Interviewer: … the Jewish community is stretched out.
Levy: stretched out, very much so.
Interviewer: was the synagogue a center?
Levy: Center it was, most probably right in the center.
Interviewer: Physically located in the center?
Levy: Yah, Yah.
Interviewer: But was it also a place where, which you used for Jews to get together on occasions other than the Sabbath day?
Levy: No, No. That was unusual in our community. I imagine in some of the other communities they used it as recreational facilities.
Interviewer: What was the building itself?
Levy: Was a huge beautiful building and uh it was to my estimation one of the nicest synagogues I have seen. It was the home synagogue, that’s all.
Interviewer: How old was the building? When was it erected?
Levy: I would imagine somewhere around 1900.
Levy: Somewhere like that.
Interviewer: So what we are talking about is …
Levy: Maybe before, maybe before 1900.
Interviewer: Huh. That’s rather recent as synagogues in Europe go. Can you remember uh people, your family, talking about the construction?
Levy: No. Uh – that’s the reason it might have been older but, you see my parents came to my home town around 1910, 1912 and it was there already.
Levy: They also had a separate school building which was far removed from the synagogue, in a separate building.
Interviewer: A school building in a different location?
Levy: Yah – where the Jewish kids got their education.
Interviewer: And in Germany in those days it was a government supported Jewish education?
Levy: Yes, Yes. We had a teacher who also worked as cantor and rabbi. He was just the head of the Jewish community.
Interviewer: The name of this city is?
Levy: Is Eschweiler.
Levy: It is in the Rhineland and it’s about 20 miles from Cologne. It’s right on the border of Holland, Belgium and Germany, within five to ten miles of each of the other countries.
Interviewer: What sort of country was it?
Levy: It was industrial and a lot of farming and it’s similar to the outskirts, or similar to the Ozarks – very, very pretty. Cold winds, nice comfortable summers and actually was a rather congenial town.
Interviewer: Well, 97% Catholic meant that there were only two kinds of people.
Levy: No, there were a few Protestants also.
Interviewer: Oh, were there?
Interviewer: Alright, that makes three. What kind of Protestants? Lutheran?
Levy: Yah, they were all Lutheran.
Interviewer: All Lutheran?
Levy: Yah, the Lutheran church. One Protestant church which was Lutheran.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Was that a very old one or rather… ?
Levy: That was pretty old too. It was maybe half a block away from the Synagogue.
Interviewer: Was there any uh relationship between the Jews and the others, other than a business relationship?
Levy: Oh there were some friendships but very, very little.
Interviewer: You stayed apart.
Levy: Oh we stayed apart mostly – except when we went to school. I personally had a lot of gentile friends because I was the only Jew in my class most of the time. And so I had to have gentile friends and they were both Catholic and Protestant.
Interviewer: Your being the only Jew in the class reminds me of Alton, Illinois.
Levy: It is a similar town to Alton. It’s not a city, it’s a small town.
Interviewer: Yeah, 45,000 is not a big city.
Interviewer: And you lived there for how long?
Levy: From 1914 to 1939, early ’39 – no August 39.
Interviewer: You arrived in 1914.
Levy: August 1st, the beginning of World War Two.
Interviewer: And how did you happen to go to Eschweiler?
Levy: Well, my parents bought out a store from someone who retired. And then prospered and…
Interviewer: What kind of a store?
Levy: A small department store.
Interviewer: Oh. And where did they come from?
Levy: They came from … my dad was born and raised in an even smaller town about eight miles from Eschweiler. And my mother was born and raised in a small town about twenty miles from Eschweiler.
Interviewer: How did your parents meet?
Levy: Oh – I don’t know. I think they were introduced or my dad – my mother bought from the firm my dad worked for and I think they were introduced …
Miss Levy: My father was a bookkeeper … (Miss Levy is Hilde Levy, Paul’s younger sister)
Levy: bookkeeper …
Miss Levy: … and accountant.
Levy: … and accountant for where my mother bought. That was not very often discussed (laughing).
Interviewer: So they came to Eschweiler as to a bigger city?
Levy: Yah, they came from Aachan…
Miss Levy: Our father grew up in Aachan…
Levy: … father from Aachan, which was down around 135,000.
Interviewer: Oh, that’s a big city.
Levy: Oh yah.
Interviewer: Oh yes. So from 1914 until you left.
Interviewer: How old were you in 1914?
Levy: I was born in 1914.
Interviewer: Born at that time. So there you were. And just the two children?
Interviewer: Oh. Were you born in the first years of the marriage of your parents?
Levy: My parents were married in 1912, September 1, 1912 and I was born August 1, 1914.
Interviewer: I see. An auspicious day.
Levy: Yah. Very much so. Because Dad left with the German Army on August 2.
Interviewer: The day after?
Interviewer: And what were some of his war experiences?
Levy: He was a prisoner of the Russians, was in a war with the Russians, and he escaped from Russian
prison. He was in Siberia and with two other fellows from the town of Eschweiler they escaped. They made it to Moscow. And from Moscow they made it to …
Miss Levy: Wait no they ….
Levy: No. From Moscow they took trains and all kinds of means to come. (discussing facts with sister – unintelligible) So that was – And I remember him coming home. I was only four years old. He was a little man with a beard and a mustache and I didn’t know who he was.
Interviewer: You still remember at age four, the return of your father.
Levy: That I remember because it happened during the night that he came home.
Interviewer: So it was 1918 that he came home.
Levy: Yah. And Hilde (his sister, Miss Levy) was born in 1919.
Interviewer: So your father and mother – was your mother involved in the store?
Levy: Yah. Very much so. My mother was the soul of the store.
Interviewer: Was she? Was your father very much a Jewish scholar?
Levy: No. No, he was one of the early Zionists in Western Germany.
Interviewer: Ah, yes.
Levy: He went to see Herzl when he was in Colonge the first time. He was a little bit involved there. My father didn’t talk to much. But we found out eventually that he was Zionistically inclined but yet he was a little bit on the shy side.
Miss Levy: My father was also one of the first ones who went to college. He had some college.
Levy: He didn’t go to college … he had high school. (disagreeing with his sister – unintelligible)
Interviewer: Herzl died in 1904.
Levy: Yah. He was a young man. My dad was born in 1835 so he was a young man when he went to see him.
Interviewer: In his 20’s … 1875. Did he go to any of the early Zionist Congress?
Levy: I don’t know. No – Congress I’m sure he didn’t go but there must have been some meeting or something where Herzl spoke and …
Interviewer: Did he speak about any of the other heroes of the early Zionist days? A man named David
Levy: No. My dad was very German so.
Interviewer: By “very German” you mean?
Levy: He … I think I’m a better American than he was a German but he was very German oriented.
Levy: The way he walked and the way he carried himself. As a matter of fact we were, our whole family was in the region of Aachen and I have a photostatic copy of a freibreif. You know what a freibrief is? It’s a letter of the court of Ulisch where they allowed the family of Levy to travel without any hindrances through Germany. I can show you that later on.
Interviewer: Oh, that’s fine. You know one of the things we are doing is setting up a memorabilia center in the new building of the Jewish Federation.
Levy: I’ll donate the photostatic copy of the feebrief!
Miss Levy: The original is in our hometown.
Levy: Was… was. But I’ll donate the photostatic copy of it.
Interviewer: Ah, that’ll be fine. What I’m concerned about now is your life after your childhood.
Levy: Well, I went through high school and became an apprentice in a department store.
Interviewer: What year was that?
Interviewer: So, you were 19…
Levy: 17 years old
Interviewer: In 1931.
Levy: And then after that I got a job as what they call a “volontaire”. It’s more of a junior buyer or something like that.
Interviewer: That started you in your business life.
Levy: No. I liked the business from the way my parents had it. Like any – nice Jewish boy was supposed to take over the parent’s business. My parents, as a matter of fact, discouraged me from becoming a merchant. They wanted me to become a doctor. Which I didn’t want… I wasn’t too much of a scholar – I had the brains for it but I was too darn lazy to study that much so…
Interviewer: Do you remember in your high school days before you actually got out and went into business, do you remember uh anything about the atmosphere of your Eschweiler at that time.
Levy: Yes. It was very congenial up until about 1929 I would say. And then when Hitler started getting stronger, certain people excluded me from certain activities. Naturally, it was much worse by the time ’33 came along.
Interviewer: So, from age 15 you remember…something special about a change in atmosphere.
Levy: Yes, fifteen, yes. Oh definitely, certain fellows that were in school with me kept themselves away from me.
Interviewer: You are a tall man, did you engage in any athletics in those days?
Levy: No. I played some soccer but that was about it.
Interviewer: Uh huh – Did you have a …
Levy: That’s about all I participated in. I didn’t really participate in athletics, I wasn’t much of an athlete.
Interviewer: Do you remember the days when the youth corp of the Nazi’s started there?
Levy: Unfortunately, yes.
Interviewer: What years were they?
Levy: Well they started actually about 1927,’ 28, ‘29.
Interviewer: Before Hitler…
Levy: Yah, before Hitler came into power, but they were more or less kept away from the public. Until they were brave enough … when he was powerful enough they were brave enough to march with him and participate in all the organizational doings.
Interviewer: But they were organized?
Levy: Oh definitely, absolutely.
Interviewer: Do you think they were also organized in all the other little towns?
Interviewer: Did you also have a growing sense of the Nazi party as becoming stronger and stronger.
Levy: Oh yah, sure. There was certain girls … I liked girls even when I was young … certain girls kept away from Jewish fellows and something very unusual happened to me. There was a girl, a very beautiful blonde girl. Her father was Jewish, her mother was Gentile. And she looked like true Aryans, and we were very friendly, and she walked me to the station every night. And it was in the Nazi paper, Westdeutscher Beobachter, that a Jew had the guts to walk every night with a Gentile girl. They didn’t know who she was. And they tried to create some difficulty for me. And also in 1931 I was one of the first ones, supposedly, to get into the concentration camp. They had marked on the wall “Heil Hitler”, and I was a smart alec so I put at “t” behind it “Heilt Hitler”, which meant “Save Hitler”. So they found out that I did it but a friend of mine who’s brother was the equivalent of a SS General, he saved me from going. And he came to our house ‘til the day we left.
Interviewer: So that you knew about concentration camps?
Levy: Oh yes. Absolutely.
Interviewer: So did everybody – it was no secret was it?
Levy: It was no secret, absolutely not. I mean they denied that they knew about it but there was enough going on in order for them to know what was happening.
Interviewer: Did you know about exact locations?
Levy: No, at that time I didn’t.
Interviewer: We’re talking about from 1914 when you were born, for the first 17 years there was a gradual growth of the Nazi party through your high school days…
Levy: From ’23 on you could see it – how they got stronger because I remember a lot of Jewish people … the majority of them belonged to the Social Democratic Party or were close to the Social Democratic Party. And they bought the Nazi paper every month and laughed about. “It cannot happen here.” But it did happen and it can happen anyplace else.
Interviewer: Of course. Did your parents talk about it as something very seriously or did they think it was a passing fancy?
Levy: They thought it was a passing fancy. Number one – my dad had the Iron Cross First Class , and he figured that they can’t touch him, or they won’t touch him. And they were pretty well established, so they didn’t feel – especially my dad didn’t feel – that they had to get until about 19 … I would say 1934, when my mother and I started actually stealing money from ourselves out of the cash register in order to get out of Germany to have a small foundation to emigrate eventually.
Interviewer: How did you do that?
Levy: Well, there were … number one we had some very faithful employees who did it for a long time until it got to where there were some Jews who did it professionally, for a fee. And not all of them was delivered to the party it was paid to be delivered to.
Interviewer: In your case, what was your plan of salvaging the money?
Levy: Well, it was to some friends of ours in Holland who turned most of it over – whatever they had left – they turned it over.
Interviewer: When later you arrived in Holland they turned it over.
Levy: Yah. From Germany I went to England first and I was in England for a year and ten months. I worked in London for a while. I was a fire fighter during the blitz, you know. And then everybody was supposed to join the Pioneer Corps and I said “No gun, no army”, so I didn’t join the Pioneer Corps but I became a lumber jack in Lenimgton Pack, Wilshire. I wasn’t too much of a lumber jack, I will say (laughing).
Interviewer: You’re not the outdoor type.
Levy: No, not – that’s hard work, don’t kid yourself. And I worked there for maybe two, three months for a pittance. No way to live, we slept on mattresses – on springs, not on mattresses. Had to do our own cooking and at the time I think we were paid 15 dollars – no, 15 shillings a week. So we had to make do with what we had.
Interviewer: We will get to your experiences in England, but I’m very curious about the time when from 1931 there was a rise in Nazi power, and in ’33, he came in. He took over. And then you said, “until 1934”, one year later. What was the actual day of y our exit?
