David P. Boder Interviews Isaac Wolf; September 1, 1946; Tradate, Italy

  • David Boder: [In English] Italy, September 1st, at the Castle Tradate, between Milano and Como, at a home for displaced Jews who expect from here eventually to be transferred, one way or the other, to Palestine The interviewee is Mr. Isaac Wolf, thirty years old, here with his wife and a child. He lives here in the camp. He is exercising some administrative duties, and, in part, for that reason seems to have a room for himself with his family.
  • David Boder: [In German] You have a room for yourself?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes. And so, Mr. Wolf, would you tell us again what is your name, how old are you?
  • Isaac Wolf: Wolf, Isaac.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Thirty years old. [He chooses to speak German which apparently causes him some difficulties.]
  • David Boder: Wait a moment [adjusting the microphone]. You are thirty years old, nu? And what do you do here in . . . what do you call this place? Hachshara [a place for preliminary training of those planning to go to Israel]?
  • Isaac Wolf: Hachshara, yes.
  • David Boder: What do you do here in the Hachshara?
  • Isaac Wolf: We are working. We are learning to do various jobs.
  • David Boder: Do you occupy any office [as an official here]?
  • Isaac Wolf: I myself am a worker of [word not clear].
  • David Boder: You yourself are what?
  • Isaac Wolf: I myself am a worker of [word not clear].
  • David Boder: What is that?
  • Isaac Wolf: That is a member of the organization, of the leaders of the people of the Hachshara.
  • David Boder: Hm. You are on the committee.
  • Isaac Wolf: On the committee, yes.
  • David Boder: Hm, and what are you doing in particular?
  • Isaac Wolf: Well, to take care of the food supplies . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: There should be everything for the people, and it should be clean, everything.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: Hygiene. Everything that is necessary . . .
  • David Boder: You are, so to say . . . are you elected by the people?
  • Isaac Wolf: By the . . . elected by the people.
  • David Boder: Elected by the people. In a democratic manner?
  • Isaac Wolf: Completely democratic.
  • David Boder: By the men and women?
  • Isaac Wolf: By men and women, everybody.
  • David Boder: And by the younger boys, too?
  • Isaac Wolf: Everybody, everybody.
  • David Boder: Everybody, everyone voted.
  • Isaac Wolf: Everybody, one hundred per cent.
  • David Boder: [Jestingly] Your little baby didn't vote?
  • Isaac Wolf: No. [Chuckle.] Small baby, naturally . . .
  • David Boder: [Chuckle.] How old is he? Is it a boy or a girl?
  • Isaac Wolf: Who? Mine?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: A girl.
  • David Boder: It is a girl. How old is she?
  • Isaac Wolf: [With a warm chuckle] Four weeks.
  • David Boder: Only four weeks?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. [Chuckle.]
  • David Boder: Oh! [Chuckle.] Nu, and so tell me this, Mr. Wolf, [in Yiddish] tell me, where were you when the war started, and what happened then?
  • Isaac Wolf: [He continues with his endeavor to speak German.] I was in '39, at the beginning of the war . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: I was in Lemberg. And when the war started I was drafted into the Polish army.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: I was in the Polish army, and then I was . . . fought under Lemberg, too.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I was injured.
  • David Boder: Wounded?
  • Isaac Wolf: Wounded, yes.
  • David Boder: Where were you wounded?
  • Isaac Wolf: Near Lemberg.
  • David Boder: Yes. I mean which . . . where on your body were you wounded?
  • Isaac Wolf: In the hand.
  • David Boder: You were wounded in the hand, nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I was lying in the hospital, and then marched in the Russian army.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I was already in Russia, that means, in Lemberg, since then the Russian army was already in Lemberg.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I was lying in the hospital and became well. I was under the Russian government.
  • David Boder: Yes, that was when there was no war yet.
  • Isaac Wolf: In '39.
  • David Boder: Yes, Russia and the Germans . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: When Poland and Germany were fighting, yes.
  • David Boder: But not Russian with Germany.
  • Isaac Wolf: No, there was so . . . that . . .
  • David Boder: Not officially.
  • Isaac Wolf: Not officially. It was so: When the Russians have . . . the Germans shelled Lemberg . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . the Russian . . . the Russians at Lemberg answered with . . . also, because there was also a kind of misunderstanding . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . between the armies. There was also a certain . . . for a few hours there was also such . . .
  • David Boder: But officially Russian and Germany were not at war.
  • Isaac Wolf: Not at war.
  • David Boder: And so, nu? So you were in the hospital. And what happened then?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I was lying . . . maybe six weeks I was in the hospital. Then I went home.
  • David Boder: Yes. Whom did you have at home? Who was your father, your mother? How many were in the family?
  • Isaac Wolf: I was . . . I had the mother, the father, sisters, a brother . . .
  • David Boder: How many sisters?
  • Isaac Wolf: I had two sisters.
  • David Boder: Older or younger?
  • Isaac Wolf: One . . . two younger.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Isaac Wolf: And one brother, an older one. A brother.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: He lived in Radomsko.
  • David Boder: Yes. And your father and your mother?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: And? You came home.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: What did you do then?
  • Isaac Wolf: Then I started working. The Russians did not allow [one] to go around without work.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Because if one did not work they asked, 'On what do you live?'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: So everybody had to go to work.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: Then I started working. I worked on the railroad. I was learning . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: I was learning to be a train machinist. [Pause.]
  • David Boder: And so you were learning to be a train machinist. Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, and then I worked throught the whole time. Nu, it was so. When one day I didn't work--not, I but others--then the Russians asked why he didn't come that day to work.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: When . . . One had to have a certain reason why he didn't come to work.
  • David Boder: Did they pay for the work?
  • Isaac Wolf: For the work they paid, yes.
  • David Boder: Was one able to live on it?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, like in Russia, there was the arrangement that when one earned a hundred and fifty rubles, he also could live on the hundred . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . rubles, because it was so, that they ate in the [community] kitchen. And in the kitchen it cost sixty rubles for a dinner, and fifty rubles, and hundred rubles, approximately so [he apparently wanted to say kopeks].
  • David Boder: Hundred and fifty rubles per day?
  • Isaac Wolf: Per day.
  • David Boder: Yes, yes. And?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, and so one could . . . No! A hundred and fifty rubles a month!
  • David Boder: Nu, that means only kopeks.
  • Isaac Wolf: Thirty kopeks [word not clear].
  • David Boder: Oh, yes. [Word not clear].
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, one could come out so . . . to save money one . . .
  • David Boder: One could not?
  • Isaac Wolf: Could not in Russia. But one could come out very well in Russia for this money, for this money that one got.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then when I already worked as machinist, then I already earned thousand, thousand five hundred rubles. That was already very much. On this two families could live already a whole month.
  • David Boder: Nu? You worked as a machinist on a railroad?
  • Isaac Wolf: Railroad, and I drove . . .
  • David Boder: With a parovoz [locomotive]?
  • Isaac Wolf: With a parovoz.
  • David Boder: With a locomotive.
  • Isaac Wolf: With a locomotive, yes.
  • David Boder: Nu, go on.
  • Isaac Wolf: And . . .
  • David Boder: How long did one study to be a machinist?
  • Isaac Wolf: In Russia were courses. One could study six months, and eight months, and a year. But after three months one finished the course. And during the time of the course they received exactly as much as if they were working--a little less, but they could manage, too, with this money.
  • David Boder: Nu, go on.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I worked until the time of the war.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: At the time of the war, when the German fliers already were bombing Lemberg, I was still . . .
  • David Boder: When the war started between the Russians and the Germans.
  • Isaac Wolf: Between the Russians and the Germans, yes.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I also worked on the railroad.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And until the . . . up to two days before the Germans entered . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . I worked on the railroad, under the bombs, under everything. Everybody had to go to work. He couldn't leave the work.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then, when the Germans were already at Lemberg, then I couldn't go to take leave of my parents [to say goodbye].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And till the . . .
  • David Boder: You could not go with your parents.
  • Isaac Wolf: No, I couldn't throw away the work. And I couldn't go with them. And I have not seen my parents till this day. And I was . . . and then I ran away with the Russian Army farther, and I ran as far as Woloczysk. And there, near Kiev . . . on the other side, we were surrounded by the Germans.
  • David Boder: On the other side?
  • Isaac Wolf: On the other side [of the river] . . . already near the Russian border.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: There was Podwoloczysk and Woloczysk.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: It was already near the . . . in the Ukraine.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then we entered . . . the Russians had already captured . . . surrounded the forest, and the . . .
  • David Boder: The Germans.
  • Isaac Wolf: The Germans. And we were . . . we organized as partisans, by ourselves, on our own, because we knew what . . . what he does with the Jews because we had read the book Unser . . . the Unser . . . Mein Kampf.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: Then we knew what the meaning is of the Judenfrage [Jewish question]. Therefore, we knew that voluntarily we will not go to death. As long as we will be able to save the [our] life we will save it.
  • David Boder: But, yes, you said that you went with the partisans. Why didn't . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: But yes.
  • David Boder: . . . you go with the regular army?
  • Isaac Wolf: They didn't want to accept us then, because they didn't know who we were. They did take into the Russian army . . . from '39 till '41, until the time of the war, the younger ones were taken.
