.
  12. It is interesting that Mr. Czolopicki refers to the battle of the Warsaw ghetto aa as "pogrom", a Yiddish word derived from the Russian meaning an organized massacre of Jews.
  13. As a psychologist, Boder was interested in Mr. Czolopicki's reactions to the pictures he showed him, a variation on the Rorschach test.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription (Polish) : Alicia Nitecki
  • Transcription (Russian) : Alexander Gribanov
  • Translation (Polish) : Alicia Nitecki
  • Translation (Russian) : Alexander Gribanov
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz