David P. Boder Interviews Marcelle Precker; August 12, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: Sunday, August the . . . 12th, Paris . . . Monday August the 12th. Paris . . . [mumbling]. Paris, August the 12th, 1946 at the headquarters of the American Joint Distribution Committee. The interviewee is Mrs. Marcelle Precker born in France who spent here the time during the occupation. Also, Mrs. Precker, will you please tell us where were you born, how large was your family and where did you live before the war?
  • Marcelle Precker: I am born in Paris . . . and at the beginning of the war my family was composed by my father, mother and my daughter.
  • David Boder: And they think your husband died in 1939?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: Yeah. Nu? What happened when the Germans came to Paris? [pause] What happened to you when the Germans came to Paris?
  • Marcelle Precker: I was just [arrested?]As we learn subsequently, although the Germans occupied Paris in June 1940, Mrs. Precker narrowly escaped arrest in July 1942 and was arrested with her family in June 1944 in the city of Cannes.1
  • David Boder: You? Were your whole family here?
  • Marcelle Precker: No. My family was in the south—in the south of France.
  • David Boder: With your child?
  • Marcelle Precker: With my child.
  • David Boder: Why did they go there?
  • Marcelle Precker: They went to south of France to escape from the Germans.
  • David Boder: To escape from the Germans. And you remained here . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: I tried to remain in Paris to save our apartment and my father's business.
  • David Boder: All right. And so . . . (mumbling) will you close the . . . yes. And so, what happened?
  • Marcelle Precker: But in July '42, I was arrested one morning at six o'clock by the . . . two French police.On July 16th and 17th in 1942, some 4,500 French policemen rounded up a total of 12,884 mostly foreign-born Jews in Paris who had not become naturalized French citizens. Nearly 10,000 of those arrested were women and children. Although Mrs. Precker saved herself by bribing the two French policemen who came to arrest her, the fact that she was a French-born Jew might have played a role in her release. Few of those arrested in the July roundup survived.2
  • David Boder: All right. Now why did they arrest you and where did they arrest you?
  • Marcelle Precker: They arrest me in the morning at my apartment.
  • David Boder: At your apartment . . . yes?
  • Marcelle Precker: And I escaped them in giving them all the money I . . . have with me.
  • David Boder: Yes. How much was it . . . about?
  • Marcelle Precker: Oh, I . . . I don't . . .
  • David Boder: Well in estimate, about . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: It was a lot because they take all the jewels we have in the apartment . . .
  • David Boder: Yes . . . they took what?
  • Marcelle Precker: The jewels we had in the apartment . . .
  • David Boder: Oh, the jewels. All your jewels and all the money you had in the apartment.
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . apartment [unintelligible] . . .
  • David Boder: [speaking over the interviewee] and they let you go?
  • Marcelle Precker: And they let me go. So I went in the south of France . . .
  • David Boder: You went to the south of France, yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . to stay with my father—my parents and my daughter.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: We stayed there . . . two years.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: And . . . in '44—June '44—we were arrested all together in the evening one day.
  • David Boder: In what city was it?
  • Marcelle Precker: It was at Cannes.Like Nice, Cannes was formerly in the Italian-occupied zone of southeastern France. Until the collapse of the Italian fascist government and the withdrawal of Italian troops from the zone in September 1943, some 50,000 Jews, among them the Mrs. Precker and her family, had sought refuge there. Most refugees, like Mrs. Precker and her family, at first went to the city of Nice. After the departure of Italian troops, the family moved to Cannes.3
  • David Boder: At Cannes and you were arrested the whole family?
  • Marcelle Precker: The whole family. My father, my mother, my daughter and I.
  • David Boder: Yes. How old was your daughter?
  • Marcelle Precker: My daughter was at that moment eleven years old.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: We were put in the prison . . . in the prison.
  • David Boder: In the prison, yes . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: We stayed there some days and put in another prison at Nice.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: And after eight days we were put in a train.Given the fact that Mrs. Precker and her family arrived in Drancy at the beginning of August 1944, they must have spent over a month in the two prisons in Nice.4
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: And bring in a . . . brought . . .
  • David Boder: And you were taken to . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: Taken to Drancy. The concentration camp Drancy.Despite the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944 and the increase in resistance activity throughout the country, deportation of Jews to the infamous Drancy camp in the suburbs of Paris continued, as did deportations from Drancy to Auschwitz. A convoy of some 1,300 Drancy internees left for Auschwitz on July 31, 1944. Mrs. Precker and her family narrowly missed sharing their fate.5
  • David Boder: Yes, now Drancy is where?
  • Marcelle Precker: Is near Paris.
  • David Boder: Yes. Drancy is near Paris.
  • Marcelle Precker: Near Paris . . . about ten kilometers from Paris.
  • David Boder: Yes, and so? [pause] Well what happened in Drancy?
  • Marcelle Precker: I have to tell you that at Nice my father was . . . [trails off]
  • David Boder: [Well tell me who did it?]
  • Marcelle Precker: [Pause] [It's difficult in English for me?] [mumbling]
  • David Boder: What happened to your father, what [?] . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: [speaks in French] [tape skips]
  • David Boder: What in . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . in Nice.
  • David Boder: In Nice your father was beaten by the Germans?This must have occurred subsequent to the German occupation of Nice that began the evening of September 8, 1943. Two days later Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's deputy, and highly trained SS police entered Nice and began a brutal roundup of Jews which, however, was inhibited by the lack of cooperation by many non-Jewish French men and women.6
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Marcelle Precker: Why, because we are . . . the Germans had found in our [unintelligible] for English papers.It is not clear from Mrs. Precker's testimony what sort of papers these were, but they raised German suspicions of a link between her father and their English enemy.7
  • David Boder: Oh. They found with you English papers?
  • Marcelle Precker: English papers.
  • David Boder: How did you happen to have English papers?
  • Marcelle Precker: Because my father was a . . . with a group of English [?] I received them so I don't know how we managed to keep them just at that moment because it was a very dangerous moment.
  • David Boder: Yes. Yes, and . . . so your father was mistreated?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: And then you were all sent to . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . to Drancy.
  • David Boder: Now was your family alone at the [eskaton?] camp or did they arrest all the Jewish families?
  • Marcelle Precker: No. Each day they arrested another family.
  • David Boder: Yes. (mumbling instructions) Get your hands down . . . Each day they arrested a few families? All right. And how many people were you taken to Drancy?
  • Marcelle Precker: We were there at that moment . . . forty people.
  • David Boder: Forty people. In what kind of railroad cars did they take you? [pause] In what kind of railroad cars—were they passenger cars?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes, in passenger cars.
  • David Boder: In passenger cars they took you from Cannes to Drancy.
  • Marcelle Precker: To Drancy.
  • David Boder: All right. In Drancy where did they put you? Did they separate the men from the women?
  • Marcelle Precker: No. Had to . . . we're to . . . go in Germany after that.They were probably told that they were going to be sent to Germany for forced labor and that their family would be kept together for the sake of family unity, whereas in reality they would have been sent to Auschwitz. The Germans regularly used deceptive techniques to hide the "Final Solution" from their victims.8
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: We were all put together men and women.
  • David Boder: Where, in the same room?
  • Marcelle Precker: In the same room
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: Sixty by room.
  • David Boder: Yes. Sixty people in a room.
  • Marcelle Precker: Sixty people in a room.
  • David Boder: And how long were you in Drancy that way?
  • Marcelle Precker: Actually we stay only a few weeks. Because after that was the liberation.
  • David Boder: Oh. You stayed in Drancy three weeks?
  • Marcelle Precker: Three weeks.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now tell me something about your stay in Drancy, you say you were men and women and children all in one room?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: So did you remain with your family in the same room?
  • Marcelle Precker: In the same room.
  • David Boder: Well your little daughter with you?
  • Marcelle Precker: She was with me.
  • David Boder: Well, what was the child doing all the time in the camp—or in the prison?
