tv Holocaust Survivor Albert Garih CSPAN August 6, 2019 3:42pm-4:52pm EDT
four years old when his father was deported to a labor camp. during that time, he and the rest of his family hid with families in and around paris. this is about an hour. >> good morning. welcome to the united states holocaust memorial museum. my name is bill benson. host of the museum's public program, first person. thank you for joining us today. we are in our 20th year of the first person program. our first person today is mr. albert garih who you shall meet shortly. his 2019 season of first person is made possible by the generosity of the lewis franklin smith foundation, with additional funding from arlene and daniel fisher foundation. we're grateful for their sponsorship. first person is a series of
twice weekly conversations with survivors of the holocaust who share with us their firsthand accounts of their experience during the holocaust. each of the first person guests serves as a volunteer here at this museum. our program will continue until august 8th. the museum's website at www.ushmm.org provides information about each of our upcoming first person guests. albert will share with us his first person account of his experience during the holocaust and as a survivor. if we do not get to your question today, please join us in our online conversation, never stop asking why. the conversation aims to inspire individuals to ask the important questions that holocaust history raises. you can ask your question and tag the museum on twitter, facebook, and instagram using @holocaust museum, and hash tag, ask why.
today's program live streamed on the museum's website, meaning people will be joining us on the program, online, and watching with us today from across the country and around the world. we invite everyone to watch our first person programs live on the museum's website each wednesday and thursday at 11:00 a.m. eastern standard time through june 6th. a recording of this program will be made available on the museum's youtube page. please visit the first person website listed on the back of your program for more details. what you're about to hear from albert is one individual's account of the holocaust. we have prepared a brief slide
presentation to help with his introduction. we begin with a school portrait of albert garih taken in 1945. albert's parents, benjamin and claire were born in con stan ten open he will, now turkey, moved to paris in the 1920s. albert and his twin brother that died in infancy were born june 24th, 1938 in paris, joining older siblings. we see all three siblings, including albert on the left in this 1941 photograph. his father worked in a garment factory, and family lived there in the janitor's apartment. in may, 1940, germany invaded france and occupied paris. the arrow on this map of france points to paris. the garih family fled south but soon returned to paris where they were subjected to france's
anti-jewish legislation. in 1943, albert's father was deported to a forced labor camp. and his mother and the children went into hiding with madam gallo and her husband the next six months. when they returned home in 1944, police were sent to arrest the garihs, but agreed to say instead the family was not home if the family would leave immediately. albert was placed in a catholic boarding school for boys, and his sisters in one for girls in a northeastern suburb of paris. when paris was liberated, his mother was able to bring her children back to the city. claire and her children are shown together in this photograph. albert's father released from the labor camp, walked from belgium to paris, returning to his family september, 1944, on rash has schon a, the jewish new
year. they remained in france after the war. he received a back lawyer at degree, then learned a degree in engineer lynn and spanish from french translation from the school of interpretation studies in 1962, and immediately began his career in translation, which he continued until last year, 58 years later, when he reached the age of 80. his early work was translation of scientific and technical documents and publications and later translation of political and economic documents. albert speaks french, english, spanish and judeo spanish. albert's work took him from france to cameroon and africa to montreal and eventually the united states. organizations for which he
worked included among others, international civil aviation organization, inter american development bank, world bank, and united nations. his work with the world bank brought him to washington, d.c. in 1976. in 1967, albert married, she moved to france from morocco. they have three daughters. who have given them 11 grandchildren, ages 24 to 4 years. albert describes himself as a real movie buff, enjoys photography, loves to read and loves to travel. they have been to china and south africa, went to australia and new zealand in 2018, and last month returned from a trip to israel, vietnam, and cambodia. albert volunteers here at the museum, speaking often to classes of students from all
over the country, sometimes by teleconference, in which he tells his story. he sits at donor's desk where visitors can talk with him. with that, i want you to join me welcoming our first person, mr. albert garih. [ applause ] albert, thank you so much for joining us and for your willingness to be our first person today. so thank you for being here. >> you're welcome. >> we just have a short hour. we'll get started quickly as we can. world war ii began september 1939 with nazi germany's invasion of poland. the following year, germany attacked france. you were nearly two years old at that time. before we turn to the war years and holocaust, what it meant for you and your family, let's start by having you tell us about your family and their life before
germany invaded france. >> well, my parents were born in istanbul in constantinople, now istanbul in turkey. bl, constan that time. now istanbul, in turkey. they were part of this -- they were descendants of the jews who were expelled from spain in 1492. and they spread all over the mediterranean and my parents ended up the ottoman empire. turkey was part of the ottoman empire at that time. and that's where they were born, and there they spoke judeo spanish which was a form of spanish. that was the spanish that they brought with them from spain, which evolved in a different way over five century, but they kept it alive for five century which is remarkable.
and the last generation who can speak it, unfortunately, my parents -- my children don't speak it but they can understand a few because i use some expressions with them, but they don't speak it. >> so your parents when they moved to france, at that time they lived separately, right? they did not know each other. >> no, they moved in 1923. actually, what happened is that during the first world war in 1914-1918, the ottoman empire sided with germany. and when germany was defeated in 1919 there was a conference outside of paris and the ottoman empire was dismantled and then came to power a strongman in
1923 by the name of mustafa kimar and at that point, the jews were scared. they were concerned because that seemed, witnessed what happened to the almanians earlier in the century, i think it was in 1915 when they were massacred on theirway back to armenia. and then when mustafa kamir came to power, there was a very strong greek community which is -- we don't have the map -- which is on the asia -- the part of turkey. and they were pushed out literally by the turks. and they went back to greece. so the jews, maybe they were next. first the armenians and then the greeks maybe will be number three. so some of them -- a lot of them
actually emigrated at that time. since my parents had been educated in a school, in an organization, they were perfectly fluent in french. so france was a natural destination for them. and a lot of jews from the ottoman empire emigrated to france. so they emigrated in 1923 when mustafa came back into power. they met in '27 and they married in 1928. >> you described your father to me as a very smart but a self-educated man. just tell us a little bit about your father. >> my father had to go to work at the age of 10, so he was self-educated, actually. he didn't go to school very long, you know, he had to help the family to make a living.
conditions in turkey for people who were not millionaires, and there were very few rich people. the majority, they were poor and struggled. so he had to help his family by working. he started working at a very young age. >> and how about your mom? she was very educated. >> my mother went to school. yeah. she got what they call at that time -- which was equivalent to the bachelor. she was very educated and her french was absolutely perfect. she told me her story when she was a -- when she first came to france, she got a job as a secretary in a company, and one day she had to write a letter to an address, and she, from the
name of it, men who built all these large avenues in paris, modernized paris in the 19th century, but the only osman that she knew was a man by the name of osman spelled o-s-m-a-n, so she wrote osman and the colleagues made fun of her. it was her boss who defended her and said, when you speak a foreign language the way she speaks french, you can then compare. [ laughter ] >> what would the move from turkey to paris, what was your parents' citizenship status? >> as soon as they emigrated from turkey, they lost their citizenship, and they stayed same place for about -- until 1948, actually. >> so they were stateless. they had no citizenship.
>> which means they were the first to be targeted by the germans because when france was invaded the french army capitulated and most of them were taken prisoner. the government resigned and a new government was formed. the head was a hero of the first world war. but in the meantime, he had grown old. i shouldn't say that because i'm about the age. he was a year older than me when he came to power. he was 85, and he started collaborating with the germans and the prime minister was even worse than him. and he and his french police were doing all the dirty work for the germans. >> your sisters are older than you. you were the youngest. you were born in 1938, and that
was a pivotal year to the power of nazi germany and a time for your parents you described as ominous. >> 1938 was a glorious year of the annexation of austria by germany. then it was also the year of the munich conference where hitler promised that if he were allowed to take the land which is what is today the czech republic, that would be the end of his territorial ambition, it wouldn't go any further. and it was also -- we know what happened in september 1938. in september 1939, the german army marched into poland and the rest is history. and it was also 1938 was the year of cristalnot, a huge
program performed all over the reish, comprised of austria, germany. so all over they destroyed stores, day destoroyed apartmen. they raided apartment. they destroyed synagogues, burned synagogues all over and killed 90,000 people, no, 90 people -- >> imprisoned 30,000. >> imprisoned several thousand. yes. >> germany and poland start world war ii in 1939, but it wasn't until the following spring, may 10th, when france invaded -- when germany invaded france. as they advanced on paris there was a max exodus of people leaving paris. i think as many as 80% of the population, as much as, fled paris. >> i'm not sure about the exact
proportion, but anyway, the vast majority of the people of paris fled south by train, on foot, on bicycle, by whatever way they could and we -- >> you were part of that. >> we were part of that. we took the train and we ended up along the river who is famous for its beautiful chateau from the renaissance. actually, my mother told me because from that period i have no recollection. i was 2 years old. so what i'm telling you from that period is what i got from my mother. from 1942 onwards it would be my experience because i remember everything. i was 4 years old, and when you live under such circumstances, you're bound to remember for the rest of your life. anyway, so during -- in 1942 when france was invaded, a
massive exodus of people of paris, and the north of france, and we ended up on the river and we slept in a chateau. >> as you were fleeing paris not only is it thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people on the road, the germans are attacking, dropping bombs and strafing. tell us what is happening to your family. >> that's where we sustained our first losses, actually. my grandmother was -- she went out to get some food for us, and she was killed by strafing, and it was the german air force and the italian air force also. it was called a stab in the back. and so my grandmother was killed then. and my mother lost also her brother, a sister and two nephews. when a bomb fell on their car
which is a city on the river. their car was on the bridge. a bomb fell on it and they were killed. these were the first losses that we sustained during that period. >> as you were fleeing paris, was your father with you at that time? >> no, my father decided to stay back, behind. i don't know the reason. probably he wanted to keep on working. but that's all i can -- that's the only explanation i can find about that. >> so you ended up staying in a chateau, but you did return to paris, right? >> yeah, but let me tell you some funny story about the chateau. of course, we were sleeping on the floor, on straw, i guess, i don't know. and my mother didn't have much to feed me. and i was a 2-year-old.
when you have a 2-year-old who is not fed, what does he do? he eyes. and i was bothering and disturbing the peace of everyone who was trying to sleep and a soldier escaped and who was also staying in that chateau and gave my mother, he had a flask of schnapps. he gave her a shot of schnapps, give that to your son, it will keep him quiet. and apparently it worked. >> it worked. [ laughter ] you know, it's a chance that i didn't become an alcoholic after that. anyway. >> albert, but you did return to paris. >> yes. >> after you returned to paris, you would remain in your apartment for another 2 years until june of 1942. tell us a little bit about those two years from what you know and the events then that led to you
having to leave your apartment in 1942. >> as i said when the french capitulated and the new government was formed, they started to enact laws which were patterned of the nuremberg laws in germany depriving the jews of most of their rights. basic rights. doctors were not allowed to practice medicine. lawyers were debarred. and teachers were kicked out of public school. and we were not allowed to go in public transportation, for instance. share about that. >> please. >> one day, my mother, we were really branded. every year, we had a census and they put a stamp on identity cards, jewish.
and that was if you had to show that to a police, they would put you aside and send you to a camp. so one day my mother had to run an errand in paris. i, you know, i don't -- i have no recollection of that because i was probably very young, but she told me many years later, and she took me along and when we came out of the subway, we had to take the subway, when we came out of the subway, there was an identity check. an identity check, you know what it means, meant if you show your i.d. with the stamp, jewish, on it, they put you aside and they send you to a transit camp and from there to auschwitz. so my mother took me in her arms, she told me. she was pretending to look in her purse. she walked between two police. they didn't stop her. if one of the police had said,
ma'am, i don't see your papers, i wouldn't be here today. that's how close it was. and we had a few close calls like that, anyway. >> you told me about an incident that stuck in my mind where your mother was chatting with neighbors on your balcony in your apartment and she handed you over to them. >> actually in july 1942 we were expelled from our apartments. and my father was working in a garment factory. he was doing their repair work. and with the new statute of the jews, the garments factory, they put a german manager. the owner had to flee and go into hiding. and we were living in the garment -- in the janitor's apartment of that factory.
that was the arrangement with my owner and my father. when the owner had to run away, we were expelled from that apartment and had to find an apartment in no time. it was in july 1942, and from then on, all i am going to tell you is what i really remember because, you know, when you're 4 years old, you are forced out of your apartment and you end up in a tiny apartment like that. i still remember the wall paper. i was -- i was a kid, you know, i was 4 years old. and in one of the two -- it was a two-bedroom apartment with one toilet and small kitchen and there was no bathroom, nothing. and i remember in the bedroom, what was our bedroom, the children -- >> your two sisters. >> yes. there were flowers like dahlias,
and they looked like faces and they were frightening to me, a 4-year-old. i was looking at them, i didn't like that. anyway, so that's where we ended up. and they started rounding up people in 1941, actually. it started really for good in the fall, i think, 1941, and it didn't stop until the very last moment. just one month before the liberation of paris in 1944. and there were trains going from paris to -- to auschwitz. >> that summer of 1942 is when they really intensified and that's when you were forced out. >> yes. and at that point also, you know, with my parents being aware of the roundups that were taking place, you actually -- july 1942 when we moved, that was the month where the biggest roundup of all took place, where
they rounded up the germans and the french police to round up 20,000 men. they were not able to find 20,000 men, but they rounded up 13,000 people, men, women, children, elderly people, sick people, everyone. you know, and they took them, they put them in a stadium which where they used to have bicycle races on track, and for about one week, and it was in july. it was very hot, and the sanitary conditions were deplorable, actually, because they were soon out of order. it was not designed to -- to house 13,000 people for 1 week nonstop.
so it really was terrible. and after i think it was about one week, the people from that roundup were sent to transit camps south of paris, at least the mothers and the children were sent to transit camps. close to the river also. they stayed there for a few day and eventually they were sent to auschwitz. and out of them, out of 13,000 there were 4,000 children and none of them came back. so my parents were really concerned and very afraid about what could happen to us and they decided to send us into hiding. they sent us into a farm out of paris but without telling the lady -- it was two ladies who were tending the farm. i guess the men must have been taken prisoner with the french
army at the beginning of the war, so there were only two women there, and i was with my sisters. my sisters would go to school and i would stay with the ladies. we spent about the winter of 1942-'43 like that. i remember the winter was very cold, there was a lot of snow and my sisters would go to school and they brought back some songs that bring me back to that period like taunenbaum but it was in french. that song brings me back. today, it's famous for safari park there. in those days, was just farmland. so i was staying with the ladies, but my parents had not told the ladies that we were jewish. they just said that day could not feed us in paris, there was no food, it was too scarce and too bad.
so that was the only reason they gave, but in the conversation one day, as a 4-year-old, i was very social and i was talking to them, and one day in the conversation, i say, yes, we're jewish. and that's all it took for the ladies to send us right back to our parents. and so at that point when we went back home, my father took me apart and said, don't ever, ever say that you're jewish. it was very dangerous to say that you were jewish in those days. i did not know, i was just a kid. >> right. >> but that stayed with me and that stayed with me for quite a few years even after the war. you know, i was -- it was traumatic to me. a traumatic experience to think of the danger if anybody could find out that we were jewish. so we went back home and we
stayed with our parents. >> and in september when you went back in september 1943 -- >> yes. >> your father was taken for forced labor to the channel islands. >> yes, my father was summoned for manual labor or deportation in the channel islands, which, it's a small islands off the coast of brittany which were the only british territory under nazi occupation. and they were building their camps there, my father was with 900 detainees there, and they were building what they called the atlantic wall. they were building block houses and bunkers and things like that. and my father had -- >> and that was because they thought the allies might invade through -- >> yes, to stop -- it was called the atlantic wall. it was supposed to stop any
invasion from the allies. and my father had a very bad accident when he was there. he was carrying a trough of cement on his head, on the scaffolding. he stepped on a loose bolt. the loose bolt came to hit him on his head and he fell off a cliff. and he was picked up a couple of hours later by the soup truck. he was losing his blood and he he was almost killed, actually, but he was very strong and he survived that. but at that point -- you know, in that camp, he was still able to communicate to send us letters at home. and then my mother was able to write to him also. and when we heard that he had had that accident we thought we would never see him again. anyway. >> so with your father gone to forced labor, your mother needed
to put the kids into hiding at that point. >> she was terrified because she knew at any moment they could come and take us away. that's how it would happen. you know? in the middle of the night you would hear boots on the stairs, bang on the door and come out. they'd say house, house. and they would take us to -- sometimes it was the germans. sometimes -- most of the time, actually, it was the french police. the big roundup that i mentioned earlier was performed by 4,000 police officers for the french police. so the police was, you know, following the orders from the government which was actively collaborating with the germans. >> so your mother needs to find hiding for you. tell us how she found a place. >> she was desperate. it was in september 1943. my father had been taken away,
and she was -- she knew that at any moment they could come and take us away. and she met this lady in the street market. she didn't even know her, and she told her about a story about her fear that at any moment they could come and take us away. and this lady went home, told her husband, and her husband the next morning came to her house with a cart and we took whatever we could with us, and we went to live with that family. the family was a protestant family. this is an interesting point because in my life, i was hidden by a protestant family, a communist family, and a catholic boarding school. i had come to these things. so i have, you know, broad spectrum of help, actually.
so he came to us. we went to live with them. and they had two daughters. i was 5 years old at that time. their two daughters were 4 and 3. to me, they were playmates. i could play with them. he was a sculptor. he was making sets for the movie studios. and they had a big warehouse behind their house where we could play hide-and-seek game in that warehouse. for me, it was like a vacation, plus he was wonderful. he was telling us stories. he was entertaining us. he was -- he gave us some presents for christmas. i remember he gave us -- he manufactured himself with pieces of wood some piggybanks. they were shaped like a safe and painted. he painted them in green. i remember that like it was
yesterday. and they gave us some, you know, we had coins at that time with a hole in the middle and they were worthless, nothing. and so they gave us these coins to put in the -- >> piggybanks. >> -- piggybanks. so for me, it was a happy moment. for my mother, it was constant fear. >> and for your sisters, too, you said, because they were older. >> yes. >> they were in constant fear. >> yes, they were aware of the danger. although that didn't stop them, sometimes, before we got there, they were younger, you know, it was very dangerous to go to the movies, but they would go unbeknownst to my parents, they would go to see a movie with their favorite stars. you know, if they'd been caught in a theater, they would have been taken right away to a
concentration camp. so that was dangerous. but later on, they were really traumatized by the experience. i remember, for instance, when there were bombardments, when we were still in our apartment, we were living on the second floor. it was an apartment building. and when there was a raid in the middle of the night, the sirens started blasting. we would go downstairs. there was no shelter. there was no underground, nothing. we stayed on the ground floor and my sisters were scared. d they were shivering. i was bothered because i was taken out of my bed in the middle of the night. you know, 4 years old, that's -- that was outrageous. >> intrusion. >> it was outrageous. so, anyway, so, and that's when we were home. when we were with the gallows, they had manufactured a small shelter also, and we had a funny
story there because the two daughters, they were 4 and 3, n and the little one, they had the southern accent from france. this is musical, beautiful acce accent, actually, i love it. one day we were in the shelter, she said, tomorrow, if there's a bomb in the yard, i'm going to pick it up. and these words from kids -- >> from kids. >> things that stay with you. i still remember that. anyway. >> in the spring of 1944, you were with the gallows, but your mother had to take you away from there. why did you have to leave? it sounded like it was a good place for you and where did you have to go from there? >> my mother was always nervous. when there were some visitors to the gallow, we would go to the backroom and my mother would
keep me silent, don't say a word. and at that point, i was 5 years olded. i understood and i stayed quiet. but so it was a small street, about ten houses. mostly painters and sculptors, artists. anyway, one of the painters, his wife was a sympathizer of the riche. and she was listening to the radio -- >> she was a nazi sympathizer. >> yeah, a nazi sympathizer. and one day she said to madam gallow, when are you going to get rid of the scum? we were the scum. at that point, madam gallow and my mother thought it might be safer for us to go back home. she might report us. >> right. >> you never know. a lot of people were taken away by denunciation like that.
people would send anonymous letters. actually, my father was victim of one of these letters and they found out after the war who had sent the letter. it was one of his co-workers. so we were always in danger of that. so my mother and madam gallow decided it might be safer for us to go back to our apartment, which we did, and that was in the spring of 1944 and a couple weeks later, a few weeks later, early in the monk, it was always in the middle of the night or early in the morning, around 7:00 in the morning, knock on the door, two french police inspectors. madam gallow, yes, we came to take you away. that's what my mother dreaded all along and she started shaking and they said, calm down, we're going to report we didn't find you, but you must not sleep in your apartment
tonight. you have to find a hiding place. so where do we go? so some -- i don't know who gave my mother the name of this social worker. she went to see the social -- she dressed me very quickly. i was still in bed and so were my sisters. so we dressed very quickly and we went to see this social worker and the social worker said, you have to give me a few days, i cannot find a place like that to hide, you know, overnight, immediately. so in the meantime, try to see if you cannot stay with your neighbors, which we did. actually, we were staying, as i said, i was staying with my mother with this communist family next door. it was our next door neighbors. he was -- he had been summoned to mandatory labor service because, you know, the germans were requisitioning people to
send them to work in factories in germany. >> right. >> and they had been summoned to go on mandatory labor service like that in germany. he had not reported for duty. so he was also wanted by the police, by the gestapo. so they were also in danger. they said, no, no problem. my mother and i, we stayed with them. my sisters stayed with a lodgekeeper downstairs. a woman with three young children, 14, 12 and 5. and this woman probably her husband had been taken prisoner. i never saw -- i never saw a man in that apartment, anyway. there was only this woman. and she took my sisters and or communist neighbors took us and it was a very convenient arrangement because they were working on nightshifts so we
would sleep in their bed at night and in the morning when they would come back from work, we would get up and give them the bed. so we stayed like that for, i couldn't tell you how many days. a few days. >> while this person was trying to find a more permanent location? >> and eventually after a few days, i don't know how many, this lady, this social worker came to my mother and said, i found a place for each one of you. so my mother was placed as a governess. she was taking care with a family who had eight or ten children. she was taking care of all these children, and we were sent to catholic boarding schools outside of paris in a suburb east of paris. and my sisters in one for girls and me in one for boys. and i was -- i was completely separated from the rest of my family. my sisters were together. i was alone.