  • David Boder: In Poland, yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Of the Poles. There was no difference, Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, everybody. But when he knew that . . . In the time of the war they [the Russians] didn't want to take us without . . . that means, I should say, without endorsement it is in Russian.
  • David Boder: Without guarantees . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. And then . . .
  • David Boder: . . . sponsorship.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. Then we were taken. And we were told that we should go farther into Russia. There we will be taken under a commission, and then we will be accepted [?]. We ourselves saw how bad . . . bad the situation was. And we had nothing in our hands. We can't protect our lives. And we took to the forest. Then many people had been shot, Russian soldiers. We took from the dead the weapons into our hands. Rifles and automatics and everything was there, and then we were . . . I lived eight days in the trees.
  • David Boder: In the trees?
  • Isaac Wolf: In the trees I lived. With the straps that I kept till this day as a souvenir, I tied myself, one strap around the legs . . .
  • David Boder: A strap [belt]?
  • Isaac Wolf: A strap, yes. And with one I tied myself around the body, entirely, so that I shouldn't fall down. And so I ate. I had in my pocket perhaps a half a kile of bread.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then with this half a kilo of bread . . . and there was also a friend who had about two kilos of dry bread. And with that . . . we were throwing it from one tree to another. And on this we lived a few days. Then . . .
  • David Boder: Why did you have to be in a tree?
  • Isaac Wolf: What?
  • David Boder: Why did you have to be . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Why? Because the Germans were walking around. They were calling, 'Here are . . . Jews and Russians are around here.'
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And we were afraid, because they were walking around looking for us in the forest. Then we saw that death is already before our eyes. You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: We already have nothing to lose. We said, 'If we go do it this way, maybe we will be able to save our lives.'
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then we went across waters.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: So . . . across forests, and we met a Russian patrol.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: Then we said that we are going to defend ourselves as partisans.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: Voluntarily, because we don't want to go to the Germans, because we know what he does with the Jews . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . that when he catches a Jew then [he] cuts off hands, legs, ears. He cuts out . . . that the . . . the . . . He didn't know himself what he should do. This barbarism was so terrible against the Jews that we have said that we don't want to go to death voluntarily. And then we went on till the Russians met us. We banded together with the Russian people, with Jews, and we went again into the forest. We also killed many Germans, because they 'started on us.' We kept the pistol thus in the hand. He shouldn't notice. And when he came close, said that we should hold our hands up, we held the hands thus. And at the same time we killed him. And we went on. There were a few [?] people with us. There were eight people.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: We killed fifteen Germans then . . . at that time. And before they could get ready to kill us, to search us, we killed them right away, and we went on. At that time we met a Russian patrol. And the Russians stopped us. They asked who we were. We showed that we have papers that we are Russian railroad workers, and we are Jews. [So] they let us live. They didn't say anything. They believed us. And then they asked where we wanted to go. We said that to us it was all the same. We want to go into the Russian army or to join the Partisans, because we don't want to go to death voluntarily.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And we were taken into the Russian army. And then I went into the Russian army. I was in the Russian army. I have fought at Stalingrad.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I still have decorations from the Russian army. And I have fought till the last day of the war.
  • David Boder: All right . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: I was three times injured . . .
  • David Boder: Wounded?
  • Isaac Wolf: Wounded.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: In which part of the body had you been wounded?
  • Isaac Wolf: Again in the hand, the second time. And then in the leg.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: I was . . . and I have fought. I said that voluntarily I don't want to go to death.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: For my own sake, for vengeance, that [because] they took and killed my parents, sisters . . .
  • David Boder: Did you know about it?
  • Isaac Wolf: I knew about it, because I had heard. I had been told. People saw what was done to our parents. And at the same time when Lemberg was liberated, Lwow . . .
  • David Boder: Oh, afterwards?
  • Isaac Wolf: I asked around. And in Rawa-Ruska, too, from my friends . . . They answered that the Germans had killed them with a terrible death. They were taken and burned in crematories. They had their breasts cut off, the Jewish women, and the girls. They acted so terribly. So I said, if they did this to my parents, then I have nothing to lose. Then I . . . this [is] revenge for my parents. Here I see a chance of killing Germans. When I have killed them, then they can do to me what they want. Then I went on already, one can say, like a blind man.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: I went to the front. I fought. And the Russian army has recognized that I am . . . have fought well. I received these decorations. I received as follows: Krasnaya Zwiezda [Red Star].
  • David Boder: Yes
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand? A . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, I understand.
  • Isaac Wolf: The Red Star. And I received for Stalingrad a medal.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: The Good Fighter, that is in Russian Boyeviye Zaslugi.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I have received the Oboronyi Kavkas [Defense of the Causcasus]
  • David Boder: What?
  • Isaac Wolf: Kavkas . . . yes? And the Obronyi . . . Pobiedyi nad Germanyi [Victory over Germany]. That I already got towards the end, too. I have fought well, and I have . . . seen that . . . the . . . the . . . every moment stood before me the body of [my] father, mother, sisters, and brother whose picture I still have to this day. That was with me, with every man, with every Jew, that the blood was so boiling, that I know that I have nothing to lose. And then I went. I have taken very much revenge on these Germans.
  • David Boder: Oh.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then at the end of the war it was said that one can go to Lemberg. I went . . . during the time of the war I travelled to Lemberg.
  • David Boder: Where were you?
  • Isaac Wolf: I have been everywhere. In Rumania, Hungary, and Austria, and Chechia, Czechoslovakia. You know where that is . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, I know.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I was in Hungary and in Carpatho-Ukraine. There I fought. In that part there were Russians. The Ukrainian partisans were there, those 'Banderovtzi,' [the followers of the Ukranian leader Stepan Bandera] . . . those who were helping the Germans.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Because the Ukranians were indeed much worse than the Germans. The Germans did not do as much as the Ukranians. This was such kind of people. When they took in Lemberg the Jewish Community Council, they hanged them in the streets, and they said, 'These are Jews. They have helped the Jews, and now we have to kill them.' Alive, they cut off their eyes, cut our their ears. The noses . . . here they have burned out numbers with hot . . . like horses. Have you noticed? Sometimes numbers are made on horses, the military horses.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: That is what they did. They cut out pieces of flesh from the legs. Every Jew had to carry a . . . a . . .
  • David Boder: A star?
  • Isaac Wolf: A star. And then when I was in Lemberg, I have seen . . . I had come home. And strange people [strangers] were there, by us, in the dwelling where I had lived. I stopped still. The . . . the heart became so . . . turned to stone, that I couldn't speak. I fell down, so . . . I was simply without strength. And I was revived. Then I went on. I went around. Where shall I go to look? I went to the cemetery . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . on the Beth Hakodesh [The Sacred Abode].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: There I met an old man who told me,'Here lies your mother. She had been killed and here I have buried her.' And then . . . at the same time I returned to the Russian army. And in the Russian army I again went to fight. And towards the end, when we had already heard that the war was ended, I was in Budapest. And then I was told that I can go home. Here I saw, if I come home, whom will I find there? Not a father, nobody. And it may come to it that I may commit suicide. It seemed thus: During the six years that I had lost so much health . . . and now I should come home and find nobody . . . that . . . how can I stay there home? Not anyone. We saw the . . . the Jewish homes. They had thrown bombs into them, that they shouldn't even exist. And we still saw the blood that . . .
  • David Boder: That was in Lemberg?
  • Isaac Wolf: In Lemberg. The blood was still in the streets not dried . . . of the Jews. And there was still a Beth Hakodesh where the people had been burned when I was there. I still saw how the earth was still quivering.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: During the war . . . that people had just been put in.
  • David Boder: Now wait a moment. Tell me that again.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: When did you see that the earth was quivering?
  • Isaac Wolf: As soon as Lemberg was liberated.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand? And then it was so . . . when the people were . . . the . . . the Ukranians . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: When they met a Jew on the street they killed him.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: They weren't able to exactly kill him.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: They . . . still living . . . dug a grave for him, and thus covered him with earth. I wasn't far with the army, you understand? We entered a village, a town.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: As soon as we entered, you understand . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . the Ukranians ran away, and the Jews were still . . . the . . . this . . . the blood of the people was still warm . . . whom they had killed. Because they said . . . there were some Jews who had hidden themselves with Christians. They had given gold. They gave away all their possesions to the Christian so that he should hide them. So he took the gold and said: 'I will hide you.' He hid them, you understand? On the other side he told his other colleagues, the Ukranians. The Ukranians themselves have killed many more Jews than the Germans . . .
  • David Boder: But, yes, but, what do you say about the graves having moved?
  • Isaac Wolf: Self . . .
  • David Boder: Have you yourself seen it?
  • Isaac Wolf: Myself. I saw it with my own eyes! Because . . .
  • David Boder: How long ago had the people been buried?
  • Isaac Wolf: A couple of hours before[Footnote: In Eastern Europe the sagging of a grave or the breaking of the grave hill was often superstitiously attributed to the movements or even struggle of the buried body. The inferences were that the buried person was not completely dead. Such rumors were specially persistent when the body was of an executed or murdered person, or of a person buried without religious right. Greater credence could be given to the stories of mass executions which nearly always carried the assertion that the machine gunned or gassed victims were not all completely dead at the moment of burial or cremation.] . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then there was a Rumanian, also a doctor, who worked in a work-lager, you understand? And he was a young doctor. They retained him also with them, and then came a . . .
  • David Boder: Who kept him with them? The Ukranians?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Ukranians had kept . . . then they learned that he was a Jew so they took him, with the Germans together, you understand? He was told that he should dig for himself a grave and should lie down in it, you understand? They covered him with earth. And at the same time the Russian army made an attack, and he was . . . it was seen that the earth is quivering . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . and he was dug up. He still was, one may say, twenty per cent alive. And then he was given injections. There was a medico who gave him injections, gave him camphor and thus his life was saved.
  • David Boder: Tell me, how deep has one to be buried in order to see the earth moving?
  • Isaac Wolf: Oh well, it was maybe a half a meter . . . half a meter, or something . . .
  • David Boder: A half . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . like that. They didn't . . .
  • David Boder: Oh!
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, they didn't . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . bury too deep. He was told to dig himself, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: He was so covered with stones, with such . . . and thus have they exactly . . . they didn't kill hundred per cent so that he should be dead, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes, I understand.
  • Isaac Wolf: They did so, that he should suffer, the vengeance. When they me a woman, she had the breasts cut off. A Russian Star was made or a Jewish design. And then, when he met a young girl, he had relations with her.
  • David Boder: Who? The Ukrainians?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Ukranians, the Germans. The he says, 'Have a souvenir, that the Germans and the Ukranians had you!'
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then there were such cases, that a man had a woman. Then he had enough of her. He took vengeance. He broke off a stick, you understand? And the stick he pushed into her. He said, 'Have that so you will have as a souvenir that the Germans had intercourse with you! So . . . so . . .
  • David Boder: To a man?
  • Isaac Wolf: To the woman. [Whispers with feeling.] Thus they did to a woman! You understand?
  • David Boder: Say that again. They had not with the woman . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Themselves have with the woman . . .
  • David Boder: . . . relations.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . had not relations with the body . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . but with a stick. You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Pushed it in, and so they [treated] a young girl who never had had relations with anybody.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Thus with such brutality have they behaved themselves towards Jewish girls.
  • David Boder: Did you see that or . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: With my own eyes, personally I have met a girl . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . a young girl who had that done to her, but you know how that came about. The Russian partisans walked always into the towns . . .
  • David Boder: Yes? Into the towns.
  • Isaac Wolf: Into the towns, or into the villages, and they were dressed in civilian clothes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: At the same time they had communication with the Russian army . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . or Russian patrols. Then they telephoned or gave a signal so that the Russian should enter. And they were caught. I was in a Russian village, that means in Bessarabia. Kamina is name of it.
  • David Boder: What does it mean, 'they were caught'?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Ukranians, in the instant of the 'attempt' that they carried out against the Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: I understand.
  • Isaac Wolf: At the same time I was present.
  • David Boder: I understand, but one must be very careful of what one is saying. It must be the purest truth, not what somebody has told you.
  • Isaac Wolf: No! I saw [it] with my own eyes, because I was for six years in the war.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I myself up to this day, up to the end of the war . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . I have experienced and have seen very much.
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu? Go on.
  • Isaac Wolf: And . . . at the same time I was . . . in Bessarabia it was . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . we had liberated . . . it it called Kaminka . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . a . . . that is a large village, or a small town. It was a health resort . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . we were liberated. We encountered Rumanian officers. It was near Bystrica [Bystrica Banska in Czechoslovakia or Bystrzyca in Poland].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: We had . . .
  • David Boder: That is a river? [There is also a town by the same name.]
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Go on.
  • Isaac Wolf: We met a Jewish woman with a young girl, a mother with a daughter. The girl was sixteen years old.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And a Rumanian officer had lived with her. One with the mother and a colleague lived with the girl of the . . .
  • David Boder: Lived with her?
  • Isaac Wolf: Lived, yes, and in one room.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand? And when we came in we didn't know . . . I asked whether any Jews still are living here. Because I did not believe that after that, what the German had done, that such a thing is possible that a Jew should remain alive. You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Then they said that . . . when we had caught these Rumanian officers, the Rumanians had been yet with the Germans together.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And they were still a little drunk, in that room. And at that time we entered as a patrol, and we caught these Rumanians . . .
  • David Boder: And the women were there?
  • Isaac Wolf: With them together in that room! Then we put up the pistols and the automatics. So the Rumanians said, 'Ask . . . ask the Frui . . . the Frui! [the woman].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: I said, 'Are you Jewish?' 'Yes,' said she, because the Rumanians [he probably means the Rumanian Jews] speak Jewish well.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: So I spoke to them. Say I, 'Are you Jewish?' Says she, 'Yes.' Say I, 'What are you doing here?' They say, 'To survive. We wanted to save our lives, and the Rumanians told us, "If you want to save your lives you have to live with me." They were wonderfully beautiful.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And the girl was already pregnant from the Rumanian officer.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And at the same time the mother, too. When I heard that, I began . . . the tears ran from my eyes, because for a long time I hadn't seen any Jews. And so she told me this. So I immediately asked our doctor that he should give them help. He shouldn't be too late for the young girl.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And at the same time they were established in living quarters. Those officers we took along with us, and we asked them why they did it. And it was given over to the court . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I have put that woman in a room, and I gave them food, and then I also put some clothes on the girl.
  • David Boder: And so, what did you ask the doctor to do for the girl, an abortion?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, of course. A sixteen year old . . . a fifteen, sixteen year old girl. What can one . . . from a Rumanian, a . . .
  • David Boder: To have a baby.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. And at the same time the mother, too. I have asked the mother about it. So soon she began to cry. She fell down to my feet, to thank us that we saved her life. She said she will never forget what I have done for her. And she requested that I should give her my name so that she may remember what I have done for her. And I left them there and we went forward with the front . . .
  • David Boder: You don't believe that the woman lived with him voluntarily?
  • Isaac Wolf: They have told me that they had forced them into it. He told them that he will take them . . . throw them into the Bystrica, like he had thrown many thousands of Jews into the Bystrica. You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Because not far from the house which they lived in, perhaps a few hundred meters, was the . . .
  • David Boder: The river.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . the river.
  • David Boder: Yes? Nu, how long were you in Stalingrad?
  • Isaac Wolf: I can't [words not clear].
  • David Boder: Until Stalingrad was freed?
  • Isaac Wolf: Until . . . until Stalingrad was freed I was the whole time there.
  • David Boder: Would you tell us something about the last ten days in Stalingrad, or the last two weeks?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Please.
  • Isaac Wolf: I can tell you exactly . . .
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Towards the end, in Stalingrad, the Russian army concentrated all . . . the entire strength at Stalingrad . . .
  • David Boder: The Germans?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Russian army. Because they said, 'Stalingrad, that is the question of life for Russia.'
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: 'If Stalingrad is lost, then Russia is lost.' The German army made a very strong attack and had prepared so much. And at the same time Russia had also prepared. When we were at Stalingrad we heard the news that-what is it called? -Japan . . .
  • David Boder: Japan.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . Japan, too, stands prepared to attack Russia . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . and Turkey, too. That is what we were told in the newspaper. Then we knew that every Russian, and every Jew had nothing to lose, because death is before the eyes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And when one has been in the war a long time, you understand, then no fliers nor anything else makes an impression. One [it] becomes like a kind of music. And then the whole army was concentrated there. And one day there were placed many thousands, on one kilometer, many thousands of those Russian Katyushas and those . . .
  • David Boder: What is a Katyusha?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Katyusha is a . . . such, let us say, a weapon on top of an automobile, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes. A cannon?
  • Isaac Wolf: A cannon. But it has very many . . . it has twenty-two, and the small ones are for twelve . . . for twenty-four, you understand? For continuous shooting.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: One . . . one after another. You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: That is very . . . it helped very much.
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.]
  • Isaac Wolf: Very bad. The Germans became scared of these Katyushas. When they heard that the Katyushas start they would say, 'Oh! Now comes . . . Ivan is coming!' You understand? Then they became very scared. And then the Russian fliers started. Everything concentrated on them. And on a certain day there started the attack, and there the Russian army was surrounded.
  • David Boder: The German army.
  • Isaac Wolf: The German army.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: The Russians had surrounded the Germans. And then we lived in trenches. You understand? There were made against the . . . the German tanks . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . there were made large pits, and there we lived. The cold was so terrible, that it was very hard. To make a little fire, one couldn't because the German fliers flew around and patrolled. You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: They watched. Perhaps there is an ack-ack. The bombs were so that one fell near the other, and many Germans were shot down and remained on the spot. I had a friend who fell near my hand. And I lay down next to his body, and he was killed, and I was . . . I still have a suit that has holes from these . . . shreds from the bomb . . .
  • David Boder: From the fragments.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . fragments from the bomb. And to me nothing happened. I had a book. It cut through my book, and nothing happened to me, and . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of book was it?
  • Isaac Wolf: What? It was a book, a Yiddish book.
  • David Boder: Yes, nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I was at Stalingrad. It began again. It was seen that the Germans noticed that site. We were again moved half a kilometer. And there we sat again. The frosts were beyond endurance.
  • David Boder: Which site did the Germans notice?
  • Isaac Wolf: That is near [words not clear] . . .
  • David Boder: [Words not clear].
