Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maximilian Kowler - April 26, 1984

Avoiding the Gestapo

Did they know you were Jewish?

The Veteran's Administration? I don't think so but they knew I was a foreigner, yes, because I had already an assumed name at that time. Uh, they send me there, and uh, uh, my boss started to teach me how to mix drinks and all that. I was behind the bar--after a while--a few days, I don't know, a week maybe, I became more relaxed, and he let me approach the bar and already work at the bar. There were some very well-dressed people--men--guests there. They were--who were drinking, and ordering, and speaking French, but uh, speaking German. And uh, I was absolutely perplexed, I, I didn't, I didn't expect it. So, after a few days, I hear what they're saying, and after a few days, I walked over to my boss and said, "Who are these people there?" He says, "Don't you know?" I said, "No, I don't." He says, "That's the people from across the way from the Hotel Royale, across the ???--" on the other side from the cafe-house, was the Hotel Royale and uh, that was, that was the seat of the Gestapo--that's where the Gestapo lived. And I said, "Ah." And for a few days I didn't react. I didn't know what to do about it. Uh, first I wanted to be brave, maybe I could help in some way working there but then I figured uh, I really don't have the experience to do that type of a job, and I said, "I better leave." I left, and uh, I, I still remember that they owed me--they owe me my salary for three days--for the first three days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. On Wednesday night I went home and I never came back. Uh, a while later then, the place was uh, blown up, by the resistance--a complete shambles, it was never re-built. It's now an agence, and the corner is like an excavation there, and it's a beautiful monument with the names of all the concentration camps engraved, and super-imposed on that the name of the five hostages that uh, Klaus Barbie had them brought on an open truck to, to the front of where the restaurant used to be. And as they descended off the truck, they were shot down and left in there for maybe a half a day or twenty-four hours on the sidewalk to scare the population of Lyon--to scare them and because of the--to show them that uh, they shouldn't, they shouldn't try to fight and undermine the German effort.

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