Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maximilian Kowler - April 26, 1984

Returning to Lyon After the War

Do you know who any of those Gestapo people were?

No, I didn't know but I found out later that Klaus Barbie was one of the...

Was one of your customers?

One of the customers, yes. I naturally didn't know him at that time, I found out. Uh, the names of the five people who were killed, incidentally, they are super-imposed on the names of the concentration camps. It's a very--I would say it's a very moving monument: a soldier in front of the corner there with a, with a shield, with a croix Lorraine sort of engraved in there, and then, underneath it says--underneath the names it says, "???," which I think is an absolutely fantastic saying. You know, it's uh, more than the names of the concentration camps, and any name--I think the saying is the most important part of the monument. The most fantastic thing, for me, was when I came back for the first time to Lyon and looked at that monument--actually I didn't go to look for it the first time. I came to Lyon, believe it or not, the first time after the war, I did not look up any of my friends. I just walked the streets with my wife--didn't look for anybody. I came to Lyon and I left Lyon, without having called or found anybody. I didn't search for anybody--that's the first time. I, I hadn't been back to Lyon for years afterwards. Next time when I came back--many years afterwards--then I looked up some people, and then I also looked for the place where I worked, and then I found the mo...the monument, and then I found, found the place, you know? It's uh, it's funny that when uh, when I came back the first time I wasn't even interested in my past. I was just looking at the city, the town, that's it--the streets.

Why do you think?

I don't know, I don't know. I was like in a fog when I came back the first time. I didn't uh, my best friend--I didn't, I didn't even call him. I came back to Lyon in 19...again in 1981, I believe, and I went to the hotel and I took out the phone book and I looked up a name--my friend's name. I found only one name--one person--one listing with this name and I called up, and I asked for him, and a, a lady answered the phone and I said--she said "He's not here." "Are you his wife?" "Yes." Then I said I'm Max Kowler--in French it's pronounced Kowler--she, and she, she, who never knew me--I had never met her, because he got married way after I left--she answered back on the phone, "I knew it was you because Jean-Jacques expected your call for years."

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