LISE GRAF WORKED IN GERMANY FOR THE FRENCH RESISTANCE AND THE AMERICAN OSS.
Lise Graaf 12 Oct. 05
Tell me where you were born.
A large family?
No, I am the only one. My father was a dentist surgeon in Strasbourg.
Were you living in the centre of the city?
Yes, just in front of the cathedral. From my window, I saw the cathedral.
It was a happy childhood?
Oom, yes. Ah hah. Childhood is a very nice time you know; very interesting & I was going to school & yes, very nice. And so what?
Tell me what it was like growing up in France then. You were sent to school..
I went to school until the end of the studies & then the war was declared.
So how old were you when you left school?
I didn’t leave school – the war was declared & I had not finished the second part of my baccalaureate, so Strasbourg was completely evacuated because when the war started & Strasbourg was a town located just in front of Germany – 4km from Germany, so all the people were asked to leave Strasbourg so Strasbourg was not a town any more; no-one was living in town hmm? So we had a country house & I was going to school in Ribeauvillais (?) a very nice village in the middle of the wine country & then I finished the first degree & the second degree I couldn’t do it because we were invaded – we lost the war at that time. So Alsace was invaded & not only invaded; Alsace was annexed to Germany because they consider that Alsace & Lorraine belonged to Germany, ok? So at that time it was forbidden for all Alasatians to speak French.
You had to speak German?
Everything was becoming German. The streets had German names etcetera. We had to live in a certain fear because the Gestapo was installed in Strasbourg..
Did you go back to Strasbourg once ..
Yes, everybody came back; the people which remain in Alsace, they come back to Strasbourg; the ones in the south of France – most of them didn’t come back; the youngest didn’t come back because the Germans asked the Alsatians to enter the army. If you didn’t accept, your family was reported to the camp (?). They had no choice. But this was known & that’s the reason why many – like the brother of my friend – didn’t come back, than God. The most who came back to Strasbourg started to live again, but under the German power.
Before the war started, can you remember talk of the rise of Hitler & the rise of Nazism?
Of course. We saw it. We knew. It was 38 when Eden spoke with Hitler & ? & Hitler promised not to enter Alsace. 39 war was declared & so we knew very well about it. I was sent to Germany in 38 to speak better German & we should make an exchange with a German girl. She could come to France & I was going to Germany & I was in this family.
Where were they?
I don’t remember exactly ..ahh yes! It was in Nuremburg. This family was very anti-semitic; very Hitler. The man was a friend of Goebbles & they said to me â€œYou know we will re-conquer Alsace-Lorraine. I was very young. I called my parents & said â€œI don’t want to stay one minute more with this family.
Because they were all Nazis?
Yes, but my mother said â€œYou cannot do this. I said â€œI am going to do it. I took my luggage & left them..
Did they think it was strange that you left?
No, I said I wanted to go home & they had nothing to say. I came back to Strasbourg & what was very strange was when we lost the war, the boy who was in this family came to see my parents & he said to them â€œYou see? We re-conquered; I told your daughter & we have re-conquered. Then I went to finish my degree & I did it in German, in Strasbourg.
What were you studying?
It was part of the Baccalaureate; the second part. There are 2 parts to the Baccalaureate which are considered all over the world – French & German – very good. Latin was our dictionary – imagine! So, ok, I got it & I said I cannot stay in Alsace because I could not accept the Germans. What could I do? In Alsace we had no resource (?) like they had – we were completely cut off with France. I said I must find something so I asked..because I had what do you say.anyway, being Alsatian I could stipulate..you will see it on the papers I’ve given you. I said I want to go & see some French prisoners & they said yes. So I visited French prisoners because a friend of mine was a prisoner in Germany, so I came to see them & I said if they wanted to escape I give them my address & I started to do ?? myself because I was completely alone; I didn’t know what to do.
Where were your parents?
In Strasbourg; thank God they didn’t know.they shouldn’t know.I said I must have a show..I wanted to be an actress, so I had the diploma of the French Conservatoire so I said I am going to ??? & I will ask to be a student at the German Conservatoire in Karlsruhe – So I had a reason & I was living in a German family; like their children.
And your friend who was in prison, he was in prison in Karlsrhue?
No, in an other camp.I don’t remember the name. So I said to them, â€œI am in Germany; if I can help you I can even help to bring you to Alsace & across the border. It didn’t happen because one day some French man came to see me. It was a Pierre Dupont a consul of France & I found this very strange. I said â€œWhat are you doing in Germany? He said to me â€œWhen the American embassy was shut in North Africa by the Americans, the Americans entered the French zone, which was a free zone in the South of France & they kept the American embassy & they put them in a hotel Anyway, they needed somebody who was representing France so they asked Pierre Dupont, who had been consul in Chicago, to represent the American embassy in Baden-Baden. So I was astonished about his visit & I said â€œHow did you know? He said â€œI have spoken to French workersI had to work with French workers to go back because they had been requested by the Germans – even the French .not even Alsacians. France was occupied & Alsace Lorraine was ??? But our national identity was not German. He said to me â€œI’ve talked to the French people & they do know you. I said â€œVoila! Because I’d said to the French workers â€œIf I can help you, you come & see me & I’ll try.. So I tried. So he said to me â€œI am representing the American embassy & working for the OSS & I would like you to help us. I said â€œOK!
