David P. Boder Interviews Karl Josephy; August 23, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: Paris, August the 23rd, 1946. The interviewee is Mr. Karl Josephy, 37 years old, born in Austria and lived in Paris since 1938.
  • David Boder: So, tell me once again, Mr. Josephy, what is your first name, and, where were you born, and, ah, so on ...
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, my name is Karl Josephy, I was born in Vienna on June 6, 1909.
  • David Boder: And, ah, what was your father's occupation?
  • Karl Josephy: My father was first an accountant ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... later director of a large bank ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and later retired for age reasons.
  • David Boder: Yes, ah, and how many children were you in the family?
  • Karl Josephy: One child only.
  • David Boder: You were the only son in a [sic] family.
  • Karl Josephy: Yes.
  • David Boder: What education did you have?
  • Karl Josephy: I have an education --- ah, the middle school ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: --- ... the university.
  • David Boder: What did you study at the university?
  • Karl Josephy: I studied law.
  • David Boder: Did you finish?
  • Karl Josephy: I finished except for one single exam.
  • David Boder: Aha. Now, ah, what was your occupation in Austria?
  • Karl Josephy: I, ah, was occupied with my studies in Austria at first...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... furthermore, I was [working] in an industry, in the paper branch – in the paper industry.
  • David Boder: Why did you, ah, relocate to France?
  • Karl Josephy: I relocated to France because through the revolution, the Nazi revolution in Austria, I was threatened in my profession, in my further intellectual progress as well as politically.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Karl Josephy: As a Jew.
  • David Boder: As a Jew?
  • Karl Josephy: Yes. [tape break]
  • David Boder: Now, Mr. Josephy, if someone asked you, or if you would write a book, what would you want to tell us as the main points of your experiences, from (19)38 until the liberation?
  • Karl Josephy: As main points, I would without doubt tell you of my dangers and my suffering that I endured .from the moment of my arrest ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... which at the same time affected my wife.
  • David Boder: So do you want to begin then? Do you want to begin how things were in Paris, and how the whole misfortune, ah --- how you were, ah, gradually pulled out of your quiet life?
  • Karl Josephy: I was ...
  • David Boder: Tell the whole story ...
  • Karl Josephy: I was drafted [Josephy uses the term "einrücken" which also implies that he volunteered for the Foreign Legion] as a volunteer for France and served my military service in Africa.
  • David Boder: What was your rank?
  • Karl Josephy: I was a common soldier [enlisted private].
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: I did my best in the Foreign Legion, was also volunteer for the service at the front ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... but the events around the precipitous armistice that France was forced to enter into ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: .... brought with it that I could not go to the front, and was demobilized.
  • David Boder: Where were you during your demobilization?
  • Karl Josephy: The story of my demobilization is extremely tragic because...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... because I was not demobilized like any other French soldier or every foreigner who had previously lived in France, but I was asked to provide impeccable papers of residence and 10,000 Francs as bond to be allowed back into France, to the metropolis. [ Josephy uses the term "Metropole" for the European French mainland] Because I had neither the paper of which I only possessed a copy --
  • David Boder: ... that was in Africa?
  • Karl Josephy: That was in Africa.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... because I neither had the papers – had them on me – nor the required 10,000 Francs, I was essentially imprisoned in Guarta [?, location not verified, possibly Ghardaia in present Algeria?] at the rim of the desert. I was forced to hard labor, the payment was null and the treatment very bad.
  • David Boder: Who did that?
  • Karl Josephy: That was apparently done by orders of the Moroccan government that received their orders from the French metropolis [Josephy uses the term "Metropole" again]...
  • David Boder: From Vichy?
  • Karl Josephy: From Vichy.
  • David Boder: Yes. And what kind of work did you do there?
  • Karl Josephy: We smashed stones, we smashed large blocks of stone, which were destined as ballast [word not clear] – for the erection of the rail line that should lead down to Congo, ah ...
  • David Boder: Yes...
  • Karl Josephy: ... for the, ah, well, was for the building of the rail line, the Noballa[? word not clear] – and [we] had to work in the heat of 40 to 60 degrees [Celsius] ...
