David P. Boder Interviews Fira Monk; September 7, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In English] Paris, Sep . . . September the 7th, 1946, at the Grand Hotel. The interviewee is Ms. Fira Monk, a secretary in the Paris office of the ORT. Ms. Monk speaks a very satisfactory French and English, but she—her maternal tongue is . . . is Russian. And we prefer to take the interview in Russian.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Ah . . . Fira Iakovlevna, tell me one more time your name and your position here in Paris? And what do you do here at the moment?
  • Fira Monk: My name is Fira Monk. I work at the office [unclear], do some [unclear] work. Besides, I work as a social assistant. The French call it [says the title in French]. I do . . .
  • David Boder: What we call in English "social worker."
  • Fira Monk: Yes, that's right.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: I talk to [unclear] to people who register with us and who don't work at our school. We have another assistant to do that. [Unclear, noises] children, whom we place in private [unclear].
  • David Boder: So. You talk about "children." How old are these children?
  • Fira Monk: We call children everybody who comes to us—up to 22 years of age.
  • David Boder: But in reality which age do you have them from?
  • Fira Monk: We have them from the age of 14. These are the children who finished their primary education or who [unclear, noises].
  • David Boder: So. Therefore, ORT has a dual function: either education in its own studios; or so to speak placement in care of the private craftsmen.
  • Fira Monk: Yes. Currently we have many requests for various crafts and trades which unfortunately we can not [unclear] ourselves.
  • David Boder: Requests from who?
  • Fira Monk: From youth.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Or from adults who wish to reeducate themselves. Who wish to receive some professional education—these are doctors, lawyers and various people who were deported or who are . . . displaced persons in general.
  • David Boder: Thus, they want to reeducate themselves? Instead of a doctor they want to become . . .
  • Fira Monk: In France as I believe in general [unclear] abroad people with a foreign diploma can not work [in their profession]. Here a doctor or lawyer with a foreign degree—German, Russian, Czech—has to do [unclear], has to go [unclear] and receive [unclear] . . . do [unclear]. And only after that if he is lucky he will receive a work status.
  • David Boder: So.
  • David Boder: [In English] The recording is not very efficient. We are now changing a little bit our arrangement.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Now tell me: How long have you been in France for?
  • Fira Monk: I have been in France since 1926. But we came from Russia in the end of 1921, spent some time in Austria where I graduated from high school, and then my mother was transferred to Paris to work.
  • David Boder: Hm. What do you mean "transferred?"
  • Fira Monk: She worked . . . she managed a factory of components for typewriters in Vienna. This factory was closed, its patron moved to Paris, . . .
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: . . . and to thank my mother for all the work she did without compensation, he trans . . . transferred her to Paris, and after I passed all the necessary exams I came here too.Monk and her family were among the estimated 100,000 Jews of eastern European origin who had immigrated to France from the early twentieth century on. Nowhere in the interview is there a mention of her father or a husband.1
  • David Boder: And why did [your] mother work without compensation [unclear]?!
  • Fira Monk: My mother is an old idealist and old socialist. Her boss didn't have any money to pay her, she even sewed the pockets close [says with laughter].Many eastern European Jews who came to France during the inter-war period were left wing.2
  • David Boder: Hm. [Pause] Well. Now tell us . . . tell us what . . . where have you been and what happened to you, and ORT when the war started.
  • Fira Monk: We were in process, during the beginning of war already. September 9th, 1939 we moved with our office to Vichy. We've stayed there until January 1940, during all the la drôle de guerre [says the name in French]—this was a war without a canon shot when soldiers sat in trenches and didn't know at all why they were sitting there."La Drole de Guerre," also called the "Phony War," was the period between the defeat of Poland in early October 1939 and the Nazi assault on Denmark and Norway on April 9, 1940, followed by their attack on Belgium and the Netherlands on May 10, 1940.3 In January we moved back to Paris, everything was quiet. We have lived there until June 7th, 1940. On June 7th we all were asked to leave . . .
  • David Boder: Asked by who?
  • Fira Monk: [Unclear] We . . . ahh . . . we have received news that Germans were already approaching Paris and that Paris will be taken soon. It was very difficult to believe, especially for me! I didn't want to believe. I argued with my older colleagues, didn't want to leave at all. But they insisted and the next day I understood that they were right. Because my friends and my other colleagues who left two-three days later already had horrible difficulties: They had to jump over the walls of Lyon train station in order to catch a train. Others have been driving for 10 days in a car under the bombardment of . . . hmm . . . aviation and machine guns, and generally speaking [unclear]. We have moved to Vichy and remained there . . . until Germans arrived.
  • David Boder: How?! It means you were in Vichy at the same time with Pétain?
  • Fira Monk: Ah! We were in Vichy before Pétain.Eighty-four-year-old Philippe Pétain, a World War I military hero ("the victor of Verdun") became head of state of the collaborationist Vichy regime following the June 1940 German defeat of France.4 Pétain followed us. Apparently, he couldn't live without us. Pétain . . .
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Pétain came in . . . after the cease-fire.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: He [delivered] his speech—I don't remember any more, where he delivered his speech, I believe it was not in Vichy,—but we've listened to his speech crying bitter tears. We knew then that a new, rather unpleasant period of our lives is about to start. And we've lived in Vichy until the end of 1940 when we politely but quite insistently were asked to disappear.
  • David Boder: In other words?
  • Fira Monk: In other words we were told that Jewish organizations have nothing to look for next to Laval.Pierre Laval was the prime minister of the Vichy government from May 1942 until the liberation of France in August 1944. Despite his knowledge of the murderous Nazi "Final Solution," he fully supported the deportation of foreign and stateless Jews from France to extermination centers.5
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: And . . . but I met Laval on the street quite often. He looked rather unpleasant. He resembled a bad maitre d'hôtel from a bad café. And we've moved to Marseille. There we have found good accommodation and we have lived there.
  • David Boder: So. Tell us, by the way, . . . tell us by the way, whom from your family did you have with you?
  • Fira Monk: My family consisted at that time from: my mother, my foster child, my grandmother, . . .
  • David Boder: [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: . . . Philip, my grandmother, my aunts—two sisters of my mother and her brother-in-law—this was all the family.
  • David Boder: So. Ah . . . who is your foster child?
  • Fira Monk: My foster child is this adorable little Spanish boy. We have taken him in 1937 during the Spanish war.The bloody Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was fought between the nationalist and fascist forces of headed by General Francisco Franco (1892-1975) and the Loyalists, who held a variety of anti-fascist political views. Aided by Germany and Italy, Franco's forces triumphed.6 He was supposed to stay with us for three weeks, but we've grown so attached to him that we couldn't bear the thought of giving him away.
  • David Boder: Tell us, who brought him to you?
  • Fira Monk: Brought . . . ahh . . . it happened like this: When the Spanish war started my mother suggested to her fellow party men that Spanish children who parties were saving from bombardments should be brought also to Paris, not only to the provinces.
  • David Boder: What is this? What party? Social . . .
  • Fira Monk: Social democratic, of course.The Social Democrats were democratic, moderate socialists, as distinct from the communists.7
  • David Boder: French?
  • Fira Monk: French, yes. But she was a member of the party in Austria and in . . .
  • David Boder: . . . in France?
  • Fira Monk: Yes. And she has been in the party in Russia already!
  • David Boder: Yes, yes. [Pause] And?
  • Fira Monk: And so we have welcomed this child for a few weeks. We grew attached to him, this child is ours now. He will be taken care by my mother, and myself—older sister, despite the small age difference—he is 14 now. He is very gifted, he is beautiful. He is very attached to us.
  • David Boder: So. And what of his misfortune in general? And what do we know about his parents?
  • Fira Monk: His parents are alive.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: They have another three children. One of them, his older brother—older by three years—is in France in the family of an English lady. The family has been ruined by the war; his father lost his right arm. He worked as an electrician, had his own big workshop. Mother— . . . hmm . . . teacher in a kindergarten. And apparently she can't work. Older daughter works at a factory, second boy tends cattle. And the father wrote to us that . . . knowing that we are able to provide his child with a better education and upbringing than him ruined by these fascists, and he asked us to keep his child until he was of age.
  • David Boder: And where is his father?
  • Fira Monk: The father is in Spain—either in Bilbao or in some other town.Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque region in northern Spain.8
  • David Boder: During the war he [unclear]
  • Fira Monk: Yes, yes. [Unclear]
  • David Boder: He didn't leave?
  • Fira Monk: No, no, he didn't leave. He [unclear] fought on the side of the Red Army.The Soviet Union supplied aid to the anti-fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War.9
  • David Boder: So. [Pause] Now tell us: so, you all have moved from Vichy to . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: So we . . . my mother and Philip—we moved to Marseille. And my grandmother, my mother's two sisters and a brother-in-law moved to Nice. They lived there. This was a so-called free zone.The so-called "Free Zone" or unoccupied zone was the part of France controlled by the Vichy government following the French defeat by Germany in June 1940. Centered in the area south of the Loire River, it included about two-fifths of the country while the Germans controlled all of the northern part of France and the Atlantic coast.10 In 1942 when we were in Marseille life was still pretty calm, good work. ORT opened there very big beautiful school. We have hoped that we can get through all this somehow, deportations started.
  • David Boder: So. From the free zone?
  • Fira Monk: From the free zone.
  • David Boder: I would like to determine this. Deportation of Jews or [unclear] non-Jews?
  • Fira Monk: No, non-Jews were taken based on the political criteria.
  • David Boder: Thus, the deportation of Jews started from the free zone . . .Beginning in the summer of 1942, deportations of Jews began to Nazi extermination centers began from both the occupied and unoccupied zones of France. The Vichy administration and the French police played a crucial role in the round-ups and deportations.11
  • Fira Monk: . . . in 1942, . . .
  • David Boder: In other words, before . . .
  • Fira Monk: . . . in August of 1942 . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, yes, yes, in 1942. When then did the Germans occupy all of France? They occupied the country . . .
  • Fira Monk: In November.
  • David Boder: - . . . as soon as the US entered the war?
  • Fira Monk: Germans occupied all of France in November of 1942. The Germans occupied the Vichy-controlled zone of France on November 11, 1942 after the Allied landings in North Africa. The occupation did not occur when the United States entered the war in Europe, which took place on December 11, 1941 when Germany declared war on the United States four days after Pearl Harbor.12
  • David Boder: Not in 1941?!
  • Fira Monk: No, they occupied . . . in 1940 they occupied the northern part. The demarcation line was in Vichy, in Moulins. Their control didn't go beyond that line. And starting from Moulins to the south of France—this was the free zone where we had French government.
  • David Boder: Well. So, deportations started after the American ambassador left Vichy?
  • Fira Monk: Amer . . . I don't remember when the ambassador left . . .
  • David Boder: We started . . . entered the war with Pearl Harbor in 1942 . . . 1941.
  • Fira Monk: In 1941. And that was after he left already.
  • David Boder: And so, it was already after he left and the American consulate . . .
  • Fira Monk: . . . didn't exist any more.
  • David Boder: . . . didn't exist any more.
  • Fira Monk: Yes, didn't exist. But, nonetheless, American, English Jews, Turkish Jews, Hungarian and Romanian Jews were under the protection—they have not been deported. They have been deported much later from the north of France, from Paris.The initial deportations in France targeted foreign and stateless Jews. The Vichy regime attempted to protect native French Jews from deportation.13
  • David Boder: So. And your personal [unclear] of deportation?
  • Fira Monk: At the beginning of August 1942—I was sick at that time and stayed in bed—a man from the Marseille prefecture came to visit and told me: "Madam Monk, please be so kind and warn all the people who you know and who you don't know that soon, on Tuesday"—I don't remember the date—"there will be general measures against Jews. Be careful. Let everybody hide, whoever can and wherever they can."
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Immediately I have sent my mother to the office to warn my fellow brothers. "Ours" [people] were somewhat surprised; they sent their man to find out and learned that it was true indeed. But at first we even thought that it was some kind of rumor: what is this for . . .
  • David Boder: And who are these "ours"?
  • Fira Monk: "Ours"—it's ORT, it's my second family.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: [Coughs] And we have sent a messenger to all corners of Marseille and warned whoever we could. But unfortunately very many of your friends were caught, as they were in a camp not far from Marseille [unclear, name in French]. And it was a mouse trap: The door got shut and nobody could escape it . . .The closest internment camp to Marseille was Les Milles. It was opened in September 1939 after France's declaration of war on Germany for the detention of German and Austrian nationals.14
  • David Boder: So, why were they in camp?
  • Fira Monk: In this camp all the Austrian, German Jews and all other Jews from enemy countries were detained. And they were kept there in awful conditions, in dirt, without water and were fed horribly. ORT and OSE did for them everything they could.
  • David Boder: OSE?
  • Fira Monk: OSE.Among the activities of the OSE was the provision of social and medical assistance to those interned in camps in the Vichy zone.15
  • David Boder: This is . . .
  • Fira Monk: . . . Jewish healthcare society.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: We worked very closely together. And we did everything we could. Office was [unclear] work. So they won't sit without work as it had an awful impact on them from the moral point of view.
  • David Boder: And so, you have warned your friends, and what happened after that?
