Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maurice Chandler - October 3, 1993

Applying for Kennkarte

And I remember they said the last call was in the Wysokie Mazowsiecke in the city. And I found my way there and I get with great, great apprehension. I remember I showed up and there was a line all the way around the building. Old women, old farmers standing there with their baptismal certificates and the grandfather and all this--the proof because all this had to be brought. And I have my little piece of paper, you know, standing--acting very tough, you know. I'm talking to them and, you know, trying out my, my best farm type Polish, you know, throwing in all the colloquialisms with all the smart ass, you know, to really act like a tough guy.

With your arrogant look?

Yeah, with the arrogant look. And I just, "Psia krew," it's like a reflex word. It's like in English, "God damn it," you know, it's like jack rabbit's dog's blood and, you know, it's like a word that you use if you're a tough guy. So, finally, my next came, you know, I hear conversation, you know, my baptismal was from this and that, and grandma, you know, ??? this and this and this, and I talked to the priest and he gave me those papers and this is not--and I got uh, I had nothing to show but just that little piece of paper and another little piece of paper from a sheriff that I signed in and I worked here and there, and that's it. And I finally come in. It was a big auditorium set up with tables, you know. Maybe ten tables and at each table, there's a girl sitting at a typewriter and each table there's a German standing with a gun and he is sort of, keeping order, running everybody through. And, needless to say, I, you know, to describe to you what I felt when he first looked at me, you know, looked through me. And he said in German and then in Polish "Papiere, papiere," and I took out my birth certificate. He looks at it and he noticed right away that that part was missing. When I got that we figured out how to get that off. We didn't cut it off so it would like scissored off. It was too deliberate. We sort of folded it off until it tore off to give it the old look that it was a natural thing. So he said, "Why is this missing?" I said, "Well, it's old, it's lost," and he handed me over to the first girl. She asked certain questions because you'll see that this is written with different handwriting. Do you see? On the Kennkarte it's different because it was written by different girls. See, they would start you off....

Like an assembly line?

...with--yeah, an assembly line with that piece of paper. This was a form and with it they went to the next table and the next table and the next table. At the last table there was a photographer taking a picture. The picture--those days they didn't have instant photography so, at the end they said, "Come back in four weeks and your certificate will be ready."

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