David P. Boder Interviews Nathan Schacht; September 8, 1946; Bellevue, France

  • David Boder: [In English] September 8th, 1946. Bellevue under Paris, in a home for displaced children under the direction of the OPEJ, the society for the care of Jewish children. The interviewee is Nathan Schacht, a fifteen year old boy. His face is all in scars, and part of one ear is missing. He will tell us the story [of] what has happened to him.
  • David Boder: [In Yiddish] And so, Nathan, come over here. Move over. Tell me your name again.
  • Nathan Schacht: Schacht, Nathan.
  • David Boder: Nathan Schacht. How old are you, Nathan?
  • Nathan Schacht: Fifteen years.
  • David Boder: You are fifteen years old.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: And how long have you been in Paris? In France?
  • Nathan Schacht: I have been in France threee months.
  • David Boder: You have been in France three months.
  • Nathan Schacht: Three . . . four months.
  • David Boder: Four months. And how long have you been in this place?
  • Nathan Schacht: Here?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: One month.
  • David Boder: Here you have been one month.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me, Nathan, what has happened, as you remember it, when the war began . . . when the war began? Speak in here.
  • Nathan Schacht: In '41, when the mother and the father were taken away by the Germans . . .
  • David Boder: The Germans took away your father and mother?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Tell me, how did it happen?
  • Nathan Schacht: When they took them away at night [?] I ran away from Lemberg. I didn't have anywhere to stay, so I ran from Lemberg. [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Well, wait a moment. Where did you live?
  • Nathan Schacht: In Lemberg.
  • David Boder: Oh! In '41 you lived in Lemberg.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: What language did you speak at home?
  • Nathan Schacht: I?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: Russian, Polish.
  • David Boder: Russian, too?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Can you still speak Russian?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Do you speak Russian?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: You do speak Russian.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: [In Yiddish] Would you like to speak Russian or Yiddish?
  • Nathan Schacht: Hm? No. Yiddish.
  • David Boder: You will speak Yiddish.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well. How many people were in your family? The father, the mother . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: Two brothers and a sister.
  • David Boder: Were the brothers older or younger than you?
  • Nathan Schacht: One brother was older than m- . . . than I.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: The other one was younger.
  • David Boder: And the sister?
  • Nathan Schacht: Older.
  • David Boder: And the sister was older than you.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: And where are they now?
  • Nathan Schacht: What?
  • David Boder: Where are your brothers and sisters?
  • Nathan Schacht: I don't know.
  • David Boder: You don't know where they are.
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: Did you try to find them?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Nathan Schacht: I don't know. I gave it to . . .
  • David Boder: You don't know where they are.
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: Well, what happened in '41?
  • Nathan Schacht: The moment the Germans came they took away the father . . .
  • David Boder: Were you at home when they took your father and mother?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. They took me, too, but I ran away from the auto. And they took them away.
  • David Boder: What did you run away from?
  • Nathan Schacht: From the auto.
  • David Boder: From the truck.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. And the father and mother were with whom?
  • Nathan Schacht: With the brothers and the sister together.
  • David Boder: Yes. And you ran away.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Why did you run away?
  • Nathan Schacht: They told me to run away, so I ran away.
  • David Boder: Who told you to run away?
  • Nathan Schacht: The mother. She was taken away separately with the father.
  • David Boder: Oh!
  • Nathan Schacht: [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: On another truck.
  • David Boder: Yes? Nu?
  • Nathan Schacht: And I remained with the brothers and sister. I told them to escape, too. They did not want to. They were afraid. So I escaped by myself.
  • David Boder: Who told you to escape?
  • Nathan Schacht: I escaped by myself.
  • David Boder: Oh, by yourself.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu, and they . . . Where did you escape from, from the truck?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: From the camion.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: All right. And where did you go?
  • Nathan Schacht: So I went to a gentile. I did not have anywhere to stay there, so I went to a gentile, to work. The gentile . . .
  • David Boder: Wait a moment. [Adjusting the equipment.] And so what kind of work did you do with this gentile?
  • Nathan Schacht: I worked in the field. I worked everywhere, whatever he asked me to do. I worked in the forest. And then the gentile did not want to hide me. I had nothing to give him. He wanted me to give him something for hiding me.
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • Nathan Schacht: I had nothing. I had no papers to show whether I am a Pole or a Russian.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Nathan Schacht: He did not want to keep me, so I left. So I ran away into the forest. I went to the partisans.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me, did the gentle know that you were a Jew?
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: No?