i was 6 years old in that catholic boarding school. >> what do you remember of that time for you as a 6-year-old? as you said, alone, by yourself, now in this catholic boarding school. >> i have good memories and bad memories. the good memories were the head mistress who i suspect was the one who took me in to hiding in that school. she -- i was like her protege. she was always looking after me. she was motherly with me, actually. and she was wonderful. the bad memories is the food. the food was terrible. no, but when i say terrible, it was terrible. believe me. >> and terrible also and not enough of it. >> not enough, but rotten beans. dog bread with -- the bread was made out of flour, bran and sawdust. they put sawdust in the bread to
make it more consistent. anyway. so no it was terrible. and we were always hungry. and we, you know, we stay like that. i remember, you know, it was the summer of '44. so it was supposed to be summer vacation. we had some classes, but very few. when we were in the classes, they were divided in rows, you know, because it was a small boarding school so they didn't have many classes. and i was put with the babies. i was the youngest. i was just 6 years old. the people were -- the children were from 7 to 14. i was the youngest there. so they put me -- and i already -- my mother had taught me how to read and write when i was hiding with the gallows and having nothing else to do, at
least we used our time in a useful way. she taught me how to read and write. so i was there able to read and write and making strokes like this. because i was a baby. i was the baby of the class. and most of the children, even probably older than me, couldn't hardly read and write. so i was doing that. the rest of the time, we was playing in t ining on the playg. and when there were alerts, you know, the sirens announcing the alerts, we had to go into the shelters. we went underground. when the alert was over, when the raid was over, they went -- the alarm would announce the sirens would announce the end of the raid.
and we would come out and one of our favorite hobbies at that time was to pick up pieces of shrapnel in the playground. i had the big collection of pieces of shrapnel like that. and they were very heavy. and, you know, they were about that big, some of them. and if you got one of that in your body, it could kill you, actually. it did kill. >> you would gather it up as a young boy and collect it. >> yes, it was my toys. >> your toys. >> exactly. so we stayed that way. it was the summer of '44. august 25th, 1944, paris was liberated. and my mother witnessed firsthand, you know, from her windows, she witnessed the battles in the streets between the german soldiers and the french resistance. before the allies came into paris.
eventually, on august 25th, the 2nd armored division of general leclare had asked eisenhower to have the privilege of being the one to liberate paris. and it was granted that the authorization, and he entered into paris. and paris was liberated august 25th, 1944. >> albert -- >> we were liberated two days later on the 27th. >> yes. tell us about the incident with the little boy who ran away. yeah. >> you know, my experience, my recollection, that's something i will never forget, actually. a kid had run away from the school. and all of a sudden he came back, he lies are coming. i don't know whether he was punished or not for having run away, but we all went on the main street, and we saw the tanks, the jeeps, the trucks. with soldiers, with friendly faces.
different helmets. we were, you know, weary of the dreaded german helmets. these were different. people with smiles giving us chewing gum, chocolate, even cigarettes. not to me, but they were giving cigarettes to people. and that was our liberators. and curiously enough, it was the first time that i ever heard about americans. needless to say that i was far from thinking that one day i would be an american, myself, but, anyway. >> but, yeah, you had said that. you'd never even heard of an american. >> no. i had heard about the germans, the italians, the russians, the english. the americans, where do they come from? no idea. i was a kid. i was 6 years old. >> what do you remember about
reunifying with your mother and your sisters? >> yes, as soon as paris was liberated and as soon as they restored the train service, which was a couple of days later, my mother was on the first train, and she came to visit us. and i remember that day. my sisters came to -- because she went first to see my sisters in their boarding school. and they took her to me. and they were hiding -- my mother was short so she was easy to hide behind my sisters. and my sisters said, guess who's here. you know what? at 6 years old, it's so easy to forget about your loved ones. i had no idea who could be there to visit us. of course, when i saw my mother, i jumped into her arms and she was so appalled to see how i was. because i was skinny.
i was sick and -- anyway. so she was -- she had rationed tickets because everything was rationed. with our rationed tickets she bought a loaf of bread. we swallowed that in no time. that's how hungry we were. we were starved. really, i knew hunger. i know when some people say i'm hungry now that makes me laugh because they don't know what it is to be hungry. >> right. >> i experienced hunger really. so she took me home right away the same day, and the next day i had for whatever reason, she couldn't take my sisters the same day, she had to go back to pick up my sisters. and she left me under the supervision of our next door neighbor, the communist lady. and she had the key. and i was alone in the apartment
and i was starved. and the only food they had there was in the apartment was a green apple, and that was the worst thing i could have eaten because of my condition. and, of course, i did eat it. and as soon as i finished, i heard the key in the door. it was my neighbor who was coming to check and say, what did you eat? oh, i didn't eat anything. yeah, you ate something. i was cleaning my teeth like that. so, anyway, so my mother came back in the evening with my sisters. so we were reunited in our apartment with no more danger of being taken away or anything like that. that was in september 1944.
meanwhile, my father who was in this channel island, in may 1940, the allies were making everything they could to make the germans believe that if there was going to be an invasion, it would be in the strait of dover which is the shortest distance between france and britain. >> and that's where your father was. >> so they moved all the detainees from the channel island to the strait of dover and they were under the bombardments, constant bombardments, from the allies. and my father told me that one day, there was, you know, when there was a bombardment like that, they didn't go to a shelter or anything. they were laying flat on the ground hoping to be spared, and my father was laying flat like that next to a german soldier and when the raid was over, my father stood up and the german soldier stayed on the ground. he had been killed.