  • David Boder: Yes, please tell us effects ... [? speech not clear]
  • Karl Josephy: ... certainly no shade to speak of ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and these works had to be executed in record time, and under, and under supervision of the French sergeants [? word not clear]
  • David Boder: Yes. Now, what was paid for that [work]?
  • Karl Josephy: We were paid one Franc per day.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: .... and this money always arrived very late.
  • David Boder: And what did one get to eat?
  • Karl Josephy: ... The food was not sufficient for this hard labor.
  • David Boder: Yes, ah ... but they provided the food, right?
  • Karl Josephy: The food was [transported] from the labor camp, 5 km away from the, from the ...
  • David Boder: ... construction site ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... [which was situated away from the ] construction site, and was transported in trucks, and, ah, as well as the water provisions.
  • David Boder: Aha. What did they give you to eat, for instance, in the morning?
  • Karl Josephy: In the morning there was black coffee and a piece of bread, and that was it.
  • David Boder: And, ah, sugar?
  • Karl Josephy: The coffee was [? not clearly audible] – there was maybe a hint of sweetness in it.
  • David Boder: That was sugared [? not clearly audible].
  • Karl Josephy: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now, and at noon, at one o'clock, lunch time?
  • Karl Josephy: Well, at that time we received a soup, a piece of meat, some vegetables, and occasionally a couple of wine --
  • David Boder: .... a little wine.
  • Karl Josephy: .... a little wine.
  • David Boder: So, ah, how was that served? Did you eat in a dining hall or in a --- where did you eat?
  • Karl Josephy: ... in no way, since there was no dining room.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: We lived in burrows that we had dug ourselves because the terrible immense heat made it impossible to live in tents ...
  • David Boder: Oh ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and we retreated into these burrows, you know, during our lunch break, very exhausted, and wolfed down the meals from our military gamellen, just as it was.
  • David Boder: What are 'gamellen', dinnerware?
  • Karl Josephy: That's the old military cookware, mess tin sets that we kept from the wartime.
  • David Boder: Who was with you, what kinds of people were with you?
  • Karl Josephy: Those were all Jewish volunteers from France who, just like me, did not have the required money or the required papers to be demobilized immediately.
  • David Boder: Aha – were there just Jews in the whole construction thing?
  • Karl Josephy: There were five groups of Jews ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and furthermore several groups of Republican Spaniards who had fled to France after the overthrow in Spain, and there – and from there were relocated to Africa to also do forced labor, ah, with almost no payment and under the same circumstances as we [had to].
  • David Boder: Aha. Now, how long did that last?
  • Karl Josephy: I was in Guarta [?] that is, the starting point of the rail that was supposed to lead to the Congo, that was supposed to lead to the Congo and Niger, from December 21, 1940, to July 19, 1941, exactly.
  • David Boder: Yes. Where was your wife?
  • Karl Josephy: I was not married at that time.
  • David Boder: You were not married yet. What happened then, when you were done with that work?
  • Karl Josephy: I was demobilized on July 19, after a long wait, after I was sent the required papers, and after I borrowed the required 10,000 Francs.
  • David Boder: From where, from whom?
  • Karl Josephy: A friend [Josephy uses the term Kollege=colleague, commonly used as synonym for friend] lent me [the money] to enable me to return to France.
  • David Boder: What was the franc worth then? [In comparison] to the Dollar?
  • Karl Josephy: I couldn't tell you now ...
  • David Boder: .... approximately ...
  • Karl Josephy: In those times ...
  • David Boder: [unclear]
  • Karl Josephy: We have to bear in mind, isn't it, that the relation was something like 1 : 60 ...
  • David Boder: 1 : 60
  • Karl Josephy: 1 : 60, yeah ...
  • David Boder: Yes, approximately ...
  • Karl Josephy: Yeah. Yeah.
  • David Boder: And who else had the money?
  • Karl Josephy: There were, after all, some colleagues, who had the money sent from France ...
  • David Boder: Oh ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... also in order to get demobilized ...
  • David Boder: Oh ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... because hardly anyone of us was in possession of cash. The people who worked in Africa were 90 percent poor refugees from Germany, Austria, Poland, and Belgium.
