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Claude Kruchmar

Claude Kruchmar
Nationality: French
Location: Capis • France • Missouri • Paris • St. Louis • United States of America
Experience During Holocaust: Family Died During the Holocaust • Family or Person in Hiding • Family Survived • Taken to an Orphanage Run by Nuns

Mapping Claude's Life

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“[My uncle] worked on an orphanage. He loved kids. So he went to work 8 o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t a soul in the place. He was in the office, he found a 13 year old kid hiding under the desk, so he asked him what happened. He said, 3 o’clock in the morning the Germans came in the front door, they encircled the place and ask everybody to step outside and that’s the only kid that lived. So he was crying like a baby when he came home.” - Claude Kruchmar

Read Claude's Oral History Transcripts

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Tape 1 - Side 1

PRINCE: Claude, is there some place special where you want to begin?
KRUCHMAR: I’ll begin in Paris because that’s where I started.
PRINCE: That’s where you started. I suppose maybe, if you want to give your date of birth.
KRUCHMAR: August 3rd, 1937
PRINCE: What do you remember?
KRUCHMAR: Germany was occupying Paris, I remember the anxiety because all of a sudden we were not allowed to go outside after 4 o’clock and they had, we were putting blankets on our windows. There was no lights, no nothing. And I could see at 4 o’clock people were running around on the street like they were running for their lives because at 4 o’clock if you were on the subway, you stayed there the whole night. So, you didn’t have didn’t have permission to be after curfew. If you were caught after curfew, then you were in trouble. They would take you to the German Police Station, and you may not come back. A lot of people that got taken to Police Station never came back. The first recollection I remember is I had to wear a star. And they issued us rules for the stars and it said ‘Juif’ which means Jews. And my grandmother told me that I should never walk around the street with a star exposed and when I went to school, I’d take a book and cover it. So, (small laugh) that’s what I did.
PRINCE: Who did you live with?
KRUCHMAR: My grandmother
PRINCE: Your grandmother. Do you remember what you felt or what you thought about?
KRUCHMAR: I didn’t think nothing at the time because I was only 5 years old. But I did what she told me and I had sort of a sixth sense to know that something was going on because everybody was afraid. You could feel the fear, don’t know why, but there was constant anxiety. Her and my father used to argue because, he didn’t want to put it on. He was not ashamed to be Jewish, but he was going to be one of these guys that was smart enough to understand that if you had that you could be picked off the street quite easily, but if you didn’t have it and they picked you up, you broke the law, so either way you couldn’t win. So he didn’t want to wear it, and he didn’t. Jews were not allowed to travel and it worked
PRINCE: So with your grandmother was your father and
KRUCHMAR: (cuts in) father and me and my grandmother. We lived in this apartment. The first thing I noticed is that number one, they took his shop away from him, you’re not allowed to work so they took same thing happened to my uncle, he had an antique shop. They didn’t issue a license. They took his shop and gave it to somebody else who was non-Jewish. Yeah, they took all your property and all your means of making a living. So my father was forced to make and cut clothes in his home. Yeah, we took the big cutting table and we put it in our apartment. That’s where we slept. (PAUSES, SEARCHING FOR WORDS) Next thing I remember is, I don’t know if it was the French Police or Gestapo but somebody came in the apartment and matter of fact, the guy put me on his knees, I was playing with his handcuffs I don’t know who he was. But they were looking for my father. That was 1943, and then the night they caught him, I remember because my grandmother spent the whole night in the police station and (CHUCKLE) I’m sitting in this dark apartment all night wondering where everybody is.
PRINCE: You were alone?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, and see once they took you never came back. Well, what my grandmother tried to do was buy him off. She was unable to do so. My father was divorced and dated a non-Jewish girl and this guy, well her father, was a fireman for the city of Paris and turned him in. That’s that simple. Now they caught him without his star.
He was working, I don’t know (MOMENTARY STUTTER) he told him the whole story. he didn’t want my father to go with his daughter and basically turned him in. so they took him to the police station and (SHORT PAUSE) after that, one day we came home and (INHALE, HEAVY SIGH, DEEP BREATHS) stupid…
PRINCE: No, it’s not stupid.
PRINCE: Let me get you some Kleenex.
KRUCHMAR: (CRYING AND AFTER A LONG PAUSE:) Anyway, we come back home the next day and the Gestapo seal on the door (PAUSE) Then…
PRINCE: The seal on the door?
KRUCHMAR: There was a seal, a wax seal. What they did was they put a wax seal, and if you broke the seal they knew you’d been back. So my grandmother and I were somewhere, I don’t know what happened, we came back home the Gestapo seal was on there (tape disruption) So we didn’t dare break the seal. We wanted them to think that we had gone away. There was nowhere to go because the train station, everything was, you had to have papers. So, the lady downstairs who took care of the building, ah (PAUSES, SNIFFLES) she hid us in an attic for 3 weeks, yeah.
PRINCE: Your grandmother also?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, so we stayed in the attic for 3 weeks and then my grandmother decided it wasn’t safe, sooner or later we’d get caught. So what she did, she arranged for her to go to work for a Jewish orphanage. But she had enough sense to know that they going to get caught there too, so instead of putting me in a Jewish orphanage, she put me in a, I went to a Cub Scout organization and they had priests that worked to save Jewish children. We were in a Catholic School, and there was nothing but Jews in there. And that’s where they put us. So, what you got to remember in Paris that the Gestapo or the German Police, whatever, had several visits. One of them, they wanted all the blankets and radios for the Russian front that was 1943. And on the other hand, they would check the register and they checked the name. They knew exactly who was in there and they could pick you up at random because they knew how many Jews lived in that building because we had to be declared unless you changed your name. Now my aunt and uncle that lived a couple blocks away, they didn’t have the right name. They changed the name. You could buy and falsify papers. And they would make pretty good, but the Germans are pretty smart. A lot of times they found you out that there was false papers. And so she put me in this little town in __((Capis??)??)???_________ and it was (SHORT PAUSE) like an orphanage. There was just kids. There was a cook and made meals and you were left on your own most of the time, you know, because there was not that many people to take care of you. But the food down there was horrendous and the meat smelled so bad, I couldn’t hardly taste it. And so lot of the time we were hungry because there was nothing to eat, so we’d go out in the fields and pick up wheat and let’s see, I used to have some flowers and seed taste good so I eat somebody’s flowers and then pick up onions after the harvest. And the only reason I went to school was at 4 o’clock the teacher would give us a bar of chocolate at 4 o’clock (LAUGHS). We had to walk about 3, 4 miles to go to school. There was no buses. And it was a one-room schoolhouse and what I remember the most, is that one year I spent in (name of city mentioned before) possibly caused me most harm, emotionally, more than anything I’ve gone through because of the separation from my parents. I mean I was hungry all the time, but I was terribly lonely and the isolation from my family, left a mark that never left me, fifty years later, I can still remember. So, (PAUSE) anyways as far as the years of the occupation, I mean what do you want to do? You didn’t work. You were scared 90 percent of the time. You see your friends one by one they ____________. An uncle and an aunt, she was in a wheelchair, and she went first.
PRINCE: When you say she went first
KRUCHMAR: Well, the got her before they got everybody else and they got my father. See, once they got a member of your family, they got everybody. That’s a question going down the list so, I had an uncle, my father’s brother was in the army, he got caught. He spent 6 years in a ___________________ and 4 years on a _______German_Prisoner of War Camp_______ . His buddies that were with him protected his identity, they never found out he was Jewish, so he survived the war.
PRINCE: Where was your mother?
KRUCHMAR: My mother divorced my father, she was in unoccupied France but unoccupied France lasted for awhile until there was an invasion. Then what the Germans did, they occupied Southern France. So, then they came after her and I think the Gestapo missed her by 2 days. She kept one hop, she went one place after the other. They were really close on the trail, I don’t know how they got there. But when she went to Paris, and the first time I saw my mother the Germans still had, still were occupying the area and she introduced herself as my aunt. Now, why she introduced myself, I never saw her before until I was 7 years old. So my first instinct was to run away and I ran and got lost somewhere and then she told me she was my aunt so okay, she took me out to dinner and I was so hungry I ate about 3 plates of spaghetti and I got sick for the next 4 days. That’s the last I’ve seen of her. She saw me one time
PRINCE: Did she tell you before you left her that she was your mother?
KRUCHMAR: No, she told me she was my aunt. That’s all that she said (PAUSE) I didn’t know I had a mother (PAUSE)
PRINCE: Did she make you aware of it then? Or did she leave?
KRUCHMAR: She told me that she was my aunt and to tell everybody that she was my aunt and that’s all she could tell me and that was it. So, that’s the first time I met her, I was 7
PRINCE: and you believed that, that she was your aunt?
KRUCHMAR: I told her She didn’t look like my aunt, tante Simone.Came out of nowhere, I don’t know who you are
PRINCE: How did you get together? Who brought you to her?
KRUCHMAR: I don’t know how she found me. My grandmother, I had an aunt, no an uncle, was a distant cousin of my mother. My grandmother knew that we were in trouble, so she said if something happens to me. See the people, what it is, the survivors, they would tell others, the people that didn’t survive would have made arrangements with other people to take care of the children. So she made my aunt promise that if anything happened to her that she would take care of me. So my aunt promised her that. My uncle survived for one reason, first of all they were very good at having a system for survival. If they would go home or they would go anywhere one would walk on one side of the street and one on the other so if one got the other one wouldn’t come home because that’s how they caught you, they caught you both together. So they had a ________system of survival worked out between them. And their name was Bersous which is as French as you can get. And there’s a lady called Abraham and the Gestapo searched and registered, they would go from house to house. And they’d look on all the Jews, Abraham so they went on the 5th floor and accused her of being Jewish, she was as French as can be and Catholic as can be. So she said, I’m not a __________ but if you want a Jew, you go over the next door and they’re Jewish. So, they knocked on my aunt’s door and aunt threatened to put my uncle’s pants down to prove that he wasn’t circumcised. Well apparently it turned the stomach of the guy that was there, he didn’t take her up on it and that’s how she lived.
PRINCE: And he could have been or not could have been.
KRUCHMAR: yeah __the guy___________
PRINCE: and left him.
KRUCHMAR: yeah, they left him.
PRINCE: Tell me about your grandmother
KRUCHMAR: Well, my grandmother, she must have been in her fifties. (PAUSES) well I was very close to my grandmother, she’s a good cook (LAUGHS) she was an excellent housekeeper and I went from a beautiful home and good meals to a dump where the kid above me urinated on me all night, never changed the beds, and we take our beds and we stunk. We stuck them out the window, it stunk so bad, you could smell that place 6 miles away but we survived. Covered with fleas and the kids didn’t have handkerchiefs so they used to blow their nose in my clothes. I go to put my coat on and it was full of (SEARCHES FOR WORD)
PRINCE: mucous?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, I can’t tell you what a nightmare that place was, and I was one of the lucky ones. (SIGHS)
PRINCE: Why was that?
KRUCHMAR: Well because, I was one of the lucky ones because there was a Jewish orphanage up the street and my uncle lived there. That’s my uncle from my mother’s side. As many uncles I got, I don’t think I have one left and he was, I don’t know if he was a janitor. He wasn’t allowed to keep his business but the Jewish organization; they would give him a job. So he worked on an orphanage. He loved kids. So he went to work 8 o’clock in the morning, there wasn’t a soul in the place. He was in the office, he found a 13 year old kid hiding under the desk, so he asked him what happened. He said, 3 o’clock in the morning the Germans came in the front door, they encircled the place and ask everybody to step outside and that’s the only kid that lived. So he was crying like a baby when he came home. So that’s the reason I said it, my grandmother went to work for a Jewish organization and they were warned about the Germans coming over. She had to go back and get her belongings and that’s how they caught her.
PRINCE: This grandmother was your father’s mother?
KRUCHMAR: yeah, I think it was Auschwitz
PRINCE: Your grandmother?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, and my father too.
PRINCE: Do you want to talk about that?
KRUCHMAR: They got my father in 1943 and by the time they got him, he already knew there were extermination camp because the word had got out. There’s not a work camp. Everybody thought at first that was a work camp. And somebody either got out or word got out, but we knew there were extermination camps. My father got caught, my grandmother I don’t think lasted because she was over the age where she, if you had grey hair and you didn’t look like you could work hard, they put you to the left and you went right to the gas chamber. And my father last 6 months and what he did (LOUD SIGH, CRYING) he traded food for cigarettes and he gave up
PRINCE: Oh, he smoked.
KRUCHMAR: He thought there was no way out, so he traded food for cigarettes. And I found that out from somebody who came and knew him from my neighborhood came back and told us that. He didn’t tell me that, I just overheard it.
PRINCE: What was your father’s name?
PRINCE: and this is the name you were given at birth, Claude?
KRUCHMAR: Claude, yeah. Claude Rene Kruchmar. They put another initial to disguise my Jewish origin. So Jews didn’t have middle initials. So they put down…well anyway the kids who were in that school, I think most of them were Jews. They were from the same neighborhood, matter of fact.
PRINCE: And it was supposed to be Catholic?
KRUCHMAR: It was a Catholic organization. We went to church on Sunday and the priest ran it.
PRINCE: but not very well.
KRUCHMAR: Well there was not too much he could do. There was no money, there was no food. I remember a cook. I don’t remember any supervision at all. But it was very lonely. I mean you save your life. If I could spend one year in misery, you save your life that was something.
PRINCE: Do you remember any nuns?
KRUCHMAR: There were no nuns. I remember this cook. We’re talking 1943.
PRINCE: Did you cry?
KRUCHMAR: Never cried a tear. Never then.
PRINCE: Never then.
KRUCHMAR: Never then.
PRINCE: Had you cried as a child before?
KRUCHMAR: No I didn’t.
PRINCE: You were saving it?
KRUCHMAR: I don’t know if I was saving it (LAUGHS) I knew one thing. I was in terrible, terrible pain, emotional pain, it was on 24 hours a day. And I was living a nightmare, matter of fact the when I got out of that place I had horrible dreams for a long time. Something about railroad tracks and something inside of me that was twisted all the time. That’s all I can remember. And I woke up petrified. And this was after I came out of that place.
PRINCE: Tell me about a day there. Who woke you?
KRUCHMAR: Early in the morning, so I could go to school, I guess. I remember never eating breakfast, I don’t think there was anything. We knew that there was something going on because first of all the Germans came into our village, they came right on the school ground, they suspected that the Priests was hiding Jewish kids. For some reason _____________courtyards, they looking for numbers. So none of us had numbers and they pounded that poor guy for 2 days and they beat the daylights out of him. That’s how we know, we never saw him again. To this day, I don’t know what happened to him. But they had their cooking gear, everything, they occupied the place. And all of a sudden, we got up one morning and there was no Germans (LAUGHS). So we looked ________________they must have been on their last leg because they had potatoes and were making chocolate pudding? And potatoes. I guess they had nothing to eat too. So while we ate like pigs, we took all their stuff and ate. There was like a 2 day lull, and then after that it seemed like, I never heard such noise in my life. It was like artillery was constant and for 7 days, the artillery bombardment was going on day and night. I mean, all we were was in a basement. We couldn’t even go outside. I went to the bathroom one night, and a bullet went through the door, I mean the window and ricocheted inside. I went back to bed and urinated on my bed. To hell with this, I mean you know they were, the bullets were coming in the building. So they put us in the basement, after one week we stayed in the basement and that noise was going on constantly.
PRINCE: They. Who is they?
KRUCHMAR: Day and night. Whoever was there. I have no memory of adults at all. None. So we stayed in the basement. But I remember one thing we ate is we had a bowl of water, with some sugar and wheat and that was the meal. That was what we had, that was all we had.
PRINCE: You were a child, who were the other children around you, do you remember any of them?
KRUCHMAR: I remember one guy specifically because he was blind and his brother wasn’t. and the blind brother was 14 years old and the other was 7 and wherever he went, the other blind kid would always put his hand on his shoulder. That’s the only thing I remember.
PRINCE: What did you do? Did you play games?
KRUCHMAR: Let’s see. Whatever we did, I was always looking for food, that’s all I can tell you. So, every time you saw a farmer that would cut his wheat he grow on the field and see if you can get some _______________falling off. I just remember being hungry all the time, that’s all.
PRINCE: Do you remember, at that time, anybody being particularly nice to you or kind to you?
PRINCE: was it more just ignoring?
KRUCHMAR: You just didn’t have anybody there. It was just a place to keep you and feed you, and that was it.
PRINCE: Never a hand on your shoulder?
KRUCHMAR: If they did, I don’t remember. I do remember one spring when I was on my way to school and they had the apple was in bloom and the air was full of spring. And perfume and it smelled, apple blossom. I’ve never been in such pain in all my life, that’s all I can remember. So at 7 years old and I told myself, I said, boy life is really hard.
PRINCE: Had you felt care and love before?
KRUCHMAR: Oh yeah. I went from a very close environment to nothing. I mean that’s terrible to make an adult of a 7 year old, you know.
PRINCE: Did the other children, did you all talk about your homes?
KRUCHMAR: There was one kid in my neighborhood that I remember talking to, I don’t know the others. I have no memories.
PRINCE: When you went to school?
KRUCHMAR: When I went to school, I didn’t know what the hell was going on. I couldn’t care less, I sat in the back of the room. It was a one-room schoolhouse and it was 6 grades there, 6, or 7 or 8 grade. And the teacher came to me once a day and I don’t know what the hell she was babbling about because I didn’t understand it. So, I came there for a chocolate bar and that was it.
PRINCE: You said you saw your father taken away?
KRUCHMAR: Yes, I did see my father taken away. The Gestapo came to my house and like I said, they kept looking for him. But the night they caught him, I remember distinctly because my grandmother spent the night in a prison that was right down the road from us. They took over a French Police Station. French people a lot of anti-semitism going on over there because in my school, the one I went to high school, I started out after the liberation, they were selling Jewish kids for 500 francs a head.
PRINCE: After liberation?
KRUCHMAR: No, before. But we got the word after because after France was liberated the same professors that were teaching school then came in the class and shot these guys dead, by the door right in the room. They shot these kids dead. The ones that were not___________. They knew who they were. There was a lot of atrocities being committed on both sides. And when they caught them ____________they just throw them off the sixth storey. That’s the French. They threw __________with their belongings and everything. They even____________________quite a bit.
PRINCE: You saw your mother who was your aunt, this was after you spent the year in that school. When she left you, who were you with? Where did you live?
PRINCE: When did you leave Capi?
KRUCHMAR: August 1944, the whole American invasion came through our village, or part of it came through our village. That was the noise I told you about. So for 7 days and 7 nights, they had this artillery barrage and it was in small______________________. You name it, I don’t know what happened. There was a battle on the plateau, I remember anti-aircraft positions up there because we used to see them. But when this was over and done with, there wasn’t a living thing standing up. I mean, they obliterated trees, there was nothing. I was telling Carol, I was on my way to school one day, I could smell something dead, but I didn’t know what it was and I was scared to death. And I stepped on something and it was a man’s face that collapsed _______________. You know the flesh gets gray when people die and I had that stuff stuck on my feet and I couldn’t knock it off. And then I ran to try to outrun the smell, but I could not outrun the smell. I don’t know what I did. I must have must have taken my foot and washed in the river or something.
PRINCE: Where you screaming?
KRUCHMAR: Oh, I was a maniac. (PAUSES) You could smell death all over the place (PAUSES) I had some funny impressions as a kid. I remember going by a cemetery and I kept thinking that when you die you never come back and you never see your mom and dad and you’re terribly alone and that’s the end. So I was terrified of death.
PRINCE: Did you meet any Americans at that time?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, they came down in our courtyard. Somebody said, I was in my bedroom, and somebody said the Americans are here. So I ran outside because I expected them to ride in on a horse and I saw this great big guy come out of a tank and he was throwing us some little packages. We were all hungry, so we were eating them. And I told myself, this is the hardest to swallow I ever ate and it was gum. I swallowed 5 pieces before I finally got the idea, you don’t take the gum and swallow it. But when the Americans came, we used to take their packages and we scraped the wax to make candles and we used all the products they would throw away to do things. But when they came in 1944, all I can remember, I’m in the truck and we’re going to Paris, going back to Paris, and Paris was already liberated for 3 weeks so we go in this neighborhood and all of a sudden the machine gun _________________________it was some idiot still stuck up there, they found him. Anyway, we go back to Paris and I don’t go back to my grandmother. I find myself with my aunt and all I can remember is she told me to take all my clothes and take them in the corner and she burned them because they was full of fleas. Get my head out of here. I was covered with lice and fleas, to me that was normal. So when I came back, that was it. To me that was normal but to them, it wasn’t.
PRINCE: And that aunt and uncle were still there?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, the ones that had survived.
PRINCE: You said you had funny impressions of death
KRUCHMAR: Oh, you knew there were people dying all the time. You knew what was going on. I was 5, 7 years old, but I wasn’t sleeping because you hear it all the time. There was a war going on. I knew what a war was.
PRINCE: Did you know what peace was?
KRUCHMAR: Well, I didn’t remember too much for peace because when war started in 1941, I must have been 4 years old. And 1939 for us. But they had the phony war going on first nothing was going on, everybody was laughing. People went up in the front and nothing was happening for a number of weeks, so the called it the phony war but they didn’t turn phony for long.
PRINCE: Could you understand that the people didn’t leave you because they wanted to?
KRUCHMAR: I knew my grandmother was hiding me out. I knew that and I remember when she took me to be put in Capi I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I see her, I just knew I was being hidden out. And I was told not to reveal anything about anything. But the kids knew pretty well, because you could feel the anxiety, not knowing what was going on but the anxiety was really, really oppressive. Every adult you knew was anxious, they had tremendous fear. Normal people that you normally remember before the war that were easygoing people, everybody was uptight. And we listened to the news from London, this was illegal, everybody did it. There wasn’t a person in Paris that didn’t. So you listened to the ______________ to find out what was really happening.
PRINCE: Listened to the what?
KRUCHMAR: The news from London.
PRINCE: You said a word
KRUCHMAR: That it was illegal to have radio.
PRINCE: I thought there was some word I couldn’t understand.
KRUCHMAR: Everybody knew what was going on because you could have a radio but you couldn’t listen to none of the news. So we got news from what the Germans were doing primarily what was happening all over the world. And the news in 1943, they weren’t very good. A lot of people were very upset. But they had one main meal in Paris, at 12 o’clock you could walk on any street in any neighborhood and all you smell is mashed potatoes. That’s all we had. You could smell it all over. Then we had beans, there was no dairy products whatsoever. There was meat, was a rarity. But mashed potatoes, by God you had them morning, noon, and night. And my grandmother had all kinds of different ways to make different things out of potatoes.
PRINCE: This was before?
KRUCHMAR: This was during, before World War. It was during the War.
PRINCE: Before she hid you?
PRINCE: Who told you about your grandmother?
KRUCHMAR: I can’t put my finger on it, I knew. Nobody told me, but it was obvious to me. I came back, I went to my aunt’s house, nobody would tell me

Tape 1 - Side 2

KRUCHMAR: Nobody told me, but I could put two and two together. She wasn’t there . I knew what happened. It was obvious to me when I came home, and I didn’t go back there. The first question I asked is where’s my grandmother, and nobody would tell me anything, so I pretty well assumed I understood that she’d never come back. Oh, I heard the story about her. My aunt was talking, and they were talking about what happened to her, and I think I overheard that conversation too because that’s the only way I found out. She went back to her belongings, they were warned that they were coming, and she went back to them and that’s how they found her. So I did hear about it from my aunt. She was talking to somebody else.
PRINCE: Do you have a picture of her?
KRUCHMAR: I might have one. I had one ___________________
PRINCE: This aunt and uncle were related in what way?
KRUCHMAR: My uncle was a distant cousin of my mother. (PAUSE) There was a sixteen year old girl living with us. I didn’t even know who the hell she was. They got her too.
PRINCE: Was it unusual for people like your aunt and uncle to have survived in Paris?
KRUCHMAR: There was a lot of hidden people that were successful. I don’t know why they didn’t trace him because they took his shop away, but they didn’t put two and two together. The key was that if your name was on the register, and it didn’t suspect you because they would inspect the registers periodically to make sure that they had no new arrivals or anybody had left. They wanted to find out why they had left, nobody had permission to leave unless you had a special permit. So that’s how they keep check of the whole population. There were periodic inspections of…upon your name . Another way people survived is after the war, I played in this building, and we could have gone halfway across Paris. The basements were interconnected to each other. They had lever built where you could go up in there and travel for miles from one basement to another. And we were amazed when we discovered this, these tunnels. They went everywhere, and the fear was we would never find our way back. I had another aunt who married an engineer. You see, engineers and professional people are regarded in a different light like they are here. They are put on a pedestal. She escaped, she was my father’s sister, for the simple fact he was gentile. He had a real gentile name, that was an easy way of surviving, if your husband was not Jewish.
PRINCE: Is Kruchmar considered a Jewish name?
KRUCHMAR: My grandfather came from Russia, my grandmother came from Poland. My mother came from Romania. I don’t know if they changed their name or not. It doesn’t real French. Like I said, like my mother, if you looked Jewish, you had Semitic traits, then they would find you out, you didn’t have to tell them anything, but there’s a lot of people who didn’t. And those who didn’t have those features, if you weren’t dark, you had blond hair and blue eyes, you could escape detection.
PRINCE: Did you see your mother again?
KRUCHMAR: Oh yeah.
PRINCE: How did that come about?
KRUCHMAR: Well let’s see. After I went back to my aunt, my mother knew where I was because she knew I would wind up over there. So my mother was in show business, so I’d see her periodically. (PAUSE)
PRINCE: But you stayed with your aunt?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah. I stayed with my aunt, and my mother was on the road all the time.
PRINCE: Did you start to go to school again?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah I went to school, and finally learned to read when I went back, 7,8, or 9 years old. I didn’t know beans when I went to that school. In first grade, I was two years behind everybody else.
PRINCE: Did you find any other children like yourself?
KRUCHMAR: Well I found children worse than me. I went to summer camp and one was a homicidal maniac. What happened, we won a soccer game, and I accidently touched him. He turned around and tried to kill me. He saw his whole family executed. So there were kids a lot worse than me. And one guy was eighteen years old, and he was our counselor, and I asked what these funny holes were, he was shot three times in the chair, he was executed with the firing squad, and the guy came out and gave him two shots behind the ear, and he’s still alive. There was a lot people that were really marked by the war. We went to this camp that was sponsored by the French government. They would send kids every year for anybody that had been killed in the war. So the French government bought us some clothes, and sent us to camp every year. This kid here was the worst I’d ever seen. I’d hate to see what he’s like today.
PRINCE: You said that after the war you burned the star?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, everybody did. That was mainly because that was a sign of nazi oppression, and they destroyed anything that had to do with the Nazis. People were furious they had to wear these stars, and they were picked up like sheep. We had no defenses or nothing except the people in the Warsaw Ghetto. They put up a struggle, they knew where they were going. We didn’t.
PRINCE: Did everybody do it as a group? Was it like the burning of the books?
KRUCHMAR:We took them off all our clothes. They did to my clothes before that, because I went to (Capis??). I didn’t have anything with a star on, but I remember a lot of people destroying these things. They openly burned them to show everybody. They were finally free.
PRINCE: How did you find the French people?
KRUCHMAR: Terrible. Anti-Semitic. (SCOFFS) There were some that were good and some that were terrible. There was a lot of collaboration over there, and (PAUSE) anti-Semitism was even strong after the war.
PRINCE: Do you seek things out like the sorrow and the pity. There’s a movie about France and collaboration called the Sorrow and the Pity. Do you read things today?
KRUCHMAR: I read Exodus, and I found one lady in our neighborhood that we knew called Tosca who had appeared in the book. Tosca was an agent for my mother, and she married some Italian. He was an opera singer. But I’ve been to Tosca’s house. She certainly didn’t weight a hundred pounds but she survived the camps. And I remember, that’s one strong woman.
The Germans were very deceptive. They used techniques, psychological techniques to be able to manipulate people, they led people to believe they were going to work camps when in fact they were going to extermination camps. But that’s the reason they got the cooperation. You had huge numbers of people that were being pulled from areas. If you read some of the accounts of some of the things that have been published where people have clawed right through the floorboards of trains. That has happened. That’s what fear does to people. I had one bad experience. Let me tell you what happened. I was on the coast of (Ron….se) on the Atlantic, and there were ???? houses, and we went in. There was a machine gun nest emplacement. There was nothing in there except it was just a concrete. When I was in there, the more you dug, the more sand came in, and I felt like I was trapped. ?????????scared????? and the same thing today. I was teaching school at Afton School District, and I locked the door behind me, couldn’t get out again. But I couldn’t let the kids know I was having a problem, so it took them two hours to open the doors, it was a solid oak door. I was having a problem, they didn’t know it. That’s one of them I don’t like to be in enclosed places.
PRINCE: How did you get here?
KRUCHMAR: My mother remarried and they spent for me in 1951. I came by boat. I was thirteen years old.
PRINCE: And you lived with your aunt and uncle up until that?
PRINCE: How did you feel about being separated from them?
KRUCHMAR: ??? I’ll tell you what, living in New York, and the way my step-father treated me, I was ready to go back the next day.
PRINCE: How did he treat you?
KRUCHMAR: He was not too nice. My attitude was I kept my mouth shut and stayed out of his way. That was mainly what I did. I knew he didn’t like me. There was nothing I could do about that.
PRINCE: What were you like at thirteen?
KRUCHMAR: I don’t (LAUGHING) really remember what I was like. With him, I didn’t have too many choices. I didn’t have a right to talk. I should be seen not heard. That’s the kind of mentality he had. When I watched TV I had to watch it in the corner somewhere, I couldn’t stay in the living room. I had a terrible time with him, but that was nothing compared to (Capis??). That was nothing. That didn’t bother me half as much as he thought he bothered me.
PRINCE: Who was he?
KRUCHMAR: He was Mitchell Arnold. He married my mother and was terribly jealous of her. Every time she stepped out of the house, he thought she was having an affair with somebody. Couldn’t stand the name of my father being brought up. In front of me, you wouldn’t talk about my father in a bad way, I don’t care how big because I’d tell him where to go. So she wanted me to call him daddy, I said I only have one father, that was it. I wasn’t in favor of adopting another one. So we didn’t have any relationship at all. He came after me with a pair of scissors when I was fifteen, and I got in a fight with him and slammed him to the ground, and took out of the house. He could have held my nose and told me he’d live fifty five years of his life and if he blew my brains out, it didn’t matter to him cause ???. I said that’s a good time to get out of here. I left. That was it.
PRINCE: When you think about those years, living the way you did and growing up the way you did in Europe, does it seem like a dream?
KRUCHMAR: No it doesn’t seem like a dream. After the war for seven years, I had a pretty good life with my uncle, I should have stayed.
PRINCE:Did you ever ask to go back?
KRUCHMAR: I didn’t go back and I don’t know why I didn’t go back. I guess I liked the United States, and I figured I could probably have a good life over here.
PRINCE: What did you feel from them when they were putting you on the train?
KRUCHMAR: You mean to come here? My uncle cried like a baby, he took me on a personal walk along this chevel. And I asked him, where do we want to see the boat? We’d been walking this long building forever, he said, you’ve been walking next to the boat, that’s the boat right there. But he cried like a baby. To me, I was a little kid, I was excited, I was going to see a new world, and I probably caused him more pain than it caused me, of course, I hated leaving.
PRINCE: Did you ever see them again?
PRINCE: And they are gone?
KRUCHMAR: Mhm (Yes).
PRINCE: Died of natural causes?
KRUCHMAR: (PAUSE) (No answer audible) They’re probably the reason why I have any signs of life. If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t be here today. (PAUSE) I probably would have broke down long time ago.
PRINCE: You mentioned people coming back, I suppose that was your mother you were talking about.
KRUCHMAR: Well my uncle came back, my father’s brother. When he came back, I was playing in the street, and the first time I saw him, I thought he was my father, because he looked just like him. So I was really happy. A funny thing happened, I was really happy to see him, but when he told me he was my uncle, I was disappointed. For some reason must’ve affected him too, but he had a terrible time too. He came back, his wife had collaborated with the Germans. She slept with a German. He committed suicide, and they saved him, and my mother talked him out of it. And he lost quite a bit of blood, I don’t know what he did, but he was in bad shape, so he spent several years in prison camp to find out that his wife had been playing around with ??? . He became hard, I didn’t have a relationship with him either. That’s something I could never… To me, that’s the one that befuddled me the most. This was my father’s brother, I was one of his only surviving relatives, and he absolutely had no relationship with me at all. Nothing.
PRINCE: Had he had any children?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, he had Monique and Françoise, he got two kids. He had a relationship with them, but like I didn’t belong. I couldn’t believe this. This man was like a stone wall. And that’s one of the blank walls I ran into that I didn’t understand. I was his own brother’s flesh and blood, his brother’s son. And he couldn’t care less who I was. I never did figure that one out to this day. I wrote him a letter when I was about, maybe I was twenty-four years old. I wrote him a letter, and my aunt told me she gave him the letter, and all he did was laugh. Go figure that one out.
PRINCE: There are some things you can’t figure out.
KRUCHMAR: ___________
PRINCE: There are some people that don’t have anything to give.
KRUCHMAR: He was the most stable of all the children in the family to my grandmother. He was the middle guy, and he was the guy that, you know, but I’ll never understand him.
PRINCE: If I could ask you the best of your life, could you pick out a time?
KRUCHMAR: (PAUSE) Probably now, I guess, that’s hard to tell you. (PAUSE)
PRINCE: It’s a nice way to end up.
KRUCHMAR: Mhm (Yes).
PRINCE: Is there anything that you would like to put on this tape that I have not asked you about?
KRUCHMAR: I would like address anyone of these idiots who put on a swastika and uniform, and tell them before they do that kind of an action, learn a little bit more about what happened. That’s why when I tell you , none of that stuff should ever come up again. And for anybody who don’t believe this actually happened, you turn the clock back, and you be there in 1941 in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and all of these other camps, then turn around and tell me they didn’t exist because the bones are still there. That’s all I’ve got to say.
PRINCE: Thank you very much, thank you Carol. Claude’s wife, Carol, was present during the entire interview.

Tape 2 - Side 1

PRINCE: What it’s like, you were in this small town, they brought you back and you were so hungry;
KRUCHMAR: Well, I’ll tell you what it’s like to come back, my aunt couldn’t get nowhere near me when I had a bowl of food (SIGH) I knew if I had some food you couldn’t come near me, I was like an animal and (PAUSE) it was hard for me to go back to Alton, Illinois?
PRINCE: How was it hard?
KRUCHMAR: Well, I was very defensive. I, well I had those recurrent nightmares, I don’t know how to explain, it’s been a long time ago. ____________ From my friends,
even Bob, the guy that talked to Rabbi Feinberg, when I came to this country, you couldn’t make friends anyone. I had a chip on my shoulder about 10 tons if somebody tried to pull me out, I became, when I came to a school, I had to whip everybody and let them know who I was. Nobody could hurt me and I was the toughest kid around. I mean, that’s something that’s not me. So that’s the way he remembers me. And I don’t like people to get too close to me
PRINCE: ___? Basketball
KRUCHMAR: Oh yeah, that’s not. You couldn’t do anything better than me, you couldn’t do anything to hurt me. Bob was beating me on basketball, so I told him if he sunk one more, I was going to rip his hand. And he said, well in this country we don’t do this, and I believed him and I didn’t do anything.
PRINCE: What did he say?
KRUCHMAR: He said in this country, we don’t do that. And I believed him. Yeah, he was smart. Bob would come up with statements
PRINCE: It was authoritative, but calming in a way.
KRUCHMAR: He was trying to show me a difference between over there and. I knew I was very defensive, I was very distant. I didn’t take too much stuff from people. I’d be very aggressive to protect my resolve.
PRINCE: Can you go back to the food?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, I don’t know, my aunt told me that, I don’t remember that. She said that she gave food and you couldn’t get nowhere near me. I would hold the food like that, so nobody’d see it and I still have that habit today. She could tell you I’ll eat it in 2 seconds. I don’t have, I eat real fast. Matter of fact, I was in a restaurant, 1959 I was down on that Maryland Café on Delmar and this cook was falling over. He couldn’t believe it. I had a 4-course meal, I was done in 3 minutes. And I must have inhaled the food, I can’t understand, but I’ve always eaten fast which may have caused some stomach problems, but it’s not difficult. You gotta digest your food.
PRINCE: Do you know why you did that?
KRUCHMAR: Well (CHUCKLES), I don’t remember that now.
PRINCE: Do you feel like somebody might take it away?
KRUCHMAR: Well I can’t feel that way now, it’s been to long ago
PRINCE: You can’t?
KRUCHMAR: No, I guess it’s just anxiety. I don’t know.
PRINCE: You must have been thin
KRUCHMAR: Oh, I was a scarecrow. Oh my G-d. Yeah, I was so skinny, it was pathetic. I was pretty little. I should have brought you that picture of me when I was in ((Capis??)??) with my ____________ and grandmother. I had legs like golf clubs. I was skinny for a long time.
PRINCE: Did they have a mirror there, in ((Capis??)??)?
KRUCHMAR: A mirror? No, my mother still got that photograph.
PRINCE: No, but I mean did you know what you looked like?
KRUCHMAR: There was no mirrors at all. No, there was nothing. There were walls and if there was a mirror, I don’t remember it.
PRINCE: When you came back and you saw yourself in a mirror?
KRUCHMAR: I looked normal to me. Everybody else looked the same as I did.
PRINCE: That’s true. So then your body began to fill out?
KRUCHMAR: No, they didn’t fill out for a long time, because I was always skinny until I got to high school and then I started doing some weightlifting. See, my father was very athletic and he was a wrestler and gymnast. He’d practically live in the gym. My father was really put together. And that’s one of the reasons that I thought he would survive. Later on, I found out that’s not the way it works. Anyway, I was so skinny that I decided to do something to compensate. So, I took up weightlifting and I filled out a little bit.
PRINCE: What was it like, could you trust people?
KRUCHMAR: No, I had a hard time trusting people (PAUSE).
PRINCE: Who was the first person you trusted?
KRUCHMAR: My aunt and uncle, I guess, and my mother. But if you would talk to Bob, it probably was the toughest thing for me, is to make friends (PAUSE)
PRINCE: But you have learned?
PRINCE: Your mother came in and out of your life
WIFE?: (faint on tape) There was no real bond. We had a crisis yesterday but prior to yesterday there is basically no bond for Claude to mom. He shared with me certain, I think he doesn’t either doesn’t understand or there’s probably understandably a resentment of her basically almost abandoned Claude when he was little. Then coming back it was all over with and she left him again here in the states and went to Paris. She got him over here to _________________ but part of the years Claude needed her the most, she was in singing career and she was getting married, which is understandable. I’m sure for her story and survival but Claude was an only child and he never, never oh, he loves her, I saw that yesterday. But as far as anyone he remembers dearly, was his grandmother, he thinked. Those are the 2 people that ________________.
PRINCE: Is your mother living here?
PRINCE: Oh, she came to you. For no bonding, it seems like you were here and now she’s here. So did she come with you at the same time?
KRUCHMAR: No, she came first and I came a couple years later.
PRINCE: What was your grandmother’s first name?
KRUCHMAR: I don’t know
PRINCE: Oh, it was just grandma?
KRUCHMAR: I don’t remember.
PRINCE: And your aunt’s name?
KRUCHMAR: DonJean. Well that was the one that took care of me, DonJean, I never knew his first name. I kid you not. I used to call him uncle, that’s it.
PRINCE: Uncle… do you still have dreams?
PRINCE: Do you still have dreams?
KRUCHMAR: Hmmm, no. I haven’t had them for a long time, no (PAUSE)
PRINCE: What does it take to trust somebody?
KRUCHMAR: I don’t know (LAUGHS). It’s hard for me. I don’t think I’m as bad as I was.
PRINCE: Well let’s talk about when it was more difficult.
KRUCHMAR: (PAUSE) I don’t even understand how that worked. All I know is that I didn’t trust any people, and I had a chip on my shoulder. And that’s all I remember. It’s kind of vague.
PRINCE: Do you believe in god?
KRUCHMAR: Oh yeah.
PRINCE: In a Jewish manner?
KRUCHMAR: I am not following the Jewish faith.
PRINCE: Are you following a particular faith?
KRUCHMAR: Well I was baptized as a Lutheran, and I follow the Baptist Church right now. That goes back along way too because as a child I did understand the Jewish services. For one thing, they were all done in Hebrew where I was, and at the time we went to the temple, two people at a time were going into the temple, and it was an apartment that was converted into a temple, and it was during war conditions, there wasn’t too much, as far as study. (PAUSE) So I never knew too much about my own religion, and (SIGHS) In 1961 I broke down.
PRINCE: You broke down?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, I had a complete breakdown. I met a psychiatrist trying to help me. Nobody could help me. They helped me some. (PAUSE) They couldn’t put me back on my feet. So, after I had my first big relapse, before I had my big relapse, I was asleep, and I used to make a lot of woodcuts, woodcarving. I was making a woodcarving, and all the people had things in front of their mouths, they shouldn’t say anything. And from that, all of a sudden I became aware there was a God in this universe. And it filled me with so much joy, and it lasted for two days, even after I woke up. So after that experience, I became aware there was a God. I went to see a minister ??? church, and he baptized me, and I went to bible class. I’ve always questioned the existence of Jesus, and I’ve always couldn’t understand why he was never accepted from our side of it, and one of things that lead me to believe in his existence as a divine being is reading from the bible from the things that he said. And for me there was no other way out. I felt like I was in this box where there was no escape, and I asked for God to come into my life, and that’s what happened.
PRINCE: And you feel out of the box now?
KRUCHMAR: Well, that’s the only thing that saved me cause I’d still be there if it wasn’t for that. To me it was a miracle that I was in a box with no escape.
PRINCE: What did the
KRUCHMAR: And it seemed to me like fate can be communicated through speaking. This is something you have to feel and experience, and the fact that these people were unable to speak is that this sort of things happen between you and god and people have nothing to do about it.
PRICE: Can Carol tell me about the dreams or would you rather not?
KRUCHMAR: You mean the dreams I had? The dreams had a lot to do with a train. Always rail, so that means that there was something about travel. It was terrible, I find myself in this huge room and I guess feeling of isolation and this twisting and it’s like my soul is being twisted. I mean you dream on end things and you feel like
CAROL: He used to dream he never wanted to see daylight or sunlight.
KRUCHMAR: Oh yeah, when I was going through emotional upheaval I dreamt I didn’t dream that I was awake and I couldn’t sleep much. I wanted to crawl into the earth and dig and let the earth cover me up and I didn’t want to see the sun come up. I was in bad shape.
PRINCE: Do you have children?
PRINCE: Have they experienced any of your memories? Do you tell
CAROL: No, we’ve just been married 4 years. And probably, out of all the men I have known and the pain that Claude has been through, he is by far the most compassionate. The empathy that he can bestow on someone else and his ability to feel someone else’s pain. I think that only comes from him having been himself, be it a different circumstance. But he has this incessant, if that’s the right word, I don’t think Claude knows this but it’s like he needs to devour. He can’t get enough information on the Holocaust and ________his age, being so young.
KRUCHMAR: It’s not that. It’s not that I can’t get enough information. That’s the only way I know how to relive to have some times with my family, it’s a crazy idea.
CAROL: And I see him in such pain, when he watches something especially on cable, he’ll see something on Hitler and you can see the pain, it’s right there. And I want to turn it off and then we get into a battle and I’ve learned just to leave him alone.
KRUCHMAR: The thing that hurts me the most, I don’t know what happened to my father. I wasn’t there when it happened and I didn’t know what happened to my grandmother. So you keep thinking about the horrors that you hear about and I say, I was wondering did they throw him in there when was he still alive or was he dead? My father was a gentle person.
CAROL: You and your mom, have you ever really sat down and communicated with each other and shared this is why I had to do this? There’s never been that between them. And yesterday, we put his mom in the hospital and we don’t know if she’s having a relapse into the war
KRUCHMAR: She’s saying the police are after her
CAROL: Police are after her and so, and this is stuff I’m sure mom has never talked about.
PRINCE: The French police? The Gendarmes?
CAROL: We don’t really know, it’s just the police. She cares about it tremendously
KRUCHMAR: They wanted to destroy her hands and feet.
PRINCE: What about her hands and her feet?
KRUCHMAR: destroy her hands and feet. She told me last night, Ca c’est la planche de _verrez_______ jamais le plein. That’s the end, we’ll never see each other again.
CAROL: and this just happened.
KRUCHMAR: And that’s the way it was back then.
CAROL: She went surrender 3 times yesterday, she went outside, she was told this is what mom, I won’t say magic, but this to her was very real. And now we’re wondering if she isn’t going back into all these years that she’s kept, to my knowledge, she hasn’t talked to anyone, except for maybe Warren, her husband.
KRUCHMAR: The doctors saw us, in this country they don’t do that. If police come after you, they have to have a reason, you go to court before they put you in prison.
PRINCE: She’s back there?
CAROL: That’s kind of what it looks like but I’ve never known, I’ve heard her apologize to him in French only because he’s told me that’s what she said. But as far as them really sitting down saying this is what happened, this is why, there’s been a certain amount of distance, not closeness really ‘til he my mother. And it’s something I’ve kind of pushed on him. Her health was bad and she was in Chicago, and he was so far away.
PRINCE: Did you want to, Claude?
KRUCHMAR: What’s that?
PRINCE: Sit down and talk to her?
KRUCHMAR: To my mother? Well, she’s a little old lady now, she’s a sweet little old lady now. I don’t know what the problem is.
PRINCE: Are you afraid of hurting her?
KRUCHMAR: No, I’m not afraid of hurting her, I wouldn’t hurt her.
PRINCE: No, I mean by talking about it.
KRUCHMAR: I don’t think you want to talk about it right now.
PRINCE: No, I don’t mean now, but I meant in the past.
CAROL: I know when I met you, I didn’t know you had a mom until after we married. I did not know Claude was Jewish.
KRUCHMAR: She’s got a funny way of knowing. Well, she don’t want to talk about, my mom, she’s the one that didn’t want to about it. She didn’t want to talk about it.
PRINCE: Is Carol your friend?
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, we’re pretty good friends.
PRINCE: It seems like it. Does the weather have anything to do with feelings of looking back? Does that remind you if it’s very cold?
KRUCHMAR: Oh yeah. In the cold weather, you better believe it. I remember that because we were barefeet back then. I don’t know what happened, I lost my shoes. We used to walk barefoot all the time, in the snow. In the cold weather, I remember one time I went to Kansas City, I didn’t know anybody, holy Toledo, this stuff hit me like an express train. I had a terrible flashback.
PRINCE: What was it?
KRUCHMAR: Well, I was back over there. It was just being in a strange town not knowing anybody. Then I (PAUSE) I would say the cold weather, it may bring me some bad memories or even the spring, I told you about that, the blooming. If I went somewhere where I saw a lot of wheatfields, that would give me some flashbacks. I remember these wheatfields.
PRINCE: Does standing in line bother you? Or crowds?
CAROL: He cannot stand lines. We were in line yesterday, and he looked at me, he would do anything in his power to get to the front or just totally removed from the situation. He cannot stand. And I don’t know if you are aware of that. So, I have to say, Honey, come on, we’re right here, we can’t do this. I think crowds bother him
KRUCHMAR: Yeah, crowds bother me. We were packed one time in a camp in ____________, Wisconsin and there was a tornado. They packed in that _________ and I about tore walls down to get out of there. They couldn’t pack me in a room like that man. I said, I’ll face the tornado before you pack me in that bunch of people.
CAROL: We also, we were in a restaurant a couple years ago. It was a Wednesday, and what was there, four guys dressed up in Gestapo uniforms?
KRUCHMAR: Oh that really fired me off.
CAROL: I thought he was going to tear that restaurant apart. I didn’t know what was happening.
KRUCHMAR: They were reenacting World War II. I thought I ran across a bunch of guys that they want to be S.S. I would give them a chance to…
CAROL: He was ready to tear them apart.
KRUCHMAR: That really fired me up.
PRINCE: What did you do?
KRUCHMAR: I went up to ask them what the hell is the idea dressed in that uniform. So the guy told me, he said, this is a reenactment. They weren’t themselves.
PRINCE: Did they wonder why you wanted to know?
KRUCHMAR: Oh, they had found out real quick.
PRINCE: Do you ride on trains?
KRUCHMAR: Not since they shipped us to these military camps.
PRINCE: Does it bother you?
KRUCHMAR: I can’t say it did, except I had nightmares about them. That’s all.
PRINCE: Since you saw, at such an early age, so much death in such a horrifying way, how do you handle it today?
KRUCHMAR: How do you mean?
PRINCE: Well in any way, an actual death, or a funeral? (LONG PAUSE)
KRUCHMAR: I don’t know, the last one I went to one.
PRINCE: You have not discussed this with your children, do you feel that any of the effects will filter down to them?
KRUCHMAR: No, I don’t think so. Not from me. I hate any act of cruelty. Oh that really fires me up. I would not stand there and see somebody beat on some innocent person or maybe two, three guys on one, leaving some poor guy helpless. She couldn’t understand that at first. I was in the theatre one time, and I think a couple guys threatened to jump this one guy, remember he got mad, and I was going to protect this guy and make the score even because I don’t like to see anybody brutalize other people. That really fires me up.
PRINCE: Does getting a haircut bother you?
KRUCHMAR: No, I’ve gotten my head shaved more than once.
PRINCE: Have you been back to France?
PRINCE: Do you want to go?
KRUCHMAR: I thought I wanted to go, but I’m afraid what’s going to happen if I go over there.
PRINCE: How do you feel that you came through this?
KRUCHMAR: That’s hard to explain, probably because somebody cared about humanity to do something about it. I really should have been in the camp with my mother. If it wasn’t for this place, I probably would have wound up there.
PRINCE: Do you feel guilty about that?
KRUCHMAR: No, I don’t feel guilty, but I think I was darn lucky that I didn’t wind up there. Can’t understand why she had to go work in a Jewish organization. That was a sure death knell that you were going to go. Why she sent me to a Catholic home and then she winds up in a Jewish orphanage.
PRINCE: Did you know why she did?
KRUCHMAR: I don’t know why she would have done that. That’s not a sign of survival to me.
PRINCE: Maybe it was the only opportunity?
KRUCHMAR: Maybe it was the only opportunity, yeah. That was a hiding place, but that’s one.
PRINCE: Did you have a feeling as a child that things were not going to be ok?
KRUCHMAR: Everything was going to be ok until they caught my father. Then I knew we were in trouble because once they got somebody they got everybody.
PRINCE: Living like that for a year, and being so alone, was there a difference when you got back and you could see something else in your mother.
KRUCHMAR: …suicide, then they get caught. I mean that was going on all the time. You will not see a movie, the lights go on, the Gestapo is running all over the place, and they’d circle the whole theatre and ask anybody for papers. I think that was they’d call them hauf.
KRUCHMAR: Hauf. Hauf. I don’t know what that means, that’s a French word. We knew what it meant in France. You’d be walking down the street, all of the sudden you hear whistles, and these guys would be jumping off truck and they’d surround a whole area, and they’d process people, check papers and all that. They’d just grab certain people and they were gone. They would come in unannounced anytime without warning, didn’t even know where the heck they were coming from. Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord. You see these idiots. They wear these raincoats, you know they try to be like everybody else, but everybody knew they were the Gestapo. Everybody but the Gestapo knew, you know, they were civilians, they were planted everywhere.
PRINCE: Why did they wear those raincoats.
KRUCHMAR: They would check the trains, and they would check the trains to see if people trying to sneak out without permits, without papers.
PRINCE: I know, but you would know who they were.
KRUCHMAR: To some funny reason, everybody knew. As a child, I couldn’t answer that, but all the French people, they could pick out a Gestapo a mile away. And there was something about him that wasn’t French. I don’t know what to tell you. If you go in the Spanish quarters, you’d stick out like a sore thumb, and there was something about the way they walked
KRUCHMAR: …but what they did, they led people to believe they were going to a work camp, and they would solicit teenagers or any young people. I guess they were involved in the Atlantic Wall back then. But the people thought they believed they were going to work camps.
KRUCHMAR: …Well, I had a deal with a cousin of mine. I’ll tell you what happened to him. His name was André, and André was in a prison camp, French prisoner of war, and what happened. André was a funny guy, cause when he was a kid, he used to go to the bathroom in his pants, and they sent him out of school, sent him home. He had all kinds of tricks. So they put him in a prison camp, and he knew how to speak German, so they made him an interpreter. So they gave him a truck, and he used to go to town get supplies, and one day he was gone. Well what happened, he picked the wrong time of year. He swam across the Rhine River in the winter time, and he got on the other side, he was spitting blood, it must have affected his lungs, so a farmer felt sorry for him, picked him up, and nursed him back to his health, took him a year to get back on his feet. First day he set back on Paris, what does he do? He goes back home, but they’re waiting for him. They got him. They sent him back to prison camp. He’s lived, he lived through the war, he was a French police officer.

Tape 2 - Side 2

PRINCE: There’s no explanation for any of this.
KRUCHMAR: At that time, there was no explanation for that. And I feel that, I think that I know for a fact that there is punishment awaiting to those that were responsible, and the only way I was able to, let’s say, put my anger in reverse, cause there was a lot of anger in me for a long time, I was very angry out of everything. And I wanted revenge. And I feel like God will deal with the people in the end when they’re confronted with it, the way they have lived. And I think that I cried for the souls of these thousands (HEAVY SIGH)
PRINCE: For the souls of who?
PRINCE: All those who perished.
KRUCHMAR: (CRYING) These people were innocent people, they didn’t do anything to anybody. (SNIFFLES) (LONG PAUSE) They were gentle people. I just wish they wouldn’t have been so gentle during all of those years, that’s all.
PRINCE: I’ve never heard anyone put it exactly like that.
KRUCHMAR: Your soul just cries for these people because it’s never been resolved. All kinds of countries were involved…and today that’s not a big issue, look at Pol Pot, he did the same thing in Cambodia.
PRINCE: So the things that happen today, you relate the things that happen today back to the Holocaust.
KRUCHMAR: Well, (PAUSES) the memories of what happened are so vivid today, I can feel the pain, I can feel all of that.
PRINCE: Is it part of your daily life?
KRUCHMAR: Not unless I bring it up. The only time it flares is if see something, they show me pictures of these camps, that really flares it up. When you live through this you never forget it. Nobody can understand how you feel because so many people were ripped out of your life, I have no contact with my past. I have childhood and I have nothing, that’s awful. There’s no roots and you have no connection with your family whatsoever. I’m virtually not even a person, you just feel like your whole life has been torn away. You feel the emptiness is there, it’s always there. (PAUSES) Maybe the way I feel is that this has no right to even happen just top of my head, come up and say something like that. There’s no justification for it. This is a stain on human kind that never will be removed from anything. Anybody that’s guilty of prejudice against anybody finds themself in the same boat as these idiots that created this monstrosity. (CRIES, PAUSES) I wonder about the souls of all these people, where do they go? (SIGHS, CRYING)
PRINCE: Do you want to stop now?
PRINCE: You’re asking questions that I don’t know if there’s ever any answers for, sometimes when I got involved in this subject myself and I began to read and it seemed like everybody and their brother was writing about it and asking the same questions and speakers come and they talk about it, and it would make us feel better to think that there was some explanation but there isn’t any, except maybe that people have choices. It’s like you say you can’t stand to see somebody hurting someone else, so you make a choice and you stand up and fight for the person that’s getting done. I would like to thank you.
PRINCE: I would like to thank you

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