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . there in the pits. They were covered, and there we lived. It could not be heated. The water was terribly frozen. There were terrible winds. And then an attack was made, and the Germans were surrounded, and then began the street fights in Stalingrad. I had been in Stalingrad also in the beginning of the war. It was a beautiful city. And during the war, Stalingrad was so ruined that you can't find any houses. Very few houses . . . you could count them. And there were street fights. The street fights were most terrible! I can . . . I can . . . it is not possible for a man to describe it. The terrible fights that were there. I entered a bunker. You know what that is, an air-raid shelter.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: We had dug them ourselves. You found there civilians and Germans. When you jumped in . . . when you were unable to throw in a grenade so that you should kill only Germans, you jumped in there, so the Germans killed you. It was so terrible till Stalingrad was ta- . . . ta- . . . taken.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And when Stalingrad was taken, there were very many German prisoners, SS men. And so we fought well. And then we went forward after Stalingrad. And then we were allowed to rest up a little and took over other companies, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then we have again . . . I was also in Korsa Szewczenka [?].
  • David Boder: What is that?
  • Isaac Wolf: Taht is also near . . . Korsa Szewzenka [?]. That is near Czerkassy . . . Smielo . . . farther up there.
  • David Boder: Hm. Now tell me, what did one eat in Stalingrad while Stalingrad was besieged?
  • Isaac Wolf: Eat? What shall I tell you? We had nothing to eat, nothing to drink, nothing. One ate a dry piece of bread, because it was impossible to get through. We were surrounded, thus. You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: With a dry piece of bread, with a little hot water or cold water. Without sugar. To smoke we didn't have. We took leaves if we found some, no matter what kind of leaves. And one smoked, and the other opened . . . and caught the smoke into the mouth. With that, so have we . . . it was astonishingly terrible. It is not possible for every man. I myself had the . . . the . . . the feet were so swollen. And the . . . the . . . the . . . he told me, a doctor, that . . . that I got it from a weakening of the heart.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: We had gotten those . . . when we were given fungi [bacteria? infections? innoculations?], then as if the fungi got into the food. Like they say in Russian porok serdsa [heart disease] . . .
  • David Boder: Porok serdsa, yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . one said, you understand? That I had. Many more had that. Those people who were at Stalingrad, one can say, there is one per cent who are healthy, because three months, six months, we lay wet and crowded . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . the frost and the snow and everything together.
  • David Boder: Hm. How do you feel now?
  • Isaac Wolf: And now I am, too, in a very weak condition. When . . . when rain comes I can tell you a few days in advance. And now the hand also . . . I still have an injured hand.
  • David Boder: A wounded hand, yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: A wounded hand. I can't hold it.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: That I had . . .
  • David Boder: What does it mean, you can't hold . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: I can't straighten out . . .
  • David Boder: Which hand? The other one? Yes. You are not able to stretch it out, yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then we went into battles. Then I was again in Vienna, too.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: I fought. And in Vienna I worked on rail . . . with a ship-detail, because I could not fight any more, because I was injured. But I was already in the engineer detail.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: I worked in an engineer detail, and then I was already in Hungary. And I was in Hungary till the last days of the war.
  • David Boder: Hm. And then the Russians demobilized you?
  • Isaac Wolf: They said . . . yes . . . that we remain till the demobilization. We were taken . . . that I should go home to Lemberg. I said, 'I have nothing to look for in Lemberg, because . . . I can't go there. Lemberg is a Jewish cemetery.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I refused. 'I don't want to go.' And then I said, 'I have to take the historic staff [walking stick], like one says, the . . . the Eternal Wanderer's and must begin to wander. Because I can't come home to that house, after six years, and not find my parents . . . nobody at home. Then I would have to commit suicide.' Then I went . . . I began again to wander.
  • David Boder: Where did you go then?
  • Isaac Wolf: Then I went to . . . from Hungary I went to Austria. In Austria I was . . . there were many of those I met who were in concentration camps. Many people who . . . when the concentration [camps] were liberated by the English and the Americans, the Jews started wandering. This one heard that he had nobody at home. What shall I go home for, said he. He began to run, to go. And many also died in the streets, because one didn't have to eat. Then there were established Jewish commitees, that the Americans . . . thanks to the Americans' aid. That was given for the . . . for the Jews of the lagers. They began to establish kitchens. They began to distribute shoes and suits. And hospitals and the Red Crosses. And then they began to help the Jews a little, and there were established lagers. Jewish lagers.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: The Jewish lagers were not bad where the American army was.
  • David Boder: Where what?
  • Isaac Wolf: Were not too bad, you understand? Were quite good. Because the Americans, when they saw the terrible . . . because the Germans had cut off the hair from the Jews, from the Jewish girls . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And they saw how they looked, so very bad, so there were some people who gave money, and they gave injections, and lagers were made and the Jews were put into the lagers. I myself was in Austria in a lager, where the English were. It was very bad. Why? They did not sympathize that much with the Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: No compassion?
  • Isaac Wolf: Compassion, very little. There were such . . . there was even one who was a Jew. We knew that he was a Jew, but he did not want to admit that he is a Jew.
  • David Boder: An Englishman?
  • Isaac Wolf: An Englishman . . . a Jew. He took us to work, into the forest. We should go and chop. We told him, many of us are coming now from the army, from the lagers, we are still sick. He doesn't care about that. We should go to work. We went to work. Then we saw that we . . . that death is before our eyes too [again]. We began to wander. Then we wanted to go to Italy. So the English caught us . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . and we were . . . just like . . . just like the Germans, the SS. Led us with the automatics, and we were led to . . . back. Then we were . . . we were imprisoned. We sat imprisoned. That was near Villach.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: We were imprisoned, and there we sat. They wanted to return us to . . . concentration . . . there was a lager of Jews who . . . they took, the English . . . under Austrian guard we were kept by the English . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . and that was . . .
  • David Boder: What do you mean by 'Austrian guards'?
  • Isaac Wolf: Austrian sold- . . . police.
  • David Boder: Were guarding the Jewish?
  • Isaac Wolf: Were guarding the Jewish! Together with the English . . .
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . and at the same time the English took, and gave the Ukranians, because they had run away from Poland, because they didn't want to return home, because they knew that the Poles will kill them, and . . . and the Russians, because they were bandits, because they had killed many Jews, many Russians. So those Ukranians . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . those Ukranians were the guards over the Jews. In Judenburg, too . . .
  • David Boder: Where . . . where is that?
  • Isaac Wolf: Austria [blank piece of wire]. That was . . . Judenburg is in Austria. That was the English zone, in the English . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . section. The English took the Ukranians and appointed them as policemen, as police-guards. And they guarded the Jews. They didn't let the Jews eat. When a Jew came over hungry, he wants to eat a second time, they chased him away. Because he wants another piece of bread . . . because they had here, under the mantle of the English, who had given them a . . . the authority as police, here, too, they were taking revenge. Now they took stones and threw at the Jews . . .
  • David Boder: Who?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Ukranians . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . when they stood as police, as guards.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand? Then they were taken as chauffeurs, and the Jews were not admitted to any jobs. The English . . . and then came . . . we were in Tropaiech [?] . . . Tropaya [he spells it later Trofaiach].
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Isaac Wolf: That was a Jewish lager, too. So we . . .
  • David Boder: What was it called?
  • Isaac Wolf: Trofaiach.
  • David Boder: Tropaya[?].
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, that isn't far from . . .
  • David Boder: Trofaiach, is that in Yiddish?
  • Isaac Wolf: No, there is a German . . . that is the name of it, Trofaiach. That is a village . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . not far from Judenburg.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: There was . . . we had a director, a Jew, a director of UNRRA.
  • David Boder: Also a Jew?
  • Isaac Wolf: An American.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Isaac Wolf: He was already . . . he sympathized with the Jews. He did for the Jews very much. What did he do? He taught Jews to be chauffeurs.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: He taught Jews . . . he exerted himself to teach the Jews. He clothed them. He erected a Jewish Synagogue. He made a cinema for the Jews in the lager. And he took pains . . . that we immediately recognized that he is not an Englishman, he is not an English Jew, but he is an American, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: He aided the Jews a hundred per cent. So that we . . . I am lacking words to tell. When we came from Judenburg to Trofaiach . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . that was in . . . in . . . that was in November, December in the year '45. He did so much. He clothed us. He went to Graz. He brought himself . . . when the Jews arrived he himself came over with the maching, himself as chauffeur. He brought the Jews over. He couldn't see them cold. And he brought many doctors, medicines. The sick Jews were saved. The Jews were aided very much . . .
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool number 100, taken at Tradate, between Milano and Como in Italy, on September 1, 1946. The interviewee is Mr. Isaac Wolf, in the Hachshara in Tradate, and we will continue with him on Spool number 101. An Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording.
  • David Boder: [In English] September 1, 1946, Italy, camp for cooperative in Castello Tradate, between Milano and Como. Spool number 101. Mr. Isaac Wolf, interviewee, is continuing.
  • David Boder: [In German] And so, Mr. Wolf, what are you saying about Trofaiach? Who was there in . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Trofaiach?
  • David Boder: Trofaiach? [an interrupetd word].
  • Isaac Wolf: In Trofaiach were the . . .
  • David Boder: One moment. How do you spell Trofaiach? T . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . O . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. F . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . I . . .
  • David Boder: . . . I . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . A . . . CH.
  • David Boder: Trofaiach. [Words not clear].
  • David Boder: Yes. Is that a German town?
  • Isaac Wolf: It is an Austrian.
  • David Boder: An Austrian town. And so, go on.
  • Isaac Wolf: In Trofaiach we had . . . we saw it was very terrible . . .
  • David Boder: The English were in Trofaiach?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
  • David Boder: Nu? And so?
  • Isaac Wolf: They did not permit a Jew to leave the lager without a permit from the English. One wasn't permitted to travel. One wasn't permitted to go. So we said, 'What, will we sit here? After the war we are again in a concentration camp.' We hit the road to Italy. We were caught . . .
  • David Boder: What does it mean you hit the road to Italy?
  • Isaac Wolf: We . . . we . . . ourselves . . . went to Italy . . .
  • David Boder: How many . . . how many went?
  • Isaac Wolf: A hundred and thirty people had gathered together.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: We went [an interrupted word].
  • David Boder: What organization was it of the [hundred] thirty people? Was it already a Kibbutz?
  • Isaac Wolf: A Kibbutz.
  • David Boder: A Kibbutz.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Who organized that Kibbutz?
  • Isaac Wolf: I myself.
  • David Boder: Have you . . . were you a Zionist before?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. I gathered my friends, who I knew, who were with me together in the army, and such. And I have . . . the Kibbutz Dror Habonim.
  • David Boder: What was the name of it?
  • Isaac Wolf: Kibbutz Dror Habonim.
  • David Boder: Dror Habonim?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: What does it mean?
  • Isaac Wolf: That is . . . 'dror' . . . that is, a 'Dror' existed before in Poland. And Habonim was a Hungarian organization, and we had . . . that is an organization which we combined together, you understand? The youth combined together in a democratic . . .
  • David Boder: Organization.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . organization.
  • David Boder: One moment.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Write it down for me in Yiddish.
  • Isaac Wolf: Oh, I can write it down in German, too.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Dror, oh.
  • David Boder: Who gave it the name Dror Habonim?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, that have the . . . united . . . these . . . youth have combined. Like there was, let us say, Kibbutz Hashomer, Kibbutz, let us say . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: Such various Kibbutz . . . such various. They named it Kibbutz Dror Habonim.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And we started. We saw that we have nothing to lose. After six years of war we got again into a concentration camp. It was surrounded with wires.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand? And the Austrians should stand guard! Just like in a concentration camp. We did not want to allow that, and we went to Italy. We were caught . . . the English. We were led with automatics back . . .
  • David Boder: How many people? The whole hundred . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: The whole hundred fifty. There were other Jews who went, too. So that we were led back three hundred people.
  • David Boder: How far from Trofaiach was that?
  • Isaac Wolf: That was from Trofaiach a hundred and eighty kilometers. That was about fifteen kilometers from Villach.
  • David Boder: So far away you were found?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: And brought back?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Austrians had said that Jews are passing, so the English brought us back with automatics.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And we were led like . . . like criminals.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And we were not permitted to go out . . .
  • David Boder: On foot?
  • Isaac Wolf: On foot . . .
  • David Boder: [Word not clear].
  • Isaac Wolf: No. We were led on foot to the railroad, not far away. We were taken by train. And we jumped out of the train, and we went on again. Then the English . . .
  • David Boder: How many jumped out?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nearly all. I had everybody . . . till the last. While the train was moving I pushed out everybody.
  • David Boder: How slow was the train going?
  • Isaac Wolf: It went slowly. The train was going slow.
  • David Boder: The engineer was going slowly?
  • Isaac Wolf: It was not far from Villach, from the station.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: It was our luck then that the . . . the tracks were occupied.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he was going slowly until he arrived in Villach . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Because in Villach the English police was already standing there. We couldn't anymore . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . and the Austrian. It was near Villach. Then we . . .
  • David Boder: But you were under English guard?
  • Isaac Wolf: The English guards were in the other wagons, you understand?
  • David Boder: Hm. They . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: And we opened . . . through the windows, through the doors, they went out. Because the English guards were not in these wagons. They were in the third, fourth wagon.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Because there were three wagons. You understand?
  • David Boder: Talk a little slower.
  • Isaac Wolf: A few were caught, a few Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: They imprisoned them. They sat three months, two months. And we went on. We didn't want to go to . . . we knew that we are being led to . . . to a concentration camp.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand? There were many Jews . . . many Jews were there already imprisoned. Then we ran away, on foot, to Coblenz [the name of the locality is obviously incorrect].
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: There was a lager that was newly established. There was a Jewish Lager-fuehrer, Mr. Katz . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . an American. He was a . . . a father, a father, one can say, for the Jews there.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he took pains to . . . and all the Jews . . . whatever he could . . . we arrived in the snow . . .
  • David Boder: What was the first name of Mr. Katz?
  • Isaac Wolf: That I can't . . .
  • David Boder: But yes . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . exactly . . .
  • David Boder: That was in Coblenz? [Name apparently incorrect.]
  • Isaac Wolf: In Coblenz . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: That was in . . . in . . . in . . . let us say in March. Let us say . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he had . . . whatever he could do he did for us. He gave us shoes. He clothed us.
  • David Boder: Was that the UNRRA?
  • Isaac Wolf: That was already taken or . . . that was from the UNRRA, yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he has . . . always . . . he came over. He met us with autos. When he was told that Jews have arrived . . . there were no chauffeurs. So he himself would get in the car, and he drove the Jews to the lager . . . to his place. He registered everybody. We were given immediately to eat, and the sick put into the hospital. And he did a hundred percent that was possible, that was in his power.
  • David Boder: Nu, yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: That he did for the Jews.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then we were in Villach all the time. Then Villach began to be liquidated, because they didn't want that the Jews should be . . . because the Austrians had attacked the Jews . . .
  • David Boder: What? Austrians [interrupted words]?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, Austrians, yes.
  • David Boder: Have what?
  • Isaac Wolf: Saw that Jews walk in the streets. They attacked the Jews. They were beaten.
  • David Boder: The Austrians beat the Jews?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Austrians. I myself stood when a . . . a Jew went over to take some wood. There was a factory . . . not a factory . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . but a sawmill where wood was sawed for us. Boards to make the barracks for the Jews. It was a forest, not far from the town, about three kilometers. The Germans came over and beat up the Jews, because they were taking wood there. And that wood was for the lager. But he did . . . and then he beat up that Jew, and the Jew remained lying. Eight days he lay sick. And we took that German, and he was brought over the lager. And we said to the English, 'If you don't put this man in jail, then we will consider the English the same as the German's, and we will . . . we have nothing to lose, is we make that all of us should be put to death. We will, for revenge, we will beat up this German, too.' Then took . . . that Mr. Katz, and he turned him over to the English police. What they did with him, the English police, I don't know. But eight days later we saw him in town, that same Austrian. He had been released.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he was not living there any more, in that flat because he was already afraid of the Jews. You understand? . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he lived in town. The English had released him too. Then we saw that the English are . . . either . . . I don't know how to understand it . . . then I didn't know how to understand that. Either they have an understanding that the Jews should be beaten or what . . . And then we saw that we have nothing to lose. Food was very hard. When that Mr. Katz was there it was very good. And then there were always more people. And the concentr . . . the lager was transferred to another place. We were told that we will be transferred, and into a forest, between mountains. That the Jews should be separated from the city.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, I observed thus: after six years of war, with what we went through and again go into a concentration camp. And there, they were not human, why should we do that? . . . So we decided to go again, to Salzburg, to the American side.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: Then we came to the American side.
  • David Boder: Did you go with permission or without?
  • Isaac Wolf: Without permission.
  • David Boder: How many of you went?
  • Isaac Wolf: We were going in groups . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: We were going . . . I took with me seventeen people.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: With pregnant women, with children. Led them on foot over the mountains.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Then we went over and [unintelligible]. We went there and there were already Jews, that was quite good. We were already given to eat and to drink. The American almost didn't want to register us, but still they registered us.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And we were given . . .
  • David Boder: What did they want to do, send you back?
  • Isaac Wolf: To send back . . . no. If one is caught near the border, or not far, one is put in jail. The Americans, too . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand? Because if one has illegally crossed the border. We said, 'What borders are we crossing? We are going from one lager to another. Was it wrong? Nu, why do we deserve such wrong? After six years of war . . . what crimes have we committed? We have remained [alive] a few Jews?' In lagers in the Austrian zone, where the English were, the Jew did not want to be, because it was worse, like . . . exactly like under the German.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Without permission one couldn't go. Food there was little. And then we came to Salzburg. From Salzburg we went to Italy.
  • David Boder: Where to?
  • Isaac Wolf: Italy.
  • David Boder: Italy. Legally or illegally?
  • Isaac Wolf: Illegally.
  • David Boder: Speak louder.
  • Isaac Wolf: Illegally we went.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And from Italy we came here. We already received aid. Also from the [interrupted words].
  • David Boder: How can so many people cross the border illegally?
  • Isaac Wolf: We went at night over the mountains. Three broke a leg. One broke a hand, without . . . without . . .
  • David Boder: Didn't you have anybody to lead you? Or . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: We had one . . . one was leading us.
  • David Boder: Who? An Italian?
  • Isaac Wolf: No, that was a Greek.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: We paid him money and he led. One took a watch off the hand, one had a ring, whatever people had they gave him, and he led us over the mountains.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And over the mountains we were led. We arrived in Italy. Arriving in Italy we came to Milan.
