Paul S., Survivor

Interviewers: Barbara H. and Emily S.
Producer/Director: John G.
May 16, 1990

Copyright 1990 Holocaust Oral History Project
San Francisco, California

I: Today is May 16, 1990, we're at the Holocaust Center of Northern California, in San Francisco. My name is Barbara H. and I'm interviewing Paul S. for the Holocaust Oral History Project. Also helping with the interview today is Emily S.. Good morning Mr. S..

S: Good morning.

I: I'd like to start this morning by asking you to tell me, give me some personal background, a little bit about where you were born, the date of your birth, and your family.

S: QT: I was born in Vienna on April 12, 1933. My parents were Sara S. and my father was Friedrich S.. My father was Viennese born, in fact my whole family had been in Vienna since the 1700's. So it's an old, old Austrian family. S., meaning black beard. And the rest of my family, I had a maternal grandmother and paternal grandmother. My father had four sisters. My mother one sister. That's the immediate family.

I: What did your father do for a living?

S: My father worked for an import/export company. In the German records that I unearthed two years ago in the archives in Brussels, all the documentation was there. They called him "Beamte" which is office worker. Clerk with a capital C, I suppose. That sort of thing. My mother was a "medisten" which means that she had been schooled to design and make hats.

I: Did your mother work also?

S: No, not in Vienna.

I: Was your family well off?

S: I suppose we were well off. We had our own apartment and my mother was home taking care of me. I suppose that would mean we were well off. Good middle class family, I think.

I: Do you remember much about your Jewish upbringing you had in Vienna?

S: Well, you know I left Vienna at the age of five. So my recollections are mainly of family life and certainly of Jewishness. But nothing formal.

I: Were you an observant one?

S: I remembered the Shabbat, yes.

I: Can you tell me a little about that?

S: No. That is very, very dim. I remember the candles and I remember singing and I remember happiness, and being very much aware of my Jewishness, somehow. But that's really in retrospect. But I was too young for anything else, there was no Cheder or anything like that.

I: Do you remember anything about the neighborhood you lived in, was it a Jewish neighborhood?

S: It wasn't really essentially a Jewish neighborhood. We lived in an apartment building, across the street from the local school, public school. And my grandmother lived about two streets away, perhaps three, and she had a tailor shop which she had taken over from my grandfather when he died. So she ran the tailor shop and it's interesting, because her married name is Schneider, which of course means tailor, and that's a bit of humor. But that's how names originated anyway. So I remember Jewish families, I remember Jewish friends, but it wasn't a Jewish neighborhood like I ran into afterwards.

I: What do you remember, you said you left at the age of five, what do you remember about leaving Vienna?

S: Oh that's very clear. From that time on things are very, very clear. At times of relaxation and happiness, the first five years of my life are just a happy blur with certain outstanding experiences. I think a happy blur is a good way of describing it. But the documentary you were alluding to before, I stated that one day I looked out the window and the school flag, the Austrian flag that always flew over the school, had been replaced by what I now know as the Nazi flag. From that time one things went downhill. My father was kicked out of his job. I still have that letter, very polite letter, not stating anything other than political reasons. And the regret of the company to have to lose such a valued employee after so many years but that it was out of their hands. Protecting themselves and I don't blame them. Then our apartment which belonged to us was confiscated and given to someone else. Then neighbors and people that we had known all these years, including the kids I always played with, you know, were all wearing the swastika button in their lapels. We were told, sauer Jude, get out, get off the sidewalk. There was a lot of discussing going on in the house and I was really too young to comprehend that. Although I grew up overnight after that.

My parents decided to get out of Austria. We made our way to Cologne, Germany. I do not remember how but I'm certain it had to have been by train. It was the only way to travel, we never owned a car, so I know it had to have been by train. But I remember arriving at Cologne in the little hotel with nothing but Jews in it. From that time on my association was a very close one with other Jews. I wasn't in on the discussions, of course, I was five years old. I remember my father leaving and my mother saying that we would see him again in a few days. What had happened as I understood afterwards was that the guides that she hired for, to take them across the borders in this case into Belgium, didn't handle both men, women, and children. They fell into two categories; certain guides took men, certain guides took women and children. So my father was gone. This was in the winter time, and he had to go through a difficult route. And ours was supposed to be easier. A whole group of women and children, my mother and myself, and we left Cologne in the night. Across fields and so forth and we were caught. We were caught not by the Germans but by the Belgian gendarmerie. Their policy was simply to turn you back. So we did not run into any problems, other than being turned back. We were back in Cologne. I don't know how my mother managed it because I thought she'd spent everything we'd had on the first guide. But she was a very great woman. Somehow she managed to find another guide and another group and we'd try again. In the meantime I remember developing an ear infection. Bizarre the things you remember. And my mother pouring warm oil into my ear, to ease the pain. It works too.

We tried again and that little trip I remember distinctly. Because there was a woman with some very small children and my mother was carrying one or two of her babies and I at the age of five was walking in the snow. I had little boots on. And so I guess that's the night I stopped being a child because I was on my own. You know, I was helping somebody else. We were chased, and dogs and things I remember that, but we made it. We made it across the border. Once you made it the policy of the Belgian was, if you made it they allowed you to stay. If they didn't catch you in the act. It's very interesting, I think it was almost an official policy because I heard the same story from so many people. What they had organized in Belgium then were labor camps, not concentration camps, labor camps, for actual labor, felling trees I forgot what else. Things that needed to be done. Poor, small country. If a member of the family was willing to give of himself, then the rest of the family obtained a residence permit. So of course my father went to one of those labor camps. I have the vague recollection of six weeks. And paid with his body for a privilege of remaining in this free country.

No work permits were issued, of course. You were not allowed to work but you could not be at the public charge. I don't know what they expected people to do, thinking about it now, I never did then of course. But thinking about it now, how people are expected to survive unless they bring funds in with them. We were not among those, unfortunately. You have to have an apartment, you have to be off the streets. You registered with the police, it's very strictly controlled. You cannot be a vagrant. I remember some of the souvenirs of the time that really stand out. For instance, there's a law in Belgium, there was I don't know if there still is. If you take an apartment, curtains must go up immediately. Windows have to be covered in an occupied apartment. I remember my mother on the floor ironing what passed for curtains and putting them up. She found work, as I said she was a very great lady when it came to her family, extremely bright woman. She found work with a well to do Belgian Jewish family and worked for them as a housekeeper. Totally underground of course, and so we were able to subsist until my father returned.

And then after that too, because he was not allowed to work. And it was, men are much more visible than woman somehow. I guess that's the answer to your question.

I: Do you remember those times as being frightening times?

S: Oh no, not at all. Once we were in Belgium, and with my parents being reunited, with both my parents. For awhile just my mother, and having remet other members of the family. For instance, one of my father's sisters had married. Her husband had had a very large family in Vienna, an extremely large family, much, much larger than us, several sisters married and so forth. That entire family lived about a block away from where we lived. So I had a lot of family to go to and spend a day with, even while mother was away working. I remember that so distinctly. By then I turned six, I was getting ready for school. I would qualify those times as happy times.

I: How long did it take you to walk into Belgium?

S: You know, I only remember one night, but that's from the perspective of a five year old. I remember that one night, the snow, the dogs and so forth. Whether that's accurate or not I cannot tell you, because my mother and I never talked about it.

I: Did you have luggage, belongings with you, anything familiar?

S: I know what I had. QT: I had a backpack. My grandmother, my father's mother, had given that backpack as a present. Not at that time, because by then she had died. But one or two years before that. You know, Austrians are hikers and things like that. So a backpack is a precious present to a child. And this was given to me without ever knowing that it would be used to flee. I had that little leather backpack for a long time. So I know I had that and my mother must have had something else.

I: After your parents were reunited, do you remember, was food available? Did you go on to go to school?

S: Yes, those were days, actually a year, where I spent most of my time if not all of my time with my father. My father, of course not being able to work or do anything, just took care of me. And we became very very very close.