  • Marcelle Precker: The Germans at that moment were very nervous because the Americans were coming near Paris every day so it was terrible to meet them in the . . .Even as the Allies closed in on Paris in the first two weeks of August 1944, Alois Brunner, the Nazi fanatic who had turned Drancy into an SS-controlled concentration camp in 1943, continued his efforts to deport Jews to Auschwitz, including Mrs. Precker and her family. Fortunately, he did not succeed, and on the morning of Thursday, August 17, he turned the camp over to the German army and fled.9
  • David Boder: In the halls—corridors.
  • Marcelle Precker: In the halls. So some people took all the children together and made sort of little school for them.The establishment of this school in the midst of such a squalid and dangerous environment may be considered a form of resistance. Solidarity and mutual help characterized the Drancy camp population.10
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: To keep them away from the Germans.
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • Marcelle Precker: And they were spending all day with those people.
  • David Boder: Yes, a kind of a teacher or so.
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: Was it a Jewish woman or a French woman?
  • Marcelle Precker: It was a Jewish woman.
  • David Boder: It was a Jewish woman and she took the children together . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . and she kept them in a kind of kindergarten or a creation—arrangement.
  • Marcelle Precker: Exactly.
  • David Boder: All right, did you pay for that or what?
  • Marcelle Precker: No we did not pay for that because all the money we had—have—was taken by the German [with their things?]
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: Now, uh, how were you sleeping?
  • Marcelle Precker: We were sleeping in a very large room. On . . . straw beds.
  • David Boder: Straw beds.
  • Marcelle Precker: [unintelligible] . . . all sort of beast, it was terrible and awful.Mrs. Precker is referring here to the vermin that infested the mattresses and the rest of the camp.11
  • David Boder: Yes. You had lice?
  • Marcelle Precker: [unintelligible] was not possible . . . to haven't.[?]
  • David Boder: Yes. It was not possible not to have them.
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . it wasn't possible.
  • David Boder: Yes. How were the facilities to wash yourself? Where would you wash yourself?
  • Marcelle Precker: [Actually?] we have . . . uh . . .
  • David Boder: Showers?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: There were showers. Were they separate from men and women?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes. They were separated for . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. They were separated for men and women. But you slept in the same room, men and women?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: All right so how were the beds arranged? [pause] You had a bed? Did you sleep alone in a bed?
  • Marcelle Precker: Oh sure—we sleep alone in a bed.
  • David Boder: You slept alone in a bed.
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: And where did your child sleep?
  • Marcelle Precker: She was in a bed near me.
  • David Boder: In another bed alone.
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: And your father and mother had a bed for themselves each?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: Yes. All right and um . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: We were all was occupied doing something . . . peeling potatoes . . . doing mattresses and . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. You were always doing something.
  • Marcelle Precker: Everybody was occupied.
  • David Boder: . . . was occupied. Did they allow people to bring you some food?
  • Marcelle Precker: No it was not possible.
  • David Boder: It was not possible to bring you some food. All right . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: [unintelligible] . . . write to somebody. It was impossible to write.
  • David Boder: It was not permitted to write to anybody also. And how long were you in Drancy?
  • Marcelle Precker: We stayed three weeks in Drancy.
  • David Boder: Yes. And then what happened?
  • Marcelle Precker: Then we were liberated by the . . . the Swedish Consulate.On the afternoon of August 17, 1944, the German army turned Drancy over to Raoul Nordling, the Consul General of neutral Sweden. Nordling then asked the French Red Cross to care for the camp's inmates, although they did not leave Drancy until about one week later.12
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • Marcelle Precker: Who give . . . two . . .
  • David Boder: . . . yes?
  • Marcelle Precker: Two German . . . who liberated . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Marcelle Precker: Two German prisoners . . .
  • David Boder: Prisoners.
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . prisoners. For one Jewish . . . people.
  • David Boder: For one Jewish person?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: Oh. Now let me see that . . . [where were?] German prisoners?