  • David Boder: To Milan, yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. In Milan the Jewish committee began to give us aid. We were placed into the Lager Cremona.
  • David Boder: Where is that?
  • Isaac Wolf: That is the . . . from Milan eighty kilometers, I believe, no more.
  • David Boder: Yes? Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: We were led into Milan and there we were in a lager.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: We came into the lager, like into a stable. Cement bricks . . .
  • David Boder: What?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . bricks . . . stone bricks . . .
  • David Boder: Eh . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . without wood . . .
  • David Boder: . . . under the feet?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: I mean the floor out of stone.
  • Isaac Wolf: The floor, yes.
  • David Boder: Was out of stone.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: What was it before?
  • Isaac Wolf: It was before and armor . . . an armory for soldiers.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, it was without doors, without windows. Thus we lived. In one room we lived, eighty people. My entire kibbutz was there. Together . . .
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And we were there. And there we went through very hard [conditions]. Cold, hungry.
  • David Boder: Which month was it in?
  • Isaac Wolf: It was . . . there . . . I can tell you. Four . . . two months ago it was.
  • David Boder: Oh! Only two months ago?
  • Isaac Wolf: Two months ago we left . . . I left Cremona.
  • David Boder: In . . . in . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: I was there, in Cremona . . .
  • David Boder: [Words not clear].
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . six months.
  • David Boder: Hm. But you came to Cremona when? Approximately in what month? September, October?
  • Isaac Wolf: No, that [words not clear] . . . that was different.
  • David Boder: Nu.
  • Isaac Wolf: In March I came!
  • David Boder: Oh! March.
  • Isaac Wolf: In March, yes, yes, in March I arrived. In March I came to Cremona.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And in Cremona was . . . when I came it was still a little cold. You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes [words not clear].
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: So, you weren't six months in Cremona.
  • Isaac Wolf: No. It is already . . . it is already now from Italy . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . in Italy already six months.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. I was . . .
  • David Boder: But when did you leave Austria?
  • Isaac Wolf: From Austria . . .
  • David Boder: Six, eight months ago?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, I wandered . . .
  • David Boder: Oh!
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . from one city to another. I was in Innsbruck. From Innsbruck again . . . you believe it is so easy? From . . . from Austria . . . from the American zone to the French zone . . . because Innsbruck is the French zone . . .
  • David Boder: No, why do you skip that? Tell it so it . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: I understand . . .
  • David Boder: . . . can be understood clearly.
  • Isaac Wolf: Hm. I had . . . we had gone over from the American zone into the French zone.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: From the French zone we already went [to Italy], and we crossed over and there . . .
  • David Boder: Were the French better?
  • Isaac Wolf: The French were wonderful. They let us go. The did not bother us.
  • David Boder: Hm, nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And they had . . . they had compassion with us.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: They understood what the Jews went through. So they let him go. But not so . . . One did not have a permit, but still . . .
  • David Boder: Were men and women with you?
  • Isaac Wolf: Women and children . . .
  • David Boder: All kind.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . were also with us, eighteen year old boys.
  • David Boder: Did you cross the mountains together?
  • Isaac Wolf: Together, with a sixteen year old. He was with us.
  • David Boder: What does one do when one walks? Did people converse? Or . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: No, nothing! We walked so silently. We put handkerchiefs into the mouth . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . that one shouldn't notice at the border that . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . that someone was going.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: My wife was a pregnant woman.
  • David Boder: When did you get married?
  • Isaac Wolf: I got married in . . . eh . . . I have been married one year. In Budapest.
  • David Boder: You got married in Budapest?
  • Isaac Wolf: In Budapest I got married.
  • David Boder: After the war?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did you . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: During the war . . .
  • David Boder: . . . know your wife from before?
  • Isaac Wolf: No, I met her while I was still in the Russian army.
  • David Boder: Aha. And then, how long had you known her before you got married?
  • Isaac Wolf: Oh, three months.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: I was in the Russian army there, in Budapest . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . where I met her.
  • David Boder: Nu? Is your wife Rumanian?
  • Isaac Wolf: A Ruman- . . . I mean, a Hungarian [girl].
  • David Boder: Hungarian. Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And I went along with my wife, ourselves without anything. So we arrived naked. We took nothing along, nothing. It was cold. Snow was on the mountains.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: There are rock mountains.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And in spite of that we went. We took off the . . . eh . . .
  • David Boder: Clothes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Clothes. It was very hot, and people had bruised the feet. Then we came to Italy. From Italy we went to Cremona, and in Cremona we stayed for a while. Then . . .
  • David Boder: Did you walk or ride?
  • Isaac Wolf: We were also afraid to ride, because on the train police were questioning. We didn't know the Italian language.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: Until we had entered [penetrated] for about sixty or eighty kilometers from the border, there already we boarded the train.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then we . . . we had arrived in Merano.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And in Merano we already boarded the train. We rode till Milan.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: From Milan, since we were sent to Cremona. So we were in Cremona. And there, too, we had it very bad. Because it was bad with the food.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: The UNRRA director did not sympathize much with the Jews, in a way . . .
  • David Boder: Was he a Jew or . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: No, he was a . . . an officer, an English officer. And the UNRRA was not yet there. There still the English government gave out the food. The police . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And then we were . . . We pleaded with 'Milan' so that we should be put into a Kibbutz, because in a Kibbutz one receives perhaps a little more. If we are a Kibbutz that wants to go to Eretz . . . So we were taken into Tradate, and in Tradate we are working, and we are learning shoemaking and tailoring and barbering.
  • David Boder: Who is teaching you here, since you don't have here an ORT school?
  • Isaac Wolf: No. We have . . . one teaches the other. We have, for instance, let us say, three shoemakers. So a youth is put with them. He should learn, you understand?
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: With tailors it is also the same.
  • David Boder: Hm. One is learning from another.
  • Isaac Wolf: One from another. A special school we don't have. And when I was in Austria, there I had . . . there was that Mr. Katz. He trained during my time about sixty Jewish chauffeurs. He produced.
  • David Boder: He trained?
  • Isaac Wolf: Trained, and he said that there should be three carpenters, you understand?
  • David Boder: Hm, yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: It is possible to train twenty others. Thus it was taught. And here, I don't know why, people can't learn. There is no possibility . . .
  • David Boder: Here in Tradate?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. You saw that we had no water for a time. Also the water was provided for us, so we had very little [?].
  • David Boder: You have here now the UNRRA or the Joint?
  • Isaac Wolf: Here it is so. The UNRRA and Joint together.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And . . .
  • David Boder: And . . . tell me this. When you had arrived, were there people already here in Tradate?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: Nu, tell me a little. We Americans, or in America we know nothing about these about these Kibbutzim. How do people live here? How is it all organized?
  • Isaac Wolf: The organization is so. We recieve from the UNRRA three thousand liras a month [per person].
  • David Boder: Yes. That is three . . . that is what? A hundred liras a day.
  • Isaac Wolf: Hundred liras a day. [The dollar at that time was worth about 700 Liras.]
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: On this we have to live.
  • David Boder: Yes. To whom is the money given and who is in charge of it?
  • Isaac Wolf: The money is brought . . . is given to us by . . . the UNRRA sends it for us to the bank . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And here we have a committee.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And the committee takes care of whatever we need.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: That is so . . . that for provisions we can't permit to spent more than eighty liras . . .
  • David Boder: A day?
  • Isaac Wolf: A day.
  • David Boder: What is done with the rest?
  • Isaac Wolf: With the rest it is so. Something is given to a sick person. Something is given to someone without shoes. Because now we don't have any shoes. Many need them. Leather we don't get. We don't get any . . .
  • David Boder: Nu, and when the pregnant women have . . . have children, who takes care of that?
  • Isaac Wolf: That we leave to the hospital.
  • David Boder: Hm. Who pays for it?
  • Isaac Wolf: The hospital. The UNRRA does not give more than . . . the doctor told me this week that, 'To me come sick from you. I receive them very willingly. But we have nothing,' because the UNRRA only pays for the room.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: But for the doctors or for . . . for . . . for them they don't pay. For the room and for food, for the few days, and they get nothing.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, I answered him, 'What can I do for you? I have no money so that we could compensate you.' However, we received something then. We haved human feelings, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Then, anything that is possible, we give for sisters [nurses] there so they should take good care. There are also now two pregnant women today, and a woman who had an operation for appendicitis.
  • David Boder: In which hospital is that?
  • Isaac Wolf: Here in Tradate. The conditions . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of hospital is that?
  • Isaac Wolf: The cond- . . . It belongs to the city . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . but a little . . . it is partly private also. But that professor, he is a decent man. He is . . . he has compassion for Jews, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes. Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And so he placed them in the hospital. And we can't help any more, because we have nothing ourselves. Those eighty liras a day, up to ninety if we dare, so we have to give up other . . . eh . . .
  • David Boder: Things?
  • Isaac Wolf: Things. For instance let us say, going to the movies or some other thing.
  • David Boder: How is that? If someone wants to go to the movies, he get the money from you [from the Kibbutz]?
  • Isaac Wolf: From our . . . out of these hundred liras that we receive. From the three thousand liras per person, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: We ourselves have to . . . if we want to go to the movies, we have to go ourselves, organized, so that it should come out cheaper.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: So we can't that either . . . once in two weeks or once a week.
  • David Boder: But why can't you get a cinema here? [Reference to possible recreational activities of UNRRA or other voluntary agencies.]
  • Isaac Wolf: Because we don't get it. I don't know why. That is, if we don't get it, we can't get it.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: I don't know why. In Austria, there that Mr. Katz provided. And here I don't know why . . .
  • David Boder: Nu? And how long do you think will people sit here around?
  • Isaac Wolf: That does not depend on us. [Chuckle.] We can [even] today if they let us, we would even go on foot. Because we . . .
  • David Boder: What does it mean, 'if they let you'?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, you know that we are . . .
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.]
  • Isaac Wolf: Because we are impeded by the English, by the . . . by the Italians . . .
  • David Boder: Where would you go?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . who don't let us out. Well, in general to go to Palestine. We have no other home. We have no other place to go. Where can we go? Because who can give us a guarantee that in a year, or in half a year, the same won't happen again, like here? There was a Russian . . . Ukranians were here, too, in a concentration camp. Maybe you have heard . . .
  • David Boder: No.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . near Radzimilov [?]. You haven't heard about it?
  • David Boder: No, no.
  • Isaac Wolf: There was a lager, and there were Jews and Ukranians . . .
  • David Boder: In Italy?
  • Isaac Wolf: In Italy. They attacked them and four Jews were beaten to death. Two were killed on the spot, and two died in the hospital . . . sick . . . that is, remained dead, and two more were injured when they were . . .
  • David Boder: Wounded?
  • Isaac Wolf: Wounded.
  • David Boder: How? What happened there? What kind of a lager was that?
  • Isaac Wolf: The Ukranians. Those were Ukranians. Those who don't want to return . . .
  • David Boder: Home?
  • Isaac Wolf: Home. Because they are afraid, because they had beaten Jews, killed them. They had robbed the Jews. They are hiding here under the English power. And the English don't send them home.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: The Russians have already demanded many times that they should return home, and the English don't send them home.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And the . . . they are free. They have many more conveniences than the Jews. Because the Jews, when they want to go some place, they don't permit it. You know how it is with a Jew. And they go. They don't have to ask. And then suddenly they saw . . . they said, 'What? Here there are also Jews?' And they attacked the Jewish lager and the Jews were beaten. That was in Radzimirov [possibly a name of a Ukranian DP camp in Italy].
  • David Boder: And the English?
  • Isaac Wolf: The English police also got inside as if to aid the Jews a little so they would not be beaten. So they yet arrested the Jews, and the Ukranians they drove away by car so that the Jews shouldn't . . . shouldn't be able to avenge themselves for the four dead that . . .
  • David Boder: They took the Ukranians away?
  • Isaac Wolf: Took away from there.
  • David Boder: Aha.
  • Isaac Wolf: And the Italian police intervened and the English . . . and . . . till this day . . . Then we saw that it is impossible for the Jew to be together with the Ukranians. The Joint saw it. The American Joint intervened, you understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And the Hachshara centers were established. The UNRRA in the beginning did not want to allow to establish Hachsharas. And then Hachsharas were established so that the Jews should be separated from the . . .
  • David Boder: What does it mean Hachshara?
  • Isaac Wolf: That is a work place where Jewish Halutzim learn to work.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: We have here a little field, too.
  • Isaac Wolf: So one teaches the other field labor, he should know how to work . . .
  • David Boder: Tell me, why do you have appells twice a day, just like in a concentration camp?
  • Isaac Wolf: No. We have an appell for the reason that we tell about the work . . .
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: The work . . . we assign it one day for the next, what should be done, when it should be . . .
  • David Boder: Can't that be done in the dining hall?
  • Isaac Wolf: No, that is . . . we don't have a big enough dining hall for all the people that we have here. You see how it is with the eating here. With the eating, one shift finishes eating then the others go in.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: So that it takes from one feeding to the other a half an hour till the dishes are washed and everything.
  • David Boder: Hm. It takes time from one . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Then, naturally . . .
  • David Boder: How many people are here altogether?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, now we are about six, seven hundred people.
  • David Boder: Six, seven hundred people?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, around seven hundred people.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And that is why we make appells twice daily. People are given instructions, and for discipline, too.
  • David Boder: If it rains how will you have appells? Where will you have appells when it rains?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, when it rains . . . so . . . it doesn't rain the entire day. When it rains, it is clear in an hour, in half an hour.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: Then we go out and we . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . give instructions. And if not, then we say . . . because there are many Kibbutzim here. There is, for instance, a Kibbutz [name of Kibbutz not clear] and, for instance, Kibbutz Partisans, various ones. They are informed. They enter [?] . . .
  • David Boder: Why is it called Kibbutz Partisans?
  • Isaac Wolf: That is . . . those who were partisans, from the army, from the Austr- . . . from the Russian, from the Polish, all Jews . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . who were in the forests.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: They had joined the partisans. And now they are discharged from the Polish army. And they don't have anybody at home. There were many cases that they had run away from Poland, because the Poles had attacked the Jews. They said that they don't want to have Jews in Poland.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: They want to have a pure Polish country.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And the Russian government intervened, the Russian police, too. Nu, you know with the Russians, it is neither a hundred per cent democratic. Also many . . . there are many who are from the Ukraine, and don't like Jews either. And they help the Poles, too. There were cases in Cracow . . .
  • David Boder: What is that?
  • Isaac Wolf: Cracow, that Jews were killed, too, in the streets. One would come in to a Jew and kill him and take everything away from him. They said they don't take the money for themselves, but for the Polish organization against the Jews, and that is why they, the Jews, have no place wherever they come. They were in Slovakia . . .
  • David Boder: What kind of Polish 'organization' which you . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: The Polish . . . eh . . .
  • David Boder: 'Organization.'
  • Isaac Wolf: The Nationalists.
  • David Boder: Oh! The Nationalists.
  • Isaac Wolf: Nationalists.
  • David Boder: Who were with the London Government?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, yes, those who help. You understand? And that is why wherever a Jew comes he has no place [is not wanted]. If they should say, 'I want to settle here,' you understand . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . he might settle for three days, and then he gets a letter. 'If he doesn't leave the place [locality] he will be killed, and . . . '
  • David Boder: Where does that happen? Where does that happen?
  • Isaac Wolf: In poland. In many villages. I spoke with . . .
  • David Boder: From whom does he get the letter?
  • Isaac Wolf: From friends . . . we receive . . . that [interrupted, words not clear].
  • David Boder: No, I mean from whom does the Jew receive a letter?
  • Isaac Wolf: From the Ukranians, from the Poles.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: Because [interrupted words not clear].
  • David Boder: A letter threatening, nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: A letter that . . . if he doesn't leave the village by a certain day, then he is killed. There were such instances where one believed it is only just written, -till he became convinced that it was real. They entered at night, and he was killed, at once.
  • David Boder: Did you see such letters?
  • Isaac Wolf: Saw [them] myself. And I myself have a friend who requested his friends in America . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . that they should take him over to immigrate, because he remained one out of the entire family. And they should take him over. He had saved his life, so that now, after six years of war, he should be murdered by the . . . eh . . .
  • David Boder: Poles.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . by the Poles, by the Ukranians. He has come to Italy. He waits. Maybe he will receive papers, because he himself received such a letter, too. He is now in Lager Cremona.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: And what kind of lager is there in Cremona?
  • Isaac Wolf: Cremona is a . . . now it became a UNRRA lager.
  • David Boder: Nu, also of 'Kibbutzim?'
  • Isaac Wolf: There . . . there are mostly people who were . . . are waiting for papers [to go] to Brazil, or . . . So I myself posed a question, why the people who want to go to Eretz are left lying thus in Kibbutzim. None gives aid.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand? And I have also demanded it. Because we want to go to Eretz. We want to work. It should not be . . . during the times of the war we changed. Always it was said that perhaps a Jew is too lazy to work. But that was a mistake to say so. Today's Jews . . . for the youth that have remained, there is no such thing as terrible work, no matter what kind of work it is.
  • David Boder: Tell me, why doesn't one try to work in Italy?
  • Isaac Wolf: I will tell you. The Italian workers themselves, the natives, have no work. There is unemployment here.
  • David Boder: There is unemployment in Italy?
  • Isaac Wolf: In Italy also, because they have no factories.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And the worker who does work neither makes out enough for food. I with my Kibbutz, for instance . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . would like very much to go to work every day. So that I too should be able to improve my life. When I was in Cremona I saw that we can't exist, because there was only the food that was given. Bread was given once a day, so myself, I took . . . I wanted to preserve my Kibbutz.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: So, I myself put on a play.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And I acted on the stage. I named the play 'In Eretz I Found My Happiness.'
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I put on the play three times, and I [made] a few thousand liras.
  • David Boder: From whom?
  • Isaac Wolf: From those people who had money. There were . . .
  • David Boder: In the Lager?
  • Isaac Wolf: There had come [people] from Milan.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Isaac Wolf: I had invited. From Milan there came . . . from Milan . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . came people. There were people who received money from the . . . from America. You understand?
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: I made out so . . . for the expenses that we were having.
  • David Boder: How far is Cremona from Milan?