I: What was a typical day like?

S: Walking mother to work. It was only two or three blocks but it seemed farther. Going to the park, visiting our family, my father teaching me to write. I wrote a lot of letters to my aunts in Austria still, at that time. By writing I mean copying what my father had written out, but in my own hand. So when I finally went to school , I knew how to write. And basically to read.

I: You said you spent a year in Brussels.

S: No. I'm talking about, when I said that I spent time with my father alone like that, because now I'm talking '39 to '40. In '40 is when I saw him for the last time. But I went to school in 1939. I started school, which was again about a block away from where we lived. And every morning my father would take me to the entrance, to the courtyard. Then in the afternoon when I was let out, he would be waiting for me. One of my teachers with whom I corresponded for years, said he would never forget my father. Because he saw him twice a day. I suppose in a sense that was unusual. Because children were brought by women and picked up by women, the men were away at work. Our situation was reversed. I remember that so distinctly. So clearly.

I: Do you remember much about the school? Your first year in school, was it difficult? Were most of the children Jewish?

S: No. No to both questions. No I didn't think it was difficult. I've always loved school. No, most of the children were not Jewish. Let's put it this way, if they were, being Jewish or being something else was not your claim to fame. We were not hiding it. But it's like here, normally you meet somebody you say, you a Catholic? You a Protestant? Who are you? Doesn't seem to matter until something else happens. But of course I was starting school in first grade with a language which really wasn't my own. I remember my teacher very well, because he was very patient. I remember finishing that year at the top of my class. It made us all very proud. It made the teacher very proud. This teacher, rather than saying here's a foreigner who is bypassing the native kids, felt this was fantastic and always talked about this. He held me up as an example. I was never embarrassed. That's when I lost my modesty I think.

I: There's nothing like a compliment from a teacher to help you do better.

S: It's wonderful, it's wonderful.

I: So you've had very positive experiences in school.

S: Very positive, except for singing. I remember, I adored this teacher I still do. We sang and they call you by your last name. I remember his saying, S., that's the way the Belgium's pronounced it. Mr. S., don't sing. And I've been unwilling to sing in public ever since. Interestingly enough. But I can't carry a tune, so he knew what he was saying.

I: Thirty nine was the year the war began, Germany went to war with Poland. Do you remember anything about that?

S: No, I remember vaguely my parents being shaken up by the news and so forth, but it in no way touched me. It was not part of my daily life. Not at all, when Belgium was peaceful I was going to school, I was doing a lot of homework. Because in Europe even first grade means homework and school is a very serious thing. And visiting with the family a block away. I remember all the trips my father was taking to Antwerp, which was half an hour away by electric train. Because that's where the American Consulate was located and we were waiting for our visas to go to the United States. Periodically my father would be going over there. Always coming back with the same answer; not yet, not yet, not yet. That I remember. But, no, not the war situation.

I: Did you also continue to have Shabbas dinners on Friday?

S: Yes, my mother working for this well to do Jewish family would bring back treasures for Shabbas. Because she had been cooking up a storm for them and they were very observant, so she was always released very early on Friday and came home with very special food that she had cooked. She was always given our share which was very very nice. Again in retrospect, you know?

We survived on meager fare, nothing that ever affected me as such. But looking back, it was.

I: Then in 1940 the war came to Belgium.

S: Yes. In 1940, in May of 1940, all hell broke loose. The British were using and perhaps there were some French, but I remember the British because they had very distinctive helmets, those flat Tommy helmets, kids remember that sort of thing. They were using my school as barracks for them. There was an awful lot of troop movement and we lived on the fourth floor. Very good view of the school and I could see all that movement. The population, everyone was extremely excited, there was a lot of excitement in the air and it wasn't very positive. I remember people talking about paratroopers and pointing to little dots in the sky. That's all I ever saw, dots in the sky, I didn't really know and I don't think I really understood what paratroopers were. I remember the morning of the 10th, because the noise, 10th of May was six days ago. It's not a day of celebration. But the 8th of May was two days before that, that's a day of celebration. In 1945, that's when the Germans gave up. So the month of May is really very interesting. I remember that morning getting up and my parents talking_we slept in the same room_ being very impressed by the lack of noise. It was a very quiet morning. The sounds of the tomb. We looked out and there was nobody in the streets, and the doors of the school stood open. It looked very empty. And it was. The troops had all moved out during the night. And we went to visit the family across the way. That afternoon was when the police came to our house and arrested my father. For being Austrian. The same thing the Americans did to the Japanese Americans. It's not the same thing because we did it to our, to our own people, they were doing it to foreigners. I think I can understand their actions better than our own here.

So they arrested my father for being an Austrian. It was a terrible thing, they arrested about 10,000 men. Most of those men were Jews who were fleeing from the Nazis and I think the government should have done something about that and not just, en masse, arrest anyone who had a Germanic background. Because they knew from our registrations with the police, when we had come and why we had come, I understand also that spies could have hidden under that guise too. But they paid no attention to that. So this was...really what it came down to was a mass arrest of Jews, of Jewish men, by the police. I remember that it was not brutal or forceful or anything, just a very matter of fact kind of thing. They said, Friedrich S., please accompany us. There were quite a few of them, I remember the white helmets, the Belgium police had white helmets, and they were civilian police. There were enough men there to make sure that they could take care of him. He just walked away. Then my mother and I went to the police station and were allowed to bring some know, they just took him as is. We had no idea what was going on. I certainly didn't. But I don't think any of us knew what was going on. And that was May 10, 1940, that's the last time I saw my father.

I: Did you see him at the police station?

S: Yes, he was locked up in the courtyard with a small bunch, of other men. I knew quite a few of them. Everybody thought, we're going away for a few days and they are going to realize what they've done. That we are not spies. We are running from these people also. But that was not to be.

I: Did he say anything to you and your mother at that time, give you any instructions?

S: Yes, he was extremely optimistic. QT: He was a very optimistic man. He was trying to boost our morale and I remember he told me, said to me, "Paul, come here. You're the man of the family. Take good care of, I'll be back soon, but in the meantime you're the man." You know, I was seven years old.

I: After all that time you had to form such a close relationship, you must have been very shaken up when you saw your father taken away by police. Do you remember?

S: I was extremely shaken up but it stopped there. QT: Who in his wildest imagination would think that they are taking away your father forever? He hadn't done anything. I think that's how you approach that. I must have been sure that he was coming home soon. And this was just a terrible, momentary thing. My mother was much more, I think, distressed. She may have realized there was more involved.

I: Where did they take your father ultimately?

S: They took him to, because he wrote right away, they took him to holding camps and from there they sent all these people into the Pyrenees. You went to infamous camps such as (Sassy Trion), Gurs, places which today are very much on the map of history, which were unknown names to any of us at the time. And he started writing as soon as he was able. to. These were forced labor camps. I found out subsequently, really, that they were run by the French of the Vichy government. These people were, in some respects, worse than the Germans. With one exception, they did not have the executions. But they treated them very badly. My father wrote over the period of two years. Steadily and the letters were always, of course, opened by the Germans and censored. But nothing was taken out of the letters, nothing was cut out, nothing was erased. Because I had the letters. Of course he didn't say anything in those letters that would have been detrimental to him.

We wrote back for those two years and I think we were very hopeful that he would soon be coming home. Then we would just have to fend ourselves and there would be three of us trying to save our lives. The Germans pretty well lulled the population of Belgium into an almost false state of blissful ignorance. People were being taken away all the time, but they were supposedly going to labor camps, and since nobody came back to tell you differently, that's what people thought. They weren't quite willing to go but it was nowhere near the truth. And so, even though this was not a thing you wanted to do, you never thought of it as the end of anything. We were wearing the yellow star and we had our marching baggage always ready, because that was the word. You had to have your backpack ready so if they knocked on the door, you just went. That's it. And you were being sent East to go to work. No indication of anything, they were emptying whole buildings but you thought they were going to labor camps. That whole family of my, of my uncle's, that entire building across the way was emptied. And not one person in that building returned. I think it was four or five floors, including his entire family. I found out two years ago, everything happened at the archives of Belgium two years ago.

I just looked up...first of all, if I may jump ahead for a moment., I never knew that the archives really existed. But I always was under the impression that if archives exist with different countries, they deal with the inhabitants of that particular country. The Belgians handled that differently. They archived all the documents of anybody who was taken from their country. Which is an interesting way of doing it. And so when I got to those archives, when I would never have thought of looking for family, because none of us were Belgians, I was told, but they were taken from here so they have to be in the archives. So I looked up this part of the family and found all the little Gestapo files in one neat little bundle, because they all had the same name. All taken to Auschwitz, all gassed. You know? All of them. Except for one young cousin or something, he was taken to a hospital for experimentation. They were very proud of their recordkeeping.

But we were talking about the 10th of May and that time. My father was...finally, in 1942, Pierre Laval, the prime minister of the Vichy government. And I hope that if anybody rots in hell, this man does. I don't often say that. I remember parenthetically when I came to this country and became involved with academia and I heard about Laval University in Canada, I couldn't believe that any place of learning would have that name. But of course it's not the same Laval, it's not Pierre Laval at all, I'm happy to report. He simply took all those thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of Jews who were in those labor camps and gave them to the Germans. And so they had an enormous population, a ready made population for their concentration camps. They simply loaded them up.

My father threw his last letter out the window at the Gare de Lyons in France saying, I'm on my way and I'll write as soon as I can. And some good Samaritan forwarded it to my mother. It had the address on it of course. But there was a very lucky thing, but that's the last time we heard from him. After that it was Auschwitz, and of course, he was finally was killed in Buchenwald as I found out less than two months before the liberation of the camp. So my poor father, Friedrich S., survived literally five years of hell, to die just before the end. The documents that I found two years ago in the archives are very explicit; he'd been on a death march and his feet had frozen and sepsis had set in, so essentially it was blood poisoning. Five thirty in the morning, Sunday the 18th of February, 1945, is when his life ended at the age of 42. It's incredible.

I: Until that time, they had had him working all those years in labor camps. Did you know what they had him doing?

S: No, I do not remember, but as I'm preparing to reread that volume of correspondence I may find out.

I: You haven't read the letters?

S: I read the letters, my mother read them to me, a long time ago. But I've not reread them, except for the few that I read you in the documentary, in the past twenty years. And I want to do a serious reading, perhaps editing the letters and giving some thought to that, because they're beautifully written.

I: Where did you and your mother go after May 10?

S: Nowhere. On the way back from the police station, after having seen my father as it turned out for the last time, we wandered the streets and my mother took me into a Red Cross station, a Belgian Red Cross station, to try to find out what was happening. to these people. You know, where was my father being sent and so forth. They had no information. But the woman we talked to, a woman named Andrea E., somehow took pity on us and invited my mother and me to her house. Lifelong relationship and friendship ensued. And she gave my mother, you know my mother was jobless, destitute and alone. This lady was a teacher. She had two small children and she needed someone to take care of the two children, so she gave my mother the job of rearing her children. So my mother did that throughout the war. They lived a block away from us, exactly midway between our house and the school. Mother spent all her days working there, being a housekeeper and rearing the children, and at night she'd go back to the apartment. I spent a great deal of time there too. In 1942, Jewish children were no longer allowed to go to school. And that's when my first teacher, (Jozef C.), retired. He was too young to retire. But he said if he couldn't teach everybody, he wouldn't teach anymore. From the time of May 10 until he retired, perhaps even subsequently but I do not remember, every day on his way to school he would stop at the house and leave off a pack of sandwiches for me. Because he knew that we were alone. Every day.

Beginning of 1943, those two years 1941, 1942, as I said were years of pain and hardships and many people being deported, but you didn't really live with the thought of immediate death. Because I don't know if no one was aware of it, but I know that we weren't aware of the fact that people were being eliminated. I think, my mother didn't want to go back to Germany with me, but I believed that what she thought was that these were labor camps that we might be sent to, forced labor. And we lived in dread of that, but it wasn't the fear of immediate death. Except in the streets sometime, they would shoot people down.

I saw things like that happening and we feared the mass raffles. The example I gave you, of the houses being emptied or the streets being closed off and everybody who walked between the trucks would just simply be put on the trucks. Well I saw it happen time and time and time again, but neither my mother nor I ever were victims of these. In the beginning of 1943 a man came to the house. That I remember vividly. And he asked my mother whether she wanted to save my life, because things are going from bad to worse. If she did want to save my life, I would simply have to go away with him. He said, he'd be back that afternoon or that evening for our answer. So we went to see the E. family with whom we were so friendly. And talked it over and they must have heard some things too because they said, to my mother, let Paul go. This all sounds so easy, so cut and dry, but it wasn't, you know. And they even said that I could use their name, because I couldn't go away under the name of S.S.. So that day I became Paul E., a good Belgian. The man came back and my mother didn't have to get too many clothes ready, because her little bundle was always ready as I said. But she'd taken the stars off. She said yes to the man and he took me by the hand and we walked away. He put me on a train and he explained to me where I was going, my mother was not allowed to know. He reminded me that I had given up my Jewish identity, knowing that I was someone else now. I was ten years old, not quite. But I understood, we understood, there were no kids left, you know. And then he walked away and really, I never saw that man again, I have no idea who he is. We've tried to find out, you know trace, just an anonymous member of the Jewish underground. I didn't know that either but I found out two years ago that he was part of the Jewish underground. And that's how I went into hiding.

I: It must have been very difficult for your mother to let you go off with a complete stranger, who she didn't know...

S: I don't think the word "difficult" describes it. That we have talked about many times, we have talked about since then, and I've talked with other people. I particularly talked to couriers, people who did that sort of thing, who took the children. I met one with whom I became very friendly, two years ago. And she tells me that these women that she dealt with were so heart broken that it was all she could do not to break down every time she took a child or children away, even though she knew that it was their only salvation. She said very often afterwards, even in the streets, she would break down and cry. Needless to say, she said many of these women never saw their children again. The children were usually safe but the mothers usually were not.

I: And what was your thinking about your mother? Did this fit her?

S: Yes. I was absolutely convinced that I would see both my father and my mother again. I think it was because my parents always instilled such a feeling of optimism in me and they both were very strong and formed a very good character in me. They taught me not to dwell on the negative, I think. Plus the fact that we were so ignorant. I mean you are so ignorant of what is truly going on, why should you not be optimistic? I mean, the world had never known what happened. It never happened before to that extent, so we had no frame of reference. Why would you fear death, let us say, in a concentration camp when you didn't know such things existed? Thinking back, in retrospect, that anyone survived is truly miraculous. Because when, I don't know if you've visited any of those archives, but the documentation that the Gestapo had on each of us is mind boggling. How my mother survived I shall never know. They knew exactly where she was, all they had to do was go pick her up. They just didn't bother. There's no explanation for that sort of thing.

I: After she let you go, she stayed in her apartment?

S: She stayed in her apartment at night and she worked for the E.s during the day. She was extremely stubborn about not leaving the apartment. Stubborn perhaps is not the right word. Conscientious? Because that was the only place that both my father and I could ever find her if we came looking. She explained that to me, this was her thinking. Very interesting. She lived in tremendous fear throughout the war. It's a fear that defies description. In the apartment right next door to us, there were two apartments on our floor, there was a Belgian lady, very nice lady as I remember her. But she was prostitute. I shouldn't say but, a very nice lady but, no that doesn't make any sense. She was a very nice lady and she was a prostitute. And she was a collaborator. She didn't entertain too many Belgian men who were not involved. She entertained SS, she entertained German soldiers, she entertained Belgians in their brown shirts you know the collaborators. She entertained soldiers. And there was a constant up and down in the evening, from the beginning of the occupation.

My mother said that many of these Germans addressed her in German. They knew full well, she said, and they said, Ladige Frau. Which is a respectful form of address. And she said they were not being sarcastic. Explain that. She said, she lost a year's life every time she saw one, especially when he spoke to her like that. But they had other things on their mind when they came there, I guess, maybe that's what saved her life. I don't know. I've always wanted to explain that. When I still lived there I remember, bit of humor perhaps. Her bedroom was next to our bedroom and the walls are paper. At night, my mother would make me crawl into bed with her and put her hands over my ears. Protect my innocence. I smile today, I wasn't smiling at the time. Maybe I resented it, I don't know. But those are the realities of life, you know? You're facing death but you don't want your child to hear about sexual practices next door.

I: Did your mother have any kind of contact with this woman?

S: Hello and good-bye. It wasn't a friendship, just a passing acquaintance. I think they, during the day when my mother was away anyway, working, so I don't know. I remember her face but not her name.

I: Were any other people in that building taken away? Did you go away with any other children?

S: No, I was by myself, totally alone. There were no other Jews in that building.

I: Let's go back to the strange man who took you away.

S: Yeah, I remember it was evening. Whether this is a correct remembrance or not, I don't know. QT: I remember darkness and I remember taking the streetcar and going to the Luxembourg train station. Getting ready to board a train. That's when he told me my destination, very simply. And said, the equivalent of take care of yourself sort of thing. He didn't say too many things, he implied many things. Because you had to be careful, after all, his life was in jeopardy too, while he was standing there, talking to me. All these heroic young people, they were all very young you know. Young men and women who took it upon themselves to save kids. I'm speaking with what I know today, of course. Who would just go around, pick up kids, take them to trains, make them board. I wonder how many of them were caught in the act and of course, that meant death. Knowing that now, for both or for all three.

This woman (Andrea E.), whom I spoke about earlier, and whom I met for the first time two years ago. She was a Belgian schoolteacher also, a very young schoolteacher _ not Jewish _ who saw people disappearing, day in and day out. You know, not showing up in classes and that's how she found out what was going on. And decided she needed to do something about it. So she joined the underground and started taking children to safe houses. She was very good at it, I found out, and she also had an out. She was a licensed schoolteacher, she had a reason for being on the street with kids. Some of these other people that had been stopped, you know, this is not your child what are you doing? It would have been very simple. She had a cover and she was very active in the underground. I saw her books, she wrote books, and I saw the pictures. She must have saved so many kids. An interesting aside, after the war, she married a Jew. (E.), an attorney, a practicing attorney in Brussels. They raised their children as Jews. She never converted in temple, but I bet she was a better Jewess than many Jewish born women. Wonderful lady.

And she's the one who told me that, hey Paul, quit wondering about the past. Go and find out for sure. Because I wondered how, why, why did they pick me? So she is the one who told me about the archives and I went to the archives with one thing in mind, to find the notebooks of the Jewish underground and see if I'm in them. I didn't know about anything else. I called the archives and the woman in charge of that particular aspect was on vacation. They said, come back, call again next week. I said, I'm from America and I'm leaving in two days. They said, no problem, come. So I went, this is not run by Jews, you know, the archives are run by the Ministry of Justice. I met this marvelous young civil employee, named (Clair B.) and she had gone...there were four notebooks that the Jewish underground was running, four notebooks. You needed all four notebooks to make any sense. And of course they were carried by different people. And sure enough, I'm part of history, believe it or not, there you are; number 896, Paul S.S., born April 12th, they left out the '33. Then you look in the second notebook and you look under 896, which was the code number, and it said, Paul E., my false name. And you needed both of those to make any sense. So simple and so clever. Then one with the address and another one with a number 611 and 611 was the little village of Hamoigne where I was in hiding. So those notebooks are incredible. How they kept track. I imagined they wanted this for after the war to find the kids in case the parents were no longer around. But I had no contact with anyone after that initial night when I was taken to the train station. There was absolutely no follow up to this. It's strange looking up a historical document of that magnitude and finding your name in there. It's really bizarre.

While I was there, looking at this and scratching my head and wondering, that she said, oh by the way, would you like to see your father's dossier. I said, well, how could I, he was not Belgian? The entire German dossier for my father, from all the concentration camps, arrived at such a time, left, died at five thirty in the morning, and that's when everything else happened. Strictly by accident. Most people don't know that these places exist. QT: They deported 30,000 Jews out of Belgium. Those are the archives that are there that were brought there after the Nuremberg trials, they explained to me. But it's all there, floor to ceiling for as far as the eye can see. Nothing wasted. Lives. And the Gestapo files, the card files. On one side furniture. People deported. People not deported. Totally. Blood curdling.

I: It seems amazing that the Nazis didn't destroy those documents. There was so much destroyed in the camps.

S: From what I've read, there's also tremendous amount of pride and accomplishment. One thing that I was left with very deeply and which needs to be said, when you look at a small country as Belgium, 30,000 Jews, and there's an entire building of just paperwork about them, written by the Germans. No German can ever say to me again, I didn't know it was happening. The person saying it may be telling the truth, but I'm not going to believe. Because who kept those records? They may not have done the killing, they may not have grabbed a Jew off the street and put him in the oven. That's fine, I believe that. But when you see the extent of the recordkeeping.

I mean, who was my father after all? One human being, very important to me but not important to the world in that scheme of things. To have a file this thick on just him, what did they have on everybody else? That's what I'm saying. When you look at all that paperwork and you say, now wait a minute. Typewritten and very carefully manuscript. Not sloppy, you know, and each one with a printed tattoo number. They all had tattoos you know, they had stamps made with the tattoo, there were stamps on all those different papers so you know whom you were talking about. The logistics, the clerical force, must have outnumbered the army. So Ken S. made a documentary at KRON and said, the bureaucracy of death was just incredible. Made him weep. When he asked me how I felt. I said, if over the years if you ever thought of the word forgiveness, you come to a place like this, it disappears forever. Because everybody was involved. It did not happen by itself.

To go to the archives to look for your father is one thing, but to find him by accident is another. I almost had a heart attack. Not really, but it was just so overwhelming. I just went there to look for the underground things. So after that I realized...there is a monument to Jewish marchers in Brussels, one block away from the school. It's seems that it's all where I lived. I've gone to it many, many times and the name is, (Reinhor mactiere Jewish debenchik), to the Jewish marchers of Belgium. Well to me, that means Belgians. Right? The Jewish marchers of Belgium? No, again you see, so when the S.S. that I found there misspelled, S.S. F., at the time I said, I wonder who this was, may he or she rest in peace. But it had to be my father. Now I know.

I: You were standing at the train station and they gave you the destination. What was the destination?

S: Hamoigne. The name of the little village which was totally meaningless to me but it was a thing I had to watch for and get off. Those names which are now so familiar were of course, from a different world then. Small farming village in the Ardennes forest. Not too far away, by modern standards, from the city of Bastogne, where the Battle of the Bulge took place. We were involved in that during the liberation. Do you want some background on that?

I: Yes, please.

S: Belgium was involved in the war for a very short time. Lost quite a few men. Belgium really has an aristocratic government and they decided, people in the government, the Princess of (Maureau) and so forth decided that something needed to be done to help those children of those Belgian officers who had either fallen in the short war or been made POW's. So they set up camps if you will, summer camps, residences, for these children to leave the big city, get away from the bad air and the possible bombings and so forth, but no persecutions. These were Belgians you know. And spend some time out in the country. The Committee for Jewish Defense, the Jewish Defense League I think they are called today, Comité de Défense des Juifs. All young people who are older people today, those who are alive. Approached the government and said, give us permission to hide some Jews among those. Those people said yes, whoever they were. That is how a number of us were smuggled into these camps, these safe places, which were made up essentially of children of Belgian families whose father had been or was an officer in the army. The camp that I was sent to was a 19th century castle, a little chateau in this village, had been run by sisters of charity and they found two Belgians willing to head the home. And take care of these children. And they of course were also told that they would be hiding Jewish kids, that could not be done secretly without the knowledge of the person running the place. This was a major and his wife, a major his name was (T.) and his wife Marie (T.). A childless couple, he was of course very active in the resistance I found out subsequently. Maintaining his term of major, his rank rather. And they accepted to do this. What we know today of course, is that if any of us were caught, all the kids and all the people taking care of us would have been killed along with us. They were willing to do that. So there are heroes left in the world. Or saints.

She took care of 125 children during the war. Among those 125 children, there were 83 Jews. That's a pretty good percentage, huh? It wasn't just a few among the others, I think the others were the few. Which is really interesting, at least in our particular little home. There were many of these throughout Belgium. This was just boys, they didn't mix them. This was just to facilitate the logistics of it. We were run _ did you see Au Revoir Les Enfants, the movie? _ we were run as scouts. We were Boy Scouts, we were Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, depending upon our age, and this is how discipline was maintained among 125 young men. It was a fantastic idea, because you have morals, you have ethics, you have morale, you have things to do, you have discipline. It was fantastic. Thirty young people who are hired there as teachers. Many of whom were also hiding from the Germans. But they did not. The secrecy was such, unlike the film that I just mentioned, I thought I was the only Jewish kid. Every other Jewish kid there thought he was the only Jewish kid. Except the ones who were brothers, they knew there was another kid. That's it. I didn't know until two years ago, that's forty five years later give or take, that there were any brothers there. The Jewish kids didn't even let on that this other kid was their brother. And that's why we were saved, I think. The idea of getting up in the middle of the night and saying a prayer with a candle, you know is so far fetched, or leaving your real name inside your book. It may have happened but I think, I guess this is staying here, but that Louis Malle there overstepped the boundaries of plausibility in his film. Which you didn't see but if you see it you'll know what I'm talking about.

I lived there all that time under the name Paul E. and I became a Cub Scout leader. I was baptized. I became an altar boy. I became a very good Catholic, which I have stated, must have meant being a good Jew. After all, who was Jesus? He was a good Jew. Right, rabbi? I'm not trying to be blasphemous or anything like that. We led a very straight life. And all these other kids were good Catholics and so many of them were Jews. I was the only one baptized. Marie (T.) took a liking to me. She wanted to be sure, no matter what happened, that I would be saved and she became my godmother and had me baptized. She had decided that if anything happened to my mother that I would be her child after the war. I didn't know that. That's what she said two years ago. She didn't say it all these years either. Two years ago is a very traumatic and important milestone in my life. These young monitors, these young teachers, men and women, of course were much older than we were, but certainly no more than ten years. So as I meet them today, we are the same age, because those few years make no difference, but at the time, they were the adults and we were the kids. The youngest Jewish kid was five years old; so there were little kids needing to be taken care of. I think the oldest one was 14.

I: How long were you there and how did you fill your days?

S: As I indicated, I was there for two years. I was there from the beginning of '43, May again, until the liberation which was in the Fall of '44, September or October. In the morning, we had classes. Many of these young monitors who took care of us were teachers. Or tried to be teachers, successfully. Tried to maintain our reading ability, our writing ability, basic math, that sort of thing. So we have classes in the morning. The idea was to always keep us busy, again I'm talking with my present day knowledge looking back. They did a fantastic job. There was no time to sit around and mope. And lots of play time. But the play time was organized, we were scouts. So after lunch, whatever lunch was. Marie (T.) always managed to feed us something. One hundred and twenty five kids is a big deal. And keeping us clothed. I remember this picture, of nothing but socks hanging. And the discipline was rigorous, but gentle. You had to wash in the morning, there were no showers, but you had to do a body bath at the sink. So they kept us very clean and healthy, that was part of the routine. After lunch, the scout troops went into the forest and we built our huts. We had our camps in the forest. We had good exercise, the marching, the singing, the discipline, the espirits de corps. All this very much under the heading of Catholic scouts. So early in the morning, we marched into the village and we went to mass. All this kept us not only occupied but in a very positive way. It was really marvelous the way these people worked this out, trying to make us forget that so many of us were under the fear of death. Although that was not never supposed to be mentioned because nobody knew about it. Right?

We were only visited by the Germans once. One morning we woke up to sounds we weren't accustomed to. Looking out the window, the chateau was completely surrounded. Machine guns, everything, it seemed like the entire German army were there. It was probably a small platoon, but it seemed like the whole army was there. With dogs and everything. To this date, nobody knows why they came. They did not come for the kids, or none of us would be here. Whether someone had said, go look there or something. But one of the monitors, we only knew him as (Mutan), because everybody had animal names. The grown ups all had animal names, after Kipling, although Kipling didn't have anybody named (Mutan) which means sheep. (Mutan) was very involved, we found out, with the underground. He left his bed and climbed up on the roof. Of course the dogs got him down right away. So he was led away. We don't know whether they came looking for him or whether they took him because he tried to escape.

I remember as though it was yesterday because I got so scared, that I just wet my pants. We all were lying on little cots, side by side, a sea of little bodies. We had, they had made sacks, which they filled with straw and that's what we slept on. As you know, that doesn't contain very much so when I had my little accident I just dripped on the floor, the stone floor, and you could hear it like somebody was playing timpani. And two German soldiers had just come into the room and they heard it. They came right over to my bed and one of them bent down, he looked underneath and he got up and he started to really laugh quite uproariously. Of course I understood German, but you don't let on. He said, this kid just peed his pants. Maybe they were fathers or somebody thought it was so funny. They just laughed and walked away. If he'd thrown back those covers. Everybody would have been killed. Because only Jews were circumcised. Not like here.

Another time I remember, not coming to the chateau but I was in the village. I saw German trucks in the village and I knew that my teacher Paul who had been my godfather when I was baptized and whom I loved dearly and still do, was at home. Because he had married one of the other monitors. They both lived in a little house in the village rather than at the chateau with the rest of us. Somehow I just thought I had to warn him that the Germans were there. And I had never ridden a bicycle before, but there was a bike there and I rode that. The only time in my life I ever rode a bicycle. I rode that bicycle to warn him. It turned out they weren't looking for anybody, they were just going through the village but I got there in time to tell him and he could have gotten way if he had had to. I'd never ridden a bike, I haven't ridden one before or since. I don't think I've talked about it either. It's really bizarre.

I: Whose bicycle did you ride?

S: I don't know. It was a bike there. I remember that so clearly. I'm short. That bike must have been very big for me. I was shorter then. Maybe it was a woman's bike, I don't remember, you know, without a crossbar. But that big street in the village. Just think, I could have broken my neck. That village was wonderful. I remember when I was an altar boy and I had to get to that really early mass while everybody was still asleep. I had to get there and get dressed, help the priest get dressed, and so forth. I couldn't wash at the chateau. So I remember going out to the village and in the winter time, breaking the ice in the cow trough and washing in the street. Because you didn't go to church unwashed. So we stayed healthy. We really stayed healthy, both mentally and physically. And then in 1944, all that time of course no news from anybody and the war became a remote thing. We didn't really talk about it very much. In our case, it was self defense, of course.

One morning, it was 1944, lot of explosions, lot of noise, and we all went outside. The Germans had posted two tanks behind the chateau, this being a children's home, good protection. But the Americans didn't know there was a children's home, so they shot back anyway. But it didn't really matter because we were out in the open, watching. My only experience being in a battle, with the bullets whistling by and the shells exploding. Even the teachers were so struck by what was going on that they forgot to tell us to take cover. And then the tanks left, I think one got shot up, no I think they both left. Then the allées, not the Allies the allées, the big avenues, came the jeeps. Now behind the chateau runs the river Semois and the Semois river is known for its wonderful fishing. I did some fishing there myself, with a stick and a bent needle or something. Why I'm telling you this is that, all the boys, we watched the Jeeps come in and we said, My God! Even the Americans know about the fishing, they brought their fishing poles. We had never seen antennas like that, you know, on the Jeeps. We thought that they came with their fishing poles. It may be a little silly but it made sense to us, you know? We said, the reputation of our river has gone even to America.

They came and there were German troops in the fields. The soldiers got out and they were just standing there, literally next to us, shooting back. There was a battle going on. It only lasted about half a day. What a wonderful day it was I remember, watching the soldiers walking on either side of the road. Which is the way they walk. In the middle, occasionally a German, with someone from the Resistance walking behind him, holding like a knife point or something. That was a great day. Especially for kids to watch that sort of thing. The Germans are getting it now. A little silly maybe, but that's wonderful, it's wonderful. Then going down to the American bivouacs and getting some of their rations. They also gave us, they would throw all these packages after they emptied them, those khaki packages, cans and packages, which was covered with a khaki wax which we then took and scraped off and made candles out of. That wax. We didn't miss anything. They were very good to us. We ate like he hadn't eaten before. Because these were K and stuff rations, the soldiers wrinkled their noses up to, but to us they were feasts. And then as they moved inland and Brussels was liberated and I found out that Brussels had been liberated, I spoke to Madame (T.), I was eleven years old, eleven and a half, and I said, I want to go home. I don't remember the conversation. She gave me permission and I left by myself . I hitchhiked, I don't remember much about the hitchhiking, but I got to Brussels, I got to my neighborhood, and I ran into my mother. On the street. That was a great day.

She told me years later that the enormous joy of seeing me, we recognized each other and started running to each other. But she told me years later, I think even here in the United States, that the joy of the moment was somehow darkened or lessened. But she never said anything about it. On my belt I was wearing a cross about this big. Which one of the nuns had given to me. Which I was very proud of that. She saw that on my belt and said, it gave her heart quite a twist. But she was too intelligent to say anything. Now we can wait for Papa's return, she said. It was a long wait.

I: You never went back to the home.

S: Yes, yes, I took my mother to visit it, after the liberation. She had already been liberated of course. We went back to look at it. Stayed there for awhile, I wanted her to meet everybody. Most people whom I'd been closely associated with had left by then. It had become just a home for children, it was no longer a hiding place of course. Marie (T.) was still there, she ran it for awhile until it was closed. Today it's a geriatrics home. In a sense it's very sad. It was always very joyful. Today it's a very quiet, very sad place. Old people come there to die. And all the nuns are dead. I never saw any of the nuns again. They're all dead. They were older women and they hopefully went to their reward. They earned it. The young priest who taught me catechism and so forth, made me an altar boy, was there two years ago. In his late seventies and it was wonderful to see him. I walked up to him and he said, Paul. After forty five years, that's not bad. He died right after that, he had throat cancer. Marie (T.) died last Christmas. I saw her husband and I saw her before we came to the United States. And I had seen her a number of times because we had stayed in correspondence of course. So whenever I went to Europe. Then he died. (Paul J.) is still a professor at the University of Brussels. He's in his seventies now. He told me he's thinking of retiring. It was incredible meeting all those boys again after forty five years and meeting them as Jews.

Forty four of us met two years ago, just Jews. That's really how I found out about all of this. Up to that time I didn't know it. It was organized by one of the kids who had been five years old at the time. His story was interesting, one aspect of it, because he was so young when he was brought there, he was lucky, that when his father picked him up after, he didn't know who that man was. But his parents survived, he was lucky.

I: Were you particularly close with any of the children?

S: Yes, I was. You know you form friendships. At the reunion a number of them brought up some details about our friendship which I really hadn't thought about in forty five years but made a lot of sense and sounded so true. One of them, I will not mention his name just that today he is a psychiatrist, and he said, he's never forgiven me for all these years for always outdoing him in the eyes of (Paul J.), our mentor. He was absolutely serious, not the forgiving thing, but the fact that we had this rivalry going. That's interesting for a person in the field of psychology and psychiatry to have suffered from something like that. Paul said I was always the best. I tried hard. I wanted to be the best Scout and the best one in class. Something that my parents had instilled in me. Not for shining, but for succeeding. Not for the praise. My father always said that praise was not important, it was welcome when it came but not important. It's what it made you feel about yourself that was important. I've tried to pass that on to my students. And our children.

I: There must have been some time in the children's home for you to think about your mother and father, and perhaps about your Judaism and the conflict?

S: I thought about my parents, literally constantly. Especially in the evening when lights out, that sort of thing. Lots of time to think. But not, I don't remember thinking about Judaism very much. Other then, I'm a Jew. I mean, it's very simple, there's no if, no maybe, and I know what I'm doing today and I know what I'll be doing if I survive. But I didn't think about Judaism. Does that answer your question.

I: Let me ask you another one. Did any of the boys notice that some of the children were circumcised, that some of the children were not circumcised?

S: No, we were extremely careful, to the point of making no mistake, you never took your underpants off. You simply, which is not as easy as it sounds. Except you see we didn't have baths and showers. We bathed at the sink. It's called sponge bath, but we didn't have sponges. So I suppose that made it easier, thinking back. Swimming in the river, we kept our underpants on. Rigorous Catholic thing so there was a lot of modestly involved. Which helped. Simply helped. Very matter of fact.

I: Can you tell me now how your mother was when you found her? What condition, was she still in the same apartment?

S: Yes, she did stay, absolutely, she stuck to her convictions. She said, if I'm taken away I'll be taken away no matter where I am and I'll stay here. And she did, she stayed there. I never saw the other woman again, because I imagine she either fled or was taken away by the Resistance. Because those collaborators were dealt with very quickly. I got there after the liberation, so she was already gone. We never talked about her. That apartment just stayed empty. Great rejoicing at something that if you haven't participated you can't know it and I hope you never know it. The rejoicing of being liberated after the occupation and when all these things were coming out and you were realizing what you had really survived.

To give you an example of that, I can give you several. After the liberation, the Germans started sending over the V1's and the V2s. Those were the rocket bombs which were meant for England, but so many of them fell on Belgium. They killed more of the civilian population between the liberation and the end of the war than the whole war. Those rockets. But we'd seen enough, we'd seen too much. I remember my mother saying, when the sirens went off, the air raid thing. And I'd crawl in bed with her and we'd cover our faces so we wouldn't be blinded by glass. Killed, okay, but you don't want to be blinded. But we didn't go to shelters anymore, anything like that, forget it. We'd been through enough. If it comes, it comes. That's how people felt. And the other thing was, during the Battle of the Bulge when the Germans did the counterattack and were killing everything in their path, you know all the villages that had helped the Americans and everybody, man woman child, was executed. People in the capital were saying, if the Germans come back to Brussels, mass suicide. Nobody was going to go through that again. That I shall never forget, because people were serious. People were serious.

I: Did you and your mother actually discuss that?

S: Everyone was talking about that. We didn't discuss it on a one to one and say okay, we're going to do this, we're going to do that, but it was understood that something was going to be done. We reapplied for our visa in 1945, as soon as the Consulate reopened, as soon as the war was over. We waited and we inquired, the Red Cross and everything, about my father, absolutely no news. We didn't find out until the late fifties that he was dead. My mother kept hoping he was alive all those years. Somewhere. Maybe in Russia, somewhere. To her it was very important to think that he was alive, even though she couldn't have him. That he was alive somewhere. He was alive for such a long time.

I: How did you finally get word?

S: We had an attorney here who worked with a couple of attorneys in Germany and they sent us the exact information that I found in the archives. So I think what we paid a great deal of money for they probably just got off one of those pieces of paper for nothing. But that's another thing.

I: How had your mother survived the war? How had she lived her life after you?

S: QT: She kept working for the (E.) family. To pay off, my using the name. At night she'd go to the apartment and sleep in. In the morning she would go back to work. Wonderful people. Because everyone knew she worked there and if anything had happened to her, that family would no longer be in existence either.QT

I: I was going to ask you, was there kind of racial laws in Belgium during the occupation?

S: Oh yeah, cut and dry.

I: So you couldn't employ a Jew.

S: No, no, no, no, no. Dear Lord, no. I've talked to many schools about this and I always ask the young people especially. QT: When you think about all the people in my case that helped me, is there a common link? The kids always catch it right away. They were all teachers. I said, love your teachers it's a wonderful profession. But it's true, so many of the people, even the priest was a teacher, certainly Marie (T.), Paul, all these people. They all squarely put their lives on the block, but all of them say the same thing when asked the question why. Because it needed to be done. I'm very close to the children of the E. family and both Andre and her husband George are dead now. But I talked to them, did you guys sit around the dinner table, talk about what your parents had done and what it meant to the family and what would have happened. They said, oh we talked about it, of course we talked about it. But the gist of it is, they never thought they did anything special. I hear this from every righteous Gentile. Two of my favorite words in the English language are righteous Gentile, I think that's such a wonderful name. These people should be canonized. Righteous in the deepest and best sense of the word. These people, whether they did it for religious reasons or not, really lived at Christianity. They are really the example of what being a Christian is supposed to be. Whether they did it for that reason or not. That's very important to me to get that message out, especially to young people. Don't forget what was done during that war but don't forget the people who tried to help. They're extremely important.

Someone said, I forget who, but someone said if you talk about the people who saved you remind people that there are no heroes without villains. So it goes without saying that you also condemn the German people for what they have done. I brought up the idea of forgiveness earlier. It's very clear in Jewish dogma and theology, that you can only forgive a wrong that was done to you directly. So I shall never forgive them for what they did to my father. Because only he can do that. And for me, what they did to me, I'm not that big a person, no I don't forgive.

I: Did your mother ever forgive the Germans?

S: No. My mother and my father, to my mother she was part of my father. She was very beautiful lady, physically as well as mentally and emotionally. She never remarried. She never looked at another man because my father was it. So what had happened to him, happened to her. In a sense.

I: When did you finally get permission to come to the United States?

S: In the fall of '48, we had to wait three years. That was the standard waiting time. So we came in December '48, we picked a monsoon period of the Atlantic to cross it. Nine days, tossed around like. You get the image.

I: Nine miserable days I take it.

S: Five miserable days. Four interesting days and five miserable days. When you pray for deliverance all over again, in this case meaning death, please. All my mother was able to afford, I'm amazed that she could do all these things, I mean she worked day and night. She got us two tickets on a Norwegian freighter out of (Louavra) to New York.

I: That's a creative solution.

S: Yeah, twelve passengers. But that tells you the size of the boat. It was no ship, it was a boat. Seeing the Statue of Liberty is everything it's cut out to be. Again after forty one years I cannot forget my first glimpse of the lady in the harbor. We arrived at night and I didn't see her. But next morning, I saw her. We had to stay at anchor for customs to come aboard. This was after Ellis Island and so forth. They just came aboard and checked all the papers and everything.

I: What were your thoughts when you saw that giant outstretched arm?

S: A new life. Without forgetting the old. And a new place to wait for papa. That was always foremost in our thoughts. Papa would find us because that was our original plan, come to the United States. He would remember where my uncle lived. My uncle lived in Petaluma.

I: Chicken farmer by any chance?

S: Viennese psychologist and chicken farmer. Absolutely. After New York, where we stayed for almost two and a half months so both my mother and I could learn English. Then when we felt confident that we could communicate, then we came west. Chicago to Oakland, five days on the train. And then the trip to Petaluma, which was a long trip through the open fields and cows and stuff. San Rafael was a small little Greyhound bus stop. And all the farms. Bit of a culture shock. Petaluma Junior High.

I: This is where you went to school? And you got your high school diploma?

S: No, I went to Petaluma Junior High, March, April, May, June of '49. Graduated. And then my mother and I came to San Francisco and I went to George Washington High, eleventh and twelfth grade.

I: How did you get back in touch with your Judaism, with your Jewish roots, after the war? Or did you?

S: Oh yes, but again with my mother it was, we are Jews. This is a Jewish home. There was no discussion. Things just went right back to where they were supposed to be.

I: What happened to the cross on your belt?

S: I kept it for the longest time. I think it disappeared on the trip over here, getting ready. I don't know what happened to it. As a matter of fact, I've never thought about it until your question. All the other souvenirs have been very dear to me and I've kept. My godfather Paul, when I was baptized, his present to me was a prayer book. Beautifully inscribed. Which I, of course, still have. And he made me, being our scout master, he made me he hand made a book of rules of life. What to do to be a good human being. It's hand painted, hand written, bound in leather, by him. I took it back to show him, to show that I had it, and it stayed in my pocket and I forgot all about it. I never did show it to him, I have to wait for another trip some day.

I: What were some of his rules?

S: They were based of course on Catholic behavior, but they're universal. About honesty and straightforwardness. That sort of thing. A great treasure. Very very beautiful. Both physically beautiful and beautiful in intent and content. I've been blessed all my life with meeting these wonderful human beings. Out of tragedy comes very positive things. I mean I would rather have met them a different way, but...

I: You went to high school and did you go to college here?

S: Yes. I went to UC Berkeley.

I: To study what subjects?

S: Well, I applied to medical school. We need another good Jewish doctor. I applied to UC and Stanford. I wasn't accepted by either. I don't think it was, my grades were good, there was a Jewish quota in those days, there were many many applicants, whatever reason. Or my own shortcomings. I didn't get accepted right away and instead of waiting another year and trying again, I went in a different direction and I've never really regretted it. I became a teacher. Maybe I would have been a professor of medical science. I think I've always wanted to teach. My mentors, the people who led the way, were all teachers, and I think they instilled in me the desire to share knowledge and help along those lines. So no, this is my thirty-fifth year of teaching.

I: At the university?

S: I did twenty nine years at the high school level and I've always taught at the university along with it, but that's all I do now. That's all, it's like just being a housewife.

I: It should be enough for everyone I think, to teach. Did you marry?

S: Yes. We've been married twenty years and we have two beautiful sons. One who just turned sixteen and one who will turn fifteen next month. And they were bar mitzvahed together. That was one of the greatest days of my life, when they were bar mitzvahed together. They are fifteen months apart so I spoke to the rabbi and I said, emotionally and financially to do this two years in a row is too much. They're so close. What do you think of pushing one, holding one back a little. He said, wonderful idea. All of our family and friends appreciated it, especially those who came from certain distance, not just to do it two years in a row. After three years you do it again, okay, but one year after the other. Everyone loved the idea that they did it together. And they were each given their full amount of work, not cut in half, so the ceremony lasted twice as long and no one seemed to mind. It was a marvelous day. It was great. My wife is a violinist for the San Francisco Symphony. So there's a lot of music in the house. Kvitchng and things too you know _ that means yelling.

I: It's not all sweet violin serenades.

S: When she plays, that's always sweet.

I: I think there are many Jewish violinists. I think it's a proud tradition among Jewish people.

S: It is a proud tradition. It's a beautiful instrument.

I: And you live now in San Rafael. If you don't mind, when you went back, how did it come the first time that you went back to Belgium. Was it to look in the archives or did you make this trip to go back and look at the archives and go to the reunion all at the same time?

S: You're talking about 1988? No. In 1988, at the beginning of the year, it seems like it seems such a long time ago and its not. I received a letter from (David I.), who I didn't know from Adam, and the letter said. Well first of all I saw the address and it said Hamoigne and I literally had to sit down because in all those years. I had gone back to Hamoigne, I even took my family. We just went as tourists, and I said this is the chateau, we met couple of the sisters who were there but no one we knew. We went in and I said look, I slept over here and the Germans came through this door and so forth. And the kids were duly impressed and my wife, everyone was very interested. It was a pilgrimage. But that was it.

So when I saw that letter. In the letter I was told, there is a reunion in the offing of all the Jewish boys who were hidden. I said, what do you mean all the Jewish boys? All of me? But it had a list of all the names. On one side the war names, on the other side the real names. Two years ago when I realized that this was not nearly so simple as I had thought. I went to the reunion. Channel 4 heard about it and asked whether they could accompany me, ostensibly to film the reunion. I didn't know they were planning a documentary on my life. That is where all this happened, when I met this (Andre E.) she said, no no no, I'm sure that you were part of the underground plan. Go to the archives. So one thing led to another. This is how it all happened.

I: We've covered most of my questions except one tiny, minor little question I just had. I was curious to know, who were the guides that led people out from Germany into Belgium. Who were these people who did that?

S: Totally anonymous people of course. People who knew, people who lived in those towns and knew their way across the border. And for the most part, who were making a fast buck. I'm not being cynical but really that's what it was. Some took the money and ran, others actually helped people across, others turned them in I understand. Some who really were making an effort to help people and in the process, helping themselves a little bit. Which they did deserve to be paid for it. I don't begrudge them that at all.

I: Was there any quota on the money you could take out of Germany? Were you limited to ten marks?

S: No, since we were leaving illegally, if you had money you took it. We just didn't have any. But if there had been a control, we wouldn't have been allowed to leave. The people who earlier than that were allowed to leave legally there was a control, but for us we were actually sneaking out. That's why I said, I don't know how my mother managed to pay the second guide but she did.

I: Let me ask you; did you ever go to Buchenwald?

S: I have not set foot in any of the occupied countries belonging to Germany. I've gone back to Europe, I've gone to Belgium and I've gone to France. I've not gone to the Vichy part of France. We honeymooned in Israel and that's it. At the end of the summer my wife and the San Francisco Symphony are going to Germany. She has to go.

I: Will you go?

S: I have thought about accompanying her just so that she wouldn't have that experience alone, but we simply can't afford it.

I: How do you feel, as long as we're on the subject of Germany, there's been a lot of Germany in the news lately with reunification. As a survivor, as someone who lost family and who was in hiding during the war, are you concerned about the talk of reunifying Germany?

S: Very much. There is just no question in my mind, when everyone was jumping up and down with glee, I was perspiring cold sweat. My palms would get wet just thinking about it. I'm very concerned, very worried. And your question is very interesting. I was at a (Cheder) in Redwood City a few weeks ago. Young people, the cantor had asked me to come and show them the documentary and speak. One of those little tikes asked me that question. And after I got over the fact of what an intelligent question for a young person and I answered it the same way. Young people are so bright. They really understood. We talked about it for a long time. I talk about it with my friends, most of the people who I call my friends understand and I think they are concerned too for the same reasons. I am happy that there can be a renewal of liberty in the world, of course. But that's a theoretical happiness. When it happens to the Germans, I'm worried. I can be rational all I want to. I think when it comes to Germany and Germans, my emotions are stronger than my rationale.

I: So even though that most people who were involved in the war are aging or dead at this point, you still can't feel comfortable with it.

S: Do you remember when we saw the cameras on the wall and the young people, not the old Nazis, but the young people were climbing on the wall, what did they immediately sing? Deutschland, Deutschland, uber alles. And I think I got a couple of extra gray hairs just watching that. Without being dramatic.

I: I want to go back to one other thing. The day your uncle, his building was emptied out, do you recall the deportation, how people in Brussels were actually rounded up?

S: Yes. You mean the physical rounding up? There were several ways the Germans did it that I witnessed. They would either bring trucks to the front of a building, the soldiers and the dogs would run in, and they would bang on all the doors and everybody was pulled out, whatever state they were in and simply run downstairs. This happened in moments, just like that, and the building was empty. The trucks left. as though it had never happened. Other times, especially during rush hour, their equivalent of rush hour, they would seal off a couple of streets with the trucks and everyone who was on the street right there, was pushed onto the trucks. And they were gone.

I: And your uncle's building was cleared out that way? How many relatives did you have living down the street?

S: I can't give you numbers, but his father, his mother, his sisters, some relatives by marriage, it's easily a dozen.

I: Did you need any explanation at the time of what happened? You were probably about seven.

S: By the time this was happening I'd seen it happen over and over and over again. No. An overwhelming feeling was, it's not I. Overwhelming feeling of sadness but at that time, no feeling, I shall never see them again. No. No they are going to go through some hardship. I don't think I even questioned the very old people, ever seeing them again? Because when you're that young, old doesn't mean that much. His parents were very old. By the way, I must say even on tape, we never use this. Any reference to this may not be made public because he does not even know that I found the names in the archives and his wife does not want him to know. My uncle. He lives still right here in the county. You notice that in the document there was no reference made, I have all the documentation, I'm sitting on it. She does not want him to know. He knows that his whole family, everybody is dead. She does not want him to know that they were all gassed. He may guess, but he shouldn't know. I have to respect that. But that's part of the history, I want it told.

I: You also had aunts and one grandparent left in Vienna.

S: My father had four sisters. Two were taken away to camps and never heard from again. One went to Palestine and one, the one who came to the United States with her husband very early, and she's still alive with him.

I: And your mother had one sister.

S: My mother had a mother and a sister. My maternal grandmother went to England and spent the war making uniforms for the soldiers, which she was very proud of. She made it to New York before we did and we met again there. So we lived together until her death twenty years ago. My mother's sister went to Siam and Israel, well first she went to Israel and then to Siam. My cousin was a (sabba). We saw them, the three of them again, after the war. 1969 was an incredibly bizarre year, that was only twenty years ago. In 1969, my Aunt Rose, my mother's sister, died of a brain hemorrhage. And my grandmother, who was getting quite old by then, kept saying to me, I've lost my child. I've lost (Sidie). (Sidie) is what she called my mother. My mother's name was Sara, but they called her Sidie. Because my mother had been ill for all these years with rheumatoid arthritis and was confined to her bed. So my grandmother never thought of Rose as dying and she was convinced that (Sidie) had died. She knew that she had lost a child. So they spoke on the phone. And she never realized that she'd lost a child. Right after that she died.

Nineteen sixty nine is also the year that I met my wife so she knew my mother that year. We married in December. Nine days later my mother died. We were honeymooning as it was and the phone rang, about five thirty in the morning, and the woman said, Mr. S. Which I thought strange because here in America they always say Paul, even if they don't know you. This is the nurse at the hospital, your mother died last night. So they almost had another case on their hand. And that Christmas, my aunts, the one Rose who died, her daughter (Cassabra) who's married to an Israeli and they had two beautiful Israeli children, they lived in Paris because he was attached to the Israeli embassy. They went skiing and they were all killed in a car accident. So the year where I started my life over, I lost everybody else.

I: Did your mother ever talk about the war and about your father, were you ever able to discuss those?

S: All the time. We literally talked about him constantly. Not so much the war as Papa, Papa was literally to the day she died, Papa was a part of our life. Until the fifties with a great deal of hope and wondering where this man, perhaps an amnesiac, was existing. And after that, just Papa the way we remember him.

I: In her years on her own, did she talk about how she survived and what it was like living in Belgium by herself during the occupation?

S: The fear and the deprivations, even though she worked for a family that was very caring and so forth, yes of course she did. The fear and the emptiness of my being away, and being so very much alone and realizing the probability of not seeing either one of us again was very great. Much more so than I felt when I was away, because I felt that I would see them all again. She was of course much more realistic.

I: Sometimes that's the mercy of being a child, because you don't really know.

S: It really is. Yes. Even though you know everything, there's some things you refuse to believe.

I: Is there anything you would like to add that we haven't touched on?

S: About the details, I've told everything that needs to be known. The reality of what happened and the people who extended their hands and gave of themselves to help. Perhaps I should say that I'm grateful to you for doing this and making sure that the revisionists do not win out. My father was not the figment of someone's imagination, he really existed and he really did die because of this. So this is very important to me. And I thank you.

I: Thank you very much for your time.