David P. Boder Interviews Malka Johles; August 28, 1946; Genève, Switzerland

  • Herman Barnett: [In English] Spool 89, Spool 89, Spool 89, recording starts at about one minute. This is Herman Bernett.
  • David Boder: Geneva, August 28th. August 28th, 1946. The interviewee is Mrs Malka Johles.
  • David Boder: [In German] How old are you, Mrs. Johles?
  • Malka Johles: Forty-six.
  • David Boder: [In English] Forty-six years old. Working in a shop for the training of knitting operations, knitting machine operations at the ORT in Geneva.
  • David Boder: [In German] Well, Mrs. Johles, I wanted to ask me for you, that you... with all details, as far as possible, tell me, what happened to you. You were, you lived in Vienna, right?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, in Vienna...
  • David Boder: From the beginning of the annexation.The German army crossed the Austrian frontier on March 11, 1938, and two days days later the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria to the Third Reich was proclaimed.1
  • Malka Johles: From Vienna to Belgium?
  • David Boder: Yes, so, you were living in Vienna.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me, what were you doing when the annexation happened and what happened to you. Very slowly.
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible] everything, yes...
  • David Boder: And everything like this. When did the annexation, the annexation happen?
  • Malka Johles: On March 11th.
  • David Boder: Which year?
  • Malka Johles: Thirty-eight.
  • David Boder: In thirty-eight.
  • Malka Johles: This day my child was five months.
  • David Boder: Yes, and?
  • Malka Johles: To the very day. They closed our shop right away.
  • David Boder: How long? Already on the very first day?
  • Malka Johles: No, on Monday, on March 14th. Closed down the shop.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Eight days. Then they opened it again, of course.
  • David Boder: Opened it.
  • Malka Johles: Opened it. But business was then not anymore... from this moment on. Nobody came in anymore.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Malka Johles: Because they were afraid.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Because there was a guard standing by the door.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Malka Johles: SA
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: That nobody, err, would go in, no Aryan customers.
  • David Boder: I see, err, Aryan customers. Did you have Aryan customers before...err?
  • Malka Johles: No, I didn't have Jewish customers.
  • David Boder: Oh, you had. What type of shop was it?
  • Malka Johles: Delicatessen. Everything.
  • David Boder: It was a Delicatessen shop. And you had, yes...
  • Malka Johles: Groceries, everything.
  • David Boder: And you mostly had Christian...
  • Malka Johles: Only Christian...
  • David Boder: Only Christian customers...
  • Malka Johles: Only Christian...
  • David Boder: So, a guard stood there, so that Christians could not come in.
  • Malka Johles: And, and nobody came...
  • David Boder: And how did the shop go then?
  • Malka Johles: It didn't.
  • David Boder: Talk a little louder. It didn't go...
  • Malka Johles: It didn't go anymore. From this very moment on...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: It didn't go anymore.Like the Johles's delicatessen, most of the 26,236 Jewish-owned businesses in Austria in March, 1938 were modest enterprises. However, whether large or small, Jewish businesses and Jewish involvement in the Austrian economy was soon brought to a brutal and ruthless end by the Nazis.2
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Malka Johles: Then, I...
  • David Boder: What did you do then?
  • Malka Johles: I had interested, the whole time to go away, of course, so I stood in line, from one consulate to the next, then I got a [unintelligible] in May...From the beginning of the German takeover, official Nazi policy towards Austrian Jewry was one of forced emigration. The emigration of Austrian Jewry was directed by the notorious Adolf Eichmann. However, the problem faced by Jews wanting to leave (such as Mrs. Johles) was the frustrating, humiliating and often fruitless endeavor to find a country willing to admit them.3
  • David Boder: From where?
  • Malka Johles: From my cousin, named Kölsch, a pharmacist, in err...
  • David Boder: Br...
  • Malka Johles: Bronx.
  • David Boder: In the Bronx.
  • Malka Johles: Bronx, yes, that is my cousin. Kölsch, Hary Kölsch.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Malka Johles: Then, we waited, and waited and on the tenth... on, err, October 27th, my husband was taken away to Bonj...to Bonjui.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Because he had, a, correct, a, err, a, err, valid passport as a Polish national and there he was until November 2nd. On November 2nd he came back.
  • David Boder: To Vienna.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, back to Vienna. Via Berlin.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: A notice of amnesty arrived and he will, err, come back.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: On November 10th, they invaded our... maybe twenty Gestapo-men , they took everything, all jewelry, all silverware, everything they took from me!Mrs. Johles is speaking of the infamous Kristallnacht (literally, "Crystal Night," also known as the Night of Broken Glass) pogrom which took place on November 9th and 10th, 1938. In addition to the robbery, maltreatment, arrests and outright murder of Jews, the Nazis destroyed forty-two prayer halls and funeral homes in Vienna. Many places of Jewish worship and Jewish institutions in the provinces suffered the same fate.4
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Malka Johles: My husband was arrested on the way.
  • David Boder: What do you mean "on the way"?
  • Malka Johles: "On the way". Not from at ho-, not at home. He wasn't, err, at home at this time, on November 10th, ´38.
  • David Boder: ´38.
  • Malka Johles: Because, well, he had fled to a butcher, a Jewish butcher, called Gruber. Then they arrested him with his boy and my husband. My husband, they kept until the next morning...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Until November 11th, in the morning. Because he still had a valid passport...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: He could come back.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And then we were in Vienna until December 14th.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: On December 14th, we fled to Belgium.
  • David Boder: Wait a minute. They came to you...
  • Malka Johles: On November 10th, at 12 o' clock. They took....
  • David Boder: Nighttime or daytime?
  • Malka Johles: Daytime.
  • David Boder: Daytime.
  • Malka Johles: I was told to [unintelligible] for twenty-four people...I don't think this is important...
  • David Boder: Yes, it is very important.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. A [Kanteste?] from, for twenty-four person, people. [unintelligible]. And, jewelry from, from, err, from me and from my husband, of course. It was very, very valuable...
  • David Boder: Yes, and?
  • Malka Johles: Well, and clothes and...he didn't...
  • David Boder: And what did they say?
  • Malka Johles: They said that there will come, err, I showed them a note from the Foreign Currency Exchange Center, to show that I had deposited, that not to, err, but only had declared...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Because I had thought, I'll already come to America in, err, August!
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: I wanted to postpone, so I had at the treasury department, at the Foreign Currency Exchange Center declared...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: The value of three thousand shilling.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And that I showed, that I had declared it correct, correctly.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Yes and then they [interruption in wire]...the note is worthless, they take it away now...
  • David Boder: Fiche, the note, the paper that didn't...
  • Malka Johles: The note from the Foreign Currency Exchange Center is nothing, but, I had through a lawyer, a Doctor Scherlach...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Through a lawyer, Scherlach, I had done that, I had paid 150 Marks for the, for the, probably for his expenses. And then they said, that's nothing, is good for nothing. I also said that we are Polish nationals, and he said, that, err, when we go to America, we'll get it back. I asked everywhere, went straight to the Polish consulate and they said they can't do anything.
  • David Boder: Well? Then? What, what was on the Tenth?
  • Malka Johles: November 10th?
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Malka Johles: Well, then, I went, we went to Belgium.
  • David Boder: How...Why did you go to Belgium?
  • Malka Johles: Because we were told, we shouldn't, we shouldn't stay, but my husband had... needed a valid Polish passport until the year ´31. And then they said that he did not need it, after all, and...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: It would get worse and worse...
  • David Boder: Did they let you go?
  • Malka Johles: No, no, we left illegally with the children.
  • David Boder: So, you left with which, with, with the little one...
  • Malka Johles: With the little child, who was then only thirteen months....
  • David Boder: And where was the boy?
  • Malka Johles: He was also with us!
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: So, tell me, how did you get from Vienna to Belgium?
  • Malka Johles: How we got there? We drove to Aachen...Aachen is located just across the border from Belgium. It was there that the Johles family, including Mr. and Mrs. Johles, their son and thirteen-month-old daughter, sought to cross the border.5
  • David Boder: To Ger...in Germany.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, Cologne. Aachen.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Well, then we went to the Gestapo.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And, we were frisked.
  • David Boder: You were, you went to the Gestapo deliberately, or were you...led there?
  • Malka Johles: No, no, we went...we had to...pass through the control.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And that was with the Gestapo!
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: My husband was frisked. Of course, we said if, if...if he had anything sowed into there...Then my husband said that if they want to, they can cut the coat open...I have nothing in there. He only had a couple of diapers for the little, the little one, right? And then he searched everything. Even searched the baby, my boy. Me separately, my boy separately, my husband separately.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And then we left. And we asked everywhere. Then we were told, we should...there, and there we would have somebody, yes...Then we came in to a coffee house. We stayed there for several days.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: It was terribly cold then...and then the, the, the, the coffee house got us a car.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: The car came, of course. And then we drove, three hours by car to, to Brussels.
  • David Boder: And, you were travelling completely illegally?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, illegally.
  • David Boder: Did the Gestapo know that you were illegal...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, they knew!
