Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maximilian Kowler - April 26, 1984

Life in Switzerland

When was this?

Uh, that was uh, January uh, 1943--February then--January, February 1943. And uh, I was in uh, there again. My experience at having worked as a terrassier in France uh, became--it was, uh, uh, was very helpful, and I made career very fast. I became what is called a group Führer, which means a foreman, and uh, had, had uh, basically a good time. We had a--we formed immediately a soccer team again there in Switzerland, which was called the soccer team of the interned people ??? and we played against teams in Switzerland. Uh, we had basically a good time there, because you have to remember that uh, between '42 and '45 Switzerland didn't have any tourists, so we were the tourists whenever we were permitted to go somewhere. So it, it was alright. We were confined--naturally the danger of being surrounded by Germany was always there. Swiss neutrality was extremely strained, because the Swiss always had to be nice to Germany because they were afraid to be invaded eventually, naturally which I, I don't think would have ever happen because there was so much German money in the main Switzerland, why would they invade their own money, you know? They had it in safe places, you know? Uh, but, anyhow, Swiss played on their neutrality to an extreme, really, to favor Germany until--when they saw that Germany was losing the war, then that neutrality switched the other way, you know?

Did your fellow internees--did they know that you, that you also were a Jewish fugitive?

In Switzerland?


Oh, yeah. They know exactly. Oh, yes, you didn't fool anybody there--you couldn't because you were worried that if they find something wrong with you, they ship you right back. Sure, no--you, you wouldn't have. You a--Swiss was a--Swiss was and, I think in many ways, is still a police state, you don't fool around there.

Did you return to France?

From Switzerland? From Switzerland I was brought back by a special decree of the French government. I was back on the first transport because they wanted me back uh, the decree I believe it was ???. I don't know if the name is correct, I have the papers on that. Uh, ten people were brought back from Switzerland to France before anybody else, and I was one of the ten. Uh, they wanted me back to reorganize uh, in the youth movements, and uh, a big camp in uh, in France, in the south-east--south-west of Lyon. So I, I was one they knew--I brought back from Switzerland. I was one or two days in Lyon. I was up already up there and uh, worked on uh, again, in the youth movement. I came back--I was always--I was never really in the business world, my life and my dream was youth. All my friends were in there, and I left it there, and I came right back to it like, like I wasn't even away, you know? I had been in contact--while I was in Switzerland I had been in contact with Lyon, all my friends there, so I stepped right back into what I just--what had practically left yesterday, sort of.

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