David P. Boder Interviews Mira Milgram; August 9, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 9-40A: Mrs. Milgram. Spool 9-40B will be reproduced on a separate spool. 9-40B is the little daughter of Mrs. Fania Freilich, Esther Freilich. It is a short spool, but we are putting it separate.
  • David Boder: This is Spool 40. August 9th, 1946, Paris, 9 Rue de Patin, and Frau, eh, Mrs. Mira Milgram continues the interview.
  • David Boder: [In German] Well, Mrs. Milgram, you were, eh, you spoke with the Gestapo guy, whether the children would be [unintelligible word, maybe it means taken through].
  • Mira Milgram: So he explained to me . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] That he had children, too?
  • Mira Milgram: . . . that he had children, too, and they were all victims. I felt veritably ridiculous that he reprimanded me very much; I explained to him that I had a brother with me, relatives and so on . . .
  • David Boder: Where did you have your brother with you?
  • Mira Milgram: I had my brother with me in, eh the camp, my cousin, and three other persons as well. All together we were eight persons. My brother came to me during the insurgence.
  • David Boder: I see, yes, and the others. And did your brother live as a Jew?
  • Mira Milgram: No, Aryan!
  • David Boder: Aryan.
  • Mira Milgram: Aryan. [unintelligible word].
  • David Boder: Yes. Well?
  • Mira Milgram: He too went through a lot, a few times he was [unintelligible word; could perhaps mean harassed].
  • David Boder: Yes. So you had, you were together with eight people. Who were they, your brother, your . . . ?
  • Mira Milgram: My brother, the two children, a female friend . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. And yourself, that is five . . .
  • Mira Milgram: Five. Eh, then there was an acquaintance with her son . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: . . . an Aryan, and yet another female friend of mine.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well?
  • Mira Milgram: [Unintelligible sentence]. Eh, Gestapo guy, well, my first name is Bernhard. Pray for me and everything will be well.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: I veritably laughed at him. I go away from him, after an hour in [unintelligible word].
  • David Boder: Did the Gestapo guy speak Polish?
  • Mira Milgram: No, German. But back then I was already so agitated, I didn't care anymore, and in answer to his question why I spoke German, I explained to him I was from Posen . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: . . . and that is why I speak German.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And when he comes to segregation, she says, he is organizing the segregation. He points towards the right or the left, those on the right go to Germany into the concentration camps, left was for staying.
  • David Boder: For what?
  • Mira Milgram: For staying in the "gouvernement."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And as I approach him he says to me, how do you think it will [unintelligible word], and in this way I dealt with all eight persons.
  • David Boder: Where to, to Germany?
  • Mira Milgram: No, just . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] Home.
  • Mira Milgram: . . . for staying . . .
  • David Boder: in the "gouvernement."
  • Mira Milgram: . . . in the "gouvernement." There we were taken to another camp, and from there we were taken to Kielce by train the next day.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: In Kielce we were until January 16th, until the day, on which the German, eh, the Russian army including the Polish . . .
  • David Boder: liberated.
  • Mira Milgram: liberated.
  • David Boder: So, in Kielce you were free in the city, weren't you . . .
  • Mira Milgram: [interrupts] Yes, we lived, I already had a flat there . . .
  • David Boder: What did you live on?
  • Mira Milgram: Eh, I earned money again.
  • David Boder: Doing what?
  • Mira Milgram: I traded.
  • David Boder: Traded.
  • Mira Milgram: Yes.
  • David Boder: In hard liquor?
  • Mira Milgram: No, not that, there I already couldn't trade in hard liquor. I traded in goods.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And the youngest two days before the liberation where the worst for me . . .
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Mira Milgram: Because the first bullets hit the house where I lived. The flat burned down . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] Burned.
  • Mira Milgram: and I . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] That was [unintelligible word], right?
  • Mira Milgram: No, they were . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] canons.
  • Mira Milgram: . . . from canons.
  • David Boder: Ja.
  • Mira Milgram: And again I found myself on the street with the whole family and two small children.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: We had gone into a nearby flat, in which Germans lived. But the first time was terrible, you couldn't get bread, you know. You could . . . . three days after the liberation of Katowice I went to Katowice day after day, where I traded for a little something to eat for the children.