  • Isaac Wolf: Cremona from Milan, that is, I believe, around eighty kilometers. I believe . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . three hours by train.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And then I made . . . put on a play myself. Composed about the experiences of the . . . of the Jews, from the beginning of the war till the end of the war.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And it was a very nice success. And I have . . . and I was written up in the newspaper. I still have to this day . . .
  • David Boder: In which paper? Here in . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: In the Yiddish [paper]. In Baderach [On the Road] . . .
  • David Boder: In the . . . in Milan?
  • Isaac Wolf: In Milan. I have here . . . I have till this day . . . I have the paper.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: My name . . .
  • David Boder: Where did you learn to act on the stage?
  • Isaac Wolf: Eh . . . when I was still at home I have played, with youngsters by ourselves, on our own.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I have . . . there were . . . lawyers were there, were invited from Milan. Dr. Bernstein from Rome was there. Pardon, Professor Bernstein.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he also agreed that it is very well put together. And I presented that. With that I have kept up [maintained] my Kibbutz. That what I did not have the possibilities of giving them from . . . from the lager, the food, so I therefore made this so that I should be able to give a little more for breakfast, and to give a little more for supper, you understand?
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And I made it so I should be able to keep up the people, they shouldn't starve.
  • David Boder: Nu, tell me . . . I would like to ask you this question.
  • Isaac Wolf: Please.
  • David Boder: [Words not clear.] I saw this morning that you have in one section men and women, [many] married couples sleeping in the same room. How does that influence the morale of people?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, I will tell you. That is already . . . that is . . . in reality that is not moral, but we have no room . . .
  • David Boder: No, no, I don't mean . . . I am not saying that it is not moral.
  • Isaac Wolf: No, that is not . . .
  • David Boder: I ask what does it do to the state of mind?
  • Isaac Wolf: It is very bad.
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: But we have no way out.
  • David Boder: Why not?
  • Isaac Wolf: Because we don't have that much room.
  • David Boder: Can't all the women be in one end someplace?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, all right, I will tell you. One can't take the husband . . . if it were for a short time, the husband could be put separately and the wife . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . but when it is for a [long] time . . . We don't know how long we might stay here.
  • David Boder: Oh!
  • Isaac Wolf: One can't put a wife separately and a husband separately. You understand? If . . .
  • David Boder: Nu, tell me . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes.
  • David Boder: How do they behave? I am going to ask you frank questions. A husband and a wife are living . . . they have relations. The other people must hear it.
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, I will tell you. That is . . . that is . . .
  • David Boder: I am asking you . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, yes, yes . . .
  • David Boder: . . . a psychological question.
  • Isaac Wolf: That is right. I am telling you the truth. I can tell the truth about myself.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: I was also . . . Now I have a small baby. I have a separate room, but until now I also lived with a pregnant wife. Also . . . I can tell you that we were living like strangers . . .
  • David Boder: How come, like strangers?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, separately, one can say, one bed near the other, and we were embarrassed one of another. You understand? Because that is not moral to have relations amid strange people. You understand? And of course it was very . . . like a friend told me, 'I have a wife,' he said, 'but only on a picture [in my imagination.]
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: 'I can't,' he said, 'with my wife.'
  • David Boder: Hm. You mean he was living with his wife?
  • Isaac Wolf: Of course. That is not . . . in a place where others are sleeping. Because we were living one bed next to the other.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And we didn't . . . one is only human.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: We can't allow that one man should [observe] another, you understand, see . . . see what is going on, nu. That is why people had a saying, 'I have a wife, but we have no relations.'
  • David Boder: I [You] mean, they restrain themselves?
  • Isaac Wolf: Of course.
  • David Boder: Not that they have become used to that one . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: No, not . . . not . . . not that.
  • David Boder: Not that.
  • Isaac Wolf: Not that.
  • David Boder: You only sleep together and nothing more.
  • Isaac Wolf: And nothing more, because that . . . I can't allow that it should be thus.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: It is very terrible, such a life, but what can one do?
  • David Boder: And the UNRRA knows it? And the others know?
  • Isaac Wolf: I will tell you. The UNRRA comes. They come for one . . . for ten minutes. They look around . . . only that it should be clean. And when really . . . so I had here . . . they came in this week. They saw that we have no water, no lavatory, because the . . . the . . . the lavatories . . . the toilets are all plugged up.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: So I said, 'Maybe you want that we should all get sick of malaria, or of typhus, or everything. They should give us some help so that we should have water.' I said, 'I paid once eleven thousand liras, once thirteen thousand liras and the water lasted only two, three days. The motor is Kaput [broken down].' Nu, I can't pay that thirteen thousand liras from the hundred liras per person that I get. The only way out is in two, three days to go on a hunger strike, or give only fifty per cent of the food.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: Nu?
  • Isaac Wolf: And I went to the Joint. I presented this . . . eh . . .
  • David Boder: Situation?
  • Isaac Wolf: Nu, yes. I was promised, and that Mr. Weitz is here. He is sick in the hospital.
  • David Boder: Mr. Weitz.
  • Isaac Wolf: Mr. Weitz.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. He is here. I can tell you, a friendly person.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he went to trouble . . . from the hospital, I believe, because they said that they are going to ask in the hospital.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And he said that it should be done, and yesterday they brought . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, I saw the pump. [As a matter of fact I got an automobile ride to Tradate because the new motor was being delivered. —D.P.B.]
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes, the pump was brought. And it was brought. It . . . and thanks to those who took the trouble, the Joint, the American Joint, we have water today. And today we will arrange for a bath again. Because we had no water for two weeks and we couldn't take a bath.
  • David Boder: And so, where did one take water for washing?
  • Isaac Wolf: They have . . . one had . . . with a cart the water was brought.
  • David Boder: Hm. Go on.
  • Isaac Wolf: And now we will have what to wash the laundry with, and ourselves, too, when one needs.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: Because it was very terrible. With wood it was also terrible here.
  • David Boder: Yes? How?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes. The wood comes out from the subsidy that we receive, the hundred liras. The wood is deducted. A meter of wood, hundred kilos, cost three hundred liras.
  • David Boder: Hm. What will be done in the winter?
  • Isaac Wolf: That I don't know. I can imagine the situation when winter comes here, and we [words not clear].
  • David Boder: And the beds and the blankets? Were these given to you?
  • Isaac Wolf: That was here. That has come already from . . . from the Joint, from UNRRA. That was already here.
  • David Boder: Yes, but you are not given bed sheets nor towels?
  • Isaac Wolf: That we don't have. No towels. For soap I have to run a few times till I can get it. That too we don't have enough of. No soap, and about food you can see yourself.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, are there not some people who get sent something from America?
  • Isaac Wolf: There are some people, but not in the Kibbutz . . .
  • David Boder: Do they get . . .
  • Isaac Wolf: Those who receive from America, for instance, sit there in the lager and live on it. But in a Kibbutz generally, very . . . only the exact . . . there are some comrades who receive two dollars, or some such in letters. He gives it to the Kibbutz.
  • David Boder: He gives it to the Kibbutz?
  • Isaac Wolf: Yes! Yes! [With emphasis.] I myself had a friend . . . [interrupted].
  • David Boder: You mean he cannot posses any money?
  • Isaac Wolf: No. We have no money. I will tell you. Those people who are in a Kibbutz, they say that another comrade is to him the same as himself. There is no difference. Oh, I have a comrade. Let us say he has received five dollars. He has received them in a letter.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: And a package. So he gave it . . . he had received chocolate. So he said it should be distributed among the children.
  • David Boder: What?
  • Isaac Wolf: And we . . . so . . .
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: We live thus.
  • David Boder: And so, the Kibbutz is really . . . really a [pause], one can say a communistic organization?
  • Isaac Wolf: No!
  • David Boder: No, I mean in management. You own everything jointly.
  • Isaac Wolf: Everything jointly. I am telling you . . .
  • David Boder: I didn't mean politically.
  • Isaac Wolf: [Chuckle.] Naturally.
  • David Boder: Let us say like a cooperative.
  • Isaac Wolf: Oh Yes. We have, for instance, religious [people] here. So we have a kosher kitchen, too.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Isaac Wolf: You understand?
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: And we have a common kitchen. If we should all want to eat Kosher like one says, we could not exist. Because a kilo of meat costs three hundred liras, three hundred and fifty liras.
  • David Boder: A kilo of Kosher meat?
  • Isaac Wolf: No, the ordinary . . . cow . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: When we had gotten the three thousand liras, a kilo of meat was . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Isaac Wolf: . . . was two hundred and fifty. And now [it] costs three hundred and fifty. And we always get exactly the three thousand liras. A raise we don't get.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Isaac Wolf: And we have a kosher kitchen in the same manner. Everyone lives collectively. Because if not collectively we cannot exist.
  • David Boder: Nu, Mr. Wolf, everything was very interesting and everything very important. I think that you have told me a good story.
  • Isaac Wolf: I am telling you the truth [words not clear].
  • David Boder: Well, yes, that is what I am saying. You gave me a good report and many a thing has become clear, and many things will become clearer to the people who will study this document. I thank you very much.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 101, the second spool of Mr. Isaac Wolf who is an officer in one of the Kibbutzim at Camp Tradate, between Como and Milan. Illinois Institute of Technology wire recording. September the 1st, 1946.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Dagmar Platt
  • English Translation : David P. Boder