  • David Boder: And they...
  • Malka Johles: The Gestapo did...
  • David Boder: You told them, that you were fleeing.
  • Malka Johles: We are leaving, yes. Yes. We are leaving.
  • David Boder: We are going to Belgium...
  • Malka Johles: To Belgium, yes.
  • David Boder: To Belgium, and they said, that doesn't concern them, you can go.At that time (late 1938), the declared policy of Nazi Germany towards the Jews was still forced emigration. However, as in the case of the Johles family, Jews leaving German-controlled territory had to leave behind all of their wealth and possessions, which were often the fruits of a lifetime of labor. The most each emigrant could legally take with him or her was ten marks.6
  • Malka Johles: They let us go and we continued.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: Of course, in the middle of the night. We came to Brussels, it was so ferociously cold, a, a, the little one froze her cheek. I had to, three times a week, three times a week to Krish, err, to get radiation treatment, to heal it, err, until the child...we went so far. Through the...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Through this cold. Had nothing with us. Nothing at all. The child was freezing.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: What did you now...Is the child?
  • Malka Johles: Then the child, err, recovered.
  • David Boder: So, tell me, the woman who had gotten you a car, and with the car you were smuggled over.
  • Malka Johles: Smuggled over.
  • David Boder: Did you have to pay a lot?
  • Malka Johles: That, I can't remember. That...
  • David Boder: Did the Gestapo let you go with anything or did they...?
  • Malka Johles: We only had ten Marks, they have, we didn't rescue anything! No! We have nothing...no money.
  • David Boder: No jewelry, nothing.
  • Malka Johles: Jewelry, everything they took away, everything! On November 10th.
  • David Boder: How did that work? How was the car paid for?
  • Malka Johles: We probably had something, my husband did pay...we had each got.., gotten ten Marks.
  • David Boder: I see, each one of you...ten Marks.
  • Malka Johles: Each one ten Marks, yes.
  • David Boder: So you were four people...
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: So altogether forty Marks.
  • Malka Johles: Forty Marks.
  • David Boder: And where did you go to in Brussels?
  • Malka Johles: In Brussels, to the communauté.
  • David Boder: The Jewish Committee.Translator's Note: Throughout, it is not entirely clear if what is meant is a "committee" or the Jewish "communauté/community."7
  • Malka Johles: Yes. And there we received help right away.
  • David Boder: And in Brussels, the government did not want to send you back?
  • Malka Johles: No, no, no.
  • David Boder: There was no...
  • Malka Johles: We had no trouble.
  • David Boder: No trouble?
  • Malka Johles: Never, no.
  • David Boder: So, and then? So, how long were you in Brussels?
  • Malka Johles: In Brussels, until, err, until, err May 12th, 1940.
  • David Boder: Until May 12th, 1940.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. '40, we fled to, err, to, err, France...
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Malka Johles: Why? Because the war began.
  • David Boder: And then? And the Germans came to, to Belgium...
  • Malka Johles: The Germans ... We weren't there yet, we were... we fled when, when, err, the Belgians, were still...
  • David Boder: Yes. And were you admitted into France?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, we got in, we bought tickets to Paris, and then, nobody could get off the train, we rode directly to Tou..., err, Toulouse. To...Toulouse.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: A big city.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: In the South of France.
  • David Boder: And why couldn't anyone get off in Paris?
  • Malka Johles: There, the train didn't at all, the train is not stop, didn't stop, nobody got out. From Brussels straight to Toulouse.
  • David Boder: To Toulouse.
  • Malka Johles: That was just how the train went...
  • David Boder: Were there a lot of refugees?
  • Malka Johles: Oh yes! Many!
  • David Boder: Speak louder.
  • Malka Johles: Very many!
  • David Boder: Very many.
  • Malka Johles: Flemish people, err, err, Walloon people, Jews, different, different people.
  • David Boder: And why (what?) were the Walloon people...?
  • Malka Johles: Walloon. French. Flemish people, also!
  • David Boder: Flemish people were there.
  • Malka Johles: Many Flemish people were there...
  • David Boder: Why did they, why [unintelligible] ..
  • Malka Johles: They also didn't want to...
  • David Boder: So, they simply didn't...
  • Malka Johles: They feared the war, again the war, maybe, no? Those that had experienced it and [unintelligible]...
  • David Boder: Yes, so you came to Toulouse. What happened then?
  • Malka Johles: Yes. In Toulouse we were accommodated in the villages.
  • David Boder: Because you...
  • Malka Johles: (Unintelligible, sounds like "Verona", possibly a place name.) In, err, accommodated. Each house, we...
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: ...came in...the maire, the mayor...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And there we were until, err, err, eight days.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Eight days until we had to, err, come to Toulouse, the stadium.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: My husband. And I. And the, err, my two kids. Me, they sent back.
  • David Boder: To Toulouse?
  • Malka Johles: And my kids....err, back to the village. And my husband, err, was detained.
  • David Boder: Oh! Your husband was...
  • Malka Johles: Yes. My husband was, although he is a Polish citizen, detained.
  • David Boder: Yes. Then, where...?
  • Malka Johles: Didn't come back, my husband. Yes, he did come back, later! My husband then came to Cyprien.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Cyprien, that is near the, err, at the, err, at the, err, Spanish border.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. Cyprien. And I was, was in the village there and was supported by the administration in the village. With my two kids...
  • David Boder: Not by the Jewish committee?
  • Malka Johles: No, no, from where everybody else was got it.
  • David Boder: What did the administration give you?
  • Malka Johles: I got, I could, I mean...
  • David Boder: You were able to get by...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, and err, err, for many things I didn't have to pay.
  • David Boder: Did you try to work?
  • Malka Johles: Well, how could I? The child wasn't even two years old. What could I have...?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: My boy was already helping a little bit.
  • David Boder: Yes, and then?
  • Malka Johles: Then I went to Cyprien. On July 18th. And then, I was able to get my husband out right away, from Cyprien.
  • David Boder: How did you...?
  • Malka Johles: Because he was a Polish citizen.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: They shouldn't have detained him in the first place!
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: My husband should not have had any [unintelligible] to go to Toulouse. But the gendarmes came from, err, from Toulouse and said to each they have to register. And because we were Polish nationals, send us back. But unfortunately, they didn't send back from the stadium/station, but only me and my two kids.
  • David Boder: Well? And then they let your...So, how long was your husband detained?
  • Malka Johles: My husband was detained until July 18th. From May 17th to July 18th.From May 17th, 1940 to July 18th, 1940. The fact that Mrs. Johles remembered these dates so exactly was due in some measure to her concern for her husband's welfare at the time.8
  • David Boder: Yes, well? What happened then? We have...
  • Malka Johles: Then my husband, then we were there in the village until September. My husband had worked there for the farmer.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And, err, and, there was, then we came into a camp.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Malka Johles: To Brens. In a family camp.
  • David Boder: Why did you get there?
  • Malka Johles: Because the village had, err, the [unintelligible] didn't want to support anymore.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: Probably didn't want to give any help anymore.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Malka Johles: And the, the Jewish committee allegedly had founded the camp.
  • David Boder: Oh, and that was...
  • Malka Johles: In Brens. Yes. Brens, that was near Albi, near Goier [Gaillac?]. I don't know, you probably know the area...
  • David Boder: Yes, yes. [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: Yes, you can see. Brens. And there, we were until February 4th, err, '41.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And then we fled. To [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Malka Johles: Err, from the village, we fled to Lyon.This is another example of the initiative taken by the Johles family. Instead of waiting to be sent away, they fled to Lyon, the second largest city in France at the time.9
  • David Boder: Why did you have...?
  • Malka Johles: Why? Because, because we, they said, they send away, to [Rix?] and to Guille and right. We left on the fourth, and on the sixth, we came to Lyon, and on the eighteenth, err, of February the single people were sent away to Guille and those with family, with children to [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: And where were you?
  • Malka Johles: We were in Lyon.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: We came to Lyon...Mr. Pauler said, that was a [unintelligible], he said, err, to a man called Deutsch, who went to America in '41: Mr. Deutsch, take out the list, these four, the family Johles also comes from Brens. They have, err, we said, we don't come from Brens, we come from Brenteau.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: We had, err, err, wanted to deny. Because they, what came from Brens, they didn't want to give help. And then he said, well, you get one week until we get the list to show that you really didn't come from Brens, so you are not getting any aid. Then my husband said, do as you please. My child had, err, temperature, an inflammation of the middle ear and nevertheless, we fled. To, to Lyon. Because we, err, had learned that we would be sent away otherwise. Then we had to flee, with the child who was sick with the ear infection. And, then we came, had great difficulties. Not with the stay, but with the aid.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. And how was this thing with Brens solved?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: So they couldn't threaten us anymore, then they gave us financial aid like they should.
  • David Boder: So, they didn't want people to leave Brens?
