David P. Boder Interviews Anna Paul; September 21, 1946; München, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] Munich, September the 21st, 1946, at Camp Lohengrin, a camp for Baltic DPs . . . ah . . . displaced persons. The interviewee is [pause] the interviewee is Ms. Anna Paul, a teacher, forty-five years old, who is alone here. Ah . . . she prefers to talk Russian.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] And so, Mrs. Paul, tell me, what is your name, where were you born, and where were you when the war started?
  • Anna Paul: My last name is Paul. My first name is Anna. I am forty-five years old and I was born in Tartu.
  • David Boder: And where is that?
  • Anna Paul: That is in Estonia. A large city in Estonia.
  • David Boder: What was its Russian name before?
  • Anna Paul: Yurief.
  • David Boder: Oh, Yurief, Dorpat.
  • Anna Paul: In Dorpat, yes.
  • David Boder: The university town.
  • Anna Paul: Yes, the university town. And I studied in the University of Yurief. I studied in the University of Yurief, then I graduated from the school of education in Tallinn, and I was working all the time.
  • David Boder: Where were you employed?
  • Anna Paul: At the school. I was the superintendent of a school.
  • David Boder: An elementary school?
  • Anna Paul: An elementary school. A six-grade elementary school. I worked in that capacity for eighteen years.
  • David Boder: Now beginning from the time, when the war started, I mean for you, for Estonia. Tell me where you were and what happened to you. Don't hurry. Do not abbreviate. Give us as many details as you can. Get nearer to the microphone and make yourself comfortable.
  • Anna Paul: When the war started I lived at my place of work, not in the city where I had my apartment, where my husband lived, not in Dorpat, but in the country. I lived at the place of service. My school was exactly at the border with the Soviet Union. I may say that in Estonia everybody hoped for the war to come. I can say everybody hoped for war because in it many saw the lesser evil, that is the delivery from Bolshevism.
  • David Boder: Wait, I want you to start first of all with the time when the Soviets came to Estonia.
  • Anna Paul: Oh, when they started building bases. That was in 1939.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes.
  • Anna Paul: That was still before the war.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes. For you the changes so to speak, started with the advent of the Soviets.
  • Anna Paul: No, the change did not start yet. There wasn't any war. Things started when our government admitted them to Estonia. [She apparently makes a distinction between the time of the arrival of Russian contingents for the purpose of building bases according to treaty and the time of transformation of Estonia into "the 17th Soviet Republic". ]
  • David Boder: Tell me about it.
  • Anna Paul: We learned from our government that the Government of the Soviet Union, in fear of war, needs to build bases at the border of their country. But since Estonia was at the frontiers of Europe they marched in in 1939 and started building bases.
  • David Boder: But they did not take over the government?
  • Anna Paul: Our life did not change. We had our own government.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me about it.
  • Anna Paul: Yes. It happened this way. All at once communistic propaganda emerged everywhere. And finally—you see as a school principal I had to attend these meetings very often, and I know perfectly well how these things were managed. You know, upon the instigation of two-three rowdies, the mood of the whole meeting would change, and often it was a meeting of many thousands, and all at once a resolution would be passed, that such and such a province, or such and such a region desires incorporation into the Soviet Union. And finally it appeared that all Estonia wishes to be incorporated into the Soviet Union.
  • David Boder: Now go ahead. Please speak in the direction of the microphone.
  • Anna Paul: Well, what shall I tell you?
  • David Boder: Well, and that lasted how long?
  • Anna Paul: Let me see. What date was it?
  • David Boder: Don't bother about the date. How long did this last? Was it until the Russians and the Germans started the war against . . .
  • Anna Paul: No, no, no. Things continued in the following fashion. Our government was arrested. We were not informed about the details. Our president of Estonia Constantine Datz, I don't know where they took him, but he was arrested. The people were talking later about it. Inmates of the prisons were set free. They assembled around the palace, and with them crowds of workers.
  • David Boder: What kind of workers?
  • Anna Paul: Workers from the factories who were already well indoctrinated with propaganda. In our capital Tallinn which before was called Reval . . . there too all the inmates from the prisons were set free, political prisoners as well as those . . . what do you call them?
  • David Boder: Criminals.
  • Anna Paul: Yes, the criminals, and they started to demand . . . they had a very large meeting . . . that now they wish to have a government of Soviets,—they don't need any more a president. And then things ended up by electing a new government. This government went to Moscow to plead—this I learned from the radio, there was already a radio of the new government—and they pleaded accordingly. By then we had already revolutionaries in Estonia. They pleaded that Estonia be incorporated into the Soviet Union. And so Estonia was proclaimed the Seventeenth republic of the Soviet Union.
  • David Boder: Go on. What happened afterwards?
  • Anna Paul: Now the life under the Bolsheviks.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Anna Paul: Of course with the advent of the Soviet rule our mode of living has changed, tremendously. People had to participate under compulsion in all kinds of meetings. For example, at one of those big meetings, in Dorpat all the professors had to be present, all students had to be there. We still had our own police in their uniforms. The students had to be present at that meeting. People had to carry big banners; the women cooks from the restaurants had to be present, the help from the restaurants. The meeting had to start at three. I remember my husband and I were at that time in a restaurant, and by about a quarter of four the head waiter had to clear the tables, and he told us in a rather disgusted manner: "Here we were living peacefully, and now there has come an end to it."
  • David Boder: Who said that?
  • Anna Paul: O, that was the head waiter of the restaurant, he said it. "There was a life in peace and now it has come to an end. Now we have to drag ourselves along, we have to run somewhere to fetch the red banners, we ourselves don't know why. We were living in peace; what else do we need?" And that is what the head waiter of the restaurant said to us.
  • David Boder: Well?
  • Anna Paul: However, we were still friendly toward them. When the Soviet armies entered we still believed in the propaganda of the government that people of dissenting opinions will not be persecuted. Again other people thought we will be able to travel into the Soviet Union, and there will ensue a friendship with great people. That is what our people believed. But barely two weeks had passed since their arrival and arrests began. Among the first people to be arrested was my husband. The reason for his arrest is not known to anybody until this day. The only reason was that he was a highly educated person and according to his convictions he was not a communist. He did not share the views of the communists.
  • David Boder: What was his occupation?
  • Anna Paul: My husband was by profession and education a chemist. He graduated from the University of Yurief. He was a chemist, and he did not share the views of the communists.
  • David Boder: What happened?
  • Anna Paul: He was arrested shortly. By the way, about the fate of those who were arrested. It was worse than a piece of lead or zinc on the bottom of the sea, because there was just no information obtainable about them. Absolutely none. And when I later returned and learned that my husband was taken only with his brief case, and I didn't know whether he had an overcoat, a blanket, or a change of underwear, I was told that there was no such person. And since that instant I didn't hear a thing about my husband. No word whatsoever. To all my questions at the prison, to all my questions at the prison, I got the answer: "There is no such person!"
  • David Boder: And so?
  • Anna Paul: Afterwards . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupting] Tell me, were there in Reval any Estonian communists who helped the Soviets? [slight pause] Did you have communists of your own?
  • Anna Paul: Of course there were.
  • David Boder: And they worked with the Soviets.
  • Anna Paul: Of course there were such who helped them. [indignantly] Of our own people!! Very definitely there were. The government that they had, the government that they had formed, the communist government, was composed of Estonians. It consisted of Estonians. We too had our communists.
  • David Boder: And what happened then?
  • Anna Paul: Then the action began . . . I could tell you about my work . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. That is the main thing I want to hear about.
  • Anna Paul: Of course. Right from the start the teaching curriculum was subjected to changes. Such subjects as religion were looked at with sarcasm. I was asked for my opinion about the teaching of religion, and I used to say that this subject was of a high moral and educational significance in the schools. Religion and morals . . . but, of course, they only scoffed at it. Now let me tell you that the school began to fall apart.
  • David Boder: In what way?
  • Anna Paul: In such a way that children were compelled . . . they picked spies among the children who had to watch their teachers. They picked spies among the children who had to watch their teachers. They watched every word of the teacher and reported about it. That I know.
  • David Boder: [interrupting] Well, tell me, didn't the same thing happen during the Reval government?
  • Anna Paul: Such things never happened. Such things never happened!
  • David Boder: Then what kind of political prisoners did you have?
  • Anna Paul: Communists.
  • David Boder: They imprisoned the communists?
  • Anna Paul: Our government? Yes, of course. We had no freedom for communists; we had no freedom for communists.
  • David Boder: Well, why then are you surprised that the communists did not grant freedom to the "others". [Mrs. P. is silent and Boder continues] I mean that when the communists came to power, they did not grant freedom to the "others".
  • Anna Paul: Well, that is perfectly understandable. We had a "republican government" [republican is used in terms of democracy].
  • David Boder: I understand. But you did not have complete freedom of convictions during the time of the Reval government.
  • Anna Paul: No. What was prohibited, was communistic propaganda. The work of the communists, but as to opinions, please. However, we had no communist newspapers. Indeed we had no periodicals of the communist press.
  • David Boder: And what do you think? Was that right? [There is a long pause; Boder continues] I'm asking your opinion. You understand. As an American I am asking you that, because in America, in every city, in every large city, you may buy a communist newspaper.
  • Anna Paul: Yes, I know.
  • David Boder: Well then, what do you think? Should we also prohibit it.
  • Anna Paul: No. I know, of course, that there is no such thing in America. In America there is complete freedom. I know that in America there is complete freedom. And if at times we marvel at such liberty, we reply . . . when some people express their astonishment over such a measure of liberty in America—the others reply to them that the American government feels so secure, so strong, that they don't have to be afraid of any such propaganda.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Anna Paul: Well, that is our retort.
  • David Boder: Of course, I only wanted to hear what answer you would give. Now go ahead.
  • Anna Paul: Yes. What was I talking about?
  • David Boder: You were talking about your school. The teaching of religion was stopped.
  • Anna Paul: The teaching of religion was stopped, and then all the subjects, well, all our text books were changed. All the textbooks were now imported from the Soviets.
  • David Boder: But they didn't change the language?
  • Anna Paul: Well, you see, I was working in a Russian region.
  • David Boder: And what kind of religion were you teaching there, Greek Orthodox?
  • Anna Paul: Yes, Greek Orthodox. Our population was Russian.
  • David Boder: And you had a priest teaching it?
  • Anna Paul: No, the teachers themselves were teaching religion, because the school was quite a way from the city, and travel of the priests was connected with certain difficulties, and according to orders from the school board the teachers themselves were teaching religion.
  • David Boder: Well.
  • Anna Paul: The language in the Russian schools of Estonia remained Russian, and in the Estonian schools the Estonian language remained, because after all that was in Estonia.
  • David Boder: And you your self, are you a Russian or an Estonian.
  • Anna Paul: Well, I am an Estonian on my mother's side and on my father's side I am Russian.
  • David Boder: And you were teaching in a Russian school.
  • Anna Paul: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now go ahead.
  • Anna Paul: Yes. I was in charge of a Russian school. Now about the textbooks. The textbooks were all changed over to Soviet textbooks. They were brought over from there. There was a Moscow publishing house and a Leningrad publishing house. Now, I want to state that our textbooks were excellent. They were published in Estonia. Of course some of them were published by the Russians. Some were from Estonian publishers. The material was of considerable variety and it was interesting. And now about the textbooks. The children, the more intelligent ones, used to say, "What a bore!" That is what the children would say because in the readers, in the Russian readers, besides all the variations of biographies of Lenin, there was practically nothing, save the story of a Chinaman weeping on the occasion of his death. There was nothing else. Propaganda, and solely propaganda. Now about the texts in arithmetic. All the problems were about Kolkhosy. [Collective farms organized by the Soviet government.] About Kolkhos sheep or Kolkhos cows and so on, and so on. It was all very boresome and very onesided. Attention was directed not towards education but solely toward propaganda. Exclusively towards propaganda. Now let me tell you another interesting thing. I have read . . . and never had I read so much as during the time the Communists were with us because . . . here is what I was thinking: "For twenty-five years people have lived with the communist government. Well people live. So we too should be able to adjust ourselfs in some way." I wanted to know what was the matter. Maybe I have the wrong viewpoint. Maybe I am mistaken. I am a person of definite views. You see at school we had to install . . . we had to change entirely the library for the teachers. I bought an awful lot of books. I bought a large quantity of books for the children's library. We teachers had to pass examinations on the history of the party. But the more I studied communism [here the recording is not clear, but it seems that it sounds like "darker became my outlook"]. The more I felt that I was getting suffocated. I remember the following incident. One of my friends, she was the director of Gitznek. This was an organization for the self-defense of women. And knowing . . . raids had already started . . . that she will be arrested, [she was a very nervous person] she committed suicide. She took poison. Now the idea of the inviolability of the home, that was just an empty word. They used to come into my house and without asking whether they may enter a room, whether they may not enter a room. They ordered me to remove the icon; to take it off the wall. I tell them . . . well they say, "Do parents come to see you?" I say "yes, parents do come." I was on very good terms with the parents. I worked in that school for eighteen years and I was on very good terms with my whole district . . . "So parents are coming to see you"—"Yes, they do come."—"Well if they will see that there is an icon on your wall you will lose prestige in their eyes, and it will also be a bad example for the parents and the children."—"Well," I told them, "in my 'official office' as a teacher—my apartment was upstairs,—I had to take off all the icons." By the way, all the children and the whole population, even the Lutheran population of the region—all received this order with tears in their eyes, that I must tell you.
  • David Boder: What did you say?
  • Anna Paul: With tears in their eyes they received the order that there should be no icons in the school.
  • David Boder: But the Lutherans do not use icons.
  • Anna Paul: But the image of Christ is used by the Lutherans as well. They don't call it an icon, but they use the picture of Christ.
  • David Boder: And so, well?
  • Anna Paul: And so they ordered me that in my apartment . . . they ordered me to remove the icon. They ordered me to do so in my apartment. Moreover . . .
  • David Boder: And you took it off?
  • Anna Paul: Yes, I took it off.
  • David Boder: How did it happen?
  • Anna Paul: Well, they ordered me a second time to remove it from my apartment. A commission came to check up and I had to take it off. Moreover I want to tell you . . . what was I talking about [a long pause].
  • David Boder: Now what happened then? Wait, I will give you some matches. Take one of my cigarettes. Keep the matches.
  • Anna Paul: Then you won't have any.
  • David Boder: Now tell me how things developed with the evacuation of the civilians.
  • Anna Paul: Excuse me, what do you mean?
  • David Boder: Well, afterwards when the Soviets left Estonia, when the war started.
  • Anna Paul: Yes, afterwards when the war started . . .
  • David Boder: Now let us proceed with the story from the beginning of the war.
  • Anna Paul: People who followed the newspapers . . . everybody was waiting for the war. Because even those who understood well the plans of the Germans, felt that by their advent they would save us from Communism. People saw that the evil that the Germans would bring us would be the lesser evil in comparison with what the communists brought over our country. Let me tell you about the time they started to build their bases. They literally robbed our whole country because they would buy, they would buy by the dozen and a half men's shirts, they would buy . . . you see we had free trade when they came. Their ladies would buy, their military ladies would buy underwear by the dozen. By the way, I have to tell you, they had literally nothing, because one of the seamstresses who worked for me for several years, the owner of the shop, told me that. Ladies would come and would ask her to go with them shopping because they did not know the names of our yard goods. [Of course the Russian women did not speak Estonian and therefore could have been in need of an interpreter. What Mrs. P. apparently implies is that the Estonian shopkeepers spoke Russian, but that the Russian women "never having seen at home good dress material" were unable to ask for the goods by name. ] They were not acquainted with our dress patterns. Let me tell you that, as a fact, they would pick up candy wrappings and wrappings from chocolate because they had not seen such paper. They would ask us: "Do you really use such paper for wrapping? How do you wrap? We have to take with us a piece of newspaper because we just don't have any wrapping paper." They were marvelling at everything. They would marvel that one could buy a half a kilo of sausage at the time because [at home] the could buy only by the gram.
  • David Boder: [In English] This ends Spool 140, a interview with Ms. Anna Paul which we will continue on Spool 141. Taken at Lohengrin camp in Munich, September the 21st, 1946. I am beginning to mix all my languages. Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  • David Boder: Spool 9-141A, Anna Paul. The same person goes in the book I Did Not Interview the Dead as Anna Prest. November the 7th, 1950, Chicago, Boder.
  • David Boder: Munich, September the 21st, 1946 at Camp Lohengrin, a camp for displaced Baltics. The interviewee is an Estonian teacher, Ms. Anna Paul. She continues now with her story which we have recorded from Spool 140.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Now tell me, you spoke about the appraisal of the war. You knew the aims of Hitler?
  • Anna Paul: We knew that he didn't come just to liberate us from the communists. We knew that very well. But we also knew for certain; we shall regain our liberty.
  • David Boder: Did you really not understand that Hitler could not win?
  • Anna Paul: At that time it was still inconceivable that he could not win. We simply were expecting delivery from the hell in which we found ourselves. But . . .
  • David Boder: But you went from the fire into the flame. [Russian equivalent for "from the frying pan into the fire"].
  • Anna Paul: We did not know what was going to happen . We did not know then. We did not know anything at the beginning of the war. And so . . .
  • David Boder: Now tell me about the departure of the Soviets and the arrival of the Germans.
  • Anna Paul: We learned from the radio that cities were being bombed, such as Kiev, Kahrkov, and even further east. I don't remember which. That is how we learned that the war started. And then commenced the most trying times for our people. Those mass deportations. That was the fourteenth and fifteenth of July.
  • David Boder: Where to were they deported?
  • Anna Paul: Mass deportations to the Soviet Union. The Soviet radio was telling us about the great concern of the Soviet government over the Estonian people. Not to abandon them to the horrors of Hitler! That's what they said. And that is how the deportations took place. At night—as a matter of fact, day and night—an automobile would come and, that depended on the commission in the car—that depended on the militiamen who would come—twenty minutes time to get ready, some were permitted a half an hour.
  • David Boder: The militiamen were Estonians?
  • Anna Paul: [hesitatingly] The militiamen were Russians and by that time as we learned later there were three hundred men from the Cheka which were assigned to this task. Some families were permitted to take a little baggage. The maximum they could take was about six pud, which is six times sixteen kilos. Others were not permitted to take anything. They would not show consideration for anything. In some places there would be a dead body. People would plead: "Let us at least bury him," In a family of two of my friends there were two children. The husband was arrested before. He was superintendent of a Gymnasium. [long pause] The child had pneumonia, his temperature was 40 [centigrade]. The child was left in his bed, the family sent to the railroad station. And then the transport was standing there two, three days. [The heat happened to be intolerable those days.] People could not get any water. Afterwards a friend, a doctor told me, he had to examine the transport, and after going a over few cars, he fainted; he, a man, a doctor, after seeing these sights. Some people died yet before the departure of the train, because they could not stand it. And into these boxcars they drove about eighty people in each. People had no room to sit down. They had to stand. Now let us talk of the people who remained.
  • David Boder: And how did you happen to remain?
  • Anna Paul: I was forewarned so I wasn't home. I hid in the woods.
  • David Boder: And so?
  • Anna Paul: Thanks to that, only thanks to that. I had a little son, and with my little son we were in the woods.
  • David Boder: And your husband?
  • Anna Paul: He was arrested earlier.
  • David Boder: Yes . . .
  • Anna Paul: He was taken away much before. Like on pilgrimages, the peasants would come and bring bread on their carts to the trains and when the militiamen would ask for whom was the bread, whether they had relatives [on the train], they would reply: "All who suffer are our relatives." That is what our people were saying. Perfect strangers tried to pass on [some food], but no packages were accepted.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Anna Paul: Not withstanding that there were little children. Sometimes a man was on his job. The family would be taken. They would come to the father and tell him that he was wanted for something at home. And without reaching his home, he was taken to the station. The fate of those people is not known to us. The fate of those people is not known to us. From our city alone, from Dorpat, they deported twenty-thousand people.
  • David Boder: By the way, did you know in Yurief Professor Pusep?
  • Anna Paul: No—[pause]—of course, the psychiatrist.
  • David Boder: The neuropsychiatrist.
  • Anna Paul: Yes, I know.
  • David Boder: And what happened to him?
  • Anna Paul: I couldn't tell you anything for certain about professor Pusep, I couldn't tell you, but I was acquainted personally with professor Pusep, and I know that he is not alive any more.
  • David Boder: And so?
  • Anna Paul: I was talking about the deportations. That is how the Soviet government was preoccupied about the Estonian people! Well, let me tell you about another event. The Soviet army . . . there is something. The trains as some people knew, were prepared beforehand and a week later another transport was to go away. But here the war set in. One of the commissars expressed himself in this fashion: "First we will remove the pigs; then we will proceed with the sheep." That is what I was told by a laborer who worked that time on the railroad station. So you see the second echelon simply didn't materialize because the war put a halt to it. The civil servants were evacuated, and the armies were in retreat. Now let me tell you about the retreat of the army. They were surrounded. You can imagine. Pskov, Ostrov, they were already taken by the Germans. The Germans managed to by-pass them. Part of the Soviet armies remained behind. These armies marched without their commanding complements. They marched alone. They marched barefooted; many had no soles on their boots.
  • David Boder: And what happened to the commanders?
  • Anna Paul: They ran away before. The army was hungry. They begged everywhere for bread. They would barter away their last shirt. It was very hot that time. They called them Mayka [apparently from the month of May, meaning summer shirts], and they begged; "Take my Mayka and give me a piece of bread." That is how the armies retreated. Many of them remained in Estonia. Many remained in Estonia and hired themselves out to the peasants. It was the time of bringing in the hay . . . and only for bread, only to be satiated for the first time after several years. "I will work for you," he said, "like an ox," helping the peasant to cut down the hay, only to have a bellyful. And they would tell us a lot. They would tell us that they were awakening to life again, seeing the conditions of our Estonian peasants, seeing how our Estonian peasants lived. Then they would tell us about the life in the Kolkhos. One of them was a plain laborer. That is, he was a peasant, a farmer at home in his fatherland. He told us about the following occurrence in their Kolkhos. In that Kolkhos his son got as a homework assignment the following problem: to find out exactly how many working days there were in a certain period of time, what did they earn, and how much that would come to per day. The boy asked his mother for exact information. When the mother supplied him with the data—that is, how much they got for one working day—and the child presented it at school the mother was arrested because she was supposed to have given the child the kind of data somebody needed her to give, and not the correct data.
  • David Boder: And so . . .
  • Anna Paul: There is so much to tell. Would it not be better if you ask me some questions?
  • David Boder: No, I wouldn't like to do that. You are doing very well. Now I would like to hear something about the German occupation.
  • Anna Paul: Now, the Soviet armies which remained with us were surrounded. They did not know where to go. They hid in the woods. Later they were driven by hunger out of the forests. I had the opportunity to talk to them. They would ask where they could go, how they could get away safely, because if their government should find out that they were here, surrounded, without making any attempts to fight their way through, their families would be shot. One of them was a young fellow. He said, "I have a wife; I have three children; and they will all perish if they should find out that I am a prisoner, that I am surrounded, and that I am not making any attempt to get away." So I started telling him:—"What are you going to fight for, what are you going to fight for?" And he would say: "We are liberators; we are liberating Europe from a regime of horror."
  • David Boder: That is what the Soviet soldier told you?
  • Anna Paul: The Soviet soldier. "We have come to liberate you." And so I said to him: "We don't need you. We have lived a quiet peaceful life, and now after you have been here a year, we are living in a devestated country and we have only widows and orphans. Such is our life." And you know, after my talk with him he lived for some time in the vicinity and did not go anywhere. He said afterwards: "Indeed, there is nowhere to go; indeed there is nothing to fight a war for." He saw the books; Russian literature was permitted in our country. Soviet literature was free in our country. I couldn't say that everything was free, not all the literature, but many literary works were permitted. They were in our library. But at home they would read only communistic literature and you know how a Soviet person is being brought up. From the earliest childhood; I told you already what kind of textbooks they had.
  • David Boder: Now since I want your personal experiences, tell me about the arrival of the Germans and what happened to you afterwards.
  • Anna Paul: I can't tell you about it in its whole measure, about the life under the Germans, because I lived entirely my own life.
  • David Boder: I just want to learn about your personal fate and all that happened from the time the Germans came until the Germans left. When did the Germans come to Estonia?
  • Anna Paul: They came to Estonia approximately in the month of July. I couldn't tell you exactly.
  • David Boder: Well, so what happened then? [pause] No, Mrs. P., give me a general review of your personal experiences during the German occupation.
  • Anna Paul: All about it, I couldn't.
  • David Boder: No, no. I don't ask you that. Give me just a similar picture, as you have given me about the Russian occupation.
  • Anna Paul: Yes. You see Estonia is an agricultural country. That means that the presence of Germans would manifest itself especially on the state of agriculture.
  • David Boder: I don't want the economic history. I want to know what happened to the people. In a political sense—how much freedom did you have, how did they treat the people? When you talked about the Soviets you were just talking about the human side of the events. So now tell me about the human side of the German occupation.
  • Anna Paul: . . . but there is so much to tell.
  • David Boder: You must understand that the interview will appear greatly unbalanced, if after telling me everything that happened during the Russians you are reluctant to tell me anything about the German occupation.
  • Anna Paul: Far be it from me, my God, not to want to tell you about the Germans. I just don't know how to start.
  • David Boder: First of all, what did they do to your school?
  • Anna Paul: I will tell you about it. My school was a two story building. Upstairs was my apartment. Downstairs were the classrooms. Now a German military unit was assigned to the school. Well, there arrived some people of authority in a car. It was yet before the start of classes. School was supposed to start by the end of September and at the beginning of September I was told that by the eighth or ninth of September my school will be occupied by the German military. I only asked how much time I will be given because I had to look for other quarters. They told me two, three days should be enough. I told them, that would be a little insufficient because I had to travel through the district, and find means to transfer the school and all its property. Well they allowed me three or four days. They gave me facilities to get to the regional authorities. They assigned to me twenty horses with carts, and I went to look for quarters to distribute my classes. I also asked them about my personal quarters; would I have to look for new quarters or would they leave me my apartment? Well, they told me that my personal quarters would remain intact and I would remain in my apartment until the end. Afterwards when their contingent increased I ceded to them a room in my apartment and reduced, so to speak, myself to less. Still my apartment remained intact.
  • David Boder: In what language did you start to teach?
  • Anna Paul: In the same language as before, Russian. They personally had no business whatsoever with the school. They did not interfere with the school whatsoever. They absolutely did not interfere with the school. They readily talked about their own schools. They were marvelling very much at our long vacations in Estonia. They told me that in Germany they had no summer vacations at all, maybe only for a week or two. [At this point of the interview we hear on the wire a violent whistle; it seems to be the noon whistle]. I, as a teacher, was interested in what the peasant children were doing. Our children help their parents in the summer. They told me that their laws are so strict that the parents have already adjusted themselves to them, to the fact that the children go to school all summer. They also told me . . . as a teacher I was very much interested in the situation of the schools in Germany. I myself had never been in Germany. I knew about it only from the literature like about the schools all over Europe. But I never heard any personal reports about them. And so they told me that their classes begin in the summer at six in the morning . . .
  • David Boder: Well, we know about the German schools. What did they do in general to the civilian population?
  • Anna Paul: The civilian population, as they lived before, so they continued living. Only of course, it was very difficult to deliver those "quotas", but I think that about the situation, that is the delivery of the quotas . . .
  • David Boder: What quotas are you referring to?
  • Anna Paul: The quotas of agricultural products which the peasants had to deliver. Better you talk about it to some people who were engaged in agriculture because I did not have my own farm. I can only tell you in the words of a peasant woman who told me: "If I were to deliver the quotas of butter that they have imposed, the cows would have to give not milk but straight butter. Only then could I fulfill the norm."
  • David Boder: What did they do with the Jews?
  • Anna Paul: About our Estonia, I could not tell you anything, but I had relatives in Latvia, and about Latvia I can tell you something. In the city of Riga there was a certain section of the city which before one could freely pass through. And now I was told that one could not get through. Why? I did not know a thing about it.
  • David Boder: You were in Riga?
  • Anna Paul: No, I was in my place, but at the beginning when the Germans came I did not live in the city. But when I would come to Riga and wanted to visit some of my acquaintances told me, when I asked them what are the wires for . . . they painted to me the whole horrible picture, because I did not know anything about the attitude of the Germans to the Jewish people until I came ot the capital of Latvia. And let me tell you, when the Germans were telling me about educational problems I listened to them with interest. But it was impossible, if you didn't want to quarrel with them, it was impossible to touch upon the Jewish question. You couldn't because you were immediately an enemy. I told them, "I do not interfere with the business of Hitler or your policies, but," I told them, "it was inhuman and that such things are impossible." I told them it was an impermissible attitude, and with such an opinion one would just acquire enemies.
  • David Boder: Was there a difference in this respect between the Russians and the Germans?
  • Anna Paul: But the Bolsheviks did not exclude . . . [at this moment somebody entered and told Mrs. P. that she was definitely wanted in the barracks].
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the interview with Ms. Anna Paul simply because she has no more time. She is busy and we will change to another interviewee. September the 21st, 1946, Camp Lohengrin.
  • David Boder: Remarks to the duplicate spool: This concludes the interview with Mrs. Anna Paul which was called in the book Anna Prest. The next section is an interview with Mrs. Sophia, who does not want to give her last name, but it seems that she later gave as Zurilis. Check Spool 9-141B. This concludes Spool 9-141A. Boder, Chicago, November the 7th, 1950.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Olga Collin
  • English Translation : David P. Boder