so it was touch and go. >> that close. yeah. >> it was touch and go, really. anyway, when the allies landed in normandy, they started pushing the germans east toward germany. and so at that point, the 900 detainees who were with my father were put on a train bound for germany. >> so the germans were going to take them with him to germany? >> yes, they were taking him with them to germany either to work as slave labor in a factory or to be killed in a concentration camp. we don't know. anyway, the train was stopped by belgian because from strait of dover when you want to go to germany, you have to go across belgium. and they were in the train across belgium. northern belgium, actually.
and the train was stopped by belgian resistance fighters who had blown up the railroad or a bridge. i don't know what exactly. but they stopped the train and there was a battle, and in the confusion, the germans released the 900 prisoners. and my father walked back from northern belgium to paris. that's a 200-mile trek. 300 kilometers, more or less. and he arrived in the morning of rosh hashanah which is the jewish new year. my mother was already dressing me to go to synagogue for the first time since we had been liberated. and -- >> and here's your father. >> and there was a knock on the door. this time it was a good one. >> yeah. >> it was my father who came back. and so our nuclear family was
spared, survived, but as i said, my grandmother was killed, an uncle, an aunt, and cousins, plus my mother and my father lost some cousins who were deported, who were sent to the camps. >> what kind of shape was your father in when he got back? >> he was in terrible shape. you can imagine. first of all, he had this terrible accident, so he survived that accident. and then he walked 200 miles to come back home. he was in terrible shape. he was sick. but he came back and he recovered. he was strong. so -- >> albert, we're close to the end of the time, and we might have a chance for a couple questions from our audience, if that's okay. >> sewer. >> there's so much more that we could hear, of course, because the war continued from that point until the spring of 1945. but fortunately, you were safe in paris and then family had to
rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the war. and you continued, you and your family stayed in paris until much later when you -- >> yeah. my parents stayed in paris until they died, actually. they died in the late '80s and early '90s. so -- >> do you want to maybe take a couple questions from our audience? >> sure. >> yeah. we have a couple of minutes to do that. we have a microphone, one in each aisle. we ask if you have a question that you please go to the microphone and make your question as brief as i can. i'll do my best to repeat it just to make sure we hear it and then albert will respond to it. and otherwise, i'll ask a couple more, myself. yes, sir. right behind you, yep, there you go. >> hi. great honor to meet you, to hear your talk. >> thank you. >> you mentioned when you fled, your family fled in 1940, south of paris and your father remained in paris and then you
mentioned that you did return to paris, could you talk a little more detail about that if you learned what the circumstances were? did your father join you before going back to paris or did you know why you returned to paris? >> so we returned to paris because my father was there. he was still staying in our apartment, and he was working in this government factory. and, you know, we had nowhere to go. we had no money. we had no relatives who could sponsor us in another country. and so we had nowhere to go. >> and you didn't even -- and you had no relatives in the unoccupied part of france either. >> no, no. we were totally on our own. so that's why we returned. could have tried to cross the demarcation line, but there was no point because we had nobody on the other side. and how would we have survived because we needed some money. my father was the breadwinner in the family.
he was still working in paris. so -- >> okay. thank you. i think we have one more here and then i think we'll probably wrap up our program. >> bonjour. >> bonjour. >> i was actually curious as a more general question, what was the ambiance in paris once it was liberated? >> what was it like in paris? was it -- >> it was euphoria. once paris was liberated, it was euphoria. and people -- my experience, the people around us, i don't know. there were self-collaborators who were probably not too proud and not too happy to see that ending, but the population around us resented the invasion, resented the occupation by the german forces, and they didn't like the germans. and, so, you're french? >> from montreal.
>> from montreal. well, i tell you a story, it's in french, but i have to tell you, i cannot translate it. our lodgekeeper, not our lodgekeeper, but the next apartment building, we saw the germans leaving, bringing with them all the cows from normandy. and in french, when you want to insult someone you say -- [ speaking french ] and she was not talking about the cows, she was talking about the germans. [ laughter ] >> thank you for that. i was afraid you were going to answer in french. i want to, again, i know there's so much -- we could spend a couple more hours and get more details and hear about albert's life after the war, but we're going to close for the now. i'm going to turn back to albert in just a moment to actually end the program. i want to thank all of you for
being with us. remind you, we'll have first person programs each wednesday and thursday until the 8th of august. our programs until may 6th will all be -- i'm sorry, until june 6th -- will all be live streamed and all of our programs will be available on the museum's youtube channel. one way or another, we hope you can see some more of our programs. when albert is finished, in a moment, he will remain here on the stage and we invite any of you who want to come up to ask a question, just shake his hand or get a photograph taken with him, please feel free to do that. so come on the stage. we mean that. we welcome that. albert, you welcome that, right? >> sure. >> okay. it's our tradition at first person that our first person has the last word so on that note, i'm going to turn back to albert to close our program. >> well, yesterday i was at the donors desk upstairs and someone asked me a question and that give me the idea of what i'm going to say in conclusion.