  • Nathan Schacht: He did not know. If I had told him that I am a Jew he would have handed me over to the police.
  • David Boder: Yes? But you had no papers.
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: So the gentile told you that he cannot keep you without any papers.
  • Nathan Schacht: Of course.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Nathan Schacht: He told me that if I had no papers he would not keep me. I had no papers. I must leave. He did not want to keep me. He was afraid.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Nathan Schacht: Nu, so I ran away to the partisans. When I came there I did not see anybody, but one night I saw that there . . . partisans were there.
  • David Boder: In the forest.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes, I saw them there. Afterwards I went there, but I did not see anyone. I walked towards the river, about two kilometers. I noticed a Russian partisan. I saw him.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: He asked me where I was going. So I said, 'I am going to earn something. I have no place to go.' He asked me who I was and what . . . He questioned me about everything.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: And then he took me to the captain.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: He introduced me. He accepted me. He gave me food, everything he gave me. I was there eighteen months.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Nathan Schacht: Over a year and a half I was there.
  • David Boder: A year.
  • Nathan Schacht: A year and a half.
  • David Boder: Half a year?
  • Nathan Schacht: A year and a half.
  • David Boder: A year and a half. And how old were you?
  • Nathan Schacht: I was then ten . . . eleven years old.
  • David Boder: Eleven years.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: What did you do there with the partisans?
  • Nathan Schacht: I went scouting. I went . . .
  • David Boder: Alone?
  • Nathan Schacht: No. With . . . with the Russians. I went scouting. I went for food to the gentiles.
  • David Boder: Yes? What does it mean, 'you went for food'?
  • Nathan Schacht: What?
  • David Boder: What does it mean, 'you went for food to the gentiles'?
  • Nathan Schacht: For all . . . for all Russians I brought food.
  • David Boder: You brought food.
  • Nathan Schacht: Food, yes.
  • David Boder: How did you get it?
  • Nathan Schacht: I went to the gentiles. I went with other Russians, not by myself.
  • David Boder: Did you pay for the food?
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: What did you do, take it away?
  • Nathan Schacht: Of course. We had nothing to eat, so we went and took.
  • David Boder: Aha. So you took [it] and ran away.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: And the gentile, what would he do?
  • Nathan Schacht: They would do nothing. We would take everything. But it was reported [?]. One day the Germans made an offensive . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: They made an offensive on the Russians there in the forest.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Nathan Schacht: They started shooting. They mined the whole forest with mines. But . . . we had . . . had nothing to eat any more.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Nathan Schacht: So I went for food.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Nathan Schacht: We went there for food. I went and two other Russians.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: We went near the German trenches.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: We jumped over the trenches. We were going to a gentile for food. There were mines there. I was wounded. The other two were killed. [The spool here is very weak.]
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Nathan Schacht: The other two.
  • David Boder: Where were you wounded?
  • Nathan Schacht: Huh?
  • David Boder: Show me. Where were . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: Here.
  • David Boder: In the arm?
  • Nathan Schacht: Huh?
  • David Boder: Where were you wounded? In the arm, and where else?
  • Nathan Schacht: All over. In the legs, in the arms, all over.
  • David Boder: In the legs and in the arms?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. Here.
  • David Boder: What do you have on your face?
  • Nathan Schacht: Here? From a mine.
  • David Boder: By . . . by fragments?
  • Nathan Schacht: By fragments.
  • David Boder: With fragments of what?
  • Nathan Schacht: From the mine.
  • David Boder: From a mine!
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Oh, the mine . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: Burst.
  • David Boder: . . . had exploded, burst.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: And when was part of your ear torn off? At the same time?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: [In English] He is all rather mutilated. One half ear is missing, and he has shrapnel wounds, or wounds of . . . eh . . . shrapnel, or pieces of mines all over his body.
  • David Boder: [In Yiddish] Well, go on. Tell me, how many partisans were you . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: What?
  • David Boder: . . . in that forest?
  • Nathan Schacht: In the forest? There were a thousand men, an entire company.
  • David Boder: Thousand partisans? An entire company.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: What did one do there all day?
  • Nathan Schacht: We made mines. Put mines under trains. Put mines under . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: . . . the . . . everything, whatever we could. The front [lines] were not far from our forest.
  • David Boder: Which front?
  • Nathan Schacht: The German.
  • David Boder: The German front.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: And the Russian front?
  • Nathan Schacht: On the other side.
  • David Boder: On the other side.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: And you were in the middle?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes, we were in the middle.
  • David Boder: You were in the middle.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. Here are the Germans.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: Here are the Russians, and here we were.
  • David Boder: Did it not happen that the Russians shot at you?
  • Nathan Schacht: No. The Germans were shooting at us.
  • David Boder: Yes. But the Russians did not shoot.
  • Nathan Schacht: No. The Russians, of course, knew that we were there.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Nathan Schacht: Afterwards, when I already was wounded . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: . . . the Russians came and took me away to a hospital.
  • David Boder: To a Russian hospital.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. I lay there about two days, and then the whole army came.
  • David Boder: The Russian army.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. They came and handed me over to a doctor.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Nathan Schacht: [Words not clear.] I lay in a hospital eight months.
  • David Boder: Eight months?
  • Nathan Schacht: Eight months I lay in the hospital.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Nathan Schacht: I was supposed to be operated on. I still have a piece of shrapnel.
  • David Boder: Do you still have a piece of shrapnel? Where?
  • Nathan Schacht: Here in the side.
  • David Boder: In the left side?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: [In English] He has a shrapnel wound and a piece of shrapnel right near the heart.
  • David Boder: [In Yiddish] Nu, were you operated on?
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: Why not?
  • Nathan Schacht: I could not be operated on, because there were no . . . no . . . there was no . . .
  • David Boder: Facilities.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: They could not. It was in the front lines. I had to go farther, so I lay in the hospital. I lay there eight months. Then I was healed already.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Nathan Schacht: Except this shrapnel wound. Then I left the hospital.
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Nathan Schacht: To a home in Cracow.
  • David Boder: The Russians let you go?
  • Nathan Schacht: Huh?
  • David Boder: They left . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: They did not let me. They did not want to let me.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Nathan Schacht: But there came Jews, and they took me away. [They said,] 'Oh yes, you will go back there. Do you need more shrapnel fragments?' So I went to Poland. So I was in Poland . . . [ Here the recording greatly improves.]
  • David Boder: So you went to Poland. What happened there? To which city in Poland did you go?
  • Nathan Schacht: To Cracow.
  • David Boder: Yes. Speak slowly and loud. You understand?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. I was in Cracow in a children's home. Then I went to Zakopane. There we were in a children's home, too. We could not stay there.
  • David Boder: Why not?
  • Nathan Schacht: Bandits came at night, and we could not remain there.
  • David Boder: Tell me, where was that, in Zakopane?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Tell me, how did you get to Zakopane? Did you go there by train?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. I came there by . . . by auto.
  • David Boder: By auto. With many other children?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Who brought you there?
  • Nathan Schacht: What?
  • David Boder: Who brought you there?
  • Nathan Schacht: The woman director who is here.
  • David Boder: Oh! The woman teacher from here! Mrs. Kuechler . . . Kuechler? [See Mrs. Kuechler, Chapter 58.]
  • Nathan Schacht: Kuechler, yes, yes.
  • David Boder: She . . . she found you where?
  • Nathan Schacht: In Cracow. And she brought me to Zakopane to the children's home.
  • David Boder: Were you in Cracow with her in the children's home?
  • Nathan Schacht: No. I don't know. She just came for the children. [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Oh! She came to Cra- . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. And took away . . .
  • David Boder: . . . and took away the children's home.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: To Zakopane.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Well, tell me, what happened in Zakopane?
  • Nathan Schacht: It was all right there, but we could not stay there any more.
  • David Boder: Why not?
  • Nathan Schacht: They threw . . . on the house . . . The house had to be guarded by soldiers. We could not stay there any more.
  • David Boder: Why not?
  • Nathan Schacht: Because there . . . eh . . . eh . . . because in Zakopane . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: there were bandits.
  • David Boder: Who? Polish?
  • Nathan Schacht: Polish
  • David Boder: Nu, what did they do to you. They . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: They killed Jews there.
  • David Boder: Oh! They were killing Jews.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. So we could not stay there.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: So she . . . so we went to France.
  • David Boder: Oh. How . . . tell me, how did you travel from Zakopane? Did you go by train, or by auto?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Nathan Schacht: From Zakopane . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: . . . to France? We went . . . we went by auto as far . . . as far as Czechoslo- . . . -slo- . . .
  • David Boder: Across the border.
  • Nathan Schacht: Across the boder. Then . . .
  • David Boder: All the children?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes, all the children from Zakopane [?].
  • David Boder: And were there grown-up people, too?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Who?
  • Nathan Schacht: Mr. Zeeman [?].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: And Madame Kuechler, the director.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: And another . . . another two.
  • David Boder: Aha. And the very small children also?