  • Malka Johles: Leave Brens...., because we had the Toulouse Committee, probably, or...I don't know, or the Marseille, ha...had allegedly built or bought the camp. It is supposed to have cost a million francs.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Malka Johles: And they didn't want the people there, they wanted us to go to Kiev. And they were supposed to die there, in Kiev.Mrs. Johles is perhaps speaking here of the policy to deport foreign-born Jews from France (like the Johles family) "to the East." Though it might have been rumored they were being sent to Kiev, the final destination of most was Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Large scale deportations of Jews from France were taking place during the summer of 1942, the time period Mrs. Johles is speaking about.10
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Malka Johles: And then, err, we were there, in Lyon, of course. There, we had to live from the aid. It was very, very little, naturally. But on March 16th, they recruited my husband, took him out of work.
  • David Boder: Who did?
  • Malka Johles: The administration.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible] the (possibly: Vichy-) administration.
  • Malka Johles: The prefectia.Translator's note: Mrs. Johles possibly means the official residence of the "préfet", the prefect of a départements.11
  • David Boder: The prefectia.
  • Malka Johles: The prefectia helped my husband, in the morning, and arrested him, and then they sent him to a collection point, Chapeaulis. That was a suburb of Lyon. And [unintelligible] they held him from Monday to Saturday. And on Saturday he came to the Haute-Savoie...This is a mountainous area in southwestern France near Switzerland. Mining operations were conducted there. Mr. Johles was in a forced labor camp in the department of Haute Savoie located near the town of St. Julien.12
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: There he was detained...To Haut- [unintelligible] And there he didn't only have to work in the mines [unintelligible]...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible] very, very high...
  • David Boder: How old was he?
  • Malka Johles: My husband was then 41 years.
  • David Boder: I see. And then?
  • Malka Johles: And every once in a while he came home to Lyon on leave...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And when they came, the [unintelligible] in August...
  • David Boder: What are the [unintelligible]?
  • Malka Johles: Well, when they, err, the, the , the, well, the...deported people...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: In August '42.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: The camp was already...the people there, err, didn't...because of [unintelligible]....
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And then my husband telephoned my boy, on August 22, and told him to come right away.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: My boy came. My husband couldn't do anything, you see, because he already was...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Err, he was already scheduled to go to war.Mrs. Johles's husband might have been told that he was going to war in order to deceive him. Deportation meant being sent to Auschwitz or another extermination center. As a foreign Jew of Polish nationality, Mr. Johles was particularly vulnerable to deportation.13 But my boy wasn't 15 years old yet and then he went to see the commander and started to plead with him and to cry and that already...my husband had wanted to have hernia surgery for a long time, but in Lyon. And the commander had said, no, he only wants St. Julien [hospital], to which the camp belongs.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: The admin...you know, the prefectia had there a...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: A hospital and the, err, the camp [unintelligible] ...the battle, laborers, err, my husband said, no, I won't have surgery done in St. Julien, I would like to go to Lyon, where my wife is and if something happens...Then he said, he can't do anything and he already asked the prefectia. Yes, and to Lyon, they came to me, a few times, those people from the prefectia, that is from the administration. I was to accept the financial aid. I said, I won't take any. They wanted to give me for my children and for me...assistance.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Malka Johles: Because my husband worked there.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: He did, after all, err, a [unintelligible]...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: He worked there legitimately?
  • David Boder: Yes. So they wanted to give you assistance.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, a worker, err, [unintelligible] "travailleur étranger" it was called. I said no, because I was afraid to accept help from them.It is not entirely clear why Mrs. Johles was reluctant to accept help from the Vichy government. Perhaps she was afraid that the aid could be used as a means of forcing Mr. Johles to have his hernia surgery in St. Julien rather than in Lyon near his family. As it turned out, he was operated on in St. Julien anyway.14 So, when, err, when they [unintelligible] my boy inside begins to cry and to plead with the commander, if my husband could, please, have surgery done.
  • David Boder: Hmm...
  • Malka Johles: So he, he called the doctor of St. Julien right away and the doctor came on Monday the 24th. And, err, he explained to my husband that he is sick and he took him with him, in his car to St. Julien. So the Gestap— ..., no, not the Gestapo, but the [unintelligible] let him go. When the doctor from the hospital said that the man had high temperature and he had to be operated on. On the 24th, my husband was operated and he had to himself [unintelligible] lain in St. Julien. That is on the border, that's, when you...when you leave the Jewish cemetery, from Geneva, it borders right onto the hospital, on St. Julien.
  • David Boder: That's all in Switzerland?
  • Malka Johles: On the border to Switzerland, I think. Not far.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: When you leave the hospital and walk to its garden, you can already see, you're already on the border.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Malka Johles: On the Swiss border. My husband was operated there, on the hernia. My boy, he speaks French perfectly...Of course I didn't know where my boy was! He had sent me a telegram that my husband was, thanks be to God, in the hospital.
  • David Boder: Hmm...
  • Malka Johles: And that he was not in battle. And that he had already been operated on. When he'll come back, he telegraphed, he didn't know – my boy. I didn't leave. I didn't hide. Err, I thought, maybe they are not searching for me. It was known that my husband is...working.
  • David Boder: Is working.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. And the little one was only four and a half years old. So I didn't leave. Because I thought if I do, my boy will come and then he might not know where I am.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And my hus...my boy was three days in St. Julien and not registered.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: In the hotel. She was very nice, the woman didn't register his card. And then she said, she can't do that, she has to register him because if a police patrol comes by...And as she registers him and as my boy leaves the hospital from visiting, as visiting hours were over, there stood three gendarmes and arrested the boy. On the [unintelligible] they said, you are registered, you are staying in the hotel, what are you doing there? So my boy says, as you can see, I was there for my Dad...Well, what are you doing there? Why does your Dad need you, when he's in the hospital? Then he says, my Dad doesn't speak a word of French and I just wanted to be there, so that my Dad understands things. Well, they say, what is going to happen with you now? So he says, I would like to go home to my Mum, back to Lyon. Then he says, I see! Your mum is long gone, like all Jews. They're all already caught and what are we going to do with you now? So my boy started to cry terribly. He was afraid, they would deport him. But one of them, one of them, err, he was older...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: A commissioner. He said, don't cry, he said, I have four [unintelligible] myself, that is kids, at home. I won't do you any harm. He says: I won't do you any harm at all. Boy, don't cry, calm down. If you think that your Mum is still in Lyon, send her a telegram and, err, go, and, err, go. So, I received a telegram, saying that my boy...
  • David Boder: Was coming.
  • Malka Johles: Was coming. I wa, wa, was afraid to go to the...
  • David Boder: Train station.
  • Malka Johles: Train station. It was so dangerous, you know. So I waited behind the bushes. I knew what time he would arrive, so now I waited. I whistled to him and he whistled back and so we identified each other. And that was in the middle of the night.
  • David Boder: He whistled?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, because I couldn't come....
  • David Boder: Did you have a certain melody?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, he already knew.
  • David Boder: What was it?
  • Malka Johles: Well, just something whistled and then he already knew. And then he came back and told me, that my husband had had surgery, and that they wanted to arrest him and so, from this hour on, of course, we didn't sleep at home anymore. And then we stayed with a neighbor. Then my boy went to see my husband another time. He was already doing a little better. And then my boy went yet another time to the battle. But that...that is not so important.
  • David Boder: What do you mean by "battle"?
  • Malka Johles: In, in [unintelligible], where my husband was, is...
  • David Boder: Yes, yes, that is all very important. Everything is important....
  • Malka Johles: Yes. And because the camp was still....
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And my husband didn't know what to do.... Yes. The, the nurse, the hospital nurse told my husband that when he in St. Mary [unintelligible] an stand up alright, she will see that he'll get across the border.
  • David Boder: To Switzerland.
  • Malka Johles: To Switzerland. Then he said, I can't go alone, I have two kids, and, and a wife. What should I do? And I didn't have the guts to go to St. Julien, because they take people off the "autopiste".French for "highway." Mrs. Johles might refer to people being stopped on the highway by the police.15
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: So my husband, err, my boy went to the commander of the camp and obtained a, a, a, a, err, sick leave for a month. And with the note, he went to the hospital.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: My boy, and he brought my husband home to Lyon. So, err, he was still very sick. And, so he came [unintelligible], not because of the surgery, but because of everything.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: He came home. And then we were there for a few days.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: My husband, after all, had the sick leave from the hospital and on top the one from the battle.Mrs. Johles might mean that because he was recuperating from surgery he was exempt from any kind of military service.16
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: So, this cost us extra [unintelligible], and...but we also hid. And then we...my husband said, he's strong enough now, he won't stay, despite the sick leave, he said, I won't stay. And so we decided to leave, in God's name.This is yet another example of an act of resistance on the part of the Johles family. Instead of returning to the alpine forced labor camp, Mr. Johles and his family at first went into hiding and then chose to attempt to flee to neutral Switzerland.17
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Malka Johles: To the border.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And, err, luckily we crossed it.
  • David Boder: Crossed it.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, how did you get across, err?
  • Malka Johles: We were in [unintelligible] there,...
  • David Boder: So, who met you when you were...
  • Malka Johles: At a...the...
