Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Maximilian Kowler - April 26, 1984

Returning to Lyon

And they finally--when, when it became a little too dangerous up north, they finally remembered that, that there is a war going on, you know? In France, we used to call this at that time the la ??? de guerre, and they sent me up to Angoulême, and in Angoulême I was uh, put up into a company of ??? Senegale uh, and I worked with them for, for a while--horse and buggy, and uh, transport, and then one day the captain of my company called me to his office and said, "You know, the German broke through the Vallée de la Loire and it's becoming rather dangerous here for you especially because--being that, that I'm Jewish--you're Jewish." And on top of it they knew that as an ex-Austrian I had signed paper that I--to get the passport--the exit visa from Austria that got stamped--that we uh, swear that we'll never serve in a foreign army. So it became rather dangerous, and uh, he gave me some civilian clothes and some money, and said "Get lost," in so many words. Which I did and I uh, went from Angoulême down to Limoges, from Limoges to--I went to Vichy--before Vichy became Vichy--and to Vichy, and went then to Tarare, which is a suburb of Lyon, where I stopped, because uh, the Germans were still in Lyon. And uh, Lyon was occupied by the Germans, and it was known at that time that Lyon will be...become part of France legal--Vichy France. And uh, I think that it was said that in three or four days the Germans will get out of Lyon, but I was in a hurry to get into Lyon for personal reasons, and I went in there--smuggled my way into Lyon on a bus with schoolchildren who were evacuated from Lyon during the war--during the occupation, and during the danger of bombard...bombardments. I was lying on the bottom with the luggage and uh, the chil...the children were brought back even before the Germans left, because French government knew already that the Germans are gonna get out, and there's no more danger, the war was over--that part of the war in 1940 was over and so they brought the children back. So I was lying--talked the bus driver into letting me lie on the bottom of the bus to get into Lyon, through the checkpoint. And then went home. My father wasn't home yet at that time--he was still up north--and uh, my mother was in Lyon--she had never left Lyon. I just knocked on the door, my mother almost, almost passed away because--she said, "You're out of your mind. You're coming back into Lyon? The Germans are still here." They were not looking for me, but there was still a danger because the Germans were there so I just hid for three or four days--I forgot exactly. I think it was four days in Lyon, in our apartment, and uh, once the Germans left, that was it. And then we lived in what was called--in Vichy France, until really the situation got worse in 1942.

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