  • Marcelle Precker: It is impossible for me to give you any information on that.
  • David Boder: You don't know?
  • Marcelle Precker: I don't know.
  • David Boder: Well where did they get the German prisoners that they said they liberated two German prisoners for one Jew? Who had the German prisoners?
  • Marcelle Precker: Oh I think that the . . . [?] American and English peoples.
  • David Boder: Oh [you were told that?] . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . had them.
  • David Boder: Oh, at least they told you that. You really didn't know, you were just told.
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: And you think that the Americans gave two German prisoners back . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: I suppose.
  • David Boder: . . . and the Germans gave back one Jew.
  • Marcelle Precker: One Jew.
  • David Boder: One Jew. To whom? To the Swedish Red Cross?It is not clear from Mrs. Precker's testimony whether this prisoner exchange actually took place.13
  • Marcelle Precker: I think it was maybe . . .
  • David Boder: You cannot tell who it was. But it was to the Swedish?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: And where did you go then?
  • Marcelle Precker: Then we were allowed to go . . . in family . . . where at home . . .
  • David Boder: Oh you were released in . . . barracks? Oh, they let you go? All right. Now where did you live after that?
  • Marcelle Precker: After that our apartment was taken by . . . French people.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: We were obliged to go in . . . friend's family. But after that we found back our apartment.
  • David Boder: When did you get your apartment back?
  • Marcelle Precker: In September.
  • David Boder: After the liberation?
  • Marcelle Precker: After the liberation.
  • David Boder: But before the liberation what did the people say? You came home to your apartment and wanted your apartment . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: What did they tell you?
  • Marcelle Precker: They were put in our apartment by the Germans.It is also not clear why the Germans placed this family in the apartment of Mrs. Precker and her family, which must have been in an upscale neighborhood in Paris. Mrs. Precker does indicate that the family was friendly to the Germans in some way and so might have been part of the collaborationist Vichy regime.14
  • David Boder: Yes. And where was the furniture—where was your furniture?
  • Marcelle Precker: All the furniture was taken away by the Germans.It should not be forgotten that the Nazis were among the greatest plunderers in modern history. They not only took their victims' lives but their possessions as well.15
  • David Boder: Your furniture was taken by . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: All. Everything.
  • David Boder: Did you have good furniture?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes. Very good furniture.
  • David Boder: You had very good furniture. Did you have rugs?
  • Marcelle Precker: We had everything it was possible to have.
  • David Boder: Yeah . . . You had everything that was possible to have.
  • Marcelle Precker: And . . .
  • David Boder: And that is what they . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . nothing remained.
  • David Boder: . . . the Germans took away? And what furniture did the people have that lived in your apartment?
  • Marcelle Precker: They had . . . their furniture . . .
  • David Boder: . . . their own furniture.
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: What did they say? That the Germans put them there and that they are going to stay?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes. But we succeed to . . .
  • David Boder: That was while the Germans still were here.
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: All right. Now we will come to that. Then, what . . . where were you when the liberation came? [pause] When the . . . who . . . where were you when Paris was liberated?
  • Marcelle Precker: It was at just at that moment that we were liberated from Drancy.
  • David Boder: Oh. You were liberated from Drancy when . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: Just when . . .
  • David Boder: . . . Paris was liberated.
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . when . . . Yes. One day before the American entered in Paris.The Americans entered Paris on August 25, 1944, the official date of the liberation of the city.16
  • David Boder: Oh, so why did the Swedes have to negotiate with the Germans?
  • Marcelle Precker: Because.. you know . . . [unintelligible] concentration camp . . .
  • David Boder: Yeah.
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . just before the Germans leave.
  • David Boder: The . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: The . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Oh, they hear it was that before the Germans left they would kill all the people.
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: So the Swedish intervened and they freed . . . what? Did they free all the Jews?
  • Marcelle Precker: All the Jews who were in Drancy.
  • David Boder: All the Jews who . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: We were about two thousand at that month.Mrs. Precker and her family were among the 1,542 lice-ridden, famished and terrified Jews living under constant threat of deportation who were liberated from Drancy.17
  • David Boder: Well so they really didn't count whether that they got that many Germans or not. I mean they freed all the Jews.
  • Marcelle Precker: All the Jews.
  • David Boder: And where did everybody go?
  • Marcelle Precker: Some went in . . . [unintelligible] as we do.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: Also . . .
  • David Boder: Yeah . . . uh-huh. Yeah . . . Then . . . others went where?
  • Marcelle Precker: At separate time . . . [?] in other places . . . we [traveling?] by the . . . at that manner that was called "ugit[?]"
  • David Boder: Yes. And?
  • Marcelle Precker: And stayed there . . .
  • David Boder: By who was it arranged?
  • Marcelle Precker: It was arranged by a Jewish organization . . . "Fugita[?]".Mrs. Precker might be referring here to the UGIF (Union Générale des Israélites de France) the controversial body which, under the Vichy regime, was the sole government-recognized Jewish representative organization.18
  • David Boder: Uh-huh. That was . . . Did they work while the Germans were here?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes it was . . . [speaking over each other]
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: Yes. And then, so that's where the people went?
  • Marcelle Precker: Went . . .
  • David Boder: All right.
  • Marcelle Precker: [difficult to understand] . . . before it [?] to them to [?].
  • David Boder: Now tell me what do you remember of the liberation? The day after liberation? How did that come about?
  • Marcelle Precker: [difficult to understand—car horns in background] It was a [performance?] to . . . win them there because I [?] from Drancy that I should do it with my friend and I . . . didn't go . . . [?] moment.
  • David Boder: Yeah. But you hear that the Germans have left Paris?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: All right. And who came in?
  • Marcelle Precker: At that moment, French troops came in Paris with American after that.
  • David Boder: And the Americans came in after that.
  • David Boder: All right and then how long did it last until you had to get your apartment back? Tell us how did you get your apartment back?
  • Marcelle Precker: As the people who had taken our apartment were put in by the Germans it was able for us to take it . . .
  • David Boder: To take it back?
  • Marcelle Precker: Back. Because the French troops tell us that if they don't . . .
  • David Boder: . . . move out?
  • Marcelle Precker: Move out . . . we'll move them [from it].
  • David Boder: So you just came and told them to move out.Mrs. Precker and her family had the authority of the victorious Free French forces behind them.19
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: And they moved out.
  • Marcelle Precker: They moved from the flat.
  • David Boder: And then, you moved in your apartment? Where did you get some furniture?
  • Marcelle Precker: My father had a very big country house near Paris.
  • David Boder: He had what?
  • Marcelle Precker: A very big country house.
  • David Boder: Oh your father had a country house near Paris.
  • Marcelle Precker: Which was occupied [?] by the Germans.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: And [for the?] rooms . . . [we were?] furniture.
  • David Boder: What? . . . yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: We . . . had to change to us from furniture remaining in the . . .
  • David Boder: In the house there.
  • Marcelle Precker: So we put them in our apartment in Paris.
  • David Boder: Oh you had a house in the suburbs so you moved that to the apartment in Paris. All right. And then . . . the people moved out from your apartment without much argument.
  • Marcelle Precker: Not very much because at that moment it was not very good to have be the friend of the Germans.
  • David Boder: Now tell me how does it happen that still here people are suing others for their apartments and so they have difficulty in getting their apartments back? They say that there are still some people who have not gotten their apartments back by now?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes. But it's very [intertwined?] if it is people who have lost a house . . . demolition by . . .
  • David Boder: Oh . . . if there are people you have had their apartments destroyed? Was everything destroyed in Paris?
  • Marcelle Precker: Not in Paris but many of them . . . [?] who were living in the . . .
  • David Boder: In the country and other cities and came here
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: . . . and they have nowhere to go.
  • David Boder: And that is why some people don't get their apartments back.