  • David Boder: Aha. So, then, a friend lent you the money and you posted ... [fraction, word omitted] the bond – have you ever received the bond back?
  • Karl Josephy: This bond was more a kind of "face money", that means that at the moment where I furnished the money, I got it back in my hand ...
  • David Boder: Oh ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and restituted it immediately.
  • David Boder: ... and you paid it, well. So you just got the money to show it ....
  • Karl Josephy: ... to show it to accounting [sic].
  • David Boder: Ah. So, where did you go then?
  • Karl Josephy: Since I had nobody in France, I stated the Department of Gard as my residence.
  • David Boder: .... and where is Gard?
  • Karl Josephy: Gard is a small department in the south of France with Nimes as the capital.
  • David Boder: ... how far from Spain?
  • Karl Josephy: ... ah, from Spain, 400 kilometers.
  • David Boder: Yes - how far from Lyon – or Marseilles?
  • Karl Josephy: ... from Marseilles, 50 kilometers.
  • David Boder: Aha, well ... that is not far from the Mediterranean sea then ...
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, yes, well in the south ...
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Karl Josephy: ... you know, with a southern climate, in the sourthern zone of France ...
  • David Boder: So go on, then – and? You established yourself, and then what did you do?
  • Karl Josephy: In the Department of Gard I did hard labor, I carried coals, I split wood ...
  • David Boder: ... but that was unforced labor ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... because I was without money ... that was unforced labor indeed ...
  • David Boder: ... and you were paid for this ...
  • Karl Josephy: I was paid for it, I worked very hard, but I made my living ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and I was well respected everywhere. People knew that I was a former intellectual, and I was treated very well accordingly with respect, even if I had to work hard ... [pause]
  • David Boder: So go on, now what happened to you then? How did that end?
  • Karl Josephy: The situation worsened from the moment of Lavale taking office who through the contracts with Germany put pressure on all unwanted elements, especially the Jews. ...
  • David Boder: Yes ... and then?
  • Karl Josephy: So therefore about two months after my wedding, I ...
  • David Boder: Who did you, when did you marry?
  • Karl Josephy: I got married in June of '42.
  • David Boder: Who did you marry?
  • Karl Josephy: My wife is, ah, Polish, who had lived in Austria before, and ...
  • David Boder: A Jew?
  • Karl Josephy: A Jew ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... who was all alone in France ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ...and, ah, who was totally on her own, but made a living with tailoring and seamstress work.
  • David Boder: ... hmhm ...
  • Karl Josephy: Since our fate was similar, it did not take long, and we got married..
  • David Boder: Yes? Now ... and what does that do now?
  • Karl Josephy: Because we did not live together because of a certain shortage of apartments, it happened that on August 24, 1942 at 2.30 in the morning I was awakened by my wife who was accompanied by two inspectors of the gendarmerie. They gave us 10 minutes to pack our belongings and to get on a truck that was standing by to drive us down to Nimes ...
  • David Boder: And why ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... so to drive us down ...
  • David Boder: ... was that a general arrest then, or were you just selected?
  • Karl Josephy: ... all Jews, actually there were only 8 in the little town I lived in, were taken in the night without prior, ah, without prior warning ...
  • David Boder: Warning...
  • Karl Josephy: ... warning, taken out of their beds so that we could be transported without it being noticed much, and unfortunately we had a pretty good idea what that could mean.
  • David Boder: How, ah, why did one know that you were Jews?
  • Karl Josephy: That was known because the Jews in France back then, that is , since the Vichy regime, were forced to give a declaration as Jews.
  • David Boder: Aha. Now, and where were you sent then?
  • Karl Josephy: From there I was ...
  • David Boder: ... with your wife ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... together with my wife, we were sent in a, in a truck to Nimes, so 15 kilometers to the south ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... to await a furthter transort from there. In Nimes there were already several thousand Jews who had been rounded up in the Department and in the neighbor Department who were waiting for their transport to a central collection camp.
  • David Boder: ... and ...
  • Karl Josephy: This transport ...
  • David Boder: ... that was before the Germans had taken, ah, Nimes?
  • Karl Josephy: Oh yes, that was still in August of '42, so before the Germans entered the free zone, thus finally occupying all of France ...
  • David Boder: America was not yet ... it was '42
  • Karl Josephy: That was '42, yes ...
  • David Boder: ... so America was already in the war?
  • Karl Josephy: America had entered the war, yes.
  • David Boder: Yes, and then?
  • Karl Josephy: From Nimes we were - all under heavy guard and only equipped with some food that had been provided from the Jewish congregation in Nimes ...
  • David Boder: What, the congregation stayed, wasn't the congregation arrested?
  • Karl Josephy: There were some members of it, the boards members, who stayed, but all of those were dependent on the Gestapo ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and within ... and were not able to act as they wanted ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: These were French ...
  • David Boder: ... French Jews ...
  • Karl Josephy: ...French Jews, because at first only the Jews, the foreign Jews ...-
  • David Boder: ... were taken ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... were taken.
  • David Boder: Yes, and then?
  • Karl Josephy: From there we were [cough] ... from the train station of Nimes we were transported to Les Milles which a small town near Aix ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... so only 40 kilometers from Marseille ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: There was a big brick factory that could hold some 5,000 to 6,000 people. There were simple straw mats, all made very, ah, very primitive, and this camp was only designated to expedite the Jews who were interned there, without much, much ado to the notorius Camp of Drancy ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... to take them there ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and finally to deport them from there to Germany ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: We were there ...
  • David Boder: Were you still together with your wife, or were men and women already separated?
  • Karl Josephy: We were always – I was always together with my wife, only the sleeping quarters were separated ...
  • David Boder: ... aha, yes, and then?
  • Karl Josephy: ... so then, ah, there were ...
  • David Boder: ... did you have to work? ...
  • Karl Josephy: I did not have to work there, but I did, ah, little jobs there because I had no personal funds, for older Gentlemen I certainly did it for free, but when I was called to a job that was more difficult or in the common interest, I was paid a small amount from the camp direction.
  • David Boder: The camp leaders were Jewish?
  • Karl Josephy: The camp leaders were not Jewish, the camp leaders were totally dependent on Vichy... Among them, or the majority I should say were people who treated us extremely harshly, you know, who would not make any exceptions for us and did not care about the health situation of the people ...
  • David Boder: But still you were being paid something ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... yes, to a certain extent...
  • David Boder: ... yes, well now – and how long were you there und what happened there?
  • Karl Josephy: I -– there were horrible scenes, especially in the moments, where people were taken out, out of their quarters, where the names were called of those to be deported ...There were suicides, there were people who tried to hide ...And so, of course, it could have been that my wife and I were deported. However, we were able to take advantage of a lucky circumstance. We were able to take advantage by a decree from Vichy that people with children under two years woud not be deported ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: We were so lucky because thank God we had the documents about our child with us ...
  • David Boder: You already had a child back then?
  • Karl Josephy: We had a child and we got married because of the unpredictable circumstances, you know ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • David Boder: ... and how old was the child?
  • Karl Josephy: ... we got married later ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... the child was a year and ten months old.
  • David Boder: Was the child born before your marriage? No?
  • Karl Josephy: The child was born before we got married.
  • David Boder: Yes, and then you got married ...
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, and then we legalized the child ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: It was at this time, that we were refugees ourselves, where I was in Africa ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and my wife somewhere else, you know ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... that there were no chance to take care of the formalities ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... as it should have been...
  • David Boder: Yes, and then ...
  • Karl Josephy: This child has ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... without exaggeration saved our lives ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... because, ah, we were, ah, we were not freed as I wanted, repeatedly stressing that I had been a former volunteer for France, because that, ah that was not seen in my favor, and I know that engagee voluntaires were deported to Germany ...
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Karl Josephy: From there we were sent to another camp, and were told that that was a great , a great luck to get there. That was indeed the case, because of all inmates of this horrible camp ...
  • David Boder: What was the name of the camp?
  • Karl Josephy: Les Milles ... [he refers to the former camp]
  • David Boder: ...the horrible camp ...
  • Karl Josephy: That is a ... I call that a horrible camp without exaggeration ...
  • David Boder: Well ... ... and then, where were you sent then?
  • Karl Josephy: I was sent from there to another camp, to ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: Are we interrupting, or ... ? ... [interruption]
  • David Boder: Now ...
  • Karl Josephy: So we were transported from there to another camp, always under heavy guard, and there – there were about 40 other people who for one reason or another had managed to escape their certain deportation and be interned in another camp.
  • David Boder: ... and then ...
  • Karl Josephy: This other camp was the camp of Noé [?] in the Department Haute Garonne ... About the camp one can say that the treatment was extremely harsh ...
  • David Boder: French?
  • Karl Josephy: French. Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: The treatment was extremely harsh, the food situation was a catastrophe ... Concerning the food we were depending on donations from the Secours National (?) and the beginning [engagement] of the American Quakers ...
  • David Boder: What is the Secours National...
  • Karl Josephy: The Secours National, yes, that is the French charity, ah agency if you will, that occasionally sent us packages or some food, certain cheap foods, you know, which had the good purpose of bettering our much to insufficient food..
  • David Boder: ... and the Quakers were also there during the war?
  • Karl Josephy: That is a very interesting thing – the Quakers had wanted to establish themselves with us, and had sent help in the form of food. But when they wanted to finally establish themselves in the camp, despite the war, in order to help the poor inmates, it was denied.
  • David Boder: ... hmhm – and then?
  • Karl Josephy: ... ah, regarding the hygiene in this camp ...
  • David Boder: ... one moment?
  • Karl Josephy: ... yes, please [unintelligible (speak here?)] >
  • Karl Josephy: Regarding the hygiene in this camp, I can say we were not to bad off in wooden barracks, there were showers, so the sanitary situation was taken care of. But I say it again and again, it was the food situation that was the catastrophe. People died and it was claimed that they had intestinal disease – but they simply starved to death.
  • David Boder: Yes – now tell me, were you still together with your wife?
  • Karl Josephy: I was still together with my wife, and made desperate attempts to legally free myself from the camp, by filing motions, by referring to my fate and to my child ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and hoped to get free.
  • David Boder: Now, how did you feed the child?
  • Karl Josephy: I could not feed the child because it was not with us. The child was taken earlier by my wife to the OSE organization.
  • David Boder: ... ohh ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... the large organization that without doubt is well known ...
  • David Boder: ...ohh ... so, when did you separate from the child? Was that long ago ...?
  • Karl Josephy: I separated from my –- I was separated from my child already after my, already after the birth of the child, because I was still in Africa. I was in Africa, I was only on leave ...
  • David Boder: No, I mean, when was the child separated from the mother?
  • Karl Josephy: That was ... [pause] ... in October of '41.
  • David Boder: Aha...
  • Karl Josephy: In October of 1941 ...
  • David Boder: But in the first camp you were in, was the child with you then?
  • Karl Josephy: The child was never in the camp with us.
  • David Boder: Ohh, but still, since you, ah, had the child, you could not be deported ...
  • Karl Josephy: No, I could, for the time being, not be deported.
  • David Boder: Now, how did the OSE function during the war?
  • Karl Josephy: The OSE has -- OSE functioned exceptionally well, that is to say, it was often informed in advance by the Jews that were anticipating bad things to happen, so that it should take care of the little children because no one wanted to take the children along into the camps if it was at all preventable.
  • David Boder: Yes, and so, were was the child housed?
  • Karl Josephy: The child was housed in [Elne?] a little place in the Pyrenees.
  • David Boder: ... with ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... was ...
  • David Boder: ... with whom?
  • Karl Josephy: ... was accommodated in a home of the Red Cross.
  • David Boder: Oh ...
  • Karl Josephy: Croix Rouge Francaise.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: You know ... the child was brought there through the mediation of the OSE.
  • David Boder: Aha ...well, go on, please.
  • Karl Josephy: We made several legal attempts to get freed that unfortunately failed because the Prefect of my former Department flatly denied me the stay, that is, my return.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: Later I motioned to be put in a so-called Groupement des Travailleurs Etrangers (foreign workers group.)
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: Those were groups of foreign Jews, also Spaniards, I mean of foreigners ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... groups of destitute foreigners who because they were in some group were monitored by the state, and who were doing labor that served the public good, that occasionally had barracks available, and overall were kept pretty well.
  • David Boder: Were you able to take your wife along then?
  • Karl Josephy: I was not able to take my wife along because this was not designed for women. So I ...
  • David Boder: Aha ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... I received word in February, to report to one of those camps, a Groupement des Travailleurs Etrangers, and of course I picked a camp in close proximity to my wife because we intended to free my wife as soon as I had the freedom to make my living outside. This was actually a possibility for us, but most often only in theory. ...
  • David Boder: Yes –and then?
  • Karl Josephy: I have -- so I was transferred from the camp in Noé to another camp, the Groupement von Septfonds [?], Septfonds in Tarn-et-Garonne. That was approximately 100 kilometers away from Noé, so unfortunately too far from my wife, where I originally wanted to - where I wanted to visit her and take steps to free her. The circumstances in Septfonds were scandalous, we had no freedom, we had to break stones .... [fragments] ...of exactly ... was impossible, we had, ah ... and we were subjected to all kinds of harassments under a markedly anti-semitic boss.
  • David Boder: French?
  • Karl Josephy: French.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Karl Josephy: I can also tell you the name, you know. This man was punished, you know, just as the camp commander of Noé, you know, severely punished because of colla-, collaboration ...
  • David Boder: What do you call severely punished?
  • Karl Josephy: Well, he got, first of all he was interned himself, und will also probably have received physical punishment.
  • David Boder: Ah –well. Resume.
  • Karl Josephy: In the - in the – During the stay at Septfonds began the famous deportations from Noé on ...
  • David Boder: Now, that was where your wife was ...
  • Karl Josephy: No, not where my wife was, there were deportations from there, too ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: The deportations continued without interruptions from the moment of my arrest ...
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Karl Josephy: We only had a little protection through our child.
  • David Boder: Yes –- and then?
  • Karl Josephy: I lived through an especially horrible time in Septfonds from the end of February to the beginning of March of 1943. Fact is that, at the end, from the approximately 200 camp inmates only 20 men were left. Nobody was spared, not fathers with family, not French, not people with French relatives, there was no mercy ...
  • David Boder: What, there were French there?
  • Karl Josephy: There were indeed some people that had French relatives or claimed to be French. Don't forget that there was also a special camp Septfonds in which suspicious political elements were held.
  • David Boder: Yes, and then?
  • Karl Josephy: So due to the continuing deportations the camp of Septfonds was emptied down to 20 people, and it is a wonder that I myself was among them.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Karl Josephy: At this time I filed a motion to free my wife. This 'demande' was later found in the waste paper basket of Mr. Demoulin, Demoulin, the Mr. camp commander, who had seriously told me to my face that he would do everything he could, and then tossed it immediately into the trash, and the remains of my motion into the waste paper basket ...
  • David Boder: ... tossed ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... tossed it.
  • David Boder: ... and then?
  • Karl Josephy: ... ah, the situation in, in the camp of Septfonds still worsened and became more and more untenable, at the end we were denied any leave because so many escapes occurred ...
  • David Boder: ... hmhm ...
  • Karl Josephy: Finally we, ah, an inspector came that requested workers for lumber work in the woods in the Department of Cantal, and offered us to apply. So the few people who were left in the camp did not hesitate a moment to request to be transferred from this hell of Septfonds.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: And so I relocated on July 14, 1943 to Cantal, still as a Groupement des Travailleurs Etrangers ...
  • David Boder: What kind of woodworking did you know?
  • Karl Josephy: We knew nothing about lumber, it was, we were all just amateurs if you will, none of us really knew how to really handle an axe or a saw. The work ...
  • David Boder: ... were ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... yes ...
  • David Boder: ... yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: The work consisted of felling trees in the forest ...
  • David Boder: ... aha ...
  • Karl Josephy: The trees had to be felled, hewn and trimmed. Of course, that was hard work, but it was relatively well paid.
  • David Boder: Oh, you were paid for that work?
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, I was ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, this Groupement was very decent. We were paid according to the same pay scale as French workers ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... and we lived together in barracks. After work we were completely free to roam. We also received clothing from the Groupement. And if we had not been so isolated from the rest of the civilization, we would have been quite happy there – and ...
  • David Boder: How much was paid per day?
  • Karl Josephy: The pay was 9 Francs per hour.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: And, ah, to make 70 to 80 Francs ...
  • David Boder: ... the ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... was possible.
  • David Boder: Yes – and you had to buy your own food?
  • Karl Josephy: The food was paid by ourselves, we were charged 40 Francs per day, maybe a high price at that time, but we had excellent food and I have to say that since my return to France from Africa I had not eaten that well.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Karl Josephy: ... ah ...
  • David Boder: ... and how far were you away from your wife?
  • Karl Josephy: ... I was now far away from my wife, 300 kilometers approximately if you will.
  • David Boder: ... so you were far away from your wife. And then?
  • Karl Josephy: Of course I initiated steps to free my wife from the terrible camp, in the meantime, I of course sent her packages so that her, her, ah, situation ...
  • David Boder: ...improved.
  • Karl Josephy: ... improved.
  • David Boder: ... what, were the packages let through?
  • Karl Josephy: All packages were, ah, inspected in the camp of Noé, and if too much bread or meat or other precious food were found, they would just be confiscated.
  • David Boder: Yes ... [not audible]
  • Karl Josephy: That is not good ... Pardon.
  • David Boder: ... So? Oh well – and then?
  • Karl Josephy: ... ah ...
  • David Boder: ... now ... turn yourself to the device here.
  • Karl Josephy: ... yes ...
  • David Boder: ... and then?
  • Karl Josephy: I, ah, as I said I sent my wife packages and, ah, took steps to let her go free because now there was evidence that I could earn a living and that I could also support my wife with my salary ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: I presented this request to my boss from the lumber department. He deemed it very good and forwarded it immediately. And now I had indeed some hope that my wife would be freed.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: This was indeed the case, and I still thank God to this day, because it became clear afterwards that 15 days after the release all people from my wife's barrack and the adjacent one were deported to Germany, a fate she also would definitely have endured had she not been freed.
  • David Boder: Now – where did you go from there?
  • Karl Josephy: I was ... because the work in the woods was to hard for me, because I suffered, ah terrible muscle pain and because I was, ah, not fit for this work because of a little heart defect ... I was transferred to a factory that produced wood chairs, wooden arm chairs, and toys for children.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: I also had to work hard, harder there, but at least I had a roof over my head, and had ...
  • David Boder: Was that, ah, after America entered the war?
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, yes, that was ...
  • David Boder: So the Germans were in all of France already?
  • Karl Josephy: At this time the Germans were in all of France.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: And of course there was terrible pressure on the population. Especially the Jews did their utmost to hide themselves, you know, as best as they could.
  • David Boder: Yes – and then?
  • Karl Josephy: So I, ah, stayed in this factory that was not far from my original lumber job. Until August 20 – until April of 1944. That means a little longer than the final – no ... I stayed there until April 20, 1945, so a little longer than the liberation.
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: During these, during this time I received a letter from the prefecture in Cantal that stated that as a former volunteer I was finally freed from any Groupement, I was now a completely free man, even if only a factory worker, but after all the suffering very satisfied with that, I was as I said a free man.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Karl Josephy: We regularly received news from our child, the child was thriving and well taken care of, only because of the war effects – because you cannot forget that my wife had the child after time in a terrible camp in which she was interned – that is to say that the child was very weak and that were lucky ...
  • David Boder: Now say ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... that the child was alive.
  • David Boder: Wait, you are saying that your wife had the child AFTER a camp internment?
  • Karl Josephy: After a camp, right, because my wife was a Belgian refugee. And like most Belgian refugees she was brought into a concentration camp which by itself was not as bad as the deportation camps, but still the hygiene was miserable. So during her pregnancy my poor wife had to ...
  • David Boder: Wait ...
  • Karl Josephy: Yes ...
  • David Boder: Was that your child?
  • Karl Josephy: Yes. Of course.
  • David Boder: Well, how did your wife come to Belgium then during her pregnancy?
  • Karl Josephy: I did not know my wife at that time. My wife told me she emigrated to Belgium from Austria, fled also ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... from Belgium to France ...
  • David Boder: ...yes, but she was not pregnant in Belgium?
  • Karl Josephy: No, no, no, no....