  • David Boder: Here in, in Ge..in Geneva?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, in Geneva, yes.
  • David Boder: Yes, well? Where were you?
  • Malka Johles: We were in a kind of reception camp, only one night.
  • David Boder: That was in the beginning...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, just one night.
  • David Boder: They didn't want to send you back?
  • Malka Johles: No, the child was still so...
  • David Boder: What?
  • Malka Johles: It was, the child was not even five years old.
  • David Boder: I see. So, did they [unintelligible]...
  • Malka Johles: Yes. Nobody gave us trouble. One other family they sent back.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Malka Johles: Before us. Because, it was just... they said it was a deadline.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Malka Johles: It was, a, a, it was a, err, a day, where, err...
  • David Boder: Send back.
  • Malka Johles: Send back. They were, he was twenty-three years old, two older people.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: They sent them back. But they, err, after four times they crossed over and then made it. Now they are in Chent (unclear).
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Malka Johles: In Chent. They work...
  • David Boder: Where is that?
  • Malka Johles: Chent, near Paris.
  • David Boder: Oh!
  • Malka Johles: Yes. They are doing very well. They didn't send us, err...
  • David Boder: Well? So you came over the Switzerland, which year?
  • Malka Johles: In which year? '42. December, 27th.Later in the interview, Mrs. Johles returns to the account of her family's escape to Switzerland. The Johles family was accompanied on their escape by Mr. Johles's sister and her child.18
  • David Boder: ‘ 42.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: And then what did they do with you right after?
  • Malka Johles: What did they do with us?
  • David Boder: Yes, where were you....
  • Malka Johles: There we were one day.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: In the reception camp. Then we came to the "Territorial"...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: "Territorialkommando" [Territorial authorities]. And then they put us into a hotel. They gave us financial assistance.The Johles family was very fortunate in being able to find refuge in Switzerland, though the reason they were admitted is not clear. Mrs. Johles later attributes it mostly to luck. Some 20,000 who sought asylum in Switzerland were not as lucky. They were refused admittance, which cost many their lives. However, it should be noted that there were some Swiss institutions and individuals who were adamantly opposed to their government's restrictive immigration policies and were determined to help the refugees.19
  • David Boder: The Jewish Swiss group?
  • Malka Johles: First the communauté. Yes, I'm not quite sure. The communauté ...
  • David Boder: Is that a Jewish comm...
  • Malka Johles: A Jewish, yes. And then we received assistance from the Polish consulate, after a month or so, in October, err, we already received, err, directly from the Polish consulate.
  • David Boder: Why from the consulate?
  • Malka Johles: Because my husband was a Polish national.
  • David Boder: You were not from Poland?
  • Malka Johles: (Silent)
  • David Boder: You are not in Poland....
  • Malka Johles: I was born in Poland. Because was Polish. My husband, too.
  • David Boder: So, so you both were Polish nationals?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, yes. Only, my hus..., my passport was taken away in Vienna.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: When Hitler came and my husband still had his pass, he extended it before Hitler came, he still...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Could identify himself, that he, err, err...
  • David Boder: And the Polish supported you then?
  • Malka Johles: Supported us, yes. Until March '43.
  • David Boder: Yes. And then? What happened then?
  • Malka Johles: Then, err, in March '43, there was big trouble, my boy came into a Zionist home near Geneva. And for me, my child and for my husband, they did pay, but it was very, very difficult. One month.
  • David Boder: And you lived in a private house?
  • Malka Johles: Then I did, first I lived...until February '43, I lived in a hotel and then I was, I had to take a furnished apartment.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Malka Johles: Not an empty apartment. We rented a furnished apartment...
  • David Boder: Unfurnished?
  • Malka Johles: Furnished.
  • David Boder: Furnished.
  • Malka Johles: Only furnished apartments. Yes.
  • David Boder: Were there any apartments to rent? There were so many people there!
  • Malka Johles: There were...were maybe, err... In each alley, there were maybe, err, fifty, sixty apartments to rent!
  • David Boder: Why were there...?
  • Malka Johles: In each alley!
  • David Boder: How is it possible that there were none...?
  • Malka Johles: Well, now there are none to rent. Now, unfortunately, I live in a furnished apartment. Also furnished.
  • David Boder: I see. And then?
  • Malka Johles: Then, in March they still paid. In April they said that only my husband....that my husband could no longer be supported. Just me, because I was diagnosed by the doctor that I was sick...by a Polish doctor.
  • David Boder: But your husband was also sick...
  • Malka Johles: My husband, they said, they could not pay anymore. The Zurich Committee did that for my husband. And me and my child were supported by the Polish Consulate. Until August, err, August '43.The Swiss central government and Swiss cantons offered relatively little help to the refugees. They were helped by the Swiss Jewish community and organizations such as the Joint. It becomes clear from Mrs. Johles's interview that life was far from easy even for those Jews who were able to escape to Switzerland.20
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: On August 20th '43 I received a note that I had to go to the camp, to [unintelligible]. That is high up in the mountains, on 1400 meter.
  • David Boder: Hmm....with the child.
  • Malka Johles: Near Montreux. With my child and my husband was in the labor camp. Here [unintelligible]. It is near St. Moritz.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Not that, the other St. Moritz.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Do you know the area? No?
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: My husband was there in a labor camp.Some Jewish refugees were separated from their families and sent to labor camps in Switzerland. In the case of Mr. Johles, the camp was near Montreux, located at the eastern end of Lake Geneva.21
  • David Boder: And what did you do there?
  • Malka Johles: My husband had to...in the, at the, in the soil...take out, the, the, all these things....the, what do you call them, the....the roots....
  • David Boder: The trees?
  • Malka Johles: The trees...yes.
  • David Boder: The roots of the trees.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, yes. And I was there from August 21st until November twenty.....until November 17th. In [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Malka Johles: Then I was admitted to the hospital.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Malka Johles: Me? I was, err, three weeks in the gynecological....ward.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Maternité. And then I, I, err, also had surgery done. Just a small one, a female thing.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And then on December 18th, I had surgery done on the goiter and I was in the hospital until January 12th '44.
  • David Boder: Who did the goiter surgery?
  • Malka Johles: The goiter?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Err, I don't know, how it, how he, err...
  • David Boder: Didn't you know...
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible] he was called, I think Fischer something...not the professor. I had asked for a professor. They said they also had other doctors, not only....
  • David Boder: Yes, but they did a very good job, didn't they?
  • Malka Johles: Very good, yes.
  • David Boder: She is... was operated from a [unintelligible] And, err, there is hardly a scar to be noticed. Hardly. It is a wonderful suture. And, err, one absolutely must search for it, must search for the scar to identify it. (English in original) Well?, Err, and then where...go on.
  • Malka Johles: I was there for a month.
  • David Boder: And where was the boy?
  • Malka Johles: My boy was in Roberto, near Geneva in the Zionist home.
  • David Boder: In the Zionist home.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. Third year.
  • David Boder: And what did he do there?
  • Malka Johles: He studied and.. school...then...
  • David Boder: What?
  • Malka Johles: He was...err...
  • David Boder: Did he receive any training?
  • Malka Johles: Only later on.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: In, err, there in Geneva.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: In the ORT
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. He started in March, err, '44. A year later.
  • David Boder: A year later. What did you stud.....
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: And, err, was he, where is the boy now?
  • Malka Johles: The boy is now in, err, near Tel Aviv.
  • David Boder: The boy is now near Tel Aviv. Did he go legal....
  • Malka Johles: Left last year.
  • David Boder: Did he get there legally....?
  • Malka Johles: Legally. And very happy about. With the Aliyah.It is somewhat questionable that Mrs. Johles's son made aliyah ("to go up," a term for Jewish immigration into Palestine) legally in 1945, although it is possible that he was among the 1,500 Jewish refugees whom the British, then in control of Palestine, allowed to enter each month. Most Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the immediate post-war years came on Aliyah Bet, that is illegally.22
  • David Boder: From where? From [unintelligible, sounds like "Paschem"; a place name]?
  • Malka Johles: [Unintelligible, sounds like "Werzua"; a place name.]
  • David Boder: From Werzua [?], with the Youth Aliyah, did you...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, on May 28th...
  • David Boder: And what does he do in Palestine?
  • Malka Johles: Well, Kibbutz...
  • David Boder: Err, has he been working there for a long time?
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: Speak up.
  • Malka Johles: He works with flowers, he does.
  • David Boder: Yes, but tell me, what training did he get at the ORT?
  • Malka Johles: Training, err, locksmith.
  • David Boder: But he doesn't work as a locksmith in Palestine.
  • Malka Johles: Err, err, he was promised that he could now work in Opania. Maybe in a locksmith's shop.
  • David Boder: So, in, err, in a locksmith's shop.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, Opania near Tel Aviv.
  • David Boder: And, err, does he earn his own living?
  • Malka Johles: No, no. He is in a Kibbutz.
  • David Boder: A Kibbutz. What is that?
  • Malka Johles: He lives there, it is a kind of a , a, home, like...
