Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Martin Koby - April 20, 1999

Discussing Experience

The following is a continuation of the interview with Martin Koby, held at the University of Michigan--Dearborn, on May 10th, 1999. The interviewer is still Sidney Bolkosky.


He, he always comes to discuss with me things, you know. At work, it's very difficult to discuss things, you know. We start with an idea, you have to wait on a customer.

Okay. This is the man who works at the deli.

He used to. He's retired, see. And he says to--you know, he's telling me uh, we were talking uh, and he's all upset because he's the only one in his family that survived. And he said, that was by accident. He said a terrible accident happened to him. He said maybe he would have been better off had he stayed. How did you survive he says, "in uh, when the war started," when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, he was one of the forced draftees. He was seventeen years old.

Into the Russian army?

Into the Russian army. You know, he lived in Galicia.


A little bit east of Lemberg--of Lvov. And here he is--you know, he resents--I don't know what's really--I can't imagine what's bothering him, that he's uh, uh, the same paragraph or the same--it's--when we sit and talk, the--he said, maybe he would have been better off if he would have stayed with his parents. So I assumed that one way he misses them very much, ??? his family and the other way I think he's very unhappy now, you know. He has two sons and a daughter, who all three college graduates on their own. And uh, he's kind of uh, I don't know.

His wife--does he have a wife?

Yeah he's--well, sure, he's got three, three kids, he has to have a wife.

And she's still--she's still alive?

Yeah, still alive, yeah. And uh, he feels very--you know, that's what he tells me. What can you--you know, your conclusion is that he's--he has this dual feelings, resentful that he's alive, right? Resentful that the Russians took him. It's maybe--you know, he says it maybe, he says to me, these two things, but he was in the Russian army, he says you know, it's--all through the war, he says, "I survived, okay." Well, I was going to invite him over. I invited him to come over to the house around one o'clock today you know, after ten--twelve or so.


Thought we'd sit and talk. Well, I--he called yesterday and said, "The meeting is here." I called him and I said, "You know, it's been canceled the get together at my house, but maybe we'll get together some other time." He wanted to know what it is. I told him. He says, "Is that going to be for public consumption for pub...publication?" And I said, "No it's not going to be for public," I would probably talk about it off record you know, so he wouldn't be there. But you know, this is the third man--mature adult, in my adventures, that said that to me. They do not want to make any statement that's going to be on record somewheres, somebody might read it, some--somebody might uh, you know, say, "Oh, Ben, I knew him." You know, he--s...surpr...anyway...

Why do you suppose?

I don't know. There were two other Jewish men, the other ones are dead already. Oh, no, no. I asked them simple questions, tell me about my hometown you know, about Rovno, and uh, you know, about this person, or that person. They would not, they would not talk about it. They said, "I would rather not, because you never know what's going to happen you know and who's going, who's going to see that, who's going to read it." And I thought to myself, what a...

So they died and their stories are--died with them.

With them. They would not--then I thought to myself, but today especially, what's the difference? I mean, why are you afraid to say? You're going to die anyway. Who's going to come after you? You know, five years--ten years--twenty years from--who's going to come after you to, to hold it against you that you told about your experience?

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