Levy: My exit – I got out late. They deported me to the Dutch border. I got out of the concentration camp the middle of January …
Interviewer: How did you happen to get into the concentration camp?
Levy: I was Jewish. After the Crystal Night, after they burned….
Interviewer: November …
Levy: November ‘38
Interviewer: But that was ’38.
Levy: Yah – and I stayed in the concentration camp …
Interviewer: Which concentration camp?
Levy: Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen. Near Berlin.
Interviewer: Yes. How far away from home was that?
Levy: It was a far piece at the time – I would say about 400 miles.
Interviewer: It really was a new world for you, totally. What were the circumstances of your being taken? Were your parents still in good health and all?
Levy: Oh yah – my parents were in good health. In the Crystal Night we woke up, the time they started breaking all the windows.
Interviewer: In the synagogue.
Levy: In the synagogue and all private homes and stores.
Interviewer: Private homes too.
Levy: And in the morning we were told by our employees that they were looking for all the male Jews. So we were hiding in the cellar.
Interviewer: Was that a startling change? Or had there been some …
Levy: There had been some inkling. Oh Yah – there had been some inkling. One of my better friends stood in front of our store many a day to boycott … to ask people to boycott Jewish stores.
Interviewer: One of your friends stood in front?
Levy: Yah. So called friend.
Interviewer: Yes. He knew you and how long did that go on before Crystal Night?
Levy: Oh, that was in ’33.
Interviewer: Then this was five years before Crystal Night?
Levy: Oh yah – it actually got worse and worse and worse.
Interviewer: The Nuremberg laws came in in 1935.
Levy: ’35, where you couldn’t have any more Gentile household help.
Levy: Where you couldn’t associate with Gentiles and no movies, no concerts, no theatre, no nothing. It got gradually worse.
Interviewer: Was there anything abrupt in change or was it gradual?
Levy: I think it was more gradual except in uh, I think it was the 30th of January of ’33, when he took power and …
Levy: That’s when it really started getting bad.
Interviewer: When did your parents know it was all over?
Levy: I guess in 1938. They didn’t want to see it. I had applied for emigration to the United States.
Levy: ’36 or ’37. And at the same time without my dad’s knowing I also put in for emigration for my parents and Hilde. But their number you know, was on quota numbers. Their number was a little higher than mine.
Interviewer: You did it without their knowledge?
Levy: Without my dad’s knowledge, yah.
Interviewer: He did not uh …
Levy: He didn’t feel like it – he felt comfortable, not comfortable but he felt he was older already. In 1937 he was 62 years old already. And he felt the few years he has to live he had – he was rather substantial, and he felt he didn’t want to start over in anymore in a foreign country.
Interviewer: Now, you developed a secret plan by which you could get some of your money out.
Interviewer: Into Holland.
Interviewer: Your parents were never party to such …
Levy: My mother was, dad was not.
Interviewer: Your mother knew it?
Interviewer: Did she keep it from your father?
Interviewer: So that until the last, he didn’t know?
Levy: No, he had an inkling that something was going on because the cash register didn’t shake out too well (laughing) many a time. And then he finally asked me one day, and I said “yes”. He wasn’t too happy about it but later on he was glad we did.
Interviewer: How did you know he was glad you did it?
Levy: He got out.
Interviewer: He got out? Who got out with you?
Levy: I got out by myself. Hilde and my parents got out in 1941.
Interviewer: Oh – that was very late.
Levy: What we had done – we had a cousin in Argentina. And through him we made contact and I got them an emigration – a possibility for emigration as farmers to Argentina through bribery. And the one that was being bribed was the Cousul General in Dusseldorf who took money hand over fist from not only us but everybody we knew. At the time we tried to get papers for maybe eight or nine more relatives of ours. We wanted to get them all out.
Interviewer: Did you need affidavits from your Argentinian …?
Levy: Oh for with money you can buy them! In Argentina anything is available for money.
Interviewer: But your cousin was a blood relative?
Interviewer: And he signed …
Levy: He signed and got signatures from others they would be, that they were farmers.
Interviewer: Did your parents have a concentration camp experience too?
Levy: My parents and Hilde went into a pre-concentration camp that I would consider a concentration camp.
Levy: Outside of Eschweiler.
Interviewer: Oh, right there?
Levy: The day they left, the rest of them were sent to Theresienstadt, so we’re very very fortunate that … If it happened a day later they wouldn’t have made it out.
Interviewer: What were the circumstances of their being taken?
Levy: I don’t know. Hilde could tell you more about that.
Interviewer: How about yourself? You were long since gone?
Levy: I was gone. I was gone. I left three days before the war broke out, officially broke out.
Levy: 1939. And I went there for two days to Holland to visit a girlfriend of mine, and then the Dutch government made me leave for England.
Interviewer: Which by then you had recovered some money…
Levy: I had recovered some money and I took that and I deposited it in England. But the funny thing is that the first bomb of the war fell in Eschweiler. And they came to my parents house and accused them that I was the instigator of dropping the bomb, which I wasn’t. Later on, I gave information and the town was bombed – there were certain industries that were rather important to the war effort.
Interviewer: Such as what? Do you remember?
Levy: They had electrical works, they had mining there. Surface mining, a lot of surface mining, and they had some other …
Interviewer: For coal?
Levy: Yah. And they had some iron works that were rather important.
Interviewer: What was the name of the company that controlled the iron works?
Levy: The iron works was F.A. Neumann, B.M.B.R., and the other one was Electrowerk Amerika-Weisweiller, and I don’t know the name of the mining operation anymore.
Interviewer: Was, were all four of you – your sister and your parents – constantly planning as to what to do?
Levy: Oh yah. Oh yah.
Interviewer: So that it was decided that you would be the first to leave…
Levy: No, I had the first number and I was told when I came out of the concentration camp that I’d better leave.
Interviewer: You were taken at night to that concentration camp?
Levy: No. We were not taken right away to the concentration camp. You were taken to the next bigger city where it was like a gathering point and from there after two or three days you were put on the train and sent to the concentration camp.
Interviewer: Did you receive special clothing there at the concentration camp?
Levy: Oh yah – absolutely.
Interviewer: What kind?
Levy: I had an old worn out army jacket and a pair of navy and grey pants. Typical, with the star on there and a number.
Interviewer: Did you have to have to sew the star on yourself?
Levy: I think we did. It might have … somebody might have been killed before and it might have been on there. I don’t, that I don’t recall.
Interviewer: Was it a large camp?
Levy: Well, my number was 13,069, so there were quite a few of them in there.
Interviewer: What sort of barracks were there?
Levy: Well, they were like army barracks, like we had them in the American Army except when we had maybe 20 people in here in the army, we had about 400 in there.
Interviewer: So that you slept close to each other.
Levy: Close is not even the word for it. There were two tiers on straw and limited washing facilities, limited toilet facilities. And I don’t even know whether we took a shower anymore or not.
Interviewer: How long were you there?
Levy: From approximately the thirteenth of November ’38 to the middle or end of January ’39.
Interviewer: So three days after Crystal Night you were taken. And yet you said that everybody hid in the cellars.
Levy: Yah. Until they came into the individual houses and took you along. And we were very fortunate since my parents were so well liked and well respected, they were fairly – ah – nice to us – if you can call it nice.
Interviewer: They only took you though?
Levy: No, they took dad the first day too, but at the time anybody over 60 was to be released, and my dad was released.
Interviewer: To return home.
Interviewer: So you went alone to the camp arriving there how long after?
Levy: Must have been between 24 and 36 hours.
Interviewer: You went to a gathering place, and then were shipped on.
Levy: Yah. Yah.
Interviewer: What kind of train was it?
Levy: It was a regular train but it was slightly overcrowded.
Interviewer: Uh – huh.
Levy: I mean I was in a regular compartment. With very limited seating facilities so we had to make room. We sat one side and another sat, some of them were in the overhead luggage compartment. It was not a very pleasant trip.
Interviewer: Four hundred miles.
Interviewer: And then you were … do you remember the day of arrival?
Levy: I don’t know the date but I remember the day of arrival when the SS was there as a greeting committee. And they sorted us out.
Levy: Well, if you got kicked from the right you were in ?? and if you got kicked from the left you better went some where else. And it so happened, there was one SS man there at the welcoming committee who knew me. It didn’t help me too much – it might have helped me I don’t know – but uh, I was fortunate I guess.
Interviewer: What did you do for all those days?
Levy: Oh, we worked.
Interviewer: Doing what?
Levy: We were supposed to be working in a brick manufacturing plant but the brick manufacturing plant was being utilized as a armament plant. And it was so cold that a lot of us got frostbite. And I was supposed to lose both my hands, and I still got the mark on the one hand. And very little medication. You could only get medication by bribery. And there again I was fortunate. I found out somebody – and I don’t know where – had sent 400 marks which was at the time a lot of money – into my account there. And it was handed over to me, 25 or 50 marks at a time. And I went and bought a lot of fat bacon and cigarettes because fat bacon and butter were the things that we felt were going to give us the most strength and recuperative power. And I distributed that among my friends.
Interviewer: Amazing that you’d had money.
Levy: I always had money on me, but somehow somewhere somebody sent, deposited or whatever you want to call it, 400 marks, which was a lot of money at that time, into my account. I drew from that. And we could buy that stuff in the canteen operated by the SS. The prices were a little bit high, but if you had that kind of money at the time, because the majority had five or ten marks on them – that was a lot of money.
Interviewer: Indeed it was. How lucky for you!
Levy: I would say so.
Interviewer: And you still don’t know how you got the money?
Levy: No. I suspect it was a former employee of ours who might have done that, who was our second mother – both Hilde’s and my second mother, and one who is still alive. And that is one of the reasons whenever we have gone to Europe we spend a day or two with her.
Interviewer: Where is she now?
Levy: In Eschweiler, she is still in Eschweiler.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Levy: And I must say, not that I’m in love with the Germans, but our part of Germany was far more lenient towards the Jews than in ?? or in East Germany. I would say if they – because the loss of Jews in our part of the country was not as high as it was in certain parts of Germany. And I just got two letters, or two announcements today, from a friend of mine, a Gentile friend of mine, who died about four weeks ago. And those people were big farmers and they supplied the Jews with food without anybody knowing it. They bought eggs or butter and delivered it through somebody else who delivered it through somebody else who was special to my parents – who then distributed again. And uh, I hate to say this but it is the truth – that not all Germans in our part of Germany were Nazis. Because otherwise the majority of them would not have come out. I mean I’m not in love with the Germans, don’t misunderstand that, but there were an awful lot of decent Catholics and Protestants that helped the Jews, whether financially or with food or hiding them.
Interviewer: Would you say that about the clergy there? The Priests, the Lutheran ministers?
Levy: We didn’t have any contact with the priests at all. There was a Catholic professor in our high school who was more than nice. And there was a Protestant teacher who also taught religion who was more than nice.
Interviewer: So that on the whole it was a happy place for Jews to live.
Levy: In general, up until Mr. Hitler got too rambunctious.
Levy: And there again, the main Nazis at that time and all the time I was there were the unemployed – the ones that didn’t want to work and the scum.
Interviewer: But everybody recognized them for what they were.
Levy: Sure. And yet after they had so many of them and they all carried guns, or machine guns or whatever they had, there was no way a lot of those people doing anything. As a matter of fact, I can tell you another story from the big Nazi. He was the Austruppenleiter. He was in charge of the city Nazi party. When I was in the concentration camp he sent a report to my parents every night how I was doing.
Interviewer: What a wonderful thing … and such an extraordinary thing!
Levy: The last time I was in Germany this friend that just died is his cousin, was his cousin. And I told him to tell him for me I still thank him for it. Because he didn’t have and he endangered his own life. So maybe we have a thing going for us.
Interviewer: Very lucky, very lucky.
Levy: I would say so.
Interviewer: How long were you in Oranienburg?
Levy: Well, from – I would say from about the thirteenth of November to the middle or end of January.
Interviewer: How did you get out?
Levy: Money talks.
Interviewer: That 400 marks that you had?
Levy: No, not that. My parents. Through connections and through money, my parents.
Interviewer: Tell me about these connections.
Levy: Well, not financial, but there were a lot of friends my parents had that had some influence. And then at that time you didn’t necessarily need connections – as many connections as people thought they needed – if you had an exit visa. Or a visa, or papers to come to England or to the States. They released you at that time.
Interviewer: You were permitted to leave until about 1941. So that this is now 1938 that you are talking about and with an exit visa – which you already had acquired …
Levy: No, I got mine …
Interviewer: After you got out?
Levy: After I got out of the concentration camp. I had applied for the papers for the States.
Interviewer: First let’s talk about how you got out. You simply walked out because …
Levy: They called you in the morning, so many per day. And you were reissued your own clothes which were cleaned. You were issued the money that was left in balance there and you were …
Interviewer: Do you remember how much it was at that time?
Levy: I don’t know what I had left, maybe 150 or something like that.
Interviewer: Still a substantial sum.
Levy: As a matter of fact – yah – I took another friend from my hometown. I paid for his train ticket and for the food to take him home with me. And I gave another one, the third one – I gave him some money to travel any way he could.
Interviewer: Three of you left at once.
Levy: Yah. And we were told never to tell anybody where we were or what it was like in there. And the day I left Germany to cross the border from Holland, the border police had already departed and the SS had taken over. And I come to the, Hilde went with me to the border, and I walked across sand there and there was a big tall – he looked like he was twelve feet tall – SS man and he says “I know you.” I said “Well you might have, this friend of mine Carl Roisener”, I said, “I was in his house many a time and his brother …” (I didn’t say he was a no good so and so) “… he was SS General and you might have seen me in the house.” Even this guy at the border crossing was very nice to me. He went and brought me a glass of water, and he found a knife, about a six inch knife which I still have. And he said “What do you want to do with that?”, I said “ Well, you couldn’t kill me. If I can’t make a living I can do it myself.” And he says “You won’t have to worry about it.”
Interviewer: You walked across the border.
Levy: I walked across the border. Then I had trouble getting into Holland because it was already so close to war and I mentioned the name of a Jewish friend of mine in Holland. Right in that town, in the border town of ??, and he called him and he came and picked me up and took me to Holland. And I stayed there a couple hours and I went to the train or bus, I don’t even recall anymore.
Interviewer: What day was this that you left?
Levy: It must have been somewhere near the 24, 25 or 26 of August.
Interviewer: August. Just about a week before the war started.
Levy: Yah, Yah. And I went to my girlfriend’s house and I had to …
Levy: In Arnheim, Holland.
Interviewer: Arnhum … Arnheim.
Levy: Yes. And I had to report there to the authorities and they came and they told me the next day I had to leave. They put me on a troop train to Flushing.
Interviewer: Where’s that?
Levy: In Holland, at the ?? of Holland. And we took a boat from there to England.
Interviewer: Did you have permission to enter?
Levy: I had, I had (laughing) money.
Interviewer: You mean you bribed…
Levy: No, we had a thousand dollar deposit – uh, a thousand pound deposit.
Interviewer: In England?
Levy: Yah, which I had sent already.
Interviewer: With whom did you send it? Did you put it in a bank or….
Levy: I think we put it in a bank, or somebody from Holland – I don’t recall anymore but I know that I had a thousand pound deposit which was a lot of money in those days.
Interviewer: Oh yes. Was that part of the little by little by little plan?
Levy: Yah. Yah.
Interviewer: So some of your money went to Holland and some went to London.
Levy: London, and I finally took all of it to London and I sent it to my parents later on.
Interviewer: Where were they? In Argentina?
Levy: No – they got out the day I landed in Lyons.
Interviewer: When was that?
Levy: August 11, 1941
Interviewer: Oh. So you were in England for less than two years?
Levy: Yah. The minute I got into New York and I had seventeen dollars on me, the first … a girlfriend of mine picked me up and took me to 90th street where she had rented a room for me, and I went right away to Western Union, and I sent my parents a telegram. “Arrived New York. What can I do for you?” They were handed that telegram the minute they were getting into the Taxi to Argentina.
Levy: From Eschweiler.
Interviewer: They were in Eschweiler?
Levy: They were in Eschweiler until ’41. And they were handed the telegram, brought by carrier or something like that. And they were already in a cab to go to the train station, and the guy hands them the telegram that says “Arrived New York. What can I do for you?”
Interviewer: They were on their way to Argentina?
Levy: Yah. And they went from Eschweiler to Berlin and then onto one of those cattle trains from Berlin to France into Spain and Hilde had some nasty experiences there. And from Spain, on one of those hunger ships to Argentina. And I hadn’t heard from them, I don’t know for how long.
Interviewer: But they had your 90Th street address?
Levy: No, they had an address of a cousin of mine who gave the affidavits for us to come to New York, not even a cousin, she’s maybe a fourth cousin.
Levy: (To his sister) Hilde – get me some cigarette’s please, will you? And …