Were you excited to be asked?
Very excited; very pleased.
Because right from the start you wanted to do something.
I intended to do something so it was a gift of God that this man came to see me.
I am unsure about how he found you. I know you’ve just explained butas well as studying to become an actress, you were also working?
No, I was studying in Karlsrhue at the Conservatoire, like a student, but I tried to meet the French people; the French men who were being taken by the Gestapo & sent to Baden-Baden & Karlsrhue & I met some of them through an Alsacian friend of mine..
They were doing work for the Germans?
Yes, of course they were working for the Germans in Germany & I said to them â€œIf you want to go back to France, I can help you; you just get in touch with me & I’ll try to bring you to Strasbourg – over the mountains. I didn’t go over the mountains, but I knew somebody who helped me & helped the French to go back to France.
How did you know these people who could do that?
Because of a relation; friend; who knew one & said to me..and voila! He gave me the name of the French man who I knew & I was talking with him & I said OK. So he said to me we need an excuse because the American embassy is controlled by the Gestapo & I can go out but they cannot go out because they are prisoners in their own embassy; a nice prison; a very nice apart-hotel in Germany it’s true. So he explained to me that Cassidy (?) was the attachÃ© who was there & he wanted to escape & go back to France & second he said to me â€œYou can travel through Germany without the control; no problem. If you can help us & tell us where the armyhow you say..to shoot the planes.
Anti aircraft guns.
Oui, c’est ca & you can look at where are the trains going & armamentsvoila c’est ca. So I said ok, so I travelled a lot & I looked; I did what I could & then I had to prepare the escape of Cassidy out of Germany – Germany Alsace – Alsace France. So a friend of mine who was a doctor, he was asked by the Germans to work in Germany. He was a friend of my family & a good friend of mine & I said to him – he was arrested – I was explaining to him what I’m explaining to you & he said â€œOK, we can manage this. I will take Cassidy when he is going out.. because they had the possibility to go out but surveyed by the Gestapo. Anyway he said we must do a plan when he goes out he has a car, being a doctor, we can take him, but in the meantime..one day, somebody asked to see me, was a French man & he said to me voila.in the cafÃ© he asked me.. because I have been gaining some information, he asked me to make a letter with numbers to bring it to the American embassy in Switzerland. He said I will give you a letter one day ?? this is a little dis-ordered..so one day I had a visit from a French man..ahhmy Alsacian friends who wanted to go back to France to because you know these were French boys; young men were leaving Alsacethe family could have been deported – that’s the reason most of them didn’t go, especially the ones were at the age to go into the German army because all the friends of mine of my age were incorporated into the German army. Sent to Russia.
Presumably you lost lots of friends?
Yes to Russia; not to the honour (?) of Franceyou can stop it because I want to rememberthis is very disorganised..so he wanted to take Cassidy across the border with him so all the papers had to be sent before to France. Bon! So this man came to see me & said â€œVoila! I’m working for the Resistance & if I could help you in a certain way I said â€œWhy not? How do you know me? He said â€œWhy not? I made a little trick for him to see if he was serious..I was a bit suspicious – more than a bit, so I said to him â€œDr Boulay (?) he wants to have the papers sent to France. Can you do it? He said â€œYes, I can do it. So I gave him the papers & the papers got to France.
So he was ok?
He was ok. The job was done. So he came again & I said â€œThank you very much. He said â€œIf you need anything else, you can always call me. And this was a stupid thing I did, when Cassidy gave me the paper with all the information I had given to him & other the people had given to him too, I called this man Chavan (?) & I said I want to ask you if you can eventually send the papers I am going to give you to the American embassy in Switzerland? He said â€œNo problem because my cousin is living in a little town next to the border & he will cross the border & bring the papers to the embassy. But I was a little suspicious so when I had the paper I gave him an appointment in Heidelburg which was a town out of Baden-Baden; out of Karlsrhue. So I was in the train & I was looking around me & I gave him a rendezvous in the restaurant in the hall of La Gare; the train station& I had the paper in my hand like this & I was still a little suspicious so when I saw him, I shake hands with him & I had the paper in my hand & he took the paper & at this moment I felt something – something in his eye was like a bit sort of..& I said â€œI must take it back; something is wrong. Then, this is where I’m stupid, he said â€œNo, you are anxious; it’s not your character; you’re making ideas..
It’s you’re imagination?
No, not imagination, not really, but maybe you are afraid & voila! And I did do it ??? DIDN’T DO IT (I can’t make out whether she did take them back or she didn’t) and I took the train back to Baden-Baden. The 3 days later when I was at the conservatoire in Karlsrhue, 2 men came I think for me – Gestapo & then I knew.