  • David Boder: Katowice, that was right north of Sosnowiec, right?
  • Mira Milgram: Yes, yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well?
  • Mira Milgram: Well, it so happened that the Polish army, there were Jewish soldiers there, who got to know that children, Jewish children, were in town. They helped me a lot. They were the only Jewish children in town
  • David Boder: In Kielce.
  • Mira Milgram: Yes, in Kielce.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Mira Milgram: My brother became president of . . .
  • David Boder: Kielce?
  • Mira Milgram: Kielce and . . .
  • David Boder: What was your brother's profession?
  • Mira Milgram: My brother was an attorney.
  • David Boder: He was an advocate, wasn't he?
  • Mira Milgram: In Lemberg [Lviv], advocate in Lemberg.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And was appointed director of Kielce and vicinity.
  • David Boder: Yes. Yes. Now tell me, eh, and then you were liberated.
  • Mira Milgram: Yes.
  • David Boder: And then you. Where did you go, and what was the last story you know of Kielce? What really happened in Kielce? And how do you know it?
  • Mira Milgram: My brother, as I have already said, was president there. I had moved to Warsaw half a year ago.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Where I worked.
  • David Boder: As what?
  • Mira Milgram: I worked in a, eh, factory, in a private factory.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well?
  • Mira Milgram: At the same time I also worked in the Zionist organization, in youth. And the organisation made it possible for me to obtain a passport and a visa.
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Mira Milgram: To [unintelligible word, maybe Paris] with, so that I will go on to Palestine from here.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: My husband was a Zionist, too, he worked a lot as a Zionist, My brother, too.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Mira Milgram: A couple of days ago, eh, eh, a day after the Jewish pogrom, I'm in the electrical [public transport] and all of a sudden in the newspaper I see . . .
  • David Boder: Which pogrom [unintelligible word]? In Kielce?
  • Mira Milgram: In Kielce.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: That there pogrom . . . that there had been a pogrom Immediately I was certain that my brother was not alive, because I knew him as a man who did not shrink from anything, who wasn't scared. Besides I knew, he would have informed me immediately, because he knew how close we were. We had nobody else.
  • David Boder: Yes
  • Mira Milgram: Only him.
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Mira Milgram: He also helped me a lot financially. And . . . [unintelligible word] . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] And what did you find out from the newspaper?
  • Mira Milgram: That there had been a pogrom.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: I went to the post office straight away. I phoned the militia. There they told me that they didn't know anything specific yet, but I should be prepared for everything. And then I already know something was happening.
  • David Boder: You phoned the Kielce militia?
  • Mira Milgram: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. Well?
  • Mira Milgram: Then I went to Kielce the next day. By car.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: It was something terrible. Because it was almost only intelligentsia on the way, they spoke about the pogrom in such way I got out and called to them, you are animals.
  • David Boder: You are what?
  • Mira Milgram: Animals.
  • David Boder: Brutes!
  • Mira Milgram: You are brutes.
  • David Boder: I understand.
  • Mira Milgram: Yes. Because they talked about it like when you watch a dog being killed.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: With laughter.
  • David Boder: And they were Polish people?
  • Mira Milgram: They were Polish, amongst them a clergyman from Kielce.
  • David Boder: Why? You went to Kielce after all.
  • Mira Milgram: I went to Kielce . . .
  • David Boder: . . . and you already met people who came from Kielce?
  • Mira Milgram: No, no. They merely talked about it.
  • David Boder: Yes. Yes. Well?
  • Mira Milgram: It was something terrible. Yes, the civil, civilian population.
  • David Boder: Yes. Not drunkards?
  • Mira Milgram: So . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. Well? And, in Kielce, what did you . . .
  • Mira Milgram: [speaks over the interviewer] . . . angry.
  • David Boder: . . . find?
  • Mira Milgram: In Kielce I learned that my brother ran about from nine in the morning and went everywhere in the city, to the militia and so on, and asked for help. Because they already knew something would be happening there.
  • David Boder: Oh, the militia knew?
  • Mira Milgram: Yes.
  • David Boder: And the militia was all Polish. Weren't there any Jewish people in the militia?
  • Mira Milgram: No. There were maybe one or two, but they didn't [unintelligible word].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And my brother, who was in the city, went back to his Jews. I didn't want to leave them alone. Although you know, he lived in Kielce with Aryan papers.
  • David Boder: Oh, he, he lived in Kielce as an Aryan?
  • Mira Milgram: Yes, no, only in his committee he was Jewish. Doctor [unintelligible Name], and in his flat he lived as [unintelligible name], that was his conspiracy name. Because he worked in the conspiracy all the time.
  • David Boder: But you say he was mayor in Kielce?
  • Mira Milgram: Not mayor.
  • David Boder: What then?
  • Mira Milgram: He was the president of the community, the Jewish community.
  • David Boder: Oh, he was president of the Jewish community, I see. He became president of the Jewish community, yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Yes. Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now tell me what actually happened there during the pogrom, you read something. What were the particulars?
  • Mira Milgram: Well, it happened . . . in the town a rumour was spread that eleven children were missing. And that Jews had killed them to get their blood for the . . . .Jews from Russia, who do not look well at all . . .
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Mira Milgram: . . . and are very . . . eh . . .
  • David Boder: Famished.
  • Mira Milgram: . . . famished. And for those they took the blood of the Aryan children.
  • David Boder: Oh, they didn't even say [hard to understand; could mean "matzo"].
  • Mira Milgram: No, no, no. It isn't the time now after all.
  • David Boder: Which month . . .
  • Mira Milgram: Easter, right?
  • David Boder: Yes. Which month was it approximately?
  • Mira Milgram: That was July the 4th.
  • David Boder: July. Yes. Well, it was said they needed the blood for the sick Jews.
  • Mira Milgram: Needed it for the sick Jews from Russia.
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Mira Milgram: And there was one boy who claimed that the Jews had held him in the cellar of the Jewish committee for some days.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Although it turned out there wasn't even a cellar.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: The boy had already said this to the militia one day before.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And they let it take its way.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And the next day, from nine in the morning, people started to gather in front of the house of the Jewish community, where the elders lived.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And then the militia came, cordoned off the house.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Demanded that everybody hand over their, eh, . . .
  • David Boder: Weapons.
  • Mira Milgram: Weapons.
  • David Boder: The Jewish community?
  • Mira Milgram: The Jewish community.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Because in town they said that Jews shoot and they didn't want to be guilty eh, let this happen . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: That, that eh, this is said, you know . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Because it is not true.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And when the last Jew had handed over his weapon, they began to shoot the Jews with those weapons, to beat them and so on. The robbed them. My brother, who spoke to them, and asked them to stop.
  • David Boder: . . . who spoke to the people, yes?
  • Mira Milgram: Who [unintelligible sentence end]. It will not happen without danger.
  • David Boder: Yes. The militia.
  • Mira Milgram: To the militia.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Then the military joined them.
  • David Boder: Polish military.
  • Mira Milgram: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Mira Milgram: He told them: You have to, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Have to defend yourselves?
  • Mira Milgram: Have to, have to, eh, . . . [Speaks Polish]
  • David Boder: What are you saying in Polish?
  • Mira Milgram: [speaks Polish] You have to watch, what you are doing.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: It will not happen without danger.
  • David Boder: The military said it to whom, to the Jews?
  • Mira Milgram: My brother said it to them.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: We, the whole world will shout at you: What are you doing here? They shot him then, and he was the only one who was shot, because the rest was murdered in terrible ways. One woman, who was eight months pregnant, they threw from the second floor onto bayonets. And that was . . .
  • David Boder: Who had bayonets, the soldiers?
  • Mira Milgram: The soldiers are downstairs.
  • David Boder: Well, [unintelligible word] do tell me, [unintelligible word].
  • Mira Milgram: Well, the soldiers stood downstairs. The soldiers afterwards claimed, they knew why they were sent there. They found out from there, when they were sent to the house that Jews had taken Aryan children and had . . .
  • David Boder: Destroyed them.
  • Mira Milgram: Murdered them.
  • David Boder: Murdered them. Where there no officers?
  • Mira Milgram: There were officers. My husband, eh, my brother, a "Major" [probably: shot him; "Major" is a military rank].
  • David Boder: A "Major" [shot] him. Was he punished?
  • Mira Milgram: That. I left Poland straight away.
  • David Boder: You left Poland straight away.
  • Mira Milgram: After three days I left Poland. I couldn't stay there. [Unintelligible sentence beginning] . . . not. They . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Five people were massacred in such a way, that you didn't know anymore whether they were a woman or a man. They couldn't identify them, they don't know who they are. 40 people where beaten to death, and two little children.
  • David Boder: Now tell me what did the Polish government do afterwards.
  • Mira Milgram: The Polish government did everything it could.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: The pogrom went on from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: They dragged people out of the train, out of flats, and so on. The government sent people from Warsaw. They set up a, eh, they set up a drumhead court-martial.
  • David Boder: Yes. Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: Closing time and so on. But the worst is that people really believed that the Jews had killed the children and not only . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: . . . the, even the intelligentsia believed it.
  • David Boder: The intelligentsia . . .
  • Mira Milgram: Yes. Because I myself spoke with some, who told me there has to be truth in it.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: And when I explained to them, but where are the children. They boarded up the house, you know. Show me one mother who is missing a child. To that I did not get an answer.
  • David Boder: So the general disposition in Poland concerning Jews is what?
  • Mira Milgram: Hitler has worked there too long. It is a wordless anti-Semitism. The Jews are afraid to be there. And in my opinion the Jews have achieved so much that they deserve to be left in peace. I myself know. [Unintelligible sentence]. I went to school there, I studied at university, I have friends amongst the Polish. But I didn't have a good feeling, I was afraid. I think this will maybe improve after years. But now this is not the place for Jews. The government will do such a thing again, the government does not [unintelligible sentence end].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Mira Milgram: But the population, that [unintelligible sentence end].
  • David Boder: Mrs. Milgram, and now you want to go to Palestine. And you want . . .
  • Mira Milgram: [interrupts] This is my only wish now. I want to bring up my child in Palestine. Because . . .
  • David Boder: But then, yes?
  • Mira Milgram: His father was a Zionist, the little one is a Zionist, he has only the one [unintelligible word] in Palestine [unintelligible sentence end].
  • David Boder: Tell me, that the, that the child has been taught in Catholic religion, has that not in one way or another . . .
  • Mira Milgram: But he has forgotten everything, he is a hot Jew, and . . .
  • David Boder: But for a short period of time did he not really pray in Polish, Catholic . . .
  • Mira Milgram: No, never.
  • David Boder: And he acted the part all the time . . .
  • Mira Milgram: He acted the part all the time as a five-year-old child, in a way you can really believe in it.
  • David Boder: And he knew it wasn't the truth . . .
  • Mira Milgram: He knew everything. Everything, but now he speaks little. He sees a lot . . .
  • David Boder: Speaks little.
  • Mira Milgram: . . . and speaks little.
  • David Boder: Well, but tell me, Mrs. Milgram, it isn't all quiet in Palestine either. What do you think of that?
  • Mira Milgram: I would rather want to be unpopular there, than in another, popular in another place. There I at least know what I will fight for when I go there. In Poland I didn't know it.
  • David Boder: Oh well. Thank you very much, Mrs. Milgram. Does the boy maybe want to say something? No? Alright.
  • Mira Milgram: He maybe [unintelligible sentence end].
  • David Boder: Does he have family in America; do you have family in America?
  • Mira Milgram: In America as well.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concl—
  • David Boder: I am taking now for a short statement eh, Esther, eh, Esther Frieden . . .
  • Esther Freilich: Freilich.
  • David Boder: Esther Freilich, whose mother has covered Spool 36, 37 and 38. Esther is 13 years old.
  • David Boder: This concludes Spool 9-40A. The interview with Mrs. Milgram. 9-40B is a separate spool, and has the interview with Esther Freilich, the daughter of Mrs. Frieda Freilich. Boder. Now . . .
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Veronika Schmideder
  • English Translation : Veronika Schmideder