Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maximilian Kowler - April 26, 1984

Sneaking into Switzerland

Uh, we took--I took the train first. I don't remember to the town. I believe it was ???, in the Savoie, you know, Swiss border. And from there--an ambulance was waiting for me there and my parents were with me. I sat in the ambulance; my parents sat with me in the back of the ambulance, an attendant was in the back with us, and an attendant in the front with the driver, and the ambulance then traveled over a country road into no-man's-land. Now the chance that we had to take was leaving France. And on the French border, there were always one Frenchman and one German guards, at that time already. So we were stopped at the border, and that's the fifty-fifty chance we had to take. Now they ask us what we were doing. Opened the door, and the driver and one of the attendants said, "It's an emergency appendectomy," and they had to bring me to a hospital--I forgot the town now. In order to go from one town to the next town, you had to go through no-man's-land. Not into Switzerland, but no-man's-land and come back into France. So we took the chance, and they said, "All right," and closed the door, and we traveled...

[interruption in interview] A:...we traveled then a few kilometers into no-man's-land, and they opened the door, and I walked out of the ambulance with my parents and walked into Switzerland knowing very well that the border wasn't closed--that they still accepted refugees in Switzerland. It was closed a few, few months--a few weeks later on. We walked into Switzerland and after a kilometer or so the Swiss border guards caught us already and took us into the ??? in Gen...Geneva, and--which was sort of distribution camp--and from there into what was is called, what is called--what was called in Switzerland at that time, an ??? lager--a camp where they caught the refugees. Uh, we were in the camp for a few weeks, and then the people were sent into Arbeitslager, into working camps, where we did some work. Nothing--no comparison naturally to the concentration camps or anything like that. Uh, after six weeks, you get a three day uh, pass to go on a vacation or wherever you wanted, to go see your family, and you got reduced rate on the, on the railroad then to go on this vacation. It was a camp--your liberty was uh, your freedom was confined, but still it was very humane.

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