Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maximilian Kowler - April 26, 1984

Fate of Parents and Life After the War

So your parents also survived the war?

All survived the war, and uh, weren't really in, weren't really in any more danger than I was, and they were with me all the time. The only time we were separated was when I was brought back from Switzerland, and they stayed--had to stay longer in Switzerland because they didn't--they weren't re-patriated, like I was, for emergency--it wasn't really an emergency. I believe that I was brought back because my friends who had remained in France urged the government, "Hey, get him back." I'm sure--I can see how it was that important, the job I did, it wasn't that important a job. And probably somebody--and I could never find out--I tried--I could never find out, but somebody must've pushed a button to get me back faster, that's all.

Tell me a little bit about the uh, your work in Marseille.

Uh, in Marseille? When I moved to Marseille then I worked for the Jewish Agency in Marseille, I was one of the very few people from France who worked at the agency. The others were what we called ???, uh, that came from Israel to help us out, really--help the--they helped us all right, but was more a--the job they had to do was more a preparation of the people we had from the, the DP camps uh, to prepare them for their life in Israel. Org...uh, organization-wise, or preparatory to--for the departure, for the emigration to Israel, we did all the work. They did the--I would hate to use that word, but I think the best word really would be indoctrination of the people to get them ready for Israel. So I was brought back--one of the very few people--French people--I wasn't French--I mean people from France who were doing the work there. My job was the--like, I didn't have an official title at that time, like the transport manager of the Jewish Agency, so I uh, the important things I had to do. I was told there is a boat--that there will be a boat there and there, the boat has room for so-and-so many people, and you have to bring them there--night or day, or whatever. Uh, whatever we did there was naturally illegal-- officially illegal, but the French government knew about it and there again is proof that the French people--the French government wasn't that bad. Because nobody will every make me believe that the French government in Marseille--the préfecture ???, for example, the police really didn't know what we were doing, because when you have camps with 45,000 people on a steady basis and these camps are in Marseille, don't tell me. Beside the point, when we didn't get enough food from, from the United States, again, from the American Joint, or whoever sent us food, I went to the préfecture to get the coupons de rationnement--the food ration coupons--and they didn't--there was no way for me to prove to them how many people were in the camp. They asked me, "Max, how many are there?" I told him how many are there, I got the coupons. So that was--you cannot have more cooperation than that. Or when we on tracks to certain ports, like Bandol, or ???, and--Cassis I don't think we used uh, Sainte Maxime, Saint Tropez, as you know--when we ran the tracks during the night with people--get 'em out of the trucks, put 'em on a small boat, haul them out to a fishing boat which was waiting outside--don't tell me nobody knew.

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