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes. It's the only reason.Mrs. Precker means that if the apartments were occupied by people from areas surrounding Paris who had had their homes destroyed, she believes that they were able to at least temporarily remain in the apartments they had lived in during the German occupation. In the postwar period, French Jewry had only partial success in reclaiming the apartments and businesses of those who had been deported.20
  • David Boder: All right. What does your little daughter do now?
  • Marcelle Precker: Now she's at school.
  • David Boder: She's at school? How old is she now?
  • Marcelle Precker: She's nearly fifteen.Since Mrs. Precker previously indicated that her daughter was eleven years old in 1944, and this interview took place in August 1946, her account is inconsistent in this regard.21
  • David Boder: To what school is she going?
  • Marcelle Precker: Now she is in school only for [?]
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: Near Paris, at Buffémont. It's a very beautiful place.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Marcelle Precker: After that she'll be in a college in Paris."College" here means secondary school.22
  • David Boder: What kind of a school is it in Buffémont?
  • Marcelle Precker: It's a French feminine . . .
  • David Boder: Is it a private . . . private school?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes it's a private school.
  • David Boder: Yes, and so . . . Is your father back in business?
  • Marcelle Precker: My father is back in business since one year.
  • David Boder: Yes. He has his fur business again?
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes sir.
  • David Boder: Uh-huh. And you are working here with the Joint?It is not clear what kind of work Mrs. Precker was doing for the Joint and whether or not it was paid or volunteer work. In any case, Mrs. Precker was working for an organization which at the time was providing invaluable aid to survivors of Nazi tyranny.23
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, do you have many French friends that are not Jewish?
  • Marcelle Precker: . . . I have some.
  • David Boder: Well uh . . . how do they feel now about the whole situation? [very long pause] I mean this . . . Well there were of course all kind of French. There were some who were collaborating with the Germans . . .
  • Marcelle Precker: Yes.
  • David Boder: And there were others who were fighting the Germans and so on. Now, uh, what do they think? How soon will France come back to normal?As Boder indicates, some French men and women during the years of German occupation behaved with cruelty or cold indifference, while others demonstrated compassion and selflessness. In the immediate postwar period, however, the myth of France as a nation of resisters, apart from a few collaborators and traitors, predominated.24
  • Marcelle Precker: It's difficult . . . to know exactly.
  • David Boder: Well what do you think? [pause.] Can't tell, huh?
  • Marcelle Precker: No.
  • David Boder: You wouldn't be able to tell.
  • Marcelle Precker: No.
  • David Boder: Now uh . . . tell me this . . . did you know somebody when you were in Cannes or so on . . . did you know something about the resistance movement in France?
  • Marcelle Precker: In fact, I was [?] in Cannes [?].
  • David Boder: You didn't see much of it.
  • Marcelle Precker: No sir.
  • David Boder: There's not much of a resistance movement there.
  • David Boder: All right, Ms. Precker that is some very interesting material and I thank you very much. This is a Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording taken from Ms. Marcel Precker working at present at the American Joint Distribution Committee and . . . she was born in Paris and continues to live here. All right, thank you.
  1. As we learn subsequently, although the Germans occupied Paris in June 1940, Mrs. Precker narrowly escaped arrest in July 1942 and was arrested with her family in June 1944 in the city of Cannes.
  2. On July 16th and 17th in 1942, some 4,500 French policemen rounded up a total of 12,884 mostly foreign-born Jews in Paris who had not become naturalized French citizens. Nearly 10,000 of those arrested were women and children. Although Mrs. Precker saved herself by bribing the two French policemen who came to arrest her, the fact that she was a French-born Jew might have played a role in her release. Few of those arrested in the July roundup survived.
  3. Like Nice, Cannes was formerly in the Italian-occupied zone of southeastern France. Until the collapse of the Italian fascist government and the withdrawal of Italian troops from the zone in September 1943, some 50,000 Jews, among them the Mrs. Precker and her family, had sought refuge there. Most refugees, like Mrs. Precker and her family, at first went to the city of Nice. After the departure of Italian troops, the family moved to Cannes.
  4. Given the fact that Mrs. Precker and her family arrived in Drancy at the beginning of August 1944, they must have spent over a month in the two prisons in Nice.
  5. Despite the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944 and the increase in resistance activity throughout the country, deportation of Jews to the infamous Drancy camp in the suburbs of Paris continued, as did deportations from Drancy to Auschwitz. A convoy of some 1,300 Drancy internees left for Auschwitz on July 31, 1944. Mrs. Precker and her family narrowly missed sharing their fate.
  6. This must have occurred subsequent to the German occupation of Nice that began the evening of September 8, 1943. Two days later Alois Brunner, Adolf Eichmann's deputy, and highly trained SS police entered Nice and began a brutal roundup of Jews which, however, was inhibited by the lack of cooperation by many non-Jewish French men and women.
  7. It is not clear from Mrs. Precker's testimony what sort of papers these were, but they raised German suspicions of a link between her father and their English enemy.
  8. They were probably told that they were going to be sent to Germany for forced labor and that their family would be kept together for the sake of family unity, whereas in reality they would have been sent to Auschwitz. The Germans regularly used deceptive techniques to hide the "Final Solution" from their victims.
  9. Even as the Allies closed in on Paris in the first two weeks of August 1944, Alois Brunner, the Nazi fanatic who had turned Drancy into an SS-controlled concentration camp in 1943, continued his efforts to deport Jews to Auschwitz, including Mrs. Precker and her family. Fortunately, he did not succeed, and on the morning of Thursday, August 17, he turned the camp over to the German army and fled.
  10. The establishment of this school in the midst of such a squalid and dangerous environment may be considered a form of resistance. Solidarity and mutual help characterized the Drancy camp population.
  11. Mrs. Precker is referring here to the vermin that infested the mattresses and the rest of the camp.
  12. On the afternoon of August 17, 1944, the German army turned Drancy over to Raoul Nordling, the Consul General of neutral Sweden. Nordling then asked the French Red Cross to care for the camp's inmates, although they did not leave Drancy until about one week later.
  13. It is not clear from Mrs. Precker's testimony whether this prisoner exchange actually took place.
  14. It is also not clear why the Germans placed this family in the apartment of Mrs. Precker and her family, which must have been in an upscale neighborhood in Paris. Mrs. Precker does indicate that the family was friendly to the Germans in some way and so might have been part of the collaborationist Vichy regime.
  15. It should not be forgotten that the Nazis were among the greatest plunderers in modern history. They not only took their victims' lives but their possessions as well.
  16. The Americans entered Paris on August 25, 1944, the official date of the liberation of the city.
  17. Mrs. Precker and her family were among the 1,542 lice-ridden, famished and terrified Jews living under constant threat of deportation who were liberated from Drancy.
  18. Mrs. Precker might be referring here to the UGIF (Union Générale des Israélites de France) the controversial body which, under the Vichy regime, was the sole government-recognized Jewish representative organization.
  19. Mrs. Precker and her family had the authority of the victorious Free French forces behind them.
  20. Mrs. Precker means that if the apartments were occupied by people from areas surrounding Paris who had had their homes destroyed, she believes that they were able to at least temporarily remain in the apartments they had lived in during the German occupation. In the postwar period, French Jewry had only partial success in reclaiming the apartments and businesses of those who had been deported.
  21. Since Mrs. Precker previously indicated that her daughter was eleven years old in 1944, and this interview took place in August 1946, her account is inconsistent in this regard.
  22. "College" here means secondary school.
  23. It is not clear what kind of work Mrs. Precker was doing for the Joint and whether or not it was paid or volunteer work. In any case, Mrs. Precker was working for an organization which at the time was providing invaluable aid to survivors of Nazi tyranny.
  24. As Boder indicates, some French men and women during the years of German occupation behaved with cruelty or cold indifference, while others demonstrated compassion and selflessness. In the immediate postwar period, however, the myth of France as a nation of resisters, apart from a few collaborators and traitors, predominated.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : David Palmer
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz