Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maximilian Kowler - April 26, 1984

Life in Lyon

Okay. And now back, back to, to Lyon. You were established...

So we came to Lyon then, and we uh, my father uh, found work almost immediately as a dentist--a mécanicien dentist, which is a technician. And uh, once his boss got to know him better, and realized that my father knew more than he did, even as a, as a surgeon-dentist--as a doctor, you know, medical, medical dentist uh, he even let him work and practice as--on the patient side there, you know? And France was very lenient about that. Again uh, he didn't make a big fuss, and, I mean, it wasn't official, but on the other hand almost everybody knew. So uh, he was pretty happy, naturally, he--that he could work in his profession. Uh, I went to school, and got immediately involved in the youth movements, and uh, I had been a Boy Scout for many years before I came to France, immediately joined the French Boy Scouts uh, made friends uh, if one can say--assimilated pretty fast. Uh, I was fifteen when I came to France, so naturally learning the language was no, no problem. I had two years, or three years of French in, in Vienna. Uh, not the slightest accent in French, believe it or not, not unlike in English! Uh, which naturally I had later on during the occupation and during the part of Vichy France. Uh, it uh, it was a struggle--it was a hard life--struggling life, naturally. We had a little apartment. My mother, to make a little extra money, I just remembered now, opened a little pension uh, restaurant in our apartment. Uh, she cooked cuisine viennoiseries, you know? And many of the refugees--inexpensive, you know, many of the refugees came to eat at our house and it paid our food. I was a waiter there, my father helped, and to uh, we, we were struggling but we did all right. It was human. It was, it was all right.

Were you living among mostly Jews, or among mostly émigrés?

Uh, yes. It was uh, like a colony, yes. It uh, we were mostly between the refugees--not myself--my parents, yes. Myself, no, because I had joined the Boy Scouts already and I was absolutely, completely involved in youth movement and that was 99% of my energy. Uh, French uh, Boy Scout system is unique uh, because it has four different--there are four different movements in the Boy Scout system. There is the one inter-???, which is all religions, and then there is--that's the one I joined originally--and then there is one Jewish, one Protestant and one Catholic. And they all official Boy Scouts, so they're all are sanctioned by the international Boy Scout movement. So I joined inter-??? ones, which was basically French. There were a few Jewish boys in there, but it was uh, ninety, ninety-five percent French.

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