  • Fira Monk: And then it was simply that at night the raid started. It happened not on Tuesday as our friend from prefecture told us—it happened on Thursday night. Germans surrounded several blocks. It was French Gendarmerie and French garde mobile.The Garde Mobile was a special unit of the French police. It conducted extensive searches for Jews for deportation.16 They came to take people away and said: "Bring as much as you can with—you are arrested,—as much as you can carry,—you are arrested." There were terrible scenes: people jumped out of the windows, committed suicide. But French police acted nobly: Very often they would warn people ahead of time if they could, they even . . . I personally know of an episode when a French gendarme accompanied by a colleague came to a woman and told her: "I'll be back in 15 min". This woman didn't understand. She collected her things and sat peacefully on the chair waiting for him to return. And when in 15 min. the same gendarme came back he told her: "Wait a minute! I told you that I'll be back in fifteen [says slowly] minutes." Now the woman understood. And she said: "I am not quite ready. Could you please come back in 10 min?" And [unclear] 10 min. and left, she wasn't there any more. But people didn't know. Generally speaking we didn't believe in all of this. We thought that the people would be sent to work, but not that they would be put into ghetto. And when my family was taken—I truly raised hell on earth but I couldn't do anything, nobody could. We didn't believe what the English propaganda was telling us over the radio. We didn't believe what they wrote to us from their ghetto. We thought that all of it was propaganda.It was very difficult at the time to imagine the unimaginable.17
  • David Boder: So. Tell us, who from your family was taken? And how did it happen?
  • Fira Monk: This happened precisely why my uncle truly believed in . . . ahh . . . French system, French honesty, if you would. He came here as a foreigner in 1939 and . . .
  • David Boder: Where from?
  • Fira Monk: From Vienna. There he had a very big store, even factory of men's wear. He was a wealthy man. And very smart man. I would like to underline that in order for you to understand future event. But due to the fact that he was a very honest man he could never understand human injustice, human dirt. And when . . . he had to prolong his Carte de la cite—recepisse every three months. His recepisse expired on 31 of August, 1942.
  • David Boder: What expired?
  • Fira Monk: Recepisse—it's a document which substitutes . . . hmm . . .
  • David Boder: . . . passport.
  • Fira Monk: . . . French passport. Residence permit.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: I wrote to them: "Gentlemen, I have been warned by such and such that following will happen. Be careful. Malvinochka"—this is my mother's sister,—"is sick. She has gallstone. She has to go to the health resort." We called a hiding place a health resort. He didn't believe. My friends came to him in Nice and told him: "[Unclear], don't go, it's dangerous. You'll be caught." He still didn't believe. He took my grandmother—on paper she is 80 years old, in reality she is only now 76 year old, and this poor second aunt of mine—she has been paralyzed since she was eight after diphtheritis. He went with them. They stood in line for two hours. It only appears that he was the only one trusting person. In two hours they all . . .
  • David Boder: What person?
  • Fira Monk: He wasn't the only one! Nobody could imagine that the French police will act that way. In two hours they were arrested. Grandmother was let go instantaneously. But my poor paralyzed aunt and my healthy aunt, Malvinochka, his wife, were immediately arrested. Two more hours later they came back accompanied by two French policemen and she then said: "Dear mother, it's over." They were kept at the casern, in Nice. They . . .
  • David Boder: And your uncle?
  • Fira Monk: Him too. He was still with them then. They were in Nice and later they were transferred to the camp next to the Spanish border Rivesaltes. [Pause] Salty river—apparently, the river is salty from Jewish tears.Rivesaltes was located in southwestern France not far from the city of Perpignan in a mosquito-infested region. The conditions in this internment camp were atrocious.18
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: There they spent several more days. We have tried really hard . . . At that time Kanarskii, Iakov Aleksandrovich was there. He tried very hard! I telegraphed him. We have tried to issue a certificate for him [unclear] which was a part of ORT at the time. That I work . . . that I am a secretary of the society, that they are my relatives, that they have to be saved—none of it worked. My uncle according to his age—he was 61 yeas old, and then they took people only up to 60 . . . healthy, unhealthy—it didn't matter. There were certain categories [of people] who were not taken. For example, people with children who are French citizens, or who are . . . ahh . . . had some . . . ahh . . . did some services during the last war, these . . . hmm . . . volunteers, and people after 60 years of age. And my uncle wrote a letter. To us. And wrote to us that he didn't know what to do: Follow his mind or listen to his heart. We answered that he should do as he understood.
  • David Boder: What did he mean by—"follow his mind"?
  • Fira Monk: Follow his mind means to leave, to be free, and voice of the heart . . .
  • David Boder: And he was allowed to leave?
  • Fira Monk: He was! I have been explaining to you: He was 61 year old, and he had a right to leave, he was free. He was not subjected to deportation then, at that moment.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Later everything changed: they took 95-year olds as well.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: He even could attend synagogue. He was a very religious man. He went and rabbi told him: "Do as you wish. I can not judge you." And he understood that he had to follow that woman with whom he spent all his life . . .
  • David Boder: . . . follow his wife?
  • Fira Monk: Follow his wife, yes. [Laughs] He adored her, he courted her for 7 years as Jacob courted Rachel. He considered her a . . . a part of his body, his soul, and he understood that he could have not lived without her anyway.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And so they . . . they were taken to the unknown destination. I appointed along the whole way . . .
  • David Boder: Unknown?
  • Fira Monk: Unknown destination. I appointed along the way assistants [unclear] who gave them food, nourishment and we received several letters.
  • David Boder: But . . . but how far did you receive . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: We have been receiving letter till Brive.
  • David Boder: Where is that?
  • Fira Monk: Brive is in the center of France.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: [Unclear] and my aunt wrote: "I am happy that I am leaving. We are rolling. Where to—I don't know, but we'll survive. And God will prevail over death." It turned out that in this case death was much stronger than love. And if we believed . . . later I wrote a letter to Paris to the Central Jewish Committee to learn what happened to them. The answer stated that on September 17th, 1942 they were taken to the unknown destination.
  • David Boder: Were they in Drancy?
  • Fira Monk: They were in Drancy but unfortunately only one day. Even not the whole day—they were immediately taken away. I think that they were liquidated right away, as my aunt was a sick woman. Little . . . I think, I hope, I believe that she died possibly on the way, because she couldn't bare this trip, in a cattle car, without water, standing in the middle. As for my uncle, you understand that he could have not lived long too. He—62 years of age, with sick stomachs, just as the rest of them.
  • David Boder: So. You don't know where they were taken? No information . . .
  • Fira Monk: No news whatsoever. Later I worked for the Ministry for deported and prisoners of war. And all the papers that I filled out, all the inquires remained without any result. Were they afraid to risk, I don't know. I think they simply didn't know. Because once I received a word about a convoy in 1942 which at the attempt [unclear] was completely destroyed. And I want to hope that they happened to be precisely in that convoy. It may sound strange but for me it is easier to think that they perished immediately, that they were killed right away, rather than think that they have suffered there for several years or several months—in those barbarian conditions, and only after that did they find their death.Her relatives were most likely sent to Auschwitz, where because of their ages and infirmities they were immediately gassed.19 [Pause.]
  • David Boder: So. Let's backtrack. And so, where you were with your mother, with your foster . . . hmm . . . brother or son, and . . . what has been happening there?
  • Fira Monk: And so: When we arrived in Marseille—it was in November of 1941—instead of the charming southern sun we've encountered deep Siberian winter. Of course there was no mentioning of heating. It was a brick house where we were freezing. But then the spring came and we, as I told you before, had hope that we would be able to work well. And we already . . .
  • David Boder: [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: Of course, it was. And we worked there [pause], opened a school, as I told you, and the child went to school, visited with children. [Pause] And . . . and later, in November of 1942 arrived . . . ahh . . . Germans arrived in Marseille. And it was very unpleasant as when we heard the sound of German boots on Marseille pavements, we felt sour. Ah, yes! No, there was yet another thing: When the Germans started the war with Russia all Russians were arrested and it was very funny.On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in a surprise attack. Until then, Germany and the Soviet Union had been at peace. Prior to the invasion Soviet citizens were not arrested.20 I was at the office at the time. Suddenly the telephone rang and I was told: "Come home immediately." What happened they didn't tell. "Come immediately." So I run home, on foot of course as there was no other way to get around; all trams were overcrowded, everybody battered [unclear] with their feet. I come home, ask the landlord what happened. He tells me: "Nothing, nothing. Your mother is alive." I decided that my mother jumped from . . . . from the window. I arrive . . . hardly made it to . . . to the third floor, some man comes out. I ask: "What is with my mother?" He says: "She is alive." And here I understood that it was a catastrophe. I entered, saw complete disorder: Drawers were open, closets—open, suitcases emptied. Mother stands surrounded by some people, and they say: "Madam, you are under arrest." I wonder: "What for?" They say: "Political case." When they said "political case" light darkened in my eyes because I had on me letters from various socialist friends who were then in prison. And I said of course that I don't have anything to do with the politics. Nonetheless they asked us to take clothing and food for several days. "What to do with the child?" They said: "Take him with you." Well. They escorted us rather nicely, paid for the tram tickets themselves. And so we arrived at [speaks in French].
  • David Boder: And who are they?
  • Fira Monk: Hmm . . . these . . . policemen.
  • David Boder: They paid for your tickets?
  • Fira Monk: For theirs, theirs. We paid for ours, and they paid for theirs. They were policemen and didn't have the right to ride for free. Apparently they wanted that we didn't notice . . . that is was not obvious that we were arrested. And so we've arrived at [speaks in French]. When we entered the [says the name in French] we saw there a bottomless number of Russians and we understood right away that we were arrested as Russians. Later there was an interrogation, but French behaved surprisingly tactful. [Pause] But we . . . we were led to some steamboat where the interrogation was to take place. And people who . . . whom they considered . . . hmm . . . a bit suspicious from the political point of view were sent to camp. My luck was that I worked at ORT. Therefore I had . . . there was . . . I had such a brick wall behind my back. They let us go 48 hours after [unclear] interrogation which took three quarters of an hour . . .Evidently at this time ORT was allowed to function by the Vichy regime, and her employment with ORT helped protect her.21
  • David Boder: On a steamboat?
  • Fira Monk: On a steamboat. . . . where there was a German, an Italian and a Frenchman. Each of them asked their questions. In the end one had to answer moderately, confidently and without too many details. After that we were let go. It happened in June 1941. But in November 1942 when Germans came to Marseille we [unclear] were told: "Gentlemen, try to leave this place." And there was the question: Where to go? What to go? Why go? If we go on further, what will be the result? Germans can move further as well. Then we have learned that Germans occupy certain cities according to a certain line, but the rest of France will be under the Italian rule. And on advice of our friends we have moved to Voiron.Eight provinces in mountainous southeastern France and on the French Riviera were under Italian influence following the defeat of France in June 1940. Once the Germans occupied the Italian zone in November 1942, these provinces came under direct Italian rule, including the city of Voiron, located northwest of Grenoble. The Italians sheltered thousands of Jews in their zone until September 1943 when it was taken over by the Germans.22 It's a little town not far from Grenoble, 26km. [Pause]
  • David Boder: Grenoble is on the French side?
  • Fira Monk: But of course it is on the French side. It . . .
  • David Boder: Pardon my geography.
  • Fira Monk: [Laughs] . . . it is 200 km from Geneva, I believe.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: It's a charming town. Well, our town is also a nice little town. Although when we arrived there there was a very big amount of the milice [militia]. French milice equals German SS. They also behaved rather . . . The Milice was a paramilitary unit of French fascist volunteers. It became notorious for barbarous acts against the French Resistance and the cold-blooded murder of prominent Jews.23
  • David Boder: SS or Gestapo?
  • Fira Monk: [Pause] I have to tell you that there is no big difference between these two organizations.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: They killed, and the others killed, so . . . ah . . . call they what you want.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Fira Monk: It doesn't matter at all. In short, we have opened our office there, worked. We have opened a school in Grenoble—women's sewing school which I . . . I had to travel there to make sure that everything was in order. And until September 1943 we truly lived [pause] absolutely secure: calm, quiet, undisturbed. We were . . .
  • David Boder: And where was Frankel at that moment?
  • Fira Monk: Frankel has been with us all this time. Rostislavskii[?] left then for Switzerland. He left in January of 1943 as his stay here was considered too risky. And later we have learned that he did more while staying in Switzerland in regards to financial and propaganda [unclear] . . .In other words, Rostislavski, an ORT official, did a great deal of valuable financial and propaganda work for the organization from neutral Switzerland, whose border he crossed from the Italian-controlled zone of France in January 1943.24
  • David Boder: Rostislavskii[?] as in France?!
  • Fira Monk: Always. He has been in France.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: He has been from . . . hmm . . . 1933. From 1933 he has been in France.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And in 1943 he left for Geneva, and Frankel stayed here. And Frankel naturally acted as a director of ORT.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And generally speaking he managed to [exhaust himself]—I have to tell you that I haven't seen anything like that—he has lived . . . he initially wanted . . .
  • David Boder: In what meaning?
  • Fira Monk: In heroic meaning!
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: He never—you know that there were moments when people from Resistance would come to us and tell us: "Gentlemen, you have to leave, you have to hide"—Frankel never left for his underground apartment until he was sure that all his coworkers were in their places, hiding. Only after that did he take his little bag and left with his wife. The truth is also that we all were hiding in the same town, in different French families who treated us exceptionally well. They were . . . not that they were favorable of Jews as they were anti-Nazis. They believed that they are French and Germans should not do anything in their country. Besides, Isere region where we were was known as one of the strongholds of Résistance. There was [unclear] who worked wonders. It . . . Voiron . . . we could see from the road, and there were desperate battles.It is unclear when these battles took place.25 Schester himself was in [unclear], our lawyer. He has been to Verhov . . .
  • David Boder: Who?
  • Fira Monk: Schester, Iakov Mikhailovich.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: He went to Verhov and offered his services . . .
  • David Boder: Which city is it?
  • Fira Monk: Ver-hov.
  • David Boder: Verhov.No town with this spelling has been located.26
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: [In German] What is it?
  • Fira Monk: [In Russian] It's a town [technical interference] And there were big battles. And Schester went there with his wife; his son was in the Resistance army, Maquis. And Schester offered his services. I remember that in 1904[?] he was colonel in the army. And he was told [unclear]: "Dear friend, we are truly grateful to you for offering to help, but canons which you used during that war have long been covered in rust. We use absolutely different canons." And he performed a quiet delivery thanks to the fact that he was not a Jew and his wife was a Christian. And also thanks to the fact that they were arrested not by [unclear]. They were kept for two hours with arms up so they would say that they are Jews. Of course they denied everything and were let go. And when Schester came down from the mountain and happened to be in Voiron we couldn't recognize him—he aged by 10 years. [Pause] And so we worked all the time of course. Everything was peacefully and orderly. All our branches, all your companies in the south of France worked. We even talked about the fact that ORT will do the unfinished work for 7 years. We were issued fake papers, we were hiding children, we did everything that needed to be done. And on September 8th, 1943 I arrived in Grenoble and see these poor Italians being led as a herd of cattle—we didn't know anything yet—accompanied by some young Germans. I asked a passer-by what happened. He said: "Madam, you don't know? Yesterday the cease fire was declared between Germany and Italy.In July 1943, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini fell from power, and on September 8, 1943, Italy switched sides in the war and signed an armistice with the Allies (not Nazi Germany). Following the armistice, the Germans occupied the Italian-controlled zone of France, and raids on Jews and members of the Resistance began.27 And so our [unclear]." And then I understood that . . .
  • David Boder: These convoys were run [unclear]?
  • Fira Monk: These were the occupying powers.
  • David Boder: [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: No! These were the occupying powers. They absolutely . . .
  • David Boder: These Italians who were the occupying power and who . . . .
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . treated you well.
  • Fira Monk: Ideally. They didn't notice us at all. They didn't take any notice of us; those were the next years.
  • David Boder: So. And here they were arrested . . .
  • Fira Monk: And they were arrested; they walked without belts and those hats with feathers; they walked looking rather untidy about the town and Germans were taking them right away. First what they did—they conducted raids. And when in the evening I asked . . .
  • David Boder: Raids on who?
  • Fira Monk: Everybody: Jews, members of Resistance, French—whoever they could get into their hands. When I came to school I have asked my students, I told them: "Gentlemen, what do we do? Do you want to continue working or not?" They said: "Yes, please be calm. We want to continue working." And so we worked until September 12. September 12—it was already a bit risky as raids were . . .
  • David Boder: What year was it?
  • Fira Monk: 1943.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Raids were following one after another. And it was simply too risky to go. I personally three times couldn't [unclear] because I am afraid.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: First time I told them a story that my baby remains in Voiron and if I don't return he will die from hunger. Second time I dashed by as a dark bird and third time I approached a Frenchman and said: "Listen, if you don't let me pass, know that I'll die". And so I trusted my French spirit. He looked at me and apparently understood that . . . that there is a reason for me to ask him in such a way. He told me: "Go to the third on my left and then turn to the right." I did as he said. And I came home.
  • David Boder: Third who?
  • Fira Monk: Third policeman.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And I simply told the third policeman: "[Unclear]." And he looked at me [speaks in French]. And I shoot by. But of course those were wonders.
  • David Boder: Translate it into Russian.
  • Fira Monk: [Unclear] I said: "Let me by", and he said: "I don't see you."
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: I went. But later everything was bad. And still only German cars of Whermacht passed though Voiron carrying German soldiers, and all our police was disarmed. But still . . . ahh . . . at the beginning Gendarmerie . . .
  • David Boder: In other words it was [unclear] . . .
  • Fira Monk: [Unclear], yes. They all conducted underground work. We issued fake cards in our commissariat in Voiron. With the official signature of the commissar. Commissar was then . . . he was a student of the medical faculty. [Pause] What else? There is much to tell [unclear] impossible. And then, in February this rather unpleasant event happened. Militia made Voiron its home and of course they chose as their place of residence hotel which was very close—10 min by foot—from the hotel where was ORT. And here we decided that everything is bad—it's not good, and we don't really appreciated such a neighbor. And officially we have closed our office for . . . ahh.. long term vacation. But before that, from February 1943 we didn't have a right . . . no, from February—it was already 1944, from February 1944,—but from February 1943 foreign Jews didn't have a right to work in . . . ahh . . . Jewish organizations, we were [unclear]. And here I have to emphasize that ORT was the only organization—[unclear] but I always tell how it is,—was the only organization that paid salary for all its employees, even when they were leaving to hide, he issued fake documents for them, in other words it was necessary [unclear] fake documents. He paid for the movement of ORT members; he acted as a father towards his [unclear].The "he" Madame Monk referred to concerning ORT's activities was Frankel, the head of the local ORT office.28 Therefore we have such an absolutely different relationship to our organization—we love it as a part . . . as a part of ourselves. It was, of course, Frankel's idea, because if it would have not been for him ORT.would have not existed. [Unclear, very soft voice] . . .
  • David Boder: And how did ORT got its money?
  • Fira Monk: How ORT got its money shouldn't be mentioned.Some funds were no doubt smuggled to ORT from Switzerland. Some funds might also have been sent to ORT by the UGIF (Union Générale des Israélites de France), which was the overall national representative organization of French Jewry during the Occupation.29 Some young people would arrive: "Are you Madam Monk?" "Yes." "Here"—they gave me some package wrapped in several sheets of paper. I took the package, went to Frankel, said: "Here, I received." "How much?" I said: "I have no idea. I haven't looked." [Unclear] Through various ambassadors, various young people from Resistance we sent post to Rostislavskii[?] so he would know what was happening to us, but it didn't last long. There was . . . a moment came when we were afraid that we would be cut off, would be without money and anything else. And . . . but we received a lot of help, and there were people who would give us money. I am not familiar with the financial details; I was never interested in them. I only wanted to know that we had money and that we have something . . . ahh . . . to send those who left us because they were afraid. Men were especially afraid as they were in great danger. [Pause] For example, when was it? Already in 1944, in February, yes. We were told to hide. We didn't know where to go. Then a lady from Resistance came to us: "Let me take you." They brought us to a working French family. They welcomed us with open arms. It was late at night, at about 12 at night. This lady was walking with a dog [unclear] . . .
  • David Boder: It was a dog who . . .
  • Fira Monk: Ah! Right. . . . who we have called Right in honor of the British [unclear] if I am not mistaken. It was his last name. And so the three of us [unclear] came to these absolutely strange people who gave us their . . . their bedroom, who didn't know how to treat us even nicer. We spent two weeks with them. Then a friend of ours told us that we could return home. And so I come home and see an invitation from the commissariat. I went to the commissariat, I thought that it was [unclear] something [unclear]. And here I am told: "Oh, my God, oh, my God, what awful news! Madam, you have to go to Germany." The problem was . . . apparently they took me for a man, Germans, and I had to go to the forced labor as a man.As the war continued, Germany was increasingly faced with a shortage of labor. Some 700,000 Frenchmen were forced to work in Germany after being sent there by the Vichy government. They were among the millions from all over Europe taken into forced labor.30
  • David Boder: How? According to your card? Ah . . . identity . . .
  • Fira Monk: No. There were . . . they gathered then all men to go to the forced labor without a distinction between religion or race, without race difference. And all men received [an invitation]; everybody fled where they could. I alone received an invitation. And I said that I won't go. And at the commissariat three policemen approached me and said: "Madam, do you have a place to hide? Because if you don't we will accompany you to a farm where you can live until the end of the war, which we hope will end soon and you [unclear]." But because I had a family of friends I stayed with them for several days. Meanwhile a Frenchwoman came to Grenoble, learned the latest news, proved that I am a woman and not a man, and the incident didn't have any consequences. [Pause] Then we had militia . . .
  • David Boder: Simply to clarify: Germans were compiling lists according to some cards . . .
  • Fira Monk: Germans . . .
  • David Boder: . . . and put you down as if you were a man . . .
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, yes.
  • Fira Monk: Well, after that there was as I told you . . . militia came and situated itself not far from ORT. And they spied on us [unclear] which you could imagine. Not far from Voiron, 2,5km there was an orphanage directed by rabbi Schmierson.
  • David Boder: Children's . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: Children's orphanage. It was a ritual orphanage.
  • David Boder: Orthodox?
  • Fira Monk: Orthodox, yes. All the children were hidden there, of course. And rabbi hid there as well. This orphanage . . .
  • David Boder: Schmierson was, what . . . Chassidic Jew?
  • Fira Monk: Chassidic, yes. From Kiev.
  • David Boder: From Kiev?
  • Fira Monk: Yes. There his name was, I believe, . . .
  • David Boder: -So. [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: No. From Kiev, with red beard.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: He did a lot. When Italians left he, thinking of saving Jews from Germans, took a very big number [of them] to Nice at his own expense.
  • David Boder: He was what? French rabbi?
  • Fira Monk: No, he is Russian.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: He is Russian. He has his own yeshiva, school.
  • David Boder: [Unclear, very soft voice]
  • Fira Monk: And so he . . .
  • David Boder: And where is the school?
  • Fira Monk: 10 Rue [unclear]. It's close to [unclear, very soft].
  • David Boder: [Unclear, very soft]
  • Fira Monk: And so rabbi Schmierson took a big number of Jews from Voiron and surrounding areas to Nice. Unfortunately, his undertaking failed. He intended to do good, but Germans preceded him. And when he arrived in Nice Germans were already there. And there he was hiding four days without seeing light . . . [Pause]
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 111 [not clear, very soft, recording stops abruptly]
  • David Boder: This is Spool 112. The interviewee is Ms. Fira Monk . . . ah . . . a executive secretary at the [unintelligible] ORT organization in France. Paris, September the 7th, 1946. Illinois Institute of Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Madam Monk, you were telling us about rabbi Schmierson who took children to Nice but was preceded . . . was preceded by Germans.
  • Fira Monk: He took with him not only children; he took with him very many adults as from the beginning of war in Voiron there happened to be 195 Jewish families.
  • David Boder: But what does it mean "took with him"? What . . . ? What was this . . . ahh . . . for kind of undertaken?
  • Fira Monk: What was . . . ? Yes. He hired several [unclear] and sent his people to all Jews living in Voiron and the surrounding areas . . .
  • David Boder: Vieron?
  • Fira Monk: Voiron. [Spells] V-о-i-r-о-n. . . . and said: "Gentlemen, I believe that it will be the best for all of us to go away from Germans and go to Nice. From Nice we'll have more opportunities to get over to Italy or Italians will remain in Nice—there will possibly be Italian rule." And many left then. I know because my grandmother lived still in Nice. I didn't; have a slightest inclination to go. I always said: "There where there is a mass escape—run away from there yourself." And it will be the most convenient thing for Germans to come there and catch everybody [unclear] as cat [catches] the mouse.
  • David Boder: Let's correct: "There where to there is a mass escape . . . "
  • Fira Monk: "There where to there is a mass escape . . . "
  • David Boder: So. "Run away from there yourself"?
  • Fira Monk: And "Run away from there yourself." [Pause]. It's good there where we are not—old story. And so he started to gather people from everywhere, and he really managed to come back with quite many. But unfortunately, greater part of them died.
  • David Boder: How?
  • Fira Monk: In Nice at the train station there were Germans who caught people—put simply—with the nets as they catch dogs in big cities; they were immediately put into the cattle cars, transferred to Drancy and from there to Auschwitz and so on.This round-up occurred after the September 1943 take-over of the Italian zone by the Germans. Drancy was the infamous camp located in a suburb of Paris. It was the main transit camp for Jews in France to forced labor and to extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz. Some 65,000 Jews went to their deaths from Drancy. From July 2, 1943 to August 17, 1944, the camp was under the direct control of the SS, headed by Adolf Eichmann's deputy Alois Brunner, who made every effort to send as many Jews as possible to Auschwitz.31
  • David Boder: Where is Drancy?
  • Fira Monk: Drancy is not too far from Paris. In the north of Paris.
  • David Boder: And what is it? Some military settlement?
  • Fira Monk: No!
  • David Boder: Or caserns?
  • Fira Monk: No, it's a little town, suburb. It's a regular suburb. And there were caserns. And they created in these caserns of the suburb some sort of a . . . transit camp.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Recently I passed Drancy, but I didn't master enough courage to get off and see this town because I consider this town to be a place of death of all the people who left from there.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And so, when Schmierson came back—a fellow French woman went to get him, she brought him back from Nice in a cab,—rabbi was hidden right away. He was place in . . . ahh . . . one . . .
  • David Boder: French Jew?
  • Fira Monk: No, Christian went, Christian.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Very nice woman. Her husband later died, was shot by German. Mother of two children. And rabbi was hidden in one deserted house in town. It was 5km from Grenoble; and his wife [unclear] remained, once left the house in order to go somewhere to pick up things. She was approached by two people. She was arrested. At the same time several other people were arrested, and [unclear] of the deceased brother of our agriculturalist. They were taken to . . . 1,5km away from Voiron to a hill where they . . . where militia confiscated a private villa, and there 3-4 people were subjected to the most horrifying tortures and brutalization. Rabbi's wife [uses a female form of rabbi in Russian] Schmierson had to eat their excrements, that they did [unclear], crushed records, drink soapy and salty water. One gentleman Herzog was shot right on the street. Later they said that he was defending himself. And they beat him so badly that he shortly after that died.
  • David Boder: What did they want?
  • Fira Monk: They wanted money! From the rabbi's wife they wanted to know where rabbi Schmierson was. They considered him a very dangerous element.
  • David Boder: Who were they—French or Germans?
  • Fira Monk: But these were French! It was French militia.
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Fira Monk: Scum of the society. Generally speaking, militia was formed from the prisoners. They were told: "We'll let you free. But you have to become a member of militia." Others were signed up in return for some thousand francs. At the beginning when the militia was formed many former military men [says in French] joined in—participants of the old war. They thought, that militia—it's a military formation. But when they saw, honest left but other . . .
  • David Boder: [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: Yes, and the scum of the society remained. Especially because for each Jewish head one could receive three thousand francs. At that time it was a decent sum of money. Yes, three thousand francs . . .
  • David Boder: What do you mean—for a head?
  • Fira Monk: For Jewish head they paid three thousand francs.
  • David Boder: Jews who Germans were looking for?
  • Fira Monk: No, why bother?! Simply said that here lives a Jew. They walked around and said: "Here lives a Jew. Go arrest him". After they informed the authorities, Jew is arrested values us much more. Christ was sold for thirty silver coins, and we are sold for three thousand.
  • David Boder: But francs were not sliver?
  • Fira Monk: It doesn't matter. They were calculated by the gold currency.
  • David Boder: Who?
  • Fira Monk: [Unclear] golden stores. Then the prefect from Grenoble . . .
  • David Boder: Everything became more expensive?
  • Fira Monk: Yes, but human life became cheaper.
  • David Boder: So, if there it was thirty, and here three thousands—price increased!
  • Fira Monk: Apparently the price of life did increase. See, how much time has passed. And then when our friends were arrested, rabbi . . . ahh . . . prefect of Grenoble himself [unclear] what was happening. "Who is an authority here—I or them?"The prefect was the chief Vichy administrative official in the district and resided in Grenoble.32 And he told to this militia: "Listen, either you let those Jews free, either you remain here or I do." He wrote to Vichy about it. I don't know what happened there. All of it is covered by a big mystery, some dark curtain. At any rate, rabbi's wife, [name unclear] were set free and poor Herzog died in there. He was taken out, but he has already died. Rabbi's wife was free. Then they were transferred . . . transferred to another place, 10km away from Voiron where they lived on a farm. Nobody knew of it—they didn't know, I didn't know. At any rate when I talked to him I haven't seen anybody new. I visited him quite often. He remained without money and he was then given . . .
  • David Boder: Rabbi?
  • Fira Monk: Sergei Aleksandrovich.Monk is referring to Rabbi Schmierson. Unfortunately, the children he was attempting to hide were found by the fascist militia.33 His children who he looked after he hid. And one beautiful day militia has learned that there was [unclear] a Resistance family. They took along two or three Germans from Gestapo and went there. When they saw crying children German said: "What is this? We were told that he is Resistance but here there are only [unclear]." It didn't prevent them from taking all 19 children starting from 3-year olds up to 19 year olds.
  • David Boder: And how many children were there?
  • Fira Monk: 22.
  • David Boder: And what did they do . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: They [unclear, noises]. All 22 children were taken.
  • David Boder: You said 19.
  • Fira Monk: No. From 3 to 19 yeas of age.
  • David Boder: Оh!
  • Fira Monk: From 3 to 19 yeas of age. And only one managed to escape. He escaped from Drancy. He is a brother of my friend. He was brought to [unclear] Drancy, when he was working on rails dismantling a bomb which supposedly didn't explode. German left to the other side. Then, without waiting for the German to return, he ran away. And three weeks later he appeared in Voiron. By the joined effort he was sent to the Spanish border. He crossed into Spain and was sent to Palestine. And remained there. But the rest of them perished. From all of them only one person returned—young man 19 year old. [Pause] Well, rabbi was hiding all the time. And somewhat later I was returning after a visit with him and met two friends of mine. They told me: "Listen, what awful news! What tragedy! Schmierson is killed." At first I didn't dare to tell them that I was returning after visiting with him as everything was kept under a big secret, even from the closest friends. Especially because that day I brought him a big sum of money. He still had visitors, religious Jews who were hiding among Résistance and lived without any money and whom he financially supported. So I said: "What happened? Tell me how?" "In [says the name of the place in French, unclear]—it's 6km away from Voiron—Schmierson was killed." And you know they started to cry. I said: "Listen, girls. Schmierson is not killed. I am returning from seeing him. When was he killed?" "1,5 hrs. ago." "unclear] 1,5hrs as well—these are impossible things in the end. If they were there it means that they would have found me as well. And I wouldn't be sitting right now at the tea table." What happened was that they arrived [unclear] and asked a girl: "Tell us, do you know here a gentleman with a beard?" And the girl really said: "But of course! Here, he lives in this little house." And they went—militia—there. It was a little house where two Jews lived. They built a fake wall in their house. Behind that wall there was a hole where two people could fit. Son-in-law of this gentleman hid there and said: "Come with me, father." But the father said: "No. If it's my destiny to live—I'll live, if not, I am",—he says—"God's son." And they entered. And they took these Jews. Two. The second one came to visit and discuss some religious but maybe also political topics. And in three hours they found [unclear].
  • David Boder: [Unclear] and they took him for Schmierson?
  • Fira Monk: They took for Schmierson. They were biting their elbows later that it was not rabbi but nonetheless they were glad that they could take two Jews with them. And in April of 1944, when . . .
  • David Boder: Was it militia?
  • Fira Monk: It was militia . . . militia. And in April of 1944, when militia was in [unclear] our Voiron there was its chief, Mr. Jordal. When we first arrived in Voiron he pulished a little newspaper "Voiron paper" [unclear] dirty newspaper. It published very [unclear]. "Who are these people who walk up the hill . . . ?" Out house was on the hill back then. " . . . up the hill in waterproof coats with bags in their armpits. Are they doctors? No. Lawyers? Oh, no. Military men? Help us God! These are Jews, pardon. [Unclear]" They wrote: "We are happy to inform you that Mr. Frankel with his wife moved to Auschwitz. We are happy to inform the Voiron population that Ms. Monk has moved from the hotel to her own apartment." Our apartment was some half ruined hut [unclear]. "Mr. Levy?! But of course, Mr. Levy resides at a castle." Did he live in a castle? No. Because it was a castle . . . because it was a very cheap . . . his acquaintances gave him a room in one so called castle. It was a big house in the middle of the orchard. And so. Editor of this newspaper, Mr. Jordal took part in arrests and robbery of all Jews who could be found in the surroundings of Grenoble, and who assisted in arrest of the wife of rabbi Schmierson. And so, one beautiful morning . . . his house was just across the street form the state professional school. Boys from the school were, of course, members of the Résistance. And so, one beautiful morning, at 7 in the morning I went to town and one woman tells me: "Madam, why?! You are in town?! Do you know that Jordal got killed?" I got quite an unpleasant feeling. She says: "Yes, he is killed. I beg you please be careful because there could be a big problem." I went home. This was a very difficult time in France. We absolutely didn't have any bread. But because I had a little family who I had to feed I decided what comes comes but I had to find some bread. And I went to town. I met a policeman I knew: "Where do you go?" I said "I am going to get cigarettes and bread because [unclear]". He says: "Go, but please do it quickly, as I don't know what will happen."
  • David Boder: [Unclear, very soft]
  • Fira Monk: Policeman. Ordinary policeman.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And I went to the store where I bought cigarettes on the black market. [Pause] I entered the store. This was not . . . ahh . . . bread . . . not a bakery but a general store, and thought that maybe I'll find dry biscuits there. I asked a sales assistant. She says: "No, we don't have dry biscuits any more". Then I wanted to take . . . ahh . . . the door knob in order to leave. Some guy approached me—very big, very handsome, armed up to his teeth and told me in French—it sounds quite inappropriate: "Go to hell! We are all fed up with you!" Well, at first I decided to get upset. It all happened within a second; the decision was of course to almost start a fight but then I decided that no, lady doesn't fight. Besides he had a machine gun. And I left. And when I met several familiar Jews on the street I told them: "Gentlemen, go home. It smells bad today." Unfortunately, not all of them listened to me. I came home. And in two hours I have learned that at the square they took 7 Jews, and that they were taken away. It was at 2 o'clock. At 6 in the evening a young man from the Résistance came to see me and said: "Madam, seven people are killed behind the mill." They were killed in most horrifying manner. They had eyes torn out. Their nails were torn out. They had every hair pulled out separately. Their members were cut and all [unclear, noises]. They tortured them in the most atrocious way. We didn't have time to cry. We went to the commissariat and we asked at the commissariat to send one of their people with a photo camera to the place of happening. At 8 in the evening pictures with the full description of what had happened were sent to Switzerland by the young people who . . .The seven, among them a man of seventy, were tortured and killed in reprisal for the assassination of Jordal. Although the sympathetic French police linked to the Resistance took pictures of the massacre, they could not prevent it.34
  • David Boder: How is that? From police station?!
  • Fira Monk: From police station.
  • David Boder: What is it? French police?
  • Fira Monk: French police took pictures. They gave us what we needed. These were the policemen . . .
  • David Boder: Policemen were in the Resistance?
  • Fira Monk: Of course they were connected to Resistance.
  • David Boder: So. And they couldn't [unclear] . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: They couldn't. Secretary of the commissariat was deported. And everybody who served in our national police at the commissariat was deported. They arrested many Christians. There were two Gestapo raids; they didn't pay any attention to the Jews then, but arrested only the Christians. [Pause] And so among them . . . I saw those pictures myself. Among them there was a young gentleman of 36 years of age, father of three children. His wife was pregnant with the fourth. When I was brought those pictures—I saw them [unclear, noises], I asked them: "Who is this old man?" "How?! This is [last name is unclear, says it in French]." I said: "What do you mean [last name unclear]?" In front of me I saw a man who was 70 years old. It was truly horrible. And so at 8 in the evening those documents went to Switzerland. This report was read on radio [says the name in French] as then we had a radio that also broadcasted.
  • David Boder: Ahh . . . underground radio?
  • Fira Monk: Of course, underground. It was fixed by a Pole. And the very next day the English radio told the whole world what happened in Voiron. [Pause] It was militia's revenge for Jordal's murder. He was killed with all his family, including a 3 year old child. But we knew that Resistance didn't do it as Resistance didn't murder small children. We knew indeed. People who knew for sure told us. And later it turned out to be true: it was simply score-settling. They stole 26 mio. francs.
  • David Boder: Who?
  • Fira Monk: Militia.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And they wanted to share. And of course every one wanted the biggest piece. Jordal was an owner of a beautiful house. He had several houses in [unclear]. Officially he had those [speaks in French], you know, [speaks in French] . . .
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: . . . central heating.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: But in reality he managed prostitution houses. So a beautiful family. And the whole family was murdered. Only one son survived. What happened to him I don't know. All the other participants of this awful murder were killed by the Resistance. Some before [unclear], others—after. Then 5km away from Voiron there was . . . such an exemplary case. There lived one Polish peasant. He always was a merry fellow, worked at a quarry and was a fisherman. And one beautiful day [unclear] . . .
  • David Boder: Where did he work?
  • Fira Monk: At the quarry.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Fira Monk: So it was a happy-go-lucky sort of fellow. Merry, loved to drink, father of seven children and a man who didn't fear anything at all. And what I am about to tell you saw my girlfriend with her own eyes from the windows of her hotel. She lives as a peasant in this village, was a singer, called [says the name of the theater in French]. A car arrived with two Gestapo and two militia men in it. They approached the Pole who was sitting with some other Poles at the table drinking beer. They asked them to undress. At first everybody was shocked. They say: "Are you Jews?" "No." "Then undress." They undressed, proved that they are not Jews. And this Pole was somewhat flustered. And he raised his hand on Gestapo Ah! "Good bye, good bye!" The latter, first of all, noticed a Polish hand: "How is that possible! Pole raised his hand! And this "Good bye"!" He grabbed this Pole by the collar, pushed him into the car and took him away. Three days later his body was found. I have to say that this little town was at its best. His wife [unclear] but he cannot be brought back of course. That he was the most unlucky guy. The town accommodated her greatly. She immediately received 20 thousand francs. When she gave birth to their 4th child she was placed into the municipal hospital—the hospital there is amazing, by the way,—and its head physician, Dr. Bova was at his best. Among others he treated members of the Resistance, performed surgeries and all. They didn't take money from her, of course. She received a wonderful town's dowry for her baby. I mentioned that I need a couple of baby suits and one French lady—she also worked at the Resistance—brought me a box of things which you couldn't get even for the biggest money. As you know everything was limited and children received 3kg of wool for the first three years of life while normally 5kg were needed [unclear]. She was given a certain pension by the Jewish organizations, by the Resistance. But in the end it doesn't bring her husband back especially while they were very close to each other. So and about this time when militia was at the height of its power my grandmother came to Voiron with the French papers. Besides "Bonjour, madam, monsieur, au revoir" she couldn't say anything at all. She arrived as Madam Vuaral, deaf woman from Alsace. She was welcomed . . .In fact, Monk's grandmother arrived in Voiron from Nice, where she had been staying.35
  • David Boder: What do you mean? Deaf?
  • Fira Monk: Yes, I think so. She couldn't speak! [says with laughter]
  • David Boder: [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: No, she was very . . . all the time on the road she spoke Russian very fast. Generally her attitude was: "It's nothing, I'll get there".
  • David Boder: [Unclear], that she is deaf?
  • Fira Monk: Yes, her papers stated that she was . . . ahh . . . what is it called . . . [speaks in French]—she is deaf, all her life. She was brought by mother's daughter-in-law . . . ahh . . . widow of mother's brother who came . . . When she speaks French you will hear from 8km away that she is Russian. And she makes mistakes in every second word, but nonetheless she came as mademoiselle Vuaral and was sure that nobody knew she was Russian. And so one day they search our house. Arrived a guy from Vichy. Normally our house was searched quite often; it was public all the time. But this one was the most unpleasant one as this guy came from Vichy and searched all the Jewish houses. He searched a house of [unclear]—this is our old co-worker who worked at ORT for 25 years. He is in the US now. At his house he knocked on the walls and certainly wanted to prove that he was a Soviet citizen, that he is a Soviet spy and God knows what else, but in the end nothing . . . awkwardly he had to leave as there was nothing to take. He came to us, and here is my aunt with her fake papers. And so he asks her: "Have you been in Voiron for a long time?" My aunt answers in a voice hoarse from fear: "Oui." Then I said: "You know, she has a severe cold. I even prefer that she doesn't talk."
  • David Boder: This is the one who was supposed to be deaf?
  • Fira Monk: No, grandmother was deaf. And this is her daughter-in-law.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: My deaf grandmother—we made real papers for her right away. I went ot the commissariat and said: "My grandmother has arrived. We need to make her papers as she came [unclear]." That was that. I immediately received a recepisse for her [unclear]. She didn't have to go to the commissariat even once. But the daughter-in-law decided to keep her papers. And when she was asked: "Have you been in Voiron for a long time?" she answered: "Oui." And based on her [unclear] it was immediately clear that . . . she wasn't born in . . . not far from Paris. And I said that she had a cold and that her voice was hoarse. I don't know if he understood, if he wanted or didn't want, but in any case he didn't pay to her any more attention but rather attacked my library. There were very many English books in my library. He asked: "Aha! You have so many English books! Why?" I said: "It's very simple. I hope that English will be here soon. [Unclear, very soft]." He went pale but didn't say anything. After that he started to search my . . . ahh . . . suitcase and pulled out a couple of . . .
  • David Boder: Did you really answer like that?
  • Fira Monk: I decided that it doesn't matter. If I had to die at least I'll die proudly. I didn't want to be afraid. I hated . . . I knew that the more bold I'll be the more modest he'll become. Because these people were in the end idiots. They didn't know . . . they were people without any culture. They became embarrassed if you told them something that was not in their repertoire of ideas. They knew we have to do this and that. But what came after that they couldn't grasp. And they were not able to utter a more decent answer. [Pause] And when he started to go through my suitcase he pulled out a couple of my tights. [Unclear] I told him: "Listen, don't search other people's things. You have to apologize." "Yes, yes, you know, I have to follow my orders given to me from above."This, of course, was the standard excuse given by the Nazis and their collaborators for the atrocious deeds they performed.36 I said: "Pardon me, but if I am told [unclear] to do this and that and I am against it, I'll simply say: 'Gentlemen, I don't want to do it.' But [unclear] I won't search stranger's suitcases." Then he angrily slammed the cover of the suitcase saying: "I can't deal with you at all!"
  • David Boder: Was he German?
  • Fira Monk: French, French! I have never had Germans. I went . . . we all went through this occupation as a religious rabbi between the rain drops. Do you know this anecdote?
  • David Boder: About rabbi?
  • Fira Monk: About rabbi. But rabbi was in the middle. Gestapo to the right, militia to the left and us in the middle.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Well, after that everything happened very fast. As we have learned, on May 6 . . . June 6 there was landing. Our spirits somewhat raised right away . . .
  • David Boder: 1945?
  • Fira Monk: 1944!Monk was referring to the June 6, 1944 D-Day landings by the Allies at Normandy, France, the great invasion of Western Europe.37
  • David Boder: [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: All. We were breathing easier. Every time somebody from the Resistance would come: "Ah, they will attack tomorrow. Ah, tomorrow they will be here and here." We didn't leave from the radio. We have listened to the radio until 2-3 o'clock at night. We went to bed . . .
  • David Boder: What radio did you listen to?
  • Fira Monk: English, of course. [Unclear]
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Everybody spoke French. Everybody was asking for permission. There even was such an anecdote. A woman came to church to pray for . . . hmm . . . to pray for the wellbeing of her husband, German prisoner of war. And she says . . . hmm . . . that she would like to come and confess first. A priest tells her: "What time would you like to come?" She says: "I would like to come at 11 o'clock at night." But he says: "I can't at 11 o'clock at night." "Why?" "I sit at home and listen to the English radio." So you see listening to the English radio was much more important. It was a very good radio "Atlantic." They broadcasted this . . . ahh . . . dancing music and in between reported news. These were the best news ever.
  • David Boder: This was [unclear]?
  • Fira Monk: It was an underground radio as well. Then we have listened to the French radio. We have listened to the German radio! We have listened speeches by Hitler and Goebbels. It was awfully [unclear] when we heard: "We won't surrender this, we won't surrender that!" We knew for the fact that those places were already taken long ago. Germans either didn't know that or [unclear]. When they cried that "we won't leave Stalingrad" we already were drinking vodka to its surrender. We remembered [unclear] as it is not possible . . .
  • David Boder: You were drinking vodka for . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: . . . to taking Stalingrad by ours [our troops]! To victory! To [unclear] of course.The German Sixth Army surrendered to the Russians, ending the epic battle of Stalingrad, the Germans' worst single defeat on the eastern front and the turning point in the war with the Soviet Union.38
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: [Pause] Well, after that it was easier and easier to breath. Militia somehow was embarrassed. Resistance came down from the mountains and acted . . . in short they became the masters. They travelled around by cars; they were armed up to their teeth. It was all youth. [Unclear]
  • David Boder: And the war didn't end?
  • Fira Monk: No! The war didn't end. There was no liberation yet. It was only a fight for France. And so on August 15, 1944 a boy ran to our house, from maquis, with missing buttons. We sat down to fix his buttons. He says: "Gentlemen, Grenoble will be taken by our [troops] on the 19th!" So I asked him: "You have promised us 'the 19th' so many times that we became tired of it!" We were not liberated on the 19th, but on the 22nd a friend of us came to visit. We didn't recognize him, he was rather old. In front of us we see a young man who takes my hand and: "Let's go to the square! Do you hear bells?" I didn't. I heard them when [unclear] through the window. And we went to the square, we ran—to be more precise. The square in front of the church—Gothic church of the 12 century—was filled with people. It was . . .
  • David Boder: 1944?
  • Fira Monk: 1944, August 22nd.On August 15, 1944, French and American troops landed in southern France and within two weeks captured Marseille and Nice. They then began a rapid advance up the Rhone valley. In southwestern and central France, the Resistance (also referred to as the Maquis) itself brought about liberation as the Germans fled.39 There was a mass of people. Everybody was crying, kissing each other. I was attacked by some strangers who started to kiss me. I have never seen them in my life. Later I found out who they were. Some brave man climbed the bell tower with a three-colored flag. And when this three-colored flag started to fly in the air, and when French went on their knees and started to sing "Marseillaise" then I understood that [unclear] France, that all these horrors [unclear] of this old little town. It was exceptionally beautiful. And first of all, another interesting moment. It was a rather gray morning. And when the militia was walking—and this is not literature—the sky turned blue and sun started to shine. [Pause] It was so wonderful! And two hours later first American tanks appeared. Appeared these boys in these furry helmets with some leaves and grasses sticking out of them; they asked: "[In English] Where are the Germans? We haven't seen one since [unclear]!" [Unclear] "German? No, they run in from of us." We all climbed on tanks. We kissed and hugged those tanks and those boys. We were happy. We were thankful to them as never before. Then there was a little moment when it was reported that Germans will . . . hmm . . . come to Voiron; that they are retreating from Grenoble to Voiron. Everybody ran away. But the three-colored flag was flying from the church and all the windows. In half an hour panic settled down, and we visited coffee shops and hugged and kissed all the American soldiers. We offered them vodka, we didn't know what to do with them. We were drunk from happiness. They—drunk as well.
  • David Boder: [Unclear, very soft]
  • Fira Monk: All of them. They escaped at breakneck pace. Our friends who lived in Voiron . . . in Grenoble told us that on the 21st at night they heard some strange noise. And they understood that everything is well. It was Germans who rushed to pack their belongings. And not saying a word they started to run! [Unclear] In the morning when the people got up and came outside there was not a single German left. Americans hasn't arrived yet, but there were no Germans any more.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: And only maquis ruled there. But there was fire everywhere, of course. There were very many victims.
  • David Boder: Maquis?
  • Fira Monk: Yes. Very . . . too many. [Pause] But earlier there were moments when . . .
  • David Boder: But what about the war . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: The war hasn't ended yet. Paris was liberated on August 25th, then the war ended.
  • David Boder: August of 1944?
  • Fira Monk: . . . 1944. But the war continued . . . 1944!
  • David Boder: But of course.
  • Fira Monk: But the war was . . . France didn't have the war any more. The war continued in the north and other countries.By October 1944 most of France had indeed been liberated, but bitter fighting—in which the western Allies, including free French forces under General de Gaulle, took part—continued.40
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: The cease-fire was signed only on May 8, 1945. But at that time I was in Toulouse already. I was sent there by the management to open a new . . . our old center closed by the Germans which was emptied by the Germans. I was in Toulouse then. And there I saw that our little Voiron can celebrate victory even better than big university towns. More sincerely [says with laughter].
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: [Unclear]
  • David Boder: Now. Tell me [pause] . . . ahh . . . tell me: You have taken interviews with very many displaced persons [says in English]—displaced persons, so to speak, [unclear] right after the war—something I didn't manage to do.
  • Fira Monk: Yes. I . . .
  • David Boder: Give me some moments or a picture . . . better to say pictures of separate cases which you think it is especially important or interesting to record.
  • Fira Monk: I'll tell you that there were very many . . . I have worked in Toulouse in [says the name of the organization in French]—it was a center . . . receiving center for returning deportees and prisoners of war. And there I had a chance to talk to many people. Ahh . . . unfortunately, there were very few deported Jews. I have found only 10 people. But later my office visited various young people who didn't return to [unclear] Toulouse but through other cities and wanted to find job with us. And so with some of them . . . for example, there was . . .
  • David Boder: Please tell me something about non-Jews as well. Who were these [unclear]?
  • Fira Monk: Ah! I'll tell you now. Non-Jews were exclusi . . . almost all—99%, one can say—political. They were communists, socialists and members of the Resistance. These are underground workers. I can only speak of Voiron with certainty because it was town where I have lived . . . from 1942 to 1944—the most difficult moments. There was a hotel—Tardy. Ahh . . . its owners had two sons. Both of them were members of the Resistance. Charming young, well, young—one was thirty-nine and the other thirty-six years old. They were taken. One beautiful night they were picked up, deported and nobody knew anything of them. Later we've learned that they have died in Buchenwald. So all those who . . . ahh . . . secretary of the commissariat was arrested as I already told you, and deported. Second one . . . this . . . Engels . . . what is it called [unclear] . . . [Pause]. Many of them were [unclear, noises] deported and shot. He was shot in Grenoble. Many many young people were sent to the forced labor.
  • David Boder: French?
  • Fira Monk: French. But you know that they have sent there an endless number of the French youth, and those who managed to escape joined maquis. At the beginning when they were sent they thought that they will work there, receive some money [unclear] will have 2 thousand francs a months—that will be good. But they will finance as every self-respecting French man. When, however, it turned out that they live just like all the Jews in the same place and same horrible conditions, in other words they let pass Jews first, and then they let pass non-Jews. There was no difference whatsoever. I talked to a young girl who returned from . . . from Auschwitz . . . later she stayed in several other camps. For two months she has been there in brothel.There was a brothel in Auschwitz and in several other camps staffed by non-Jewish women to provide sex to selected non-Jewish prisoners in a misguided effort to stimulate prisoner productivity by rewarding certain inmates with visits to the brothel. The brothels in Auschwitz and in other camps are discussed in Das KZ-Bordell: Sexuelle Zwangsarbeit in Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslagern (Robert Sommer, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2009). According to this carefully researched work, there were no Jewish women in concentration camp brothels.41 She told me that absolutely directly. She . . .
  • David Boder: What for?
  • Fira Monk: [Unclear] You know I don't ask these people questions. I . . . I let them talk as I don't want that they think I am curious. That would be a sick curiosity to ask them. [Unclear, very soft] So one of them told me: "I don't know how you will look at me. I spent two months in brothel. And I only survived because a young German fell in love with me". Every quarter of an hour she had another German, and quarter of an hour to rest. If a German stayed longer than 5 min. there was a knock on the door.
  • David Boder: Well, let's clarify this. When I asked about it in . . . Buchenwald I was told that it was allowed in Buchenwald and that all the prostitutes there were non-Jews as Germans consider it Rassenschande.
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: So how did this Jewish girl happen to be in a brothel?
  • Fira Monk: I agree with you. I don't know. I only can tell you what this girl told me.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: I was told by another girl that many, even Jewish girls thought that they will be able to survive while being in brothels.It is possible that these women disguised their identity and worked in brothels for Wehrmacht soldiers. There were hundreds of such brothels all over Europe. Unfortunately, there were those in France who assumed (out of ignorance or anti-Semitic motives) that all Jews who returned from camps had done something dishonorable in order to survive. Survivors had to counter accusations that women had served in brothels and men had been cruel capos or informers.42
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: But unfortunately it was not the case. There they could work only for three months. After three months almost all of them would get sick. Then they were shot. I read a letter that came from some camp I don't remember which one. And that letter was later published in one underground newspaper [says the name in French]. And the girl—this Polish partisan . . .
  • David Boder: What was the newspaper called?
  • Fira Monk: [Repeats in French] "Christian evidence."
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: And this girl wrote to her mother in Nice: "Mother, I serve as a mattress for the German soldiers. I work for a third month already. I am sick. I know that I'll be shot. This is my last letter." I saw this letter myself.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And the fact that they don't want to talk about it is absolutely normal, because we don't want to [unclear] one more time. And if they don't tell you [unclear] that it didn't happen there. I can only repeat what they have told me. A young man of 26 years of age came to visit me. He told me: "Madam, I don't know how you'll look at me. I saved my life only because I was [unclear]."
  • David Boder: Woman?
  • Fira Monk: Man!
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Young boy, he was 26 years old.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: He arrived absolutely [unclear] in physical and mental [unclear]. And he was pleading with me: "What should I do? I want to become normal again, I am followed by it." I told him that I can't accuse him. On the contrary! I prefer that he saved his life in such a manner rather than . . . ahh . . . by doing some other ugly deeds.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And I send him to Toulouse to a psychiatrist and he has been treated there. In the end he recovered. I received a letter from him when for the first time he started to court a lady [unclear].
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And then a girl told me that she saw a woman who was subjected to some experiments. A doctor I know . . . ahh . . . who spent several years in those camps,—no, two years he spent there,—observed experiments there when they took an arm and nailed it to the head. When they injected . . .
  • David Boder: They did what with an arm?
  • Fira Monk: Arm was nailed to the head or the back.
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Fira Monk: Because they could do it!
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Because you tear a right paw, but the human is alive. He saw women who received an injection of . . . of the sperm from different animal. He saw a woman who was injected with the sperm of . . . ahh . . . a horse and who was bloated as a barrel and who . . . literally exploded.
  • David Boder: So. She was injected with . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: She was injected with the sperm, they did . . . ahh . . . artificial insemination.
  • David Boder: But how did she bloated? She couldn't have gotten pregnant . . .
  • Fira Monk: She couldn't conceive. But the conditions were normal. They went in there and [unclear]. I'll tell you the following: I'll tell you what they did. It happened in Nice. In one Jewish family there they have arrested 4 people, and there was a little girl. A girl of 12 years of age. Not Jewish, no. Little French. And she returned three days later. They asked her: "So, how? How are you? What did they do to you?" She says: "Nothing. They didn't do anything to me." But the parents called a doctor who noticed a little injection site on her right hand. He asked: "What is it?" She said: "I don't know anything. They gave me an injection."
  • David Boder: How old was the girl?
  • Fira Monk: 12. Two days later she died. [Pause] They injected her—my friend doctor told me, I don't know if it's true,—that it's unclear, what [unclear, noises] . . .
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 112. The interviewee is Fira Monk [unclear, technical tape disruption]. Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  • David Boder: This is apparently Spool 9-113, 9-dash-1-1-3 [pronounces separately]. The original identification as Spool 114 is apparently incorrect. Boder, Chicago. October, 1950.
  • David Boder: This is Spool 114. Paris, September the 7th, 1946. We continue from Spool 111 and 112. The interviewee is Ms. Fira Monk, an executive secretary . . . ah . . . of the Paris office of the ORT.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Fira, tell me the following. So you were telling me about the famous cases which . . . or famous stories that you have heard from the returning deportees who you have interviewed. Ahh . . . do you have some more?
  • Fira Monk: I told . . . I have very many stories but I promised those people not to tell them.
  • David Boder: But you don't mention the names!
  • Fira Monk: I don't know. You see I have such a [unclear] that I promised . . . it's difficult to say. I can tell you one thing though: All those people always return to the same theme. That it was horrible, that it was in such a way that no human fantasy can imagine. They went to sleep with a neighbor. At night it happened that your neighbor got cold and in the morning his body started to decay. But you didn't pay any attention to . . . to him. And continued to sleep next to him. Because his bread portion was still distributed. And at that time people were fighting for a piece of bread. I talked to a boy. He is 16 year old. He told me: "Listen, my hands are covered in blood. And this is a policemen blood of the Germans, there is Jewish blood on them. I killed people for a piece of bread. I killed people for some extra clothing." I told him: "I can not judge you as I don't know how I would have behaved in your place. You have to forget about it." He says: "No, I shouldn't forget. [Unclear] I have to remember." [Unclear] these horrible accounts. I believe you have heard enough of them.The accounts of pseudoscientific medical experiments and death of bunkmates during the night were among the horrors that occurred in Nazi concentration camps. Monk perhaps saw it as her moral duty to remember these stories and through the interview has passed these memories down to us.43 There are people, however, who forget. [Unclear]
  • David Boder: I would like your opinion on the following. I think that women were not always honest with me. I have such principles. I believe that they were more open and honest with you.
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: But from the other side it is extremely important that these facts were recorded not because . . . ahh . . . as in science it's acceptable to believe anything . . . but they can serve as pointers or . . . ahh . . . so to speak . . . give directions for further research.
  • Fira Monk: I understand. I'll tell you that the majority of women whom I have interviewed were mostly young women. They all told me: "We have not returned in the same condition we left." In other words they apparently all—despite the Rassenschande, despite the prohibited relationships with the Jewish women . . . but at the beginning before their hair was shaved so they would lose any human appearance, they still were those young pretty girls who were taken away. I understand that up to a certain point they all were used by Germans and then when they . . . if they didn't get sick or if they have passed a certain experience they turned into the same baggage animals, into the same slaves. These were camps like [unclear] where women worked and they worked like cattle. They—old prisoners told—they had such a stench, they had parasites on them and nobody even looked at them, nobody could approach them. So I don't think that such a woman could seduce even the most naive German soldier.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: But I think that bigger . . . the most . . . the bigger percentage of the young women still went exactly through that kind of humiliation. Because all of them told me: "I have this disease, I have that disease." I sent them to the doctors, I visited doctors with them. And mostly those were sexually transmitted diseases.
  • David Boder: From the other side I believe that the Germans were extremely careful about their soldiers not having sexually transmitted diseases?!
  • Fira Monk: Yes. Every two days they . . . the women from those houses . . . they were checked by a doctor. There they had excellent hygiene conditions. There was water, and after that a German would be given a clean towel. Clean water was not given. Everybody knew that in spite the towel one could get infected through water. And every soldier before he visited a woman received a special pill.
  • David Boder: What pill?
  • Fira Monk: I don't know.
  • David Boder: Do you mean medical . . .
  • Fira Monk: Yes, yes, yes. Something preventative . . .
  • David Boder: Aha, preventative.
  • Fira Monk: Yes. But [unclear] very difficult. Even with me these women . . . they get closed somehow. I . . . I am telling you that I didn't ask them. But the topic would come up I told them: "Tell me as if you are confessing. Consider me your sister, your mother if they were younger than me. Talk to me, so it will become easier for you. Sometimes when you cry it becomes easier." And some of them told [unclear] one of them told me everything is roughly the same: [Unclear] "one soldier, other held", "four soldiers [held] by the hands and feet", "next to him was a machine gun", "12 people all together." Many were raped already after. Unfortunately . . .
  • David Boder: After . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: After events in Nice. Even by Americans, English and Russians. Women told me about it. I think I can believe them. During the war even humans acquire appearance and habit of an animal. I was told that one young French woman—she was deported due to her political views—and when she was liberated, Russians set her free, she was raped by 25 people. [Pause] She was in Toulouse. Later she was sent to the hospital. [Unclear] sent her to the hospital and I was told—I haven't seen it myself—that she had to have some surgeries, everything had to be cut out. She [unclear] Men too, in general, it's more difficult with the men. You know how it goes. But what shocked me most was that at the camps there were cases of child births. But if a woman . . . if children were born Germans would order to strangulate them, of course.
  • David Boder: Well, maybe these children were born from women who got pregnant earlier?
  • Fira Monk: Yes. But for a while they didn't deport pregnant women. They were hidden . . .
  • David Boder: But they could have not known [unclear] . . .
  • Fira Monk: No, many women even tried to fake that they are pregnant. [Pause] But there were cases when women who already spent two years in camp gave birth to a child. And this child was immediately murdered. Some of them, very little percentage managed to save their babies. I know one woman who left not pregnant but came back with a child. I couldn't understand how did she become pregnant in the first place. I simply asked her in the end: "Tell me, please, how if men . . . male and female camps were places so far from each other how did they manage to get to each other." She smiled and said: "You know when you love somebody then there are no barriers." It turned out that she had a man there with whom she came back.Women who saved babies or became pregnant could have been in slave labor camps.44
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: But I can't understand until today [unclear]. But others . . . I . . . first of all there they . . . I think that they couldn't get pregnant just because they immediately . . . they immediately stopped menstruating.
  • David Boder: How . . . I have heard about it.
  • Fira Monk: Yes. I'll tell you now.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Fira Monk: Even in the camp Gurs when . . .
  • David Boder: What camp?
  • Fira Monk: Gurs. It's in the south of France, next to the Spanish border. They brought women there—Austrian, German, Polish. Starting from 1939 already.Gurs, located some fifty miles from the Spanish border in southern France, was the first (April 1939) and one of the largest detention camps established on French soil. Those first incarcerated there were Spanish republican soldiers who crossed the French border after the victory of Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War.45
  • David Boder: Non-Jews?
  • Fira Monk: Non-Jews and Jews. It was a general camp although when it was liberated there were some Jew remaining.Some 6,000 Jews were deported from Gurs by way of Drancy to Auschwitz and Sobibor. Only a handful of Jews were left when the camp was liberated in the summer of 1944. Nearly 1,200 Jews died there.46
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: And so first of all women stopped menstruating. I worked then with the OZE as a secretary of ORT [unclear]. And we decided to send them various medicines and of course a big quantity of sanitary [unclear] and cotton wool. And one friend answered: "Don't send it. I don't need anything at all, everything is here." I am afraid that this is some sort of nervous connection or malnutrition. But I was told by a girl who returned from a deportation that when she arrived she was given to drink some white liquid.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Another told me that she was given some red liquid to drink. [Pause] And yet another woman said that she was given an injection into the leg.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And the blood would immediately stop.
  • David Boder: But it can't be immediately?!
  • Fira Monk: In other words they didn't have anything during the month already.
  • David Boder: And? Was it a permanent condition?
  • Fira Monk: No. Ahh . . . almost all of them menstruate again. Some better, others worse but majority . . . everyone who I asked several months after they returned told me that they became normal women again.
  • David Boder: In other words . . . they didn't have menstruation at camps?
  • Fira Monk: In none.
  • David Boder: Then it may be . . .
  • Fira Monk: I believe . . .
  • David Boder: . . . water, there are hungry . . .
  • Fira Monk: From hunger. It can be from hunger, maybe due to these terrible conditions, this cold—everything is possible. That they were given these . . . ahh . . . various liquids to drink or injected—I don't know what it is. One can say . . . they were simple women [unclear] from a Jewish ghetto. Young [women] who don't know anything at all in regards to what's happening to them. I couldn't get any information [unclear] I managed to talk to some doctors later on and I doubt that any normal reasonable doctor could find out what they were given. I still didn't know. But in any case they . . . [unclear] they don't want to talk. They [unclear] . . . one student in our school told me. She says: "I still can not understand how I survived though all of it . . . " She is 19 years old, she has been deported for 6 years. She was in Auschwitz, she was in Mauthausen, she was in [unclear]. In short she went thought the full circle. She is unbelievably [unclear]. She weighs I believe 85kg. And this is absolutely unnatural weight. And she told me: "I can not understand how I survived . . . after everything that I went through". I told her: "Tell me, did Germans touch you? Did they do something to you? Because if they raped you I'll go to the doctor with you, you'll be cured." And she says: "I don't even want to talk about it." [Unclear] Yes or no? I . . . if something had happened to her . . . she doesn't want to tell me about it, I don't' know. [Pause]
  • David Boder: Tell us . . . tell me about . . . you were telling about the son of some Zionist who [unclear]. Who is that?
  • Fira Monk: It's Greenbaum.
  • David Boder: Greenbaum. What do you know?
  • Fira Monk: I know only what I was told. He was deported as a communist. He always argued with his father about political issues. His father—famous active Zionist. He . . .
  • David Boder: His father is in Palestine?
  • Fira Monk: His father is in Palestine. He is in prison, arrested by the English.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And son is here in prison, arrested by the French authorities.
  • David Boder: So. As who?
  • Fira Monk: As a scumbag as he returned from deportation, was deported. His father was some sort of a boss. When he returned his father was happy. And it happened here in some office I don't even know exactly which one. But this young man came to his father and the happiness was great. There were two gentlemen who returned from deportation. When they saw the young Greenbaum they attacked him and beat him up as a dog and said that he is a scumbag. It turned out that he was capo. capo—it's like a manager.
  • David Boder: Well, yes. But there were many capos!
  • Fira Monk: There were many capo. But there were different capo. I heard an interesting story that there were three capos. Dutchman, Frenchman and a Jew. German Jew. And—unfortunately it's quite awkward for me to talk about it but it's necessary—and due to some [unclear] a little ring happened to be there. Then all the women of the camp were subjected to the gynecological examination. These three capos conducted the examination.
  • David Boder: These were women-capo?
  • Fira Monk: No, these were three men.
  • David Boder: Ah, these three . . . three men were examining . . .
  • Fira Monk: . . . examining women. Arrested women. And French and Belgian didn't find anything but [the German] Jew pulled out a ring.It is difficult to determine the accuracy of this story. The ring was a hidden valuable pulled out during the so-called gynecological examination.47
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: Then he was ordered to examine the rest of them. I don't know whether he pulled out other things as well or not, I wasn't told about that. And this was observed by a Frenchman who returned. And then [unclear]. He was offered a cigarette, a piece of chocolate. He rose in [unclear]. Belgian was killed. How? Frenchman said [unclear] that there were such scars that it was impossible to look at them.
  • David Boder: It was one of these capos?
  • Fira Monk: One of these capos.
  • David Boder: Well, yes.
  • Fira Monk: Well. I saw Spanish. A very big number of Spanish socialists was deported. Those who managed to escape the fascists Spain during the war were interned here, in the south of France in various camps. And then they all together were sent [away]. And so one of them—this happened at the train station with . . . hmm . . . at the receiving station in Toulouse—he took off his shirt, took off his pants and showed me his body. On his chest there was a scar three fingers wide and one and a half finger deep. Here he was hit by a shovel. On his back there was a hole in which one could place a little finger, it stretched to the ribs. Here he was hit by a pick. He had 12 gunshot wounds, or more—I don't even know. He didn't have any live place on his body. And this happened because as a communist he was at a camp where there were prisoners [unclear]—and there he was hit by a shovel, pick, machine gun and anything else you want. He miraculously survived. I was told about a woman who was deported and who survived. She survived in the following way: She was first pushed into a gas chamber, the rest was pushed behind her. She fell down when the gas started. And other dead bodies covered her. And when they started to clean up she was unconscious but alive. This woman is here now.There is one recorded incident of such an occurrence in an Auschwitz gas chamber. However, the young woman who survived the gas was shot soon after.48 There the most unusual things happened. So I was talk about a woman—she was from Toulouse [unclear]. She was taken away with an 8 month old baby. She came back with the 17 months old baby. How she manages to save him even she doesn't understand. She kept him in the garbage, under her skirt and she fed him anything you want. She fed him this horrible pardon my language soup. It was water, dishwater with several leaves in it. Some boys told me that one of them and to take care of the dogs. You know there were those special trained dogs. And one of these dogs almost dies of hunger when she ate that soup. He gave her his soup. I talked to a young man. His fake name was Jeber. [Unclear] "I don't want to [unclear] with the dogs." "Such a nice little dog." He said: "I can't see any dogs." I asked: "Why?" He said: "After I saw with my own eyes how a dog tore apart two children and you want that I'll ever again touch a dog?!" I told him: "[Unclear] specially trained dogs!" And he: "It doesn't matter. However long the dog is trained . . . " I told him: "So you can't look at the people as well? [Unclear]" But he said: "People—[unclear]." [Lengthy pause] But those who came back here . . . I'll tell you that all of them are mutilated for life. A manager of an orphanage in [unclear] told me that at night they have nightmares.
  • David Boder: Children?
  • Fira Monk: Yes, children. They cry, they need to be given bromine, they have such . . . ahh . . . rebellious attacks—protest attacks. Suddenly they don't want to do something. Once I came to the orphanage to ask for a little athletic [unclear]. So I came to them and asked them to do a little performance for our students. I told them: "Gentlemen, on Saturday we have a little concert. You are our dear guests. I would truly appreciate it if you could recite some poem for us, dance for us." "No, we don't want to." "You know that I came here from Paris to ask you about it." "No, we don't want to. Not in million years. What is it? What orders? Where are there some orders?" "Please." I was there with a colleague of mine [unclear]. I told him: "Listen [unclear] maybe you should talk to them, as a brother to a brother." He went. He said: "Why do you have to [unclear]? She specially came from Paris. [Unclear] Why do you behave like this?" There was a terrible noise. What happened there, I got a feeling that they could kill him. Suddenly in five minutes, out of the blue [unclear] it passed; they approached me, they hugged me, they kissed me. They came on Saturday. We had one of the best evenings in our club. They were amazing: They sang, they danced, they improvised. And everybody was happy—both the performers and . . . ahh . . . the audience. So [unclear]. Even now they live in horrible conditions. Jewish organizations do everything they want but unfortunately there is no cleanliness. There is a house here where they live. It is unimaginably dirty. So they told me: "We left one camp for the other." There were more bedbugs than . . . hmm . . . happiness.
  • David Boder: Where is it? At . . .
  • Fira Monk: Rue de Rudi [says the name of the street in French]. I shouldn't tell you because [says with a smile] . . .
  • David Boder: Well, yes. Yes [unclear]. So for example I visited an orphanage here at . . . it doesn't matter for you where . . .
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . they live there just as they lived in Buchenwald. Isn't it possible to get the bed sheets somehow . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: We can't have bed sheets and I'll tell you why. Here everything is sold with points. On the black market it's extremely expensive. We have to pay 3-4 thousand francs for a bed sheet.
  • David Boder: And . . . can you order them in the US?
  • Fira Monk: We'll have the same bed sheet from the US. What we are sent from the US is a shame!
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: We were in line at a committee. We have received . . . ORT received . . .
  • David Boder: What committee?
  • Fira Monk: Committee [says the name in French]—it's an international help committee for displaced persons.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: We have received two [unclear] of clothing. These were already sorted clothes. I spent one and a half months sorting out these sorted clothes. I was bit by the fleas all over. My colleague refused to help me. She said she couldn't breathe because of the smell. I covered my nose . . .
  • David Boder: From the U.S.?!
  • Fira Monk: From the U.S.
  • David Boder: We, for example . . . when we donate clothes we are told: "Give us everything. All of it will be disinfected, cleaned and so on."
  • Fira Monk: Well. Yes. But those cloths were in such a condition that there were stains: from sweat, from menstruation, from restroom, from whatever you want. All that needed to be [unclear]. Besides [clear] were in the most disgusting way. If I selected 200 dresses from those two [unclear] so it was too much. Clothes . . .
  • David Boder: Women's clothes?
  • Fira Monk: Women's. There was hardly anything for the men at all. I have to give away half of the things, but why half?! 95% of these clothes I gave to our course of tailors so they could learn how to create pant pockets. Because from all of it . . . from a pair of pants one managed to get a pocket! This was a mess! And it was collected by all American societies. Gift [unclear] and so on. It would be better if they sent less [unclear] but more clothing.
  • David Boder: But here there were military cloths? Soldier clothing? Couldn't you get those?
  • Fira Monk: Ahh . . . Federation receives several times some clothes that were more or less decent. They say it came from Argentina. Especially they had some good boots. I dressed several of our young people who were absolutely naked in those clothes.
  • David Boder: What Federation is it?
  • Fira Monk: Federation of the Jewish organizations of France.At the end of the war, the UGIF, which had functioned as the representative body of French Jewry during the Occupation, was dissolved. Monk might be referring to the Jewish Committee for Social Action and Reconstruction which clothed, fed and housed thousands of Holocaust survivors.49
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: It's performed an amazing job during the occupation. And . . . then . . . when deportees returned here—if there were deported from France at the office they would get 8 thousands francs in cash and besides there were given a suite, two changes of underwear and a pair of shoes.
  • David Boder: Who received these 8 thousands francs—French or everybody . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: Only those who were deported from France.
  • David Boder: Those received 8 thousands francs and . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: 8 thousands francs in cash, . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Fira Monk: . . . a suite, pair of shoes and two changes of underwear.
  • David Boder: 8 thousands francs in cash according to the most official exchange rate—it's about 70 dollars.
  • Fira Monk: 70 dollars.
  • David Boder: So. And a pair of what?
  • Fira Monk: And . . . a pair of . . . suite, . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Fira Monk: . . . a pair of shoes, . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Fira Monk: . . . and two changes of underwear.
  • David Boder: Yes. And these were what? New things?
  • Fira Monk: Yes, absolutely new. They received special coupons. They could use them at the stores. I even know of such a case: A woman returned from RavensbrückRavensbrück was the only Nazi concentration camp for women. It was also a training center for female SS guards and a site for gruesome pseudoscientific medical experiments.50 . . .
  • David Boder: In other words they didn't have to pay for those things?
  • Fira Monk: What do you mean? No, they didn't pay. They received [unclear] and they had an access to a free medical care for 3 months. They received 15 cans of condensed milk a month, received double . . . these . . . [unclear] cards, food cards. They had it good: Instead of 350 grams of bread they had 700 grams.
  • David Boder: So it was for those who were deported from France?
  • Fira Monk: Double . . . double food cards were given to everyone. All received [unclear].
  • Fira Monk: So.
  • David Boder: But francs and . . .
  • Fira Monk: But francs . . . money were given only to those who were deported from France.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: They took, of course . . .
  • David Boder: So if . . . if for example a deportee who was deported from Poland returned . . .
  • Fira Monk: He didn't have it.
  • David Boder: But didn't have francs but he received increased food.
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: But he had to pay for the food he bought.
  • David Boder: Oh!
  • Fira Monk: But he had a double card.
  • David Boder: Double card, yes?
  • Fira Monk: Yes. Besides from the organization helping the deported they received instead of . . . hmm . . . they received a kilogram of sugar, 15 cans of condensed milk, some salad oil, and 500 grams butter.
  • David Boder: For free?
  • Fira Monk: For free. I even went to help a gentleman who couldn't carry heavy things. I carried all of it to his house—it was a very big and very heavy package.
  • David Boder: So. It was French government . . . ?
  • Fira Monk: It's French. It's ministry of [unclear] that gave them.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And as for the living conditions here I can't blame anybody as the housing crisis was big. Clothing crisis was even bigger. There were very few employment opportunities. And whatever people earned didn't correspond to the minimum cost of living. So I absolutely can't blame all the organizations that have so many people on their neck [unclear] that a person need at least 8 thousand francs a month for him to live more or less decent but the organization can give a maximum of 2 thousands—it's the biggest [unclear]. So do as you please. And not everybody is capable of working. One has to take into the consideration that they came back in a horrible physical condition.
  • David Boder: Ahh . . . Fira, tell us, please what do you think will happen with all these people at ORT and all the other organizations—children and such?
  • Fira Monk: I'll tell you. ORT—is the only organization that doesn't raise . . . these . . . hmm . . . beggars. We give them a chance to work and an opportunity to earn. We give them an occupation. I think that this is the most valuable baggage that you can give to a young person. Unfortunately until now very many of them—and the emphasis is on until now because I truly hope that it will change with time—until now they tend to believe that it is not necessary to work. And it's absolutely normal. These people are thrown off their stride. They were taken away at the age of 14-15 years. They lived in inhuman conditions. They were forced to work. They worked too hard for nothing. And now when they are told: "You have to learn some trade so you can work," their first reaction is: "What?! Work?! We have worked enough. Others have to work for us now." But gradually it will get straightened out. We give them everything that we only can. We give them love, care, we give them [unclear]. Our teachers treat each of our student as their own child. We call them our children. We love them, we sincerely love them. We care for them not only from the educational aspect but also from a physical and moral point of view. Children learn to love this home. We create some entertainment for them—we have a club. They go out, they do sports. We teach them to read, we teach them various languages. And slowly these children get pulled into this normal life. I call them all children as I believe that they lost so many years, so much time—they remain at the same level as they were when they left. There is a boy who . . . or a girl . . . who was taken away at 14 years of age and who didn't acquire anything but bad for the last 5 years. Germans did everything they could to destroy in them any human resemblance. And now when we see that children are changing, that they start to love their trade . . . We have a boy. He constructed a mechanism. It's . . .
  • David Boder: What mechanism?
  • Fira Monk: It's . . . it's a radio.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Fira Monk: And this mechanism was shown at an exhibition. We couldn't give it back to him yet. He came and asked for permission to come every Sunday and listen to his radio. And clearly we gave him this permission. Our janitor gave him a key, he entered the radio workshop, he sat down, he closed the windows and listened to his own radio.
  • David Boder: So tell us: Where would these boys want to work in France? How are things with these . . . work permits for immigrants?
  • Fira Monk: A work permit is received in the following way. When a foreigner wants to have a job his patron has to give him a certificate that he will employ him on such and such conditions. One goes with this certificate to the Ministry of Labor. The ministry sends a man who makes a report in regards to the . . .
  • David Boder: Research?
  • Fira Monk: Research. . . . truthfulness of the case and in 98% the permit is granted. Now there are special favorable conditions specifically for the displaced persons. The day before yesterday I heard the following news. That France agreed to accept as many foreign displaced persons as were taken from here, 120 thousands people. [Pause]
  • David Boder: What do you mean? As many people as were taken away?
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: This was the number of displaced persons that were taken away?
  • Fira Monk: As many people.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Fira Monk: In other words 90 thousands displaced persons were taken away, and 30 thousands French Jews.
  • David Boder: So, 30 thousands. Tell me, how many Jews remain in France? Contrary to the numbers given here, some 78,000 Jews in France perished during the Holocaust of the approximately 350,000 Jews in the country in June 1940. More than half of these were not French citizens; among them were an estimated 50,000 central European refugees who had come to France from 1933-39 and approximately 50,000 who had fled from Belgium in the wake of the German invasion in May 1940.51
  • Fira Monk: 14 thousands if I am not mistaken. I am not quite sure.
  • David Boder: [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: Yes.
  • David Boder: So. Tell us, from those Frenchmen who were taken to Germany to work only 120 thousands didn't come back?!
  • Fira Monk: No! They took 120 thousands Jews.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And they took about half a million Frenchmen.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And 6 thousands Jews came back. From 6 thousands children taken away only 60 came back, and from 120 thousands adults 6 thousands returned. And Frenchmen were taken to perform forced labor.The greatest single action against Jewish children in France came during the infamous July 1942 round-up and deportation of Jews in Paris. Of the 3,500 children deported to Auschwitz on August 7, 1942, none returned. As has been indicated above, approximately 700,000 Frenchmen worked in Germany as forced laborers during the war.52
  • David Boder: [Unclear] And French are ready to accept 100 thousands Jews now?!
  • Fira Monk: Yes, 120 thousands.
  • David Boder: 120 thousands Jews?
  • Fira Monk: Displaced persons. Jewish displaced persons.
  • David Boder: From Jews?
  • Fira Monk: Yes, Jewish displaced persons.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: It was told . . . I hope that this is true. I don't really know. In fact, roughly 35,000 Jewish refugees came to France in the first three years after the war. When added to the already existing French Jewish population, this influx helped to make the French Jewish community the largest in continental Europe.53
  • David Boder: This is roughly a number of Jews who are now [unclear] in Palestine?At the time, there were about half a million Jews in Palestine.54
  • Fira Monk: Yes. I don't know, I am afraid to talk about it. I was told about it. One of these days I want to visit one . . .
  • David Boder: So is this a rumor?
  • Fira Monk: It's not a rumor. This news was given to me by a men who very often provided me with the most accurate information.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: One of these days I want to visit a gentleman from the ministry and I would like to ask him whether it's true or not. Because it would have been very interesting. ORT would have had a big and interesting work as the majority of them need [unclear, very soft].
  • David Boder: So it means they'll let them in? It's not the same if it was temporary. They will be allowed to live and to work here.
  • Fira Monk: Yes, they'll be able to live here. Those who would like to emigrate to Palestine or the US—clearly France wouldn't hinder them if those countries won't keep them. So. In France they live freely. You can do what you want.
  • David Boder: So. In other words a person who stays in France temporarily can work here?
  • Fira Monk: Now . . . now if a displaced person—either deported, or the one who remained from Poland or other countries—comes here as a [unclear] to the US, for instance.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And he has to wait for 6 months.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: In such a case he'll apply for a temporary work permit.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: And he'll receive it. Yesterday in my office I met a gentleman who wants to learn how to make bags. And to do so he as well needs . . . because in ORT he has to have a work permit. Because he . . .
  • David Boder: You mean that while he is studying he needs to have a work permit?
  • Fira Monk: Yes, yes, yes, because he is an adult. And he can't be mistaken for the apprentice [unclear].
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: He has to have a work permit as his employer has to pay him.
  • David Boder: So.
  • Fira Monk: So it won't look like he is using the generosity of the French government.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Fira Monk: And the employer will give him a certificate that he is learning his trade and receives for it a half payment. And he receives [unclear] a work permit [unclear].
  • David Boder: Now tell us, please, what [unclear] the union thinks of these displaced persons and help for them?
  • Fira Monk: They support them in any way they can. They try to find for them job, they protect them, they protect their interests. They put a lot of effort just to make sure that those people forget about all the horrors they went through.
  • David Boder: What? There is no unemployment in France at this time? These strangers compete with them?
  • Fira Monk: I'll tell you that there are branches with no vacancies . . . no unemployment. But there are other . . . ahh . . . French in general . . . such a serious unemployment as you understand it in the US, such an ideal . . . ideal unemployment—we don't have it here.
  • David Boder: Please answer one more question: What is this misunderstanding with the apartments at the moment?
  • Fira Monk: With apartments . . .
  • David Boder: With the apartments return to those who were deported?
  • Fira Monk: [Pause] This also relates a bit the area of anti-Semitism. Because the apartments that . . . where Jews used to live who were . . . or in general Jews who were deported . . . were taken by someone else while they were away. Now. Unfortunately there has been a law that states: if an apartment is occupied by a Frenchman and the returning person is a foreigner then the foreigner doesn't have a right to move the Frenchman out—Frenchman is in his own country, but the foreigner is just a guest.
  • David Boder: His guest?
  • Fira Monk: His . . .
  • David Boder: And the French Jews are given back their apartments?
  • Fira Monk: Yes, they are. Much more. Although I have a doctor friend. He is a French Jew. His apartment was occupied. He has been in Switzerland all the time. His apartment was occupied, his apartment is occupied, his apartment will be occupied, and he is living with some lady friend and can't find anything as one has to pay big money. It's the after war period [unclear].Life was indeed difficult insofar as housing and in other respects in the immediate post-war years in France and elsewhere in Europe.55
  • David Boder: What do you mean "pay big money?" [Unclear]
  • Fira Monk: No.
  • David Boder: There are no apartments?
  • Fira Monk: There are no apartments. Many houses are ruined. Very many displaced persons are still outside of France and they can't come back. [Unclear] a great number of houses is turned over to the military organizations including even yours, American.
  • David Boder: So. Well, Ms. Fira Monk, it was a very interesting report and I thinks that after we are done with the transcription . . . after we . . . ahh . . . take it, so to say, apart we'll have a lot of very . . . no, not you . . . a lot of very important material.
  • Fira Monk: Thank you.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the interview with Ms. Fira Monk, an executive secretary in the offices of ORT for a number of years . . . ahh . . . who passed the whole time of the crisis in France. We are having here a . . . first-hand information about several situations in France, and to some extent some data from some leads from people who she has interviewed. Paris, September the 7th, 1946. Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording. Thank you very much. [Pause]
  • Fira Monk: Thank you very much.
  • David Boder: Now is there anything you want to say in English to the Americans?
  • Fira Monk: I would like only to say that . . .
  • David Boder: From the people of the ORT?
  • Fira Monk: From the people of the ORT—a "Hello!"—I don't know we say it. [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Yes, well. What do you think should the Americans do for the ORT?
  • Fira Monk: Everything they can. And everything they should. They saw our work here and I hope that they liked it. And I hope they will continue to help us to do a better work.
  • David Boder: Do a better job?
  • Fira Monk: A better job, yes. [Unclear] we have too much happening [unclear, very soft voice]
  • David Boder: Adopt in what sense?
  • Fira Monk: To ah . . . their father and mother to take them home. If they can . . .
  • David Boder: To take them to America?
  • Fira Monk: To take them to America. To take them in their houses. And to give for them a real father and mother. I think it would be best [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: This concludes Spool 114 [incorrect, this is Spool 113]. I am reading in the sign of now [?] by checking the spool in Chicago. October, the 9th, 1950. The spool . . . this spool was somehow miscataloged and it had the name of Miss Kuechler. We'll check on the next spool and see whether Miss Kuechler starts on that one. Project MH156, Boder.
  1. Monk and her family were among the estimated 100,000 Jews of eastern European origin who had immigrated to France from the early twentieth century on. Nowhere in the interview is there a mention of her father or a husband.
  2. Many eastern European Jews who came to France during the inter-war period were left wing.
  3. "La Drole de Guerre," also called the "Phony War," was the period between the defeat of Poland in early October 1939 and the Nazi assault on Denmark and Norway on April 9, 1940, followed by their attack on Belgium and the Netherlands on May 10, 1940.
  4. Eighty-four-year-old Philippe Pétain, a World War I military hero ("the victor of Verdun") became head of state of the collaborationist Vichy regime following the June 1940 German defeat of France.
  5. Pierre Laval was the prime minister of the Vichy government from May 1942 until the liberation of France in August 1944. Despite his knowledge of the murderous Nazi "Final Solution," he fully supported the deportation of foreign and stateless Jews from France to extermination centers.
  6. The bloody Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was fought between the nationalist and fascist forces of headed by General Francisco Franco (1892-1975) and the Loyalists, who held a variety of anti-fascist political views. Aided by Germany and Italy, Franco's forces triumphed.
  7. The Social Democrats were democratic, moderate socialists, as distinct from the communists.
  8. Bilbao is the largest city in the Basque region in northern Spain.
  9. The Soviet Union supplied aid to the anti-fascist forces during the Spanish Civil War.
  10. The so-called "Free Zone" or unoccupied zone was the part of France controlled by the Vichy government following the French defeat by Germany in June 1940. Centered in the area south of the Loire River, it included about two-fifths of the country while the Germans controlled all of the northern part of France and the Atlantic coast.
  11. Beginning in the summer of 1942, deportations of Jews began to Nazi extermination centers began from both the occupied and unoccupied zones of France. The Vichy administration and the French police played a crucial role in the round-ups and deportations.
  12. The Germans occupied the Vichy-controlled zone of France on November 11, 1942 after the Allied landings in North Africa. The occupation did not occur when the United States entered the war in Europe, which took place on December 11, 1941 when Germany declared war on the United States four days after Pearl Harbor.
  13. The initial deportations in France targeted foreign and stateless Jews. The Vichy regime attempted to protect native French Jews from deportation.
  14. The closest internment camp to Marseille was Les Milles. It was opened in September 1939 after France's declaration of war on Germany for the detention of German and Austrian nationals.
  15. Among the activities of the OSE was the provision of social and medical assistance to those interned in camps in the Vichy zone.
  16. The Garde Mobile was a special unit of the French police. It conducted extensive searches for Jews for deportation.
  17. It was very difficult at the time to imagine the unimaginable.
  18. Rivesaltes was located in southwestern France not far from the city of Perpignan in a mosquito-infested region. The conditions in this internment camp were atrocious.
  19. Her relatives were most likely sent to Auschwitz, where because of their ages and infirmities they were immediately gassed.
  20. On June 22, 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in a surprise attack. Until then, Germany and the Soviet Union had been at peace. Prior to the invasion Soviet citizens were not arrested.
  21. Evidently at this time ORT was allowed to function by the Vichy regime, and her employment with ORT helped protect her.
  22. Eight provinces in mountainous southeastern France and on the French Riviera were under Italian influence following the defeat of France in June 1940. Once the Germans occupied the Italian zone in November 1942, these provinces came under direct Italian rule, including the city of Voiron, located northwest of Grenoble. The Italians sheltered thousands of Jews in their zone until September 1943 when it was taken over by the Germans.
  23. The Milice was a paramilitary unit of French fascist volunteers. It became notorious for barbarous acts against the French Resistance and the cold-blooded murder of prominent Jews.
  24. In other words, Rostislavski, an ORT official, did a great deal of valuable financial and propaganda work for the organization from neutral Switzerland, whose border he crossed from the Italian-controlled zone of France in January 1943.
  25. It is unclear when these battles took place.
  26. No town with this spelling has been located.
  27. In July 1943, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini fell from power, and on September 8, 1943, Italy switched sides in the war and signed an armistice with the Allies (not Nazi Germany). Following the armistice, the Germans occupied the Italian-controlled zone of France, and raids on Jews and members of the Resistance began.
  28. The "he" Madame Monk referred to concerning ORT's activities was Frankel, the head of the local ORT office.
  29. Some funds were no doubt smuggled to ORT from Switzerland. Some funds might also have been sent to ORT by the UGIF (Union Générale des Israélites de France), which was the overall national representative organization of French Jewry during the Occupation.
  30. As the war continued, Germany was increasingly faced with a shortage of labor. Some 700,000 Frenchmen were forced to work in Germany after being sent there by the Vichy government. They were among the millions from all over Europe taken into forced labor.
  31. This round-up occurred after the September 1943 take-over of the Italian zone by the Germans. Drancy was the infamous camp located in a suburb of Paris. It was the main transit camp for Jews in France to forced labor and to extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz. Some 65,000 Jews went to their deaths from Drancy. From July 2, 1943 to August 17, 1944, the camp was under the direct control of the SS, headed by Adolf Eichmann's deputy Alois Brunner, who made every effort to send as many Jews as possible to Auschwitz.
  32. The prefect was the chief Vichy administrative official in the district and resided in Grenoble.
  33. Monk is referring to Rabbi Schmierson. Unfortunately, the children he was attempting to hide were found by the fascist militia.
  34. The seven, among them a man of seventy, were tortured and killed in reprisal for the assassination of Jordal. Although the sympathetic French police linked to the Resistance took pictures of the massacre, they could not prevent it.
  35. In fact, Monk's grandmother arrived in Voiron from Nice, where she had been staying.
  36. This, of course, was the standard excuse given by the Nazis and their collaborators for the atrocious deeds they performed.
  37. Monk was referring to the June 6, 1944 D-Day landings by the Allies at Normandy, France, the great invasion of Western Europe.
  38. The German Sixth Army surrendered to the Russians, ending the epic battle of Stalingrad, the Germans' worst single defeat on the eastern front and the turning point in the war with the Soviet Union.
  39. On August 15, 1944, French and American troops landed in southern France and within two weeks captured Marseille and Nice. They then began a rapid advance up the Rhone valley. In southwestern and central France, the Resistance (also referred to as the Maquis) itself brought about liberation as the Germans fled.
  40. By October 1944 most of France had indeed been liberated, but bitter fighting—in which the western Allies, including free French forces under General de Gaulle, took part—continued.
  41. There was a brothel in Auschwitz and in several other camps staffed by non-Jewish women to provide sex to selected non-Jewish prisoners in a misguided effort to stimulate prisoner productivity by rewarding certain inmates with visits to the brothel. The brothels in Auschwitz and in other camps are discussed in Das KZ-Bordell: Sexuelle Zwangsarbeit in Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslagern (Robert Sommer, Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2009). According to this carefully researched work, there were no Jewish women in concentration camp brothels.
  42. It is possible that these women disguised their identity and worked in brothels for Wehrmacht soldiers. There were hundreds of such brothels all over Europe. Unfortunately, there were those in France who assumed (out of ignorance or anti-Semitic motives) that all Jews who returned from camps had done something dishonorable in order to survive. Survivors had to counter accusations that women had served in brothels and men had been cruel capos or informers.
  43. The accounts of pseudoscientific medical experiments and death of bunkmates during the night were among the horrors that occurred in Nazi concentration camps. Monk perhaps saw it as her moral duty to remember these stories and through the interview has passed these memories down to us.
  44. Women who saved babies or became pregnant could have been in slave labor camps.
  45. Gurs, located some fifty miles from the Spanish border in southern France, was the first (April 1939) and one of the largest detention camps established on French soil. Those first incarcerated there were Spanish republican soldiers who crossed the French border after the victory of Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War.
  46. Some 6,000 Jews were deported from Gurs by way of Drancy to Auschwitz and Sobibor. Only a handful of Jews were left when the camp was liberated in the summer of 1944. Nearly 1,200 Jews died there.
  47. It is difficult to determine the accuracy of this story. The ring was a hidden valuable pulled out during the so-called gynecological examination.
  48. There is one recorded incident of such an occurrence in an Auschwitz gas chamber. However, the young woman who survived the gas was shot soon after.
  49. At the end of the war, the UGIF, which had functioned as the representative body of French Jewry during the Occupation, was dissolved. Monk might be referring to the Jewish Committee for Social Action and Reconstruction which clothed, fed and housed thousands of Holocaust survivors.
  50. Ravensbrück was the only Nazi concentration camp for women. It was also a training center for female SS guards and a site for gruesome pseudoscientific medical experiments.
  51. Contrary to the numbers given here, some 78,000 Jews in France perished during the Holocaust of the approximately 350,000 Jews in the country in June 1940. More than half of these were not French citizens; among them were an estimated 50,000 central European refugees who had come to France from 1933-39 and approximately 50,000 who had fled from Belgium in the wake of the German invasion in May 1940.
  52. The greatest single action against Jewish children in France came during the infamous July 1942 round-up and deportation of Jews in Paris. Of the 3,500 children deported to Auschwitz on August 7, 1942, none returned. As has been indicated above, approximately 700,000 Frenchmen worked in Germany as forced laborers during the war.
  53. In fact, roughly 35,000 Jewish refugees came to France in the first three years after the war. When added to the already existing French Jewish population, this influx helped to make the French Jewish community the largest in continental Europe.
  54. At the time, there were about half a million Jews in Palestine.
  55. Life was indeed difficult insofar as housing and in other respects in the immediate post-war years in France and elsewhere in Europe.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Olga Collin
  • English Translation : Olga Collin
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz