tv Holocaust Survivor Albert Garih CSPAN August 6, 2019 10:19am-11:29am EDT
president, james polk. american history tv continues now with holocaust survivor albert garih, recalling the experience after invasion of france in 1940. 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 con stan continue opal, now istanbul in turkey. they were part of this descendants of junes ex- -- and they were spread over the mediterranean. they end up in the ottoman empire. turkey was part of the ottoman empire at that time. that's where they were born. and there they spoke judeo spanish, that they brought from
spain which evolved in a different way over five centuries, but get it right for five centuries which is remarkable. and last generation can speak it. unfortunately my children don't speak it. but they can understand a few, i use some expressions with them, but they don't speak it. >> so your parents when they moved to france, at that time they moved separately, right? they did not know each other. >> yes. they moved in 1923. what happened is that during the first world war, 1914, 1918, the otto man empire sided with germany. when germany was defeated in 1919, there was a conference in versailles outside paris, and the ottoman empire was
dismantled. came to power a strong man in 1923. and at that point the jews were concerned because they witnessed what happened to armenians in 1915 when they were massacred on the way back to armenia. then when he came to power, there was a strong greek community in ismir which is, we don't have the map, which is on the asian minor part of turkey. they were pushed out by the turks. and they went back to greece. so the jews maybe were next.
first the armenians, and greeks maybe will be number three. so some of them, a lot of them immigrated at that time. since my parents had been educated in school of an organization, they were perfectly fluent in french. france was a natural destination for them. a lot of jews from ottoman empire immigrated to france. so they immigrate in 1923 when he came to power, and they met in '27 and married in 1928. >> you described your father to me as a very smart but self educated man. tell us a little about your father. >> my father, i go to work at the age of ten. he was self educated actually.
he didn't go to school very long. he had to help the family to make a living. conditions in turkey for people who are not millionaires, and there were very few rich people, the majority were poor and they had to struggle. so he had to help his family by working. he started working at a very young age. >> how about your mom? she was very educated. >> my mother went to school, she got what they call at that time equivalent to baccalaureate, and yeah, and she was very educated, and her french was absolutely perfect. she told me a story 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 the address, from the name of it who built all these large avenues in paris, modernized paris in the 19th century. the only one she knew was a sul tan by the name of osman, and they made fun of her. said when you speak foreign language the way she speaks french, you can then compare. >> what would the move from turkey to paris, what was your parents' citizenship status in. >> as soon as they immigrated fr from turkey, they lost citizenship. they stayed for stateless until
1948. >> they were stateless. >> they were the first targeted by germans. when france was invaded, the french capitulated, most of them were taken prisoner. the government resigned and new government was formed which was a collaboration, and he was hero of first world war, meantime he had grown old, i shouldn't say that, i'm about the age, he was still older than me when he came to power. he was 85. and he started collaborating with german, and prime minister was even worse than him. pierre la vell and they were doing all the dirty work for the
germans. >> your sisters are older than you, you were the youngest, born in 1938. that was a pivotal year to the power of nazi germany and a time for your parents that you describe as ominous. >> yeah. 1938 was a glorious year of an ex-agency of austria, also the year of the munich conference where hitler promised that if you were allowed to take the language 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 that was in september, 1938. in september, 1939, the german army marched into poland and the rest is history. and it was also 1938 was also
the year of crystal nokt. it was a huge program performed. the rash was -- there were all over, they destroyed stalls, destroyed apartment, they raided apartment, destroyed synagogues, burned sinynagogues, killed 90 people. imprisoned several thousand. >> germany invades poland, starting world war ii september 1939. but it wasn't until the following spring, may 10th, when germany invaded france. as they advanced on paris, there was a mass exodus of people leaving paris. as many as 80% of the population
fled paris. >> yeah. i'm not sure about the exact proportion, but anyway vast majority of people of paris fled south by train, on foot, on bicycle, by whatever way they could. >> you were part of that? >> we were part of that. we took the train and ended up along the river which is famous for beautiful chateau from the renaissance. actually my mother told me because from that period, i have no recollection. i was two years old. what i am telling you from that period is what i got from my mother. from 1942 onward, it will be my experience because i remember everything. i was four years old. 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 was massive exodus of people of paris and north of france, wasn't only paris, and we ended up on the river and 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, tell us what happened. >> that's where we sustained the first losses. my grandmother was -- she went to get some food for us and she was killed by strafing. the german air force and italian air force also. it was called a stab in the back. so my grandmother was killed then.
and my mother lost also a brother, a sister, two nephews when a bomb fell on their car. the car was on the bridge and the 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. our father decided to stay behind. i don't know the reason. probably he wanted to keep on working, but, you know, that's all i can -- that's the only explanation i can find about that. >> you end up staying in a chateau. but you did return to paris, right? >> yeah. but let me tell you some funny story about that, 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. i was a two-year-old. when you have a two-year-old who is not fed, what does he do, he cries. and i was bothering, disturbing the peace of everyone trying to sleep. and a soldier escaped, was also staying in the chateau gave my mother, he had a fast being of schnapps. gave her a shot of schnapps, give that to your son, will keep him quiet. apparently it worked. but you know, it is a chance i didn't become alcoholic after that. >> but you did return to paris. after you returned to paris, you would remain in your apartment for another two years until june of 1942. >> yes. >> tell us a little about those
two years from what you know and events then that led to you having to leave your apartment in 1942. >> as i said, when transget liberated and new government was trans, they start to enact laws patterned after newer emburg laws that deprived jews of most of their basic rights. doctors were not allowed to practice medicine, lawyers debarred, teachers kicked out of public school, and we were not allowed on public transportation, for instance. and something about that. z z zpl. >> share it, please. >> we were really branded. we had a census and put a stamp
on identity cards, jewish. if you had to show it to police, they would put you aside and send you to a camp. one day my mother had to run an errand in paris. you know, i have no recollection of that, i was probably very young, 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. and identity check, you know what it means, meant if you show your id with the stamp jewish, they put you aside, sent you to transit camp and from there to auschwitz. my mother took me in her arms, she was pretending to look in her purse.
she walked between two police, they didn't stop her. if one of the police said ma'am, i haven't seen 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 the balcony in your apartment, handed you over to them. >> we were actually in july, 1942, we were expelled from our apartments. my father was working in a garment factory. he was the accountant, doing the payroll. and with the news of the jews, they were expropriated, the owner had to go into hiding, and we were living in the janitor's
apartment of that factory. that was an arrangement with the owner and my father. but 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. from then on, all i am going to tell you is what i really remember because you know, when you're four years old, you're forced out of your apartment and end up in a tiny apartment like that, i still remember the wallpaper. i was a kid, you know, i was four years old. in one of the two, it was a two-room apartment, with one toilet, a small kitchen, that was it, no bathroom, nothing. i remember the bedroom, what was our bedroom, the children. >> your two sisters.
>> yes. there were flowers like dalias. they looked like faces. they were frightening to a four-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 auschwitz. >> that summer of 1942 is when they really intensified. that's when you were forced out. >> yes. at that point also, you know, with my parents being aware of the roundups that were taking place, actually july, 1942, when
we moved it was the months where the biggest roundup of all took place. they rounded up the germans and asked 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, put them in a stadium where they used to have bicycle races and track, and for about one week and it was in july, it was very hot, and the conditions were deplorable. they were soon out of water. it was not designed to house
13,000 people for one week nonstop. so it was terrible. after i think about one week the people from that roundup were sent to transit camps south of paris, at least mothers and children were sent to transit camps. close to the river also. and they stayed there a few days and eventually they were sent to auschwitz. 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. without telling the lady, it was two ladies tending the farm.
i guess the men were taken prisoner with the french army beginning of the war. so there were only two women there. and i was with my sisters. my sisters would go to school, i would stay with the ladies. we spent about, i don't know, winter of 1942, '43 like that. i remember that winter was very cold. there was a lot of snow and my sisters would go to school and brought back some songs that bring me back to that period. like awe tenenbaum in french. but my parents had not told the ladies we were jewish. they said they could not feed is
in paris. there was no food, too scarce, too bad. that's the only reason they gave. but in the conversation one day, i was a four-year-old, i was very social and talking to them. one day in the conversation i say yes, we're jewish. and that's all it took to the ladies to send us back to our parents. so at that point when we went back home, my father took me apart and said don't ever, ever say you're jewish. it was dangerous to say you're jewish. that stayed with me quite a few years, even after the war, you know. it was a traumatic experience to think of the danger if anybody
could find out that we were jewish. we went back home and stayed with our parents. >> and in september when you went back, september 1943, your father was then taken for forced labor to the channel islands. >> yes. my father was summoned for labor. deportation. islands off the coast of britney which were the only british territory under nazi occupation. they were building camps there. and my father was sent, he was with 900 detainees there, and they were building what they called the atlantic wall. building block houses and bunkers and things like that. and my father had a terrible accident. >> they thought the allies might
invade. >> yes. 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 a scaffolding. he stepped on a loose board. the loose board came to hit him on the 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 was almost killed actually. but he was very strong and he survived that. but that point my -- you know, in that camp, it was still able to communicate to send us letters at home and 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.
>> so with your father gone to forced labor, your mother needed to put the kids into hiding at that point? >> she was terrified because, you know, she knew that at any moment they could come and take us away. that's how it would happen. in the middle of the night, you would hear boots on the stairs. bang on the door and come out. and the house, like they said, house and they would take us to -- sometimes it was a german. most of the time actually it was the french police. the big roundup that i mentioned earlier was performed by 4,000 police officers from the french police. so the police was, you know, following the orders from the government, which was actively collaborate 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 the story about her fear that at any moment they could come and take us away. and this lady, madam garih went home and told her husband and the husband the next morning came to the house with a cot and we took whatever we could with us, and we went to live with the garih family. they were a protestant family. this is an interesting point because in my life, i was hidden by protestant family, a communist family and a catholic boarding school. i come to these things.
so i have a broad spectrum of help actually. so, she came to us. we went to live with them, and they had two daughters. i was 5 years old at the time. their two daughters were 4 and 3. so 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. and behind their house where we could play hide and seek game in that warehouse. for me, it was like a vacation. plus mr. garro was wonderful, entertaining us. he gave us a present for christmas. he gave us -- he manufactured himself with pieces of wood.
some piggy banks. 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 or, you know, nothing. and so they gave us these coins to put in the piggy bank so it was -- 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. 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'd go to see a movie with their favorite stars. and you know, they had been caught in a theater, they would
have been taken right away to a concentration camp. so that was dangerous. but, you know, later ontraumati experience. i remember 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 stand on the ground floor and my sisters were scared. they were shivering. i was bothered because i was taken out of my bed in the middle of the night. at 4 years old, that's -- that was outrageous. >> intrusion. >> it was outrageous. so, anyway, we -- and that's when we were home.
when we were with the garos, they had manufactured a small shelter and we had a funny shelter there because their two daughters, they were 4 and 3, and the bill one, and they had the southern accent from france, and this is a musical. it's beautiful accent actually, i love it. and she said that 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. you know, 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 gallos, but your mother had to take you away from there. why did you have to leave their home because it sounded like it was a good place for you. >> yes. >> and where did you go from there? >> well, my mother was always nervous when there were some visitors. we would go to the back room and
my mother would keep my silent. don't say a word. and at that point, i was 5 years old. i understood and i stayed quiet, but -- so it was a small street, about ten houses. mostly painters and sculptors, artists, anyway. and one of the painters, his wife was a sympathizer of the reich. and she was listening to the -- >> she was a nazi sympathizer? >> yeah, a nazi sympathizer. and one day she said to madam garro, when are you going to get rid of that scum. we were the scum. at that point, madam garro and my mother thought that it might be safer for us to go back home because she might report us or whatever, you know. 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 anonymous letters and they found out after the war who sent the letter. it was one of his co-workers. so we were always in danger of that. so my mother and madam garro decided it might be safer to go back to our apartment, which we did. and that was in the spring of 1944. and a couple of weeks later, a few weeks later, early in the morning, it was always in the middle of the night or early in the morning around like at 7:00 in the morning. knock on the door. two french police inspectors. madam garro, 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 -- i don't know who gave my mother the name of this social worker. she went to see the -- she dressed me very quickly. i was still in bed. so 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. and he 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 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 a man in that apartment anyway. there was only this woman. and she took my sisters and communist neighbors took us, and it was a very convenient
arrangement because they were working on night shifts 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? >> yes. 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 gov erness. she was taking care of a family with 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 like a mother. 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 rose, 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 hide with the garros and having nothing else to do. at least we used 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 were playing on the playground. and when they were adults, you know, the sirens announcing the alerts, we had to go into the shelters. we went under ground. 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 they were about that big, some of them. and if you got one of that in yo your -- it could kill you. >> you would gather it up? >> my 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 second armored division of general leclare had asked eisenhower to have the privilege of being the one to liberate paris. and it was granted the authorization, and he entered into paris. and paris was liberated august 25th, 1944. we were liberated two days later on the 27th. >> yes, tell us about the incident with the little boy who ran away. >> yeah. and you know, my experience -- my recollection and that's something that i will never forget, actually. a kid had run away from the school. and all of a sudden, he came back. he said the allies 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 there was our liberators. and curiously enough it was the first time i ever heard about americans. needless to say that i was far from thinking that one day i would be an american myself. >> 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 wouldn'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 had the key to the door. my neighbor 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, 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. it was touch and go, really. 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. 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 here's your father. >> and there was a knock on the door. this time it was a good one. 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 -- >> we're close to the end of time. we might have time for a couple questions from our audience. there's so much more we can hear 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 -- >> my parents stayed in paris until they died actually. they died in the late '80s and early '90s. >> do you want to maybe take a couple of questions from our audience? >> yeah. >> we have a couple of minutes to do that. we have a microphone, one in each aisle. we ask if you please go to the microphone and make your questions as brief as you 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 there. right behind you. 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 bill 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. >> okay. thank you. i think we have one more here and then i think we'll probably wrap up our program. >> bonjour. i was curious. a more general question, what was the ambience 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 some 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.
you're french? >> from montreal. >> well, i tell you a story. it's in french, but i have to tell you. i cannot translate it. our lodgekeep enot 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 -- she said -- and she was not talking about the cows. she was talking about the germans. >> thank you for that. i was afraid you were going to answer in french. i want to again, i know we can spend a couple more cowershours get more details about albert's life after the war, but we're going to close for 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 firstperson 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 and 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
desk upstairs and someone asked me a question, and that gave 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 -- 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 mini series "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. 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 the same as 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 viftsing. 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. like with a portrait of one person who had fled germany who came to this country or, you know, was against the regime. berlin is no longer divided like it used to be for the war. now you gan to 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. he became the mayor of berlin in the '60s. during the war 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 to me is 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 -- generations follow generations and they're not necessarily the same. and the germans today, i think, are not the germans of 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 sampling of programs that air every weekend like lectures in history, american artifacts, reel america, the civil war, oral histories, the presidency, and special event coverage about our nation's history. enjoy american history tv now and every weekend on c-span3. >> weeknights this month we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. 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 federal mining and land policies. the environment and religion. watch american history tv
tonight beginning at 8:00 eastern on c-span3. more american history tv now with author and journalist michael dobbs on his book "the unwanted: -- america, auschwitz and a village caught in between" which tells the story of jewish families from the french/german border and efforts to flee nazi persecution by obtaining u.s. visas. this is about an hour. >> if everyone will take their seats, we'll get started. good evening. i'm marvin pichker, director of the jewish museum of maryland. it's my pleasure to welcome you to tonight's program with michael dobbs, author of the new book "the unwanted." we are delighted to be joined by the viewers of c-span. tonight's program is part of baltimore's spring of remembrance, a collaboration of museums and theaters in the city to inspire the community to think about the contemporary