  • David Boder: ... now well, that was ...
  • Karl Josephy: No, I want, I only want to mention this, that the child was very weak ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... because my wife had, was in a camp during that time ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: So the bad - was dependent on the bad food, had to lay on the naked floor, you know...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... it was snowing, so under catastrophic circumstances ...
  • David Boder: ...yes, and not quite ready to become a mother.
  • Karl Josephy: ... yes, very true, you know, and also one had ...
  • David Boder: ...yes, well, and where is the child now?
  • Karl Josephy: The child is now with us – I have ...
  • David Boder: You live in Paris already...
  • Karl Josephy: I live in Paris now, I returned to Paris ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: After we still had to go through a lot in the time before ...
  • David Boder: Oh ...
  • Karl Josephy: After I was once arrested by a patrol, by a German patrol ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: And, thank God, was released. After we still had to spend many nights in the woods, and after we had to constantly change our residence in the last couple of months before the liberation, in order to avoid the military that was on our track, so that we were finally able to reach the date of liberation.
  • David Boder: Now wait, that is not clear to me...
  • Karl Josephy: Yes?
  • David Boder: Your wife was freed from the camp ...
  • Karl Josephy: On the 16th ...
  • David Boder: ...while you were still working for ...
  • Karl Josephy: While I was still working in the woods, was working in the forest ...
  • David Boder: ... in the forest.
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, my wife was released.
  • David Boder: ... and she could come to you?
  • Karl Josephy: ... my wife come to you [sic, he means 'me'], and she was completely free.
  • David Boder: Yes, and then?
  • Karl Josephy: I then went with my wife to the little town where the wood factory was located ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: And, ah, we stayed there, you know, until, ah, April '45, so a little after the liberation. That is ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: We were...
  • David Boder: And then, so when were you stopped by a German patrol, you said?
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, that is an interesting story, I was in the neighboring township to buy meat ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: And in the moment where I left the butcher shop a German patrol came on trucks, you know, put a machine gun to my head ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: You know, and, ah, I was told to be quiet because there was a deployment against the resistance under way ...
  • David Boder: Yes, and then?
  • Karl Josephy: Of course I thought that I might never see my wife again, but thank God I had some false papers with me. Of course, that was an emergency measure. And after I spoke as little as possible, they actually took me for a French. From Lorraine, as the paper indicated ...
  • David Boder: You had false papers?
  • Karl Josephy: I had false papers.
  • David Boder: The work papers would not free you?
  • Karl Josephy: Pardon?
  • David Boder: The work papers would not have freed you?
  • Karl Josephy: No, they would have arrested me immediately because on the work papers I was a man from Lorraine with a totally different name, born in Metz. So that saved my life.
  • David Boder: Why, did, when did you get such a paper ...
  • Karl Josephy: I got that from the Resistance, for whom I had worked, too.
  • David Boder: So you worked for the Resistance.
  • Karl Josephy: I rendered very little services, I came to it because the workers knew me very well and often asked me for translations because they knew that I spoke German, they fully trusted me, and I was very glad to do the translations for them.
  • David Boder: Yes, what kind of, what translations would you do?
  • Karl Josephy: Yes, that is easy to explain, those were army orders for the German army ...
  • David Boder: Aha...
  • Karl Josephy: You know, the, the Resistance wanted to know repeatedly where German troup units were located ...
  • David Boder: Aha ...
  • Karl Josephy: So that they could operate, and this way I had contact with the Resistance, who at my request immediately issued me a false paper.
  • David Boder: Aha ...
  • Karl Josephy: Of course that was an emergency measure ...
  • David Boder: Now, and what do you do now?
  • Karl Josephy: I returned to Paris, I, ah, found work with the American command, my wife works in tailoring, that is her occupation, we finally have our child with us, and so we are still ...
  • David Boder: Yes ...
  • Karl Josephy: ... making our living.
  • David Boder: [In English] So, this concludes Spool 66 of Mr. Karl Josephy who gave us his story from the internment in Africa and to minute to pass the whole time of occupation here in France as a qualified worker. Paris, August the 23, 1946, Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  • Karl Josephy: Bon.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Stefan Meuser
  • English Translation : Stefan Meuser