Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maximilian Kowler - April 26, 1984

Help from Gentiles

Do you remember any specific incidents where--when, when you were helped by uh, French non-Jews?

Yes. I uh, I would say the most significant was when I came back from the hospital, actually. I, I just couldn't stand any more--after my operation I was six weeks in the hospital and I wanted to go home. I just couldn't stand it any more because I was confined in that hospital, you know? No way to move. So the surgeon said, "But you're out of your mind. Why would you do that? You're in danger the moment you get out of here. Stay here." No, no, no. I didn't want to. Okay. So, I went home, and I don't think I was home more than two hours, the French police came to warn me, that within two hours they would come back with the Gestapo to pick me up. So, what did I do? I just called back the hospital, asked to speak to the surgeon, and you can guess his answer--he said, "Didn't I tell you so?" went right back to the hospital, and French police with the Gestapo came then, and sealed the apartment--they put like a seal over the, the door--in the doorframe, and everything was in there. My parents came with me to the hospital. and everything was left in the apartment. I'm sure it really wasn't our furniture--was a furnished apartment, but still we had clothing and jewelry--whatever we had, I don't remember. So we had a friend in Lyon who was a, a more or less collaborator. Uh, she was German, uh, non-Jewish. Her husband was French. They were--he was one of the silk manufacturers--Lyon was the center of the silk industry in Franc--and they believed in, in Germany. They thought that the best thing that could happen to France was Germany. And Germany's gonna clean up France, and Germany's going to do uh, they're going to make out of France a strong and powerful state. And uh, she went out with people from the SS and with the--from the Wehrmacht and they were friends and they came to dinner to their house, and she went to the commander, too, and all that. And we were her friends and she knew we were Jewish. We were friends for a long time. They believed in Germany, that's all. And then when we were--naturally we called her, she said, "Don't you worry about," and she went right to the apartment, she broke the seal--she couldn't care less--broke the seal, took out whatever we wanted, took it to her house. Took my parents eventually to her house, they stayed there a few days--she was hiding them. Another example--now I'm talking now not only of non-Jewish French people, I'm talking of non-Jewish French people who were sympathizers of Germany.

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