Chavan had betrayed you?
Yes. So they took me to the prison first & voila. The 2 days later in prison in a cell alonevoila..horror.
Were you frightened?
A little – not really. I was expectingI am not crying before.
To be doing resistance work – you could be shot for that; killed for that.
Yes, but I do not cry before.
I wonder when you first decided to do resistance work, was that a difficult decision?
No it was something I had to do. I had to do. You cannot accept the situation so you must do something against it. I said voila! I must enter the resistance; I must fight the Germans. This was war!
But you never spoke to your parents about this?
Just to go back a bit – before the war – were your parents at all political? Were they worried about the war?
They were against Germany, naturally.
They never consider moving into France, away from..
They could not.
Before the war I mean?
Why before? We were living in Strasbourg for centuries; why should we want to move? The Alsacians were French. Why should they? No! No! When war was declared, we had a house in the country so they went there.
Was that far from Strasbourg?
60 kms south from Strasbourg near ??
And you would go there for weekends & holidays?
Yes, every weekend & occasionally my parents came back to Strasbourg & they remained in Strasbourg..
They didn’t get involved in resistance work?
No! You could not in Alsace get involved in resistance work because you were in Germany; you were not in France.
You made the decision to do something about it?
I made the decision by myself.
So your parents didn’t..
No, but thank God they did not know because they would have been scared & it’s better that you do not know because you might speak orI told them at school I was on bad terms with my parents; I say I don’t see my parents any more because they like the Germans; I was lying.
In order to protect them?
Of course; I had to do it; it’s normal. So where was I.
You were arrested..
By the Gestapo.
You knew who they were immediately?
Oh of course.
Were they in uniform?
No..they said Mademoiselle Graaf & I knew it. The director of the Conservatoire – he was very sad. He was standing behind them..so I was put in a cell alone bien sur. Dangerous; dangerous & then I had to leave the Gestapo so I had to see the director of the Gestapo..
And where were they?
In the prison?
No I had been taken out of the prison & brought to the Gestapo.
By car or truck?
Yes, after I had spent 2 nights in a cell.
Was there a window?
Yes, a little window with bars very high up.
Was there a bed?
A bed, a table & a little ..for the toilet..like a bowl.
That was it?
What did you think about? 2 days is a long time if you have nothing to do.
I was thinking that I was in danger; maybe I would die.
Were you scared or sad?
Not really. I was not sad; I was waiting.
Yes. I told you – I do not cry before I am beaten. I was not beaten so I do not cry. I will cry afterwards, not before. If you cry before, you are losing your strength. You’d better not cry, & wait.
So you knew you had an ordeal facing you?
I knew. I knew that I was on the border of death.
And that you were going to be interrogated?
Voila, yes. I that was to be scared about but not now; not immediately. I said I will meet the Gestapo & I shall see what will happen.
Try not to think too much..
No, no I was expecting.I thought maybe I have a chanceI don’t know.
You were 19 in 1943?
Yes, so I met the director of the Gestapo in Karlsrhue. He was speaking French.
Do you remember his name?
I’m not sure, no. He started to talk with me & he tried to speak with me correctly, you know? He said â€œCan you tell me your story? I said â€œWhat story? Why am I arrested? He said â€œYou know exactly why you’re arrested. I said â€œNo, you tell me why I am arrested? Maybe Chavan could have been arrested. I was not sure he was a traitor; that he was an agent. He said â€œYou don’t know why you’ve been arrested? I said â€œNo – because I speak French & I meet French people etc. He said â€œI will tell you. You have given a message to Monsieur Chavan & Monsieur Chavan has been arrested at the border when he was trying to cross the border to go to Switzerland; vraiment. I said â€œ No, I haven’t given Chavan any letter. He said â€œOk, let’s ask Chavan. He came in, in handcuffs. He was not in good shape.
Had he been beaten up?
No – he was unshaven. I said to him â€œMonsieur Chavan, how can you say I have given you letters? It’s a lie. He said â€œYes, you have given me letters. We met in Heidelburg etc. â€œNo, I have met you in Heidelburg & ok you have some papers from my friend which is not a crime etc. You are lying. All of a sudden I had an idea. I said â€œYou are lying because you said to me .you were making court to me & I rejected you & you are revenging that, & so you lied. Maybe somebody gave you a letter but I didn’t give you a letter. You said to me you’d revenge me because I didn’t like you. And they took him away & they didn’t know what to do any more. The Gestapo commander said â€œWill you explain this to me? I said â€œHe was making court to me..
Making advances to you?
Yes & I didn’t like him & he was really furious & he said he’d have his revenge & maybe someone gave him a letter but I didn’t give him a letter. Bon! So, then a Gestapo man came back & said â€œM. Chavan has told us that you didn’t give him a letter. I was very proud of my lie but it didn’t work because then the government said â€œNo, we know the story. M. Chavan was working for us.. & then I knew.
He was a double agent?
No . a double agent but I said â€œMaybe, but I didn’t give him a letter. