David P. Boder Interviews Henry Sochami; August 12, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 43 taken from Mr. Henry Sochami, 38 years old, tattoo number 109752 triangle, meaning Jewish, a tattoo of the camp of Auschwitz. He will speak Spanish, he can speak German but it's rather . . . slow, and we prefer to use the language he can speak most fluently.
  • David Boder: [In Spanish] Er . . . Mr. Sochami, tell me where you were born, and what your nationality is.
  • Henry Sochami: I am Greek.
  • David Boder: Right. And where were you born?
  • Henry Sochami: In Salonica.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: We were later deported . . .
  • David Boder: Er . . . I would like you to tell me where you were when the Germans arrived, er . . . in the city where you resided.
  • Henry Sochami: Before the arrival of the Germans, I was in Albany, acting as a Greek soldier.
  • David Boder: So you were in the Greek Army. And who were you fighting against?
  • Henry Sochami: Against Italy.
  • David Boder: All right. Greece joined forces with England and the United States . . .
  • Henry Sochami: The United States, yes.
  • David Boder: So you were fighting against Italy. And, what happened?
  • Henry Sochami: I was eight months in combat.
  • David Boder: In what force were you enlisted?
  • Henry Sochami: I was in class 19 . . .
  • David Boder: No, no. What force did you belong to? Infantry . . .
  • Henry Sochami: Oh, the name was [unintelligible] télégraphiqué?.
  • David Boder: Oh! You were in . . . [unintelligible]?
  • Henry Sochami: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: And you know [unintelligible]?
  • Henry Sochami: No.
  • David Boder: You don’t?
  • Henry Sochami: I played the clairon.
  • David Boder: Oh, good
  • Henry Sochami: I played the bugle.
  • David Boder: So, You were the . . . er . . . clarinetist in . . . er . . . a telegraphic station.
  • Henry Sochami: Yes. Télégraphiqué?.
  • David Boder: So, could we say you are a musician?
  • Henry Sochami: Yes.
  • David Boder: Er . . . What instruments do you play?
  • Henry Sochami: The bugle.
  • David Boder: So you play the bugle.
  • Henry Sochami: Then. When the Germans declared the war against Greece.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Henry Sochami: I was fighting in Albany against Italians.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: Then, when my city . . . Salonica, was occupied by Germans, we fought in Athens, and all the places of the Old Greece. Later, we were forced to surrender to the German forces, and Germans escorted us to our houses.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: I went to my house and took my three children.
  • David Boder: What was the name of the city?
  • Henry Sochami: It was Salonica.
  • David Boder: Salonica. And were you with your wife?
  • Henry Sochami: Yes.
  • David Boder: Your wife and three children. How old were they?
  • Henry Sochami: One was 13 years old, [unintelligible name] Sochami; the second one was 10 years old, [unintelligible name] Sochami; and the third one, Dora Sochami, was only 3 years old.
  • David Boder: OK.
  • Henry Sochami: Then, when the Germans arrived, they took all the Jews and sent us to a camp . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. To Auschwitz?
  • Henry Sochami: No, no. Before that. We were taken to a labor camp. Those of us between 17 and 45 years of age.
  • David Boder: Men and Women?
  • Henry Sochami: No, just men. Our names were written down, and we were given some signs. We were called by [unintelligible]. 3:50
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: Shared. And we had to work.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: After working there, we were taken to . . . er . . . some railways . . . to guard them.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: After that, we were taken to a ghetto in [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Henry Sochami: In [unintelligible], in Greece. The train station.
  • David Boder: OK.
  • Henry Sochami: We were locked in the ghetto and we remained there for eight days.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: After those eight days, three thousand five hundred people were sent . . .
  • David Boder: Men and women?
  • Henry Sochami: Men, women, and children.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: We were sent in closed railway cars.
  • David Boder: So. As you were saying, you worked only with men . . . So where were your wife and the girls?
  • Henry Sochami: When we left Salonica, it was March 15, 1943.
  • David Boder: Who were you with?
  • Henry Sochami: We were with the [unintelligible family name].
  • David Boder: So you knew this family, right?
  • Henry Sochami: Yes. We arrived in Auschwitz. We got to the station on March 21.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: There was a selection there . . . er . . . some German officers separated children, women and old people from those who could work.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: Children, women and old people were placed in trucks and sent to Birkenau.
  • David Boder: To Birkenau?
  • Henry Sochami: Yes, Birkenau. Once there, they were sent to the gas chamber, directly . . . almost with no difficulties. The following morning, none of them were alive.
  • David Boder: Did this happen to your family?
  • Henry Sochami: Yes. To all my family: three children and my wife.
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • Henry Sochami: We were then sent to Auschwitz. Once in Auschwitz, we were left in the bathrooms all night long.
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • Henry Sochami: We were washed, our clothes were taken away, we were given prisoner’s clothes, and we were placed under quarantine for forty days.
  • David Boder: What did you do while you were in quarantine?
  • Henry Sochami: During the quarantine period, we were taken outside to do some physical exercise . . . and that was it.
  • David Boder: OK.
  • Henry Sochami: After the forty days had passed, some officers came to see us. They selected all those men who were strong and working men, and sent them out of Auschwitz, to other labor camps. I stayed in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: What happened to those who could not work?
  • Henry Sochami: Those who could not work were taken to a hospital . . . er . . . from the hospital, they were taken to Birkenau, to the crematorium.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: And as for those of us who could work, we were sent to labor camps or commands nearby.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: In the commands . . . we were left aside, beaten . . . And our food was a piece of bread with a liter of water.
  • David Boder: What command did you work in?
  • Henry Sochami: In the [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: And what did you do there?
  • Henry Sochami: There, we practiced masonry.
  • David Boder: Oh, you cut stone blocks?
  • Henry Sochami: Yes. Stones . . . with civilians who worked with us.
  • David Boder: There was a little interruption.
  • Henry Sochami: A month before the Russians' arrival, the camp was evacuated and we were sent to a camp in [unintelligible name]. In [unintelligible name], there were only forty Jews, and the rest of the prisoners were Christian.
  • David Boder: Could you please speak a little bit slower?
  • Henry Sochami: Christians battered us because they could not stand the mere sight of us. They would walk away from us, they would beat us, and they would even take our bread which was our only food. From there, before the Russians came, we were taken to Buchenwald. We were forced in cattle railcars and we were locked there for three days and three nights, with no food and nothing to drink. Nothing.
  • David Boder: Do you remember what month it was?
  • Henry Sochami: Er . . . It was February of 1945.
  • David Boder: February of 1945. All right.
  • Henry Sochami: We were taken to Buchenwald. There were sixty five to seventy thousand people under the same roof, from all nationalities, French, Italians . . . all the nationalities in the world. We were in a building for some time, and then there was a selection and all those who were strong enough were taken to camps all around Germany for forced labors. I would always hid under beds, or anywhere to avoid being taken to labor camps.
  • David Boder: Oh! So it was possible to hide sometimes, wasn’t it?
  • Henry Sochami: It was sometimes possible. From there, I was taken to a small camp. In that small camp, I was in a barrack hut with 1,200-1,300 people. There were 7 or 8 people per square meter. At ten in the morning, we were given a liter of water and a piece of bread. Three months later, Americans were approaching and every afternoon Jews were gathered to be taken away. Christians were not taken away, but Jews were. I would hide anywhere, and I even lived among Christians and they did not know I was a Jew.
  • David Boder: Did you carry anything that distinguished you as Jews?
  • Henry Sochami: In Auschwitz, we carried a sign as Jews, but when we were in Buchenwald we did not have anything.
  • David Boder: OK.
  • Henry Sochami: There were no differences among us.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: Jews that were taken away from this place, were killed down the road with submachine guns. I was able to hid for three days under ground, in a barrack, together with many Russian Christians, who did not know I was a Jew.
  • David Boder: They didn’t know you.
  • Henry Sochami: They didn’t know if I was a Jew. I always told them I was Greek and Christian.
  • David Boder: Greek and Christian, I see.
  • Henry Sochami: Then, a couple of days before the Germans left, the Americans arrived. It was about four in the afternoon, in April; April 11, 1945.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: When I saw the Russians coming out, because we had been hiding, I did not want to go out because I was scared.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: Then I saw they were all kissing and embracing each other outside. I looked and I saw everybody was dancing because the Americans were coming, so I went out. I weighted only 38 kg because of the famine, and though I was falling down, I started singing and dancing.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: Once the Americans arrived, we started eating and drinking well, and I was with the Americans for two months.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Henry Sochami: In Buchenwald.
  • David Boder: Buchenwald. I see.
  • Henry Sochami: After two months, we were sent to Paris to be taken to Greece.
  • David Boder: Right.
  • Henry Sochami: By plane.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: [Unintelligible]
  • David Boder: How many people were there on the plane?
  • Henry Sochami: Only 53 Greek.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: And 10 from Salonica.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: We were taken to Paris, and the rest were sent to Greece. And since I had served in the French Légion Étrangère from 1920 to 1925, in Morocco . . .
  • David Boder: Oh. Right. Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: I had the chance of staying in France.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: And so I stayed like this for a year because I was really thin.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: And now, I have started to work.
  • David Boder: And who do you work for now?
  • Henry Sochami: For an American journal.
  • David Boder: OK. And what are you planning to do in the future?
  • Henry Sochami: I don’t know . . . For the time being, I am working here, and as soon as I can find another job to earn my living.
  • David Boder: Aha. But, are you planning to stay in France?
  • Henry Sochami: Yes.
  • David Boder: And . . .
  • Henry Sochami: May be I will go to Palestine later.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: And . . . as soon as the situation improves.
  • David Boder: Aha. And what do you do here for the journal? What are you doing now?
  • Henry Sochami: I work here in the [unintelligible], Where they receive heavy boxes. I carry them, I close envelopes . . . er . . .
  • David Boder: So you do manual work.
  • Henry Sochami: Yes. Manual work.
  • David Boder: Do you have family here?
  • Henry Sochami: Unfortunately, there were 27 members in my family: 3 brothers, one sister with their own families. And they all ended up in [crematories?], and I am the only one left in my whole family.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: Out of 27, I am alone in the world.
  • David Boder: And have you written to Greece?
  • Henry Sochami: Yes. I have written to Greece, but [unintelligible] told me that my brother’s oldest son is alive.
  • David Boder: Pardon me.
  • Henry Sochami: My brother’s oldest son is still alive.
  • David Boder: So, he is alive.
  • Henry Sochami: Yes.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Henry Sochami: And one of my sister’s daughters . . . people say they saw her alive with other girls . . . but she left with some Belgians, and I have no idea whether she is dead or alive . . . I don't know where she is . . . I was told she was sent to Belgium.
  • David Boder: Oh. Right. She went to Belgium but you are not sure.
  • Henry Sochami: Yes. I don’t know where [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Well, monsieur . . . Sochami. This has been an interesting conversation. I found all you said very interesting. Thank you very much.
  • David Boder: [In English] That ends the report of Henry Sochami. Taking about . . . taking about twelve minutes of Spool number 43. We will leave the rest for another interviewee. Thank you very much.
  • David Boder: Chicago, November the 21st, 1950. This concludes Spool 9-43A of Henry Sochami, it is a spool in Spanish. The next Spool 9-43B is by a Mr. Mizrahi and seems to be in English. Boder.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Roberta Hopson
  • English translation : Patricia Sanner
  • Reviewer : Adriana Barrós Tomé