  • David Boder: A cooperative.
  • Malka Johles: Like a cooperative. He's, err, provided for there.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: He eats there and sleeps there and has his meals and, and he studies...
  • David Boder: Yes. Well? What do you want to do?
  • Malka Johles: I want to go to America. Because...
  • David Boder: You don't want to go to Palestine?
  • Malka Johles: I have no chances now. Now there is no chance. I did want to go to Palestine.The highly restrictive British immigration policies in effect at the time were undoubtedly a key reason for Mrs. Johles's pessimism.23
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: But unfortunately...
  • David Boder: And, and, what are you teaching yourself now?
  • Malka Johles: Also there, in the, in the ...ORT
  • David Boder: Here in the ORT and you are taking, learning knitting.
  • Malka Johles: Knitting, my husband, too.
  • David Boder: Your husband, too.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: Learn knitting.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: And how are you providing for yourself?
  • Malka Johles: We're now getting help from the committee.
  • David Boder: Which one? The Jewish one?
  • Malka Johles: From the Jewish Committee.She might be referring to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.24
  • David Boder: Is it enough to live?
  • Malka Johles: Well...
  • David Boder: You have to make ends meet.
  • Malka Johles: It's better, than, than in the camp, right?
  • David Boder: Better than in the camp.
  • Malka Johles: In the camp...because I think, times are different now. Where people, at another place [unintelligible]...Now I would like something different, not that we are in the camp anymore...
  • David Boder: What do you mean, [unintelligible]?
  • Malka Johles: People see a, people see a different picture now. Not, not, not, err, life in a camp anymore.
  • David Boder: Yes. And people also want to...
  • Malka Johles: Not live in the camp.
  • David Boder: And people also want for themselves...what?
  • Malka Johles: They would like to learn a trade, something that they just have going for themselves, when they'll go to America or somewhere..
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: It's very handy, no?
  • David Boder: Well, err, tell me, how is your husband's health now?
  • Malka Johles: Thank you. He is alright.
  • David Boder: So, the surgery helped him.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Speak up, please.
  • Malka Johles: The surgery helped him.
  • David Boder: He had surgery done in France.
  • Malka Johles: France, in Saint-Julien, yes. On August 24th.
  • David Boder: And did he have to pay for the surgery?
  • Malka Johles: No, he was [unintelligible]. That is, he had, err...
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: He was in the labor camp, you see!
  • David Boder: He was in the labor camp.
  • Malka Johles: The insurance paid that. The prefectia.
  • David Boder: Well, is there anything, what you, err, what you want to say?
  • Malka Johles: (Silence)
  • David Boder: How, err, tell me, you've had your affidavit since how long?
  • Malka Johles: Already in Vienna we had an affidavit, in Lyon we ha...had a visa approval. In '42, in August. And now in October I also got from Washington, err...in October, err, '45, I got...from Washington, a visa approved.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: So my husband's sister writes. If we can't get preferred treatment. Because we already...in October...last years...got the, the, the...visa approved. If we couldn't be favored in any way. With the quota and all.Highly restrictive and racist American quotas for refugees were still in effect in 1946. The Johles family had an affidavit, a sworn statement from their American sponsor that they would not become public charges, and a visa, but since they were Polish nationals, they were under that country's quota.25
  • David Boder: Your sister wrote that?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, the sister of my husband.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: It's because we have it, we...I have the approval in writing. From Washington.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And now we just received the visa approval from Zurich in May.
  • David Boder: And now?
  • Malka Johles: But that...My brother-in-law says, why...why, err, that we don't, err, care about it in Zurich. If we couldn't be favored. With the quota. Because we already got an approval last year from Washington.
  • David Boder: Where is your, err....
  • Malka Johles: My husband's sister?
  • David Boder: Yes, where is she?
  • Malka Johles: In New York. I'll give you...I don't know, I don't have...
  • David Boder: You will write down the address for me later.
  • Malka Johles: I have all addresses.
  • David Boder: And what does your Consul say about this?
  • Malka Johles: The Consul says that, that I got ...from Washington last year. I sent that in. And then he scream...he says that that was a mistake by the issuers of the affidavit. Instead of having it sent to Zurich last year, he sent it to Washington. It does not work like that.
  • David Boder: I see. And, err...
  • Malka Johles: They, err...they can't favor anybody.
  • David Boder: And now did he send it in to Zurich?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, we already did...
  • David Boder: And what did he say, the [unintelligible]...
  • Malka Johles: The visa approval, we already received it in May. Last week they wrote us, they confirmed that we had sent it in, err...in May. Pictures, documents and everything. Only last week, after four months, they confirm that they have received it, and if I was to come in, err...immediately, they would, err...we would be taken care of. The papers are all good.
  • David Boder: Yes, I think they might be a bit slow, because there aren't any ships out there yet.
  • Malka Johles: There are ships alright. If only the quota would...
  • David Boder: Well, that is why they keep...
  • Malka Johles: We would already look for...
  • David Boder: Well, they keep the quota small, because they don't have any ships yet, for example...As noted, the quota was small due to the official quota system in the United States at the time. Bureaucratic red tape—"paper walls"—also did much to hinder would-be immigrants, as seen in the case of Mrs. Johles's family.26
  • Malka Johles: I don't know about that, but in any case...
  • David Boder: You don't know that...Err, did the consul think...[unintelligible]...
  • Malka Johles: Last year we had prospect to go to Palestine and to America. And now, unfortunately, we, we cannot wait that long, until we get to Palestine.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Not in a lifetime. And so we would, would like to go to America...[unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Well, but maybe your, err, your people in Boston...
  • Malka Johles: Alas! They....[unintelligible]
  • David Boder: And from New York, if they would talk with their senator or with somebody or with the [unintelligible] in charge, who can give you an affidavit?
  • Malka Johles: He did and my husband's sister did...[unintelligible] give something, too. She wanted us to be ok. So she gave one, too. She is a refugee, herself. Just left Brussels.
  • David Boder: To go to America.
  • Malka Johles: To go to America. From Brussels [unintelligible]...
  • David Boder: Is she by herself or is she...
  • Malka Johles: She did....by the name ...[unintelligible]...Johles...[unintelligible]...No, and...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: She has two children, so...
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, I think...
  • Malka Johles: My husband complains that...that...
  • David Boder: With so many people who can do something for you, it'll happen really quickly. One morning you'll get it and then you will have to leave in, err, one week or two, go. When...
  • Malka Johles: Well one does...how do you say, when something takes that long, it's almost like cancer...[unintelligible]. That is like, still and still....and now one is pestered with this everyday...
  • David Boder: Err, do you have a furnished apartment now?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, unfortunately.
  • David Boder: Why, unfortunately?
  • Malka Johles: Unfortunately, because I don't know, she comes home on Saturday...the lady...if she couldn't bring me her kid...
  • David Boder: Oh, that's it. The Lady left and you have to....
  • Malka Johles: Left...No, she is, err, she works in some kitchens on the, on the countryside. Now she has told me already in advance that she will need it [the apartment] for a friend. She is coming from Germany and...well. So, I don't know if it is not...
  • David Boder: What are you paying for the apartment?
  • Malka Johles: I'm paying 75 francs.
  • David Boder: 75 francs monthly?
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: But that is...
  • Malka Johles: It's a narrow, err, like that, maybe even more narrow and smaller.
  • David Boder: One room.
  • Malka Johles: With a window. With shared kitchen.
  • David Boder: I see and with [unintelligible]...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: When do you have time to cook, when you are here...[unintelligible]...
  • Malka Johles: I only work in the afternoons. I have a child. I have a child, after all!
  • David Boder: Oh, you only work in the afternoons. Where is the little one?
  • Malka Johles: My little one will come back tomorrow. From...
  • David Boder: Where is she?
  • Malka Johles: Near Zurich, with my husband's sister. She lives on the countryside. Also [unintelligible]...but she lives near [unintelligible]...
  • David Boder: How did your husband's sister get to, err, Switzerland?
  • Malka Johles: Also, err, at the same time like we did, together with us.
  • David Boder: She crossed the border together with you...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, we had to endure a lot on the border. But, err, thanks be to God, it went, err...the main thing is we made it. But on the way here, we had a mishap.
  • David Boder: What happened?
  • Malka Johles: It happened...oh God! Err, long...[unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Well, what happened then...
  • Malka Johles: We rented an ambulance...car in Annecy...Mrs. Johles is returning to the story of how her family and her sister-in-law and niece crossed the Swiss border in late December 1942. Annecy is a French town close to the Swiss border.27
  • David Boder: Who [unintelligible]?
  • Malka Johles: Yes. To, to the...guide.
  • David Boder: Wait a minute...
  • Malka Johles: To the guide.
  • David Boder: One moment please.
  • Malka Johles: So that we didn't have to ride the autobus.
  • David Boder: Wait a minute please.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. So that we didn't need the autobus...[unintelligible]. It was too dangerous to ride the public autobus.
  • David Boder: ...Wait a minute.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: (Silence)
  • Malka Johles: One can't possibly...much to tell, my good man.
  • David Boder: Why not?
  • Malka Johles: Alas, there is so much to tell.
  • David Boder: Yes, what do you want them to know?
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Well, you see, if you don't tell that, then people think, yes, oh my God! People live there, they are supported, what do they...[unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: There. [unintelligible] should they experience, [unintelligible] what it's like to sit on, on boxes...
  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 90, Mrs. Malka Johles continues.
  • David Boder: [In German] So tell me, I wanted to know, you said earlier...when you crossed the border...
  • Malka Johles: Yes. We came to Annecy.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: That is already close to the border. And we were told...we were very afraid to get on the public bus.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: They said that it was dangerous.
  • David Boder: And how did you get to, err, the, err...what was the town called, where you were?
  • Malka Johles: Annecy.
  • David Boder: And how did you get to Annecy?
  • Malka Johles: Annecy. My husband had the confirmation, after all.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: They...they [unintelligible] told him...he said, err, then, err, if somebody had asked him, he would have said, he's on his way to the hospital to change the bandages...The excuse for being in Annecy was that Mr. Johles was on the way to the St. Julien hospital where he had his hernia surgery so that his bandages could be changed. He carried with him a letter of confirmation from the St. Julien hospital.28
  • David Boder: Yes. And you were...
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible]. Yes, and I would have... I went with my husband to accompany him.
  • David Boder: And the children.
  • Malka Johles: And the children. But...
  • David Boder: And who else? Whose sister?
  • Malka Johles: My husband's sister.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: With one child.
  • David Boder: And she is now in Switzerland.
  • Malka Johles: She is now in Switzerland, near Zurich.
  • David Boder: So you all drove, six people and one...
  • Malka Johles: The family that was sent back.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: No. And you drove...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And we had, err, that, err...the French paper. She is possibly refering to the letter of confirmation from the hospital.29
  • David Boder: The other family?
  • Malka Johles: The other family.
  • David Boder: Yes, and then?
  • Malka Johles: I didn't have anything. Only my husband had the...
  • David Boder: His papers...
  • Malka Johles: Confirmation, papers, that he...that he had had surgery at the hospital and was now, err, on sick leave for a month...Had he...should he have ridden [unintelligible] public bus or something? He said, that he..err...
  • David Boder: And how did you go? By bus?
  • Malka Johles: No, we took the train.
  • David Boder: The train.
  • Malka Johles: To Annecy.
  • David Boder: How many hours did that take?
  • Malka Johles: It took, I think...four hours.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Malka Johles: In Annecy my husband drove to the guide...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Got on the bus...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: With the little girl.The "little girl" Mrs. Johles is referring was their daughter.30
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: To the guide. We had a guide who was our... [unintelligible] for a few days.
  • David Boder: Oh, you had a guide, who...
  • Malka Johles: My husband said...
  • David Boder: A "travel guide"...
  • Malka Johles: A...yes. Err, my husband said that he is not afraid, because it...where the guide is, is not far away from St. Julien.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: If they wanted to...had he been controlled, he says, he is going...
  • David Boder: To St. Julien.
  • Malka Johles: To St. Julien. To the hospital. We were afraid and for four days we were in Annecy. Hid in a hotel.
  • David Boder: In Annecy?
  • Malka Johles: Annecy.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: It's not far from Annemasse, from the border. And so we didn't know what to do. The family, that was sent back, had a relative in Annecy. And he sent us, err...somebody, and he recommended that they should give us an ambulance car.
  • David Boder: I see! An ambulance.
  • Malka Johles: That is, a doctor, an ambulance. And, first drove...the family that was sent back. With the son...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And the man.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Err, three people. I, with my sister-in-law...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And with the child, stayed behind.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: When, when, err, there in the hospital...And we waited ‘til the car came...
  • David Boder: Back.
  • Malka Johles: Back. My boy...my boy...
  • David Boder: How much time did... [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: Got on the bus and also rode to the guide. He said, he...he won't stay in the hotel in Annecy, he is not afraid none. He speaks French perfectly and...right...so...he arrived at my husband's, at the guide's. There we...The Swiss guide (Fr. passeur) was never further identified by Mrs. Johles. There were a number of guides who had been professional smugglers before the war, and so knew the routes across the French-Swiss frontier.31
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Err...
  • David Boder: Did you meet each other...
  • Malka Johles: We had to wait there, after all...
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: And my boy got there and tells my husband: why didn't you, why didn't you bring Mama with you? And the aunt? Then he says: they were afraid. And by chance! They didn't check on the bus.
  • David Boder: Hmm.
  • Malka Johles: Well...good so. So, we paid for the ambu...for the ambulance...You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And, they went first. The, err...the family...
  • David Boder: The other family.
  • Malka Johles: The other family. And we are already waiting. Thank God! So, we...oh! With the first, ...err...first batch, the guide came to Annecy, too.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: To pick us up. And he went with this family.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: He sat on the passenger's seat, next to the driver. And we waited. The driver already knew...where he needs to...where he would drop the people.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: That they have to come to us. And when he came, right on time...back. And we got on and we also drove with the ambulance.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: To the guide.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And then [unintelligible]...he was supposed to lead us across. He was Swiss. And he lived in France. He knew the paths, the woods and everything. So, he, a poor guy with five or six children. All of a sudden, the car...the car, the ambulance stops. My husband gets off, says: kids, don't be scared. Something happened.
  • David Boder: What happened?
  • Malka Johles: (Pause) Don't be scared. We're going in. Get out. We're getting in... there are, err, fifteen...policemen.Translator's note: In German, she says "Gardemobilisten"; this is not a German word but might either mean "Gendarme" or a member of some type of guard/garde; in other words, a type of police force.32 With the guide in his apartment.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Malka Johles: It was like this...The bus, err...the policemen arrived earlier and wanted to go to St. Julien...this route...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And the bus was delayed. And the, the policemen ...the policemen noticed that we got off at the guide's house. Who are these people?
  • David Boder: Off the ambulance.
  • Malka Johles: Off the ambulance! So they came in. The boy runs outside, the, err...the twenty-three year old, runs outside, err... and hides on a tree. The woman went inside again, but couldn't get in anymore... My husband went outside with the [unintelligible]...with the boy on the roof. Then they said, if we're not coming out right away, they'll shoot. So, the woman...
  • David Boder: They were French policemen?
  • Malka Johles: French, yes. And the one policeman...that was a mishap! That just then the bus was late and they were waiting on the bus stop and noticed that something was going on there... So people started to cry. All six children of the passeur [sumuggler]...my husband cried, yes. And the guy had to come off the tree...
  • David Boder: Who? The... your son?
  • Malka Johles: The other boy. No, not, err...the, the, err. Boy.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]...from the, from the other...
  • Malka Johles: From the other family. Yes. Who went first. He began to cry...The woman is, err...passed out. So we started to help her...But she had a son in Zurich, who knows... in Tunis...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: The, the one family...So she showed him, err...the Moroccan, a French soldier. She took out...showed...for the soldiers to see...my son is also a French soldier. And the man here, he' sick...with a ca...a car. Then she [unintelligible]...bought...They said...The "French soldier" Mrs. Johles refers to is the twenty-three-year-old son of the other family with them who had been hiding in a tree. This young man's mother begged the French Moroccan policeman ("soldier") to take pity on them because he had been in the French army.33
  • David Boder: The policemen...
  • Malka Johles: The policemen...Took everything from us, everything we had.
  • David Boder: Everything one owned [unintelligible]...
  • Malka Johles: Yes. And tasteless...everything was given to them. Or else they would have...
  • David Boder: What did you give away?
  • Malka Johles: The watches, whatever we had. The, the, err [unintelligible]...had, err, a watch. And the woman. Whatever we had. So then they said...the guide said, there is another group coming...
  • David Boder: Yes, yes.
  • Malka Johles: Us! So they said, don't be scared and they, err...they wished us a good, good...
  • David Boder: Journey.
  • Malka Johles: Journey. And they saluted us. The, the one guy said, that it's hard for his mother.Mrs. Johles is referring to the group of Vichy policemen. Most fortunately, they did not arrest the group attempting to cross the border, or the guide and his family, though they had to be bribed to let them go.34 We thought, they would go away and report us...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: But they said, you needn't be afraid. You can stay here until night time, because you can't cross the border during the day.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And I was already afraid of staying with the guide.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: You understand, no? Maybe they'll go outside and, and, err, send another one, err, another policeman. But the one guy said, swore by his mother, that he wouldn't do that. He'd do nothing. We could sit in peace until night. Until it's midnight, then we could go. And the guide began also....Because he was, err, Swiss. And he lived in France. They...would have arrested him. Him, too.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: But the guy said: No, he won't do anything to us. And he left us. Do you understand me?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And then we should cross over. On the way there, we saw nobody. So, we...
  • David Boder: How did [unintelligible]...Which way...How long did it take you?
  • Malka Johles: Which way...well, four hours....or five hours.
  • David Boder: It took four hours!
  • Malka Johles: Oh yes! With rain and...
  • David Boder: So, it was really on this one way...
  • Malka Johles: My husband after his surgery...of course...My husband after his surgery, yes...
  • David Boder: Your husband's hernia was operated on.
  • Malka Johles: After the surgery. That had been only, err...one month ago.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Not even one month. On the 22nd we left, it was....[unintelligible]...the same day, after ...[unintelligible].
  • David Boder: And he...as soon as you had crossed over...[unintelligible]...
  • Malka Johles: Yes. We had...we came secretly...didn't see anything.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Then...we didn't even know, if we were already on Swiss soil. My husband had a little lamp, a lamp. We were lost for a while. And then we finally....The guide wasn't allowed to cross the Swi..., err, French border. Or else they would arrest...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Would have....As a Swiss man, he can't go back to Switzerland, when he lives in France...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: He showed us...so we crossed over the water and he explained a little bit to us...filled us in a little bit...
  • David Boder: Hmmm.
  • Malka Johles: Of course, once we took a path that would have brought us straight to the Gestapo...We would have come straight to the French...
  • David Boder: Well and then? How did you...
  • Malka Johles: My husband said, we won't go down...we'll go up!
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: So we went up...and...indeed, we came...We could already see...a, a, a, French sign....
  • David Boder: A ....err, err, Swiss!
  • Malka Johles: Yes, a Swiss sign! Then we saw a lit apartment.
  • David Boder: Hmm...
  • Malka Johles: Light. We rang the doorbell. And out came a man...he says, come in, he says... you are already on the Swiss side. I leave my light on, on purpose, so that, when people come across the border, they can come in. We went in, he [unintelligible]...took out clothes, they were all wet, he prepared a hot bath, gave us coffee and everything. Of course, he dried the clothes a little bit on the stove but in the meantime, he also contacted the police. Some are caught....
  • David Boder: Why? Why did he do...?
  • Malka Johles: Err, err, he had to...Some, err..
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]... Why did he...?
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible]...on the, on the way. We were not caught on the way. We had...could even get to Geneva.
  • David Boder: But, who was this man; that he took you in like that?
  • Malka Johles: He, a, err, a Swiss man.
  • David Boder: Just an individual?
  • Malka Johles: Just an individual. But he had to contact the police right away...Though the Swiss man Mrs. Johles is speaking about contacted the Swiss police—whose orders at the time were to ruthlessly enforce Swiss policies regarding refugee entry—there were courageous Swiss individuals who sheltered refugees, did not report them to the police and, with the aid of Swiss Jewish rescue networks, helped them move out of the border zone and into the interior of the country. Indeed, some 25,000 refugees did find sanctuary in Switzerland.35
  • David Boder: Well, that's clear...
  • Malka Johles: The police came right away...the gentleman on a bike. And he said, we should warm up a little bit more and should calm down a bit more. And he would go with us. So we came to the commissariat. In total maybe twenty minutes. He took everything down that we had, papers and a few coins, everything we had. And...
  • David Boder: What do you mean by "took"? He wrote it down, no? They didn't take anything from you.
  • Malka Johles: Yes...and that they...gave it back to us.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Malka Johles: But, to this one family they said, that they should give all the shaving things. And then, all of a sudden, he said, the family should take it back again.
  • David Boder: Hmm..
  • Malka Johles: He said, why, why do you want me to take it again. I'll give it to you, he says, I'm not afraid, no. But he says: no, take all of your money...and he, unfortunately,...
  • David Boder: Send them back.
  • Malka Johles: Send them back. Well, you can't imagine!
  • David Boder: With this family?
  • Malka Johles: Yes. That is [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Malka Johles: Yes. And us...we were there...
  • David Boder: But afterwards they...afterwards they did get across.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. Four times. Four times.It took a great deal of courage in the dead of winter of 1942-'43 for this family to make four attempts to cross the border. Fortunately, the last attempt was successful. It was only towards the end of the war (when it was clear that Germany would be defeated) that Swiss border crossing policies eased somewhat.36
  • David Boder: Did you meet them?
  • Malka Johles: Yes, they were with us in Geneva. Yes.
  • David Boder: I see. And finally they were let through.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, finally they did get across. So, we came...we were very lucky. Of course, many were caught right on the border. Didn't matter to us. And this...we registered. We went in there for the families...and the families were called...the police and...they picked us up from there, and then we were there and were there for one day...and then...
  • David Boder: Did you meet the people afterwards? Do you know where, who these people are, that took you in?
  • Malka Johles: Well, at the commissariat...
  • David Boder: No, no, the, no, no, the, err, family that, err, that took you in first...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, I think so. My boy says, he saw him once.
  • David Boder: Saw him once.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. I'm not sure, what their exact name is. We came to Geneva and...
  • David Boder: Well so far...so far you were lucky. So far you...[unintelligible] must have been lucky...
  • Malka Johles: We were lucky. Yes. [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Now, you want your relatives in America to make sure that you...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, they should do something. I mean...
  • David Boder: Do you want to give me the name of your sister in Boston? Your sister-in-law?
  • Malka Johles: Sister-in-law...Rindler: But it's also [unintelligible]. I write down everything in my folder.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible] you can just give me the name.
  • Malka Johles: The name, err, Is.., err, Isaak Rindler. My husband's sister, the brother-in-law.
  • David Boder: The brother-in-law is Isaak Rindler?
  • Malka Johles: Yes. Rindler.
  • David Boder: Rindler. R, I, N, D...
  • Malka Johles: R, I, N, D...
  • David Boder: N, D.
  • Malka Johles: Do you want me to write it down?
  • David Boder: Err, Isaak Rindler.
  • Malka Johles: Isaak Rindler. He...
  • David Boder: He lives where? In Boston?
  • Malka Johles: Err, no, err, he is in New York. Bronx, I am thinking.
  • David Boder: Rindler.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, from now....
  • David Boder: Bronx.
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: New York. What kind of business does he have? Embroidery?
  • Malka Johles: He has a fur business.
  • David Boder: Oh! He has a fur business!
  • Malka Johles: Yes, or compagnon or something...Mrs. Johles might mean that he is a partner (compagnon) in the fur business.37
  • David Boder: He can be...[unintelligible]...
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible]. Write also, the [unintelligible] Weiler.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible] Weiler.
  • Malka Johles: Weiler. He's called [unintelligible]. I would be...with [unintelligible]...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Give everything.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Everything.
  • David Boder: And so he is in New York.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. He didn't leave till February '40.
  • David Boder: And whom do you have in Boston?
  • Malka Johles: In Boston, I have my sister's two, err, two kids. One is called, err, oh yes, her name is Krauthammer...
  • David Boder: Hammert?
  • Malka Johles: Her maiden name, she was called Krauthammer. My brother-in-law was called...
  • David Boder: Krauthammert?
  • Malka Johles: Krauthammer.
  • David Boder: Yes, and?
  • Malka Johles: Two uncles of she live there. Two brothers of my brother-in-law.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: Gerschin and the other one was Krauthammer and the other [unintelligible] my brother-in-law, the brother.
  • David Boder: Yes, and err, they live well? They make a good living there?
  • Malka Johles: Who?
  • David Boder: Your relatives?
  • Malka Johles: My nieces? I told you, my brother-in-law wrote that my nephew was, err, with him. The whole conversation took only five minutes. And now he has a pattern-cutter, a robe-cutter.
  • David Boder: A shade...shop...I see, yes.
  • Malka Johles: Yes. The younger niece. The one, I wedded her in Vienna.
  • David Boder: I see. The one you wed...in Vienna...
  • Malka Johles: The one I wedded in Vienna...
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Malka Johles: Yes, sir.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Malka Johles: It's all sacred. Her name is, err, Deutsch.What Mrs. Johles might mean is that since she attended the wedding of her niece in Vienna, she is legally married.38
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And the other one is called, err, Braun.
  • David Boder: Braun?
  • Malka Johles: Braun, yes.
  • David Boder: Both live in Boston.
  • Malka Johles: Both in Boston.
  • David Boder: Will you write down the addresses for me...
  • Malka Johles: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: You see, I can't promise you anything, Mrs. Johles...
  • Malka Johles: Then there is a man called Greenberg.
  • David Boder: Who's that?
  • Malka Johles: He is from, err, of my sister-in-law....my brother's wife was deported...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: A sister. Of my sis...of my sister-in-law's sister.
  • David Boder: Your broth—, your brother's wife was deported?
  • Malka Johles: [unintelligible] only two children, with two children and wife.
  • David Boder: Where? In the [unintelligible].
  • Malka Johles: But one sister was in Boston and her uncle. They were deported at, at, at, Toulouse.
  • David Boder: At Tou...
  • Malka Johles: They were there the whole time.
  • David Boder: From Toulouse they were deported?
  • Malka Johles: From...at Toulouse, at Toulouse. They were not in the camp and they were nowhere. [unintelligible] had a good village. So much bad luck. Didn't want to go to Lyon...they sat there and waited for America.In the wake of the German occupation of the entirety of France in November 1942, the persecution of Jews in the large city of Toulouse, located in southwestern France on the Garonne river, increased. Some 6,400 were arrested and deported from Toulouse and the surrounding areas. The majority, like Mrs. Johles's brother and his family, were foreign Jews. Nearly every one of those deported were murdered.39
  • David Boder: Hmm.