she asked me, how do you feel about the germans? probably expecting me to say i hate the germans or, to tell you the truth, at the end of the war, we hated the germans. that's for sure. i remember five years later when i went to secondary school and i had to choose between taking english or german, i was given the -- we were given the choice like that. there was no question i was going to take german. we all took english -- most of us took english. and so that's how we felt about the germans at that time. and that's -- i still have the same feeling about the germans from that period. but in the meantime, you know, it has been 75 years now since the end of the war. almost. 74 years. and today, you know, i had
another experience once at that desk. i see a young lady, maybe 16 or 20 years old and she was in tears. i say what -- why are you crying like that? she said, i'm german, and i just visited the museum. and i was so ashamed of what my people did to your people. i said, was it your grandparents? she said, no, my grandfather was 7 years old at the end of the war. he was my age. so it was not her grandfather. it was a great-grandfather was in the nazis, and she was ashamed about what she discovered in this museum. so i think -- and that started this frame of mind started to
appear in the mid '80s, i would say. there was a movie, a german movie, called "nasty girl." it was a young girl in a small town in germany who started to scratch the surface to find out, and she asked her mother, mom, where was grandpa during the war? and they started to scratch the surface, and i think from then on, there was -- also they showed the movie, the miniseries, "holocaust" on german television. >> the one we had here. >> the one we had here with meryl streep who was a young star at that point. and it was traumatic for them because a lot of them didn't know because they were not advertising what they had been doing. you know, they were not bragging about it. so a lot of the new generations discovered what their
grandparents had been doing 30 years or 40 years earlier. and they were not too proud of it. and six years ago, i had an opportunity, i spent one week in berlin. and that was also an eye-opener for me because i saw now the german people now, they acknowledge what they did. they have an exhibit which is very much as the same as the one we have here. called the photography of terror where they show the rise of the nazi movement. the anti-jewish laws, the camps, the war and everything. and when i visited that exhibit in berlin, i remember there was
a group of tourists visiting. and they had a guide. it was a guided tour. and i approached because i wanted to hear. and it was in german. so it was probably a group of tourists maybe from another city, munich, frankfurt, i don't know where, who were visiting this exhibit in germany. and in the streets in berlin, you had columns dedicated to -- it's like advertising columns. with a portrait of one person who had fled germany who came to this country or, you know, who was against the regime. as i was working in east berlin, because berlin is no longer divided like it used to be before, with the wall. now you can go to east berlin from west berlin. there's no problem. i was walking in a big avenue. it's like the champs-elysees in paris.
and on the side, i see a museum dedicated to villabont. villabont became the mayor of be bergmeister, they called it, of berlin, in the '60s. but during the war, he fled. he went to norway and eventually to sweden when norway was invaded, and he didn't want to have anything to do with the germans. he was an anti-nazi. and they have a museum dedicated to villabont who is, to me, one of the person i have the most respect for, actually. he was a very decent man. a good man. so i saw all that, and that i realized that you cannot -- you know, people are, you know --
generations follow generations and they're not fenecessarily t same. and the germans, today, i think are not the germans of yesterye yesteryear. and we can see that with angela merkel who is opening her borders and receiving all these immigrants now. you know, it's a totally different germany from what it was before. so, today, i don't have any hate for the germans. i still have resentment for what happened, but i don't blame the new generations for that. thank you. [ applause ] this is a special edition of "american history tv." a sample of the compelling history programs that air every
weekend on "american history tv" like "lectures in history." "american artifacts." "reel america." "the civil war." "oral histories." "the artifacts. the the presidency and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv, now and every weekend on cspan3. week nights this month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on cspan3. tonight, a look at the presidency of james polk, the university of tennessee recently completed a project to assemble and edit the papers of america's 11th president and then hosted a conference on president polk with historians discussing his views on hand policies, environment and religion. watch american history tv tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern on cspan3.
more american history tv now with more and journalist michael dobbs on his book, the unwanted, american auschwitzen a a village caught in between, which tells the story of jewish families and efforts to flee nazi persecution by obtaining u.s. visa's. hosted by the jewish museum of maryland. this is about an hour. >> if everyone will take their seats we'll get started. good evening i'm marvin pinker director to thes jouish museum of maryland it's my pleasure to welcome the author of the new book, the unwanted. in addition to our audience at the museum we are delighted to be joined by viewers of cspan. tonight this is the spring of remembrance, a collaboration of museums and theaters in the city to inspire the community to think about the contemporary relevance of the events that led to the holocaust through exhibits, performances a