David P. Boder Interviews Nathan Finkel; September 24, 1946; Munich, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] Munich, September the 24th, 193—, 1946, at the UNRRA University for displaced persons at the Deutsches Museum. The interviewee is now Nathan Finkel from Rovno, a Jewish student at the university. He will speak Russian.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Ah, how . . . How old are you?
  • Nathan Finkel: I am 26 years old.
  • David Boder: So. Well, [sit down and?] [unintelligible] and speak like so, that [unintelligible]. Tell me please where you were when the war began.
  • Nathan Finkel: When the war began, I was in Rovno.
  • David Boder: So. And were the Russians in Rovno before the war?
  • Nathan Finkel: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: No, no, no. I am thinking [unintelligible] when Rovno was in Poland.
  • Nathan Finkel: Yes. It was in Poland.
  • David Boder: Well, so. When the Germans entered [stutters] western Poland. Did the Russians enter, ah, did the Germans enter Rovno or did the Russians enter Rovno?
  • Nathan Finkel: The Germans entered western Poland in 1939.
  • David Boder: No, they got . . . they got to eastern Poland.
  • Nathan Finkel: To eastern [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: So, therefore, I am also saying: The Russians entered eastern Poland. Well, okay. You [unintelligible] of this time and continue then, tell me what happened to you?
  • Nathan Finkel: I was working in Rovno from 1939, then I left in 1940 for [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Well, wait a bit. When did the Russians enter Rovno?
  • Nathan Finkel: In September 1939.
  • David Boder: Stop! What happened then?
  • Nathan Finkel: Then I [unintelligible] from [my] family. We all stayed put.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: I got work again. I left for L'vov to get a job. I studied at the Polytechnical in L'vov.
  • David Boder: And did the Russian also capture L'vov?
  • Nathan Finkel: Also. And also western Ukraine.
  • David Boder: So. [both talking at once] Western Ukraine and . . .
  • Nathan Finkel: [interrupting] Western Ukraine and eastern Poland.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: In 1941, in June when the war had begun between Germany and Russian, I [unintelligible] after the start of the war, I went to Rovno. I was in Rovno three months in all, because very great persecutions had begun [unintelligible] by the Germans . . . By the Germans.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: Everyone was taken for work as soon as six months after the start of the war. Ah. In the month of December they already had killed seventeen thousand Jews in [about one week?].
  • David Boder: How did they kill them?
  • Nathan Finkel: They [divided?] from the morning all to gather in the square with [unintelligible] and it was forbidden to bring anything larger with themselves.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: And after everyone [unintelligible] [he only left?], it was those who didn't work.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: And [unintelligible] to leave, that is from the SS, the SS [they got off?]
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: They were taken six kilometers outside of town. A place was already prepared there for them and they shot [them] for three days and they threw them already [into a hole?], into holes there and buried [them].
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: I . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting] Who dug these holes and who . . .
  • Nathan Finkel: [interrupting] It is evident the Ukrainians did the digging.
  • David Boder: So . . . Well, go on.
  • Nathan Finkel: Only the Ukrainians were involved [with them?], and the Germans only [did the shooting?]. [That it, the Germans?] gave the orders. The Germans had [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: The only gave the orders. The Germans [so?].
  • David Boder: So. Well, go on.
  • Nathan Finkel: Well, I was no longer in Rovno then.
  • David Boder: And where were you?
  • Nathan Finkel: I had fled them and again a month after this I fled to western Poland.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: There it was a little better with the Jews, that . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting] To western Poland [unintelligible]?
  • Nathan Finkel: To western Poland. I fled to the city of Sosnowiec.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]. So.
  • Nathan Finkel: Yes, to Silesia. There was already a ghetto there, and I was in the ghetto a year and a half. I was working in [Skopje?], this is how they called it in German.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Finkel: It was very hard from morning to evening and it was especially bad for us with the food.
  • David Boder: Well . . .
  • Nathan Finkel: So. Because the Germans left very little for the ghettos. As early as [stammers] at this time they began [to take us?] to concentration camps. They [were bringing?] these places arbeitslagers [forced labor camps], that means we worked there. [For me?] my brother and I gathered and I was in the Gross-Rosen camp in Silesia. I worked all the time. I worked very hard. Of course [in the village?] [unintelligible] [we already had gotten bad?] only perhaps two men. We live in barracks. The food was very bad, we got ill and hundreds died there. A hundred men can be located in one room, and at the plant, at the factory, where we work there were such squares [we formed anxiety?]. It was very hard. The Germans treated us very badly.
  • Nathan Finkel: I was working [of everything I didn't have?] The last two months before the end of the war, I already was thinking that it would be my end, because I got sick several times, only [because of their?] [unintelligible] from too difficult work. I worked in the square.
  • David Boder: What does it mean, "in the square"?
  • Nathan Finkel: In the square of this construction area. A military plant construction area. Several comrades were with me and they all died because I was somewhat [unintelligible], I managed to survive. We supplied kava. there was a lot of kava there, it was [camp?] kava. I got considerably ill [unintelligible] from it . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting] [unintelligible] you think?
  • Nathan Finkel: Coffee, coffee. Yes.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: And very many died before it. [And hemorrhoids interfered?], and after the operation they did not [do?] and they died. At the other, in Silesia there were very many camps.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: The girls worked there. The majority, they worked in the factories . . .
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Nathan Finkel: I was in this camp in Gross-Rosen until March 1945. The Germans started to [unintelligible] us in March.
  • David Boder: [How long?] were you in Gross-Rosen this time?
  • Nathan Finkel: This time I was in Rosen a year and a half.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: [They evacuated?] us to the west. I ended up in Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: It was horrible in Buchenwald. There were hundreds, thousands of people, and all were in horrible conditions there because then there were being transferred and no one in the camp was healthy, the other [was] because the Germans were running before the Russians. Everyone was afraid. We were under [the fire of the sky?] in Buchenwald almost day and night, because there were no facilities for us. So I myself [successfully?] [unintelligible] worse. [Had to wait to the time?] until March 1945, many were spared [their lives?]. So, the final month, especially in the final days, [thousands?] died [a day], because [unintelligible] they didn't take us [we went with it?], and we walked. So, on the road, who only showed weakness [unintelligible], they killed immediately. They killed [them]. So, there were fewer and fewer left on the road . . .
  • David Boder: So, well, ah, ah, you were in Buchenwald.
  • Nathan Finkel: Yes. I was there only a month and a half.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: [I was there at the end of the war?]. [Quality of recording suddenly gets much worse here.] Well, then they liberated us and I of course was here in the American zone.
  • David Boder: So. Well right now [weak and unintelligible] in the American zone [too weak and unintelligible], tell [me] in detail [weak and unintelligible].
  • Nathan Finkel: From the very beginning of liberation I was in the Feldafing camp. It was a special camp for Jews. There were [six thousand?] [unintelligible]. Conditions were [unintelligible] [poor?]. [Unintelligible]. The American endeavored [in any?] [unintelligible] [with me?].
  • David Boder: Who founded Feldafing?
  • Nathan Finkel: The Americans founded Feldafing.
  • David Boder: You know [unintelligible].
  • Nathan Finkel: No, I don't.
  • David Boder: So, [unintelligible].
  • Nathan Finkel: [unintelligible]. Well, because I arrived [later?], I [did not avoid the very beginning?] and [also?] then it wasn't.
  • David Boder: So. Yes.
  • Nathan Finkel: I was in this very camp until January 1946. In January 1946, I found out that [unintelligible] university here. I decided to come here to Munich to get involved. I got an apartment and in March [both talking at once]. I got a private apartment.
  • David Boder: Did the German assign [it] to you?
  • Nathan Finkel: Yes, the Germans assigned [it] to me, a private apartment. A good room.
  • David Boder: You are what, a bachelor?
  • Nathan Finkel: I'm a bachelor. I have a brother here. I have no one else from the family.
  • David Boder: From where did [he take?] [your] brother?
  • Nathan Finkel: My brother has been with me all the time, in the camp, too. We have been together since Szczecin. And here [unintelligible] all the time . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting]What does your brother do?
  • Nathan Finkel: My brother is also here at the university [unintelligible] [on the second?] . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting] Ah, what are you studying?
  • Nathan Finkel: I am studying architecture.
  • David Boder: So . . . okay . . . That means your brother [unintelligible] [you went after?]?
  • Nathan Finkel: To be involved.
  • David Boder: So . . . Well, and how are [these?] conditions at the university, you, ah, what . . .
  • Nathan Finkel: Conditions at the university are not so very good, now [unintelligible], but earlier it wasn't so good [with the food?]. What touches on the lessons, that's the main thing. We have a total of about seventy students in architecture. Only several professors are good, the rest do not [teach us very much?] to the exclusion of several.
  • David Boder: And how is the relationship between the students?
  • Nathan Finkel: The relationship is rather correct between the students. Although I am a Jew, [and I feel?]
  • David Boder: [unintelligible].
  • Nathan Finkel: And I feel that here are very many of my worst ah, enemies, very [inspired?] enemies, well, nonetheless, I never feel it.
  • David Boder: You how? Do you feel it or not feel it?
  • Nathan Finkel: I feel it because I know that they [unintelligible], nor this [they do not show?] relationship toward me. [Outwardly?] it isn't seen.
  • David Boder: So . . . Perhaps this is just your suspiciousness?
  • Nathan Finkel: It is . . . Maybe all my suspiciousness, but since I know that there are Ukrainians here, that there are Lithuanians here. They were our killers, because the Germans didn't kill us, but only the Ukrainians and the Lithuanians, and all.
  • David Boder: But the Lithuanians are also refugees?
  • Nathan Finkel: Not all of them are refugees.
  • David Boder: Well, I understand . . . go on.
  • David Boder: Well, and what do you expect from this university? Don you have any relatives in America?
  • Nathan Finkel: I have relatives, but I know very little about them. And how [corrects himself] I still haven't gotten in touch with them. I think being involved, for the time being the conditions are better here than [those somewhere in the country?], so I want to study here.
  • David Boder: Aha, and why won't you go [to a local?] university?
  • Nathan Finkel: I am dealing with that now.
  • David Boder: Which one?
  • Nathan Finkel: With the Germans [now Munich?] after the second semester.
  • David Boder: In architecture?
  • Nathan Finkel: In architecture, yes.
  • David Boder: And who will pay this for you?
  • Nathan Finkel: [We?] have been exempted [of payment for us?]
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Nathan Finkel: [interrupting] All Jewish students [are exempt from?] payment.
  • David Boder: Who exempted you from it?
  • Nathan Finkel: Our student alliance that is here exempted us.
  • David Boder: [This alliance?] is Jewish?
  • Nathan Finkel: It is a special Jewish alliance located here of two hundred and ten Jewish students. Earlier almost everyone was here at the UNRRA University. Now the majority [will transfer?] to a German university. Since oneself and the conditions at [stops], the conditions are better.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: Not all the devices are needed here because this university [is forming the rest here?] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Finkel: . . . they will swap. And there already [everyone?] for the local professors [firstly is better?]
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: On the other hand, there [unintelligible] [to study?] since we [are located in contact?] the Germans.
  • David Boder: And do you think that the German students are just as bad as they were during Hitler's time?
  • Nathan Finkel: They have been left nonetheless [these sour things?] , because [they?] clearly don't address it, but it is felt their [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: [Who?] expresses [this?]? Perhaps you are simply suspicious people.
  • Nathan Finkel: It is expressed [in the fact?] that very often it is even noted as one indicates to the other that there are too many [living?] Jews here.
  • David Boder: And by the way, this exemption from payment that the [student alliance?] to pay or the Germans exempted the payment?
  • Nathan Finkel: The Germans, the Bavarian government . . .
  • David Boder: So.
  • Nathan Finkel: . . . it exempted us. It is [unintelligible] [Bundes-?] minister exempted . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting] And the Ukrainians have not been exempted from payment?
  • Nathan Finkel: Not all. [Not how?] we [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Or the Poles?
  • Nathan Finkel: Also [they, but not all?], but the Jewish exempted.
  • David Boder: So, what do you think about relocating to a Munich university?
  • Nathan Finkel: Yes. I have already [signed up?].
  • David Boder: Is there something you would like to say to American or Jewish students in America?
  • Nathan Finkel: There is.
  • David Boder: Tell me.
  • Nathan Finkel: We really need [unintelligible] help. We especially don't have any books. If there is the possibility for American students to [send?] us these books. Moreover, we want [run?] relationships with them [to write them?] so that also write us. [To exchange experience?]. We are very much behind of course, since we have not been involved for six years and [generally we have left?] culture and want to do all this now. We have relationships [and conditions?] are very, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Emotional.
  • Nathan Finkel: . . . emotional. [They have been occupying?] for a very long time.
  • David Boder: Tell me. Do you know what the Hillel Foundation is?Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life was founded in 1923 in the United States, and is the world's largest Jewish campus organization.1
  • Nathan Finkel: I know very well what the Hillel Foundation is, because here with [unintelligible] Munich. This representative was Mr. [Deslo?]. He [unintelligible] very much for himself the Jewish students and told them about the Hillel Foundation. Some have signed up, especially those who know English well.
  • David Boder: And perhaps [they in that?] [unintelligible] to be signed up [unintelligible] . . .
  • Nathan Finkel: [interrupting] Yes.
  • David Boder: [continuing] . . . so the Hiller Foundation may have been something to do for all of you.
  • Nathan Finkel: So far they have done very little, with the exception that Mr., Mr. [Deslo?] told us about it and the students signed up. Up to now still nothing . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting] They haven't built any organization here.
  • Nathan Finkel: They haven't built anything. But for us [unintelligible] it is necessary to help us very much because there almost are no [unintelligible] conditions. Now the UNRRA people are helping us. Everything will be after this . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting] Well, I think that this is like a [student interview?]. I would like to talk with you significantly further. Well, time . . . [recording ends abruptly]
  1. Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life was founded in 1923 in the United States, and is the world's largest Jewish campus organization.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Roy Cochrun
  • English translation : Roy Cochrun
  • Footnotes : Eben E. English