  • Malka Johles: They have an uncle there, my sister-in-law. His name is Greenberg...
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: In, err, in, err, in Boston.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Malka Johles: And she also has a sister...My sister-in-law has another sister. In Boston. And she is also called Greenberg.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes, this concludes the interview with Miss Malka Johles...
  • Malka Johles: Yes.
  • David Boder: A case of a, err, err, refugee from Vienna to Belgium, from Belgium to, err, France, and finally, err, a refuge to Switzerland, where they have been taken, as, err, treated as victims of the war. And now they are awaiting their, err, umm, trip to the United States. We can say that they have [unintelligible] the Anschluss in 1938. It's now 1846 [1946]. And the story of their suffering and wandering is not yet over. Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording in Geneva, August, the 28, 1946.
  1. The German army crossed the Austrian frontier on March 11, 1938, and two days days later the annexation (Anschluss) of Austria to the Third Reich was proclaimed.
  2. Like the Johles's delicatessen, most of the 26,236 Jewish-owned businesses in Austria in March, 1938 were modest enterprises. However, whether large or small, Jewish businesses and Jewish involvement in the Austrian economy was soon brought to a brutal and ruthless end by the Nazis.
  3. From the beginning of the German takeover, official Nazi policy towards Austrian Jewry was one of forced emigration. The emigration of Austrian Jewry was directed by the notorious Adolf Eichmann. However, the problem faced by Jews wanting to leave (such as Mrs. Johles) was the frustrating, humiliating and often fruitless endeavor to find a country willing to admit them.
  4. Mrs. Johles is speaking of the infamous Kristallnacht (literally, "Crystal Night," also known as the Night of Broken Glass) pogrom which took place on November 9th and 10th, 1938. In addition to the robbery, maltreatment, arrests and outright murder of Jews, the Nazis destroyed forty-two prayer halls and funeral homes in Vienna. Many places of Jewish worship and Jewish institutions in the provinces suffered the same fate.
  5. Aachen is located just across the border from Belgium. It was there that the Johles family, including Mr. and Mrs. Johles, their son and thirteen-month-old daughter, sought to cross the border.
  6. At that time (late 1938), the declared policy of Nazi Germany towards the Jews was still forced emigration. However, as in the case of the Johles family, Jews leaving German-controlled territory had to leave behind all of their wealth and possessions, which were often the fruits of a lifetime of labor. The most each emigrant could legally take with him or her was ten marks.
  7. Translator's Note: Throughout, it is not entirely clear if what is meant is a "committee" or the Jewish "communauté/community."
  8. From May 17th, 1940 to July 18th, 1940. The fact that Mrs. Johles remembered these dates so exactly was due in some measure to her concern for her husband's welfare at the time.
  9. This is another example of the initiative taken by the Johles family. Instead of waiting to be sent away, they fled to Lyon, the second largest city in France at the time.
  10. Mrs. Johles is perhaps speaking here of the policy to deport foreign-born Jews from France (like the Johles family) "to the East." Though it might have been rumored they were being sent to Kiev, the final destination of most was Auschwitz, where they were murdered. Large scale deportations of Jews from France were taking place during the summer of 1942, the time period Mrs. Johles is speaking about.
  11. Translator's note: Mrs. Johles possibly means the official residence of the "préfet", the prefect of a départements.
  12. This is a mountainous area in southwestern France near Switzerland. Mining operations were conducted there. Mr. Johles was in a forced labor camp in the department of Haute Savoie located near the town of St. Julien.
  13. Mrs. Johles's husband might have been told that he was going to war in order to deceive him. Deportation meant being sent to Auschwitz or another extermination center. As a foreign Jew of Polish nationality, Mr. Johles was particularly vulnerable to deportation.
  14. It is not entirely clear why Mrs. Johles was reluctant to accept help from the Vichy government. Perhaps she was afraid that the aid could be used as a means of forcing Mr. Johles to have his hernia surgery in St. Julien rather than in Lyon near his family. As it turned out, he was operated on in St. Julien anyway.
  15. French for "highway." Mrs. Johles might refer to people being stopped on the highway by the police.
  16. Mrs. Johles might mean that because he was recuperating from surgery he was exempt from any kind of military service.
  17. This is yet another example of an act of resistance on the part of the Johles family. Instead of returning to the alpine forced labor camp, Mr. Johles and his family at first went into hiding and then chose to attempt to flee to neutral Switzerland.
  18. Later in the interview, Mrs. Johles returns to the account of her family's escape to Switzerland. The Johles family was accompanied on their escape by Mr. Johles's sister and her child.
  19. The Johles family was very fortunate in being able to find refuge in Switzerland, though the reason they were admitted is not clear. Mrs. Johles later attributes it mostly to luck. Some 20,000 who sought asylum in Switzerland were not as lucky. They were refused admittance, which cost many their lives. However, it should be noted that there were some Swiss institutions and individuals who were adamantly opposed to their government's restrictive immigration policies and were determined to help the refugees.
  20. The Swiss central government and Swiss cantons offered relatively little help to the refugees. They were helped by the Swiss Jewish community and organizations such as the Joint. It becomes clear from Mrs. Johles's interview that life was far from easy even for those Jews who were able to escape to Switzerland.
  21. Some Jewish refugees were separated from their families and sent to labor camps in Switzerland. In the case of Mr. Johles, the camp was near Montreux, located at the eastern end of Lake Geneva.
  22. It is somewhat questionable that Mrs. Johles's son made aliyah ("to go up," a term for Jewish immigration into Palestine) legally in 1945, although it is possible that he was among the 1,500 Jewish refugees whom the British, then in control of Palestine, allowed to enter each month. Most Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the immediate post-war years came on Aliyah Bet, that is illegally.
  23. The highly restrictive British immigration policies in effect at the time were undoubtedly a key reason for Mrs. Johles's pessimism.
  24. She might be referring to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
  25. Highly restrictive and racist American quotas for refugees were still in effect in 1946. The Johles family had an affidavit, a sworn statement from their American sponsor that they would not become public charges, and a visa, but since they were Polish nationals, they were under that country's quota.
  26. As noted, the quota was small due to the official quota system in the United States at the time. Bureaucratic red tape—"paper walls"—also did much to hinder would-be immigrants, as seen in the case of Mrs. Johles's family.
  27. Mrs. Johles is returning to the story of how her family and her sister-in-law and niece crossed the Swiss border in late December 1942. Annecy is a French town close to the Swiss border.
  28. The excuse for being in Annecy was that Mr. Johles was on the way to the St. Julien hospital where he had his hernia surgery so that his bandages could be changed. He carried with him a letter of confirmation from the St. Julien hospital.
  29. She is possibly refering to the letter of confirmation from the hospital.
  30. The "little girl" Mrs. Johles is referring was their daughter.
  31. The Swiss guide (Fr. passeur) was never further identified by Mrs. Johles. There were a number of guides who had been professional smugglers before the war, and so knew the routes across the French-Swiss frontier.
  32. Translator's note: In German, she says "Gardemobilisten"; this is not a German word but might either mean "Gendarme" or a member of some type of guard/garde; in other words, a type of police force.
  33. The "French soldier" Mrs. Johles refers to is the twenty-three-year-old son of the other family with them who had been hiding in a tree. This young man's mother begged the French Moroccan policeman ("soldier") to take pity on them because he had been in the French army.
  34. Mrs. Johles is referring to the group of Vichy policemen. Most fortunately, they did not arrest the group attempting to cross the border, or the guide and his family, though they had to be bribed to let them go.
  35. Though the Swiss man Mrs. Johles is speaking about contacted the Swiss police—whose orders at the time were to ruthlessly enforce Swiss policies regarding refugee entry—there were courageous Swiss individuals who sheltered refugees, did not report them to the police and, with the aid of Swiss Jewish rescue networks, helped them move out of the border zone and into the interior of the country. Indeed, some 25,000 refugees did find sanctuary in Switzerland.
  36. It took a great deal of courage in the dead of winter of 1942-'43 for this family to make four attempts to cross the border. Fortunately, the last attempt was successful. It was only towards the end of the war (when it was clear that Germany would be defeated) that Swiss border crossing policies eased somewhat.
  37. Mrs. Johles might mean that he is a partner (compagnon) in the fur business.
  38. What Mrs. Johles might mean is that since she attended the wedding of her niece in Vienna, she is legally married.
  39. In the wake of the German occupation of the entirety of France in November 1942, the persecution of Jews in the large city of Toulouse, located in southwestern France on the Garonne river, increased. Some 6,400 were arrested and deported from Toulouse and the surrounding areas. The majority, like Mrs. Johles's brother and his family, were foreign Jews. Nearly every one of those deported were murdered.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dorothea Walter
  • English Translation : Dorothea Walter
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz, Dorothea Walter