  • Nathan Schacht: Also. Everybody, everybody.
  • David Boder: Also.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Nathan Schacht: Then from Czechoslovakia we went by automobiles to France.
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.]
  • Nathan Schacht: To Barbizon [?].
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Nathan Schacht: In Barbizon [?] we were . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: . . . in the house.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Nathan Schacht: We could not stay in Barbizon [?]. The house was too small.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: We could not stay, so we went to [name not clear].
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Nathan Schacht: And from [name not clear] we came here to Bellevue.
  • David Boder: And what do you do here all day?
  • Nathan Schacht: Here?
  • David Boder: Here.
  • Nathan Schacht: Well, we are divided into groups here.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: One group has . . . they do work in the kitchen, another group in the house.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: Another group keep the yard clean. [Words not clear.]
  • David Boder: Aha. Are you learning something?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. We study here [?].
  • David Boder: Aha. Do they feed you well?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: And do you know anything about your brothers, sister?
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: No.
  • Nathan Schacht: They all were taken away.
  • David Boder: What do you think of doing? What do you want to be?
  • Nathan Schacht: I want to . . . I want to go for a . . . for a . . . to learn . . . I want to learn . . .
  • David Boder: What do you want to learn?
  • Nathan Schacht: Locksmith [mechanic?].
  • David Boder: A locksmith [mechanic]?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Aha. And where do you want to go to live?
  • Nathan Schacht: I do not know yet.
  • David Boder: You do not know yet.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: You have no relatives in America?
  • Nathan Schacht: I had. I do not know. I had some in Argentina . . .
  • David Boder: In Argentina.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Do you have relatives in Eretz [Israel]?
  • Nathan Schacht: No.
  • David Boder: The others want to go to Eretz. Do you want to go to Eretz.
  • Nathan Schacht: Of course.
  • David Boder: Of course.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu, and so let us hope everything will be all right.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Can you tell me some special story from your partisan life?
  • Nathan Schacht: What?
  • David Boder: When you were in a special . . . in an especially frightful situation? In an especially dangerous situation. When . . . what was the worst moment in your partisan life?
  • Nathan Schacht: The worst moment was when the offensive came.
  • David Boder: By the Germans?
  • Nathan Schacht: On the 21st of July . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: The 21st of July the offensive came, in '43.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Nathan Schacht: When the Germans made an offensive. They bombed the forest terribly.
  • David Boder: The forest.
  • Nathan Schacht: Bombed so that the trees flew in the air.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Nathan Schacht: We could not stand it any more.
  • David Boder: Were many killed [?]?
  • Nathan Schacht: Many.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Nathan Schacht: Many. [Words not clear.] And in three days the Soviets made an offensive. It was the same way.
  • David Boder: Aha. Tell me, did you carry a rifle? Did you shoot people?
  • Nathan Schacht: No, no. I threw grenades.
  • David Boder: You threw grenades?
  • Nathan Schacht: I planted mines.
  • David Boder: And you planted mines.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did you yourself threw grenades, or other people?
  • Nathan Schacht: Well, on a bridge.
  • David Boder: On a bridge.
  • Nathan Schacht: On a bridge.
  • David Boder: And it exploded.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did the partisans like you?
  • Nathan Schacht: Of course.
  • David Boder: Were these partisans also gentiles?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes. Russians.
  • David Boder: Russians.
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes.
  • David Boder: And Jews.
  • Nathan Schacht: Jews, yes.
  • David Boder: Did you get along well?
  • Nathan Schacht: What?
  • David Boder: You were . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Did you have enough food?
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes, food I had, clothing. I had everything. In the summer [?] I had everything.
  • David Boder: Did you wear a Cossack uniform?
  • Nathan Schacht: No, I did not have it. I wore civilian [clothes].
  • David Boder: Civilian.
  • Nathan Schacht: Of course.
  • David Boder: What kind of rifle did you have?
  • Nathan Schacht: What . . . whatever I could lay my hands on I had.
  • David Boder: [Chuckle.] All right, Nathan Schacht. Would you send in the girl that you said . . .
  • Nathan Schacht: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Send her in.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes at fourteen [?] minutes [of the indicator, which does not necessarily mean duration of the interview] the report of Nathan Schacht. September 8th, 1946. In Bellevue near Paris. A home for displaced children which [who], under the direction of their teacher Lena Kuechler and a staff of about ten instructors and medical assistants, are living here in expectation of transfer to Palestine.
  • David Boder: The record of Nathan [unintelligible] concludes at fourteen minutes of the spool.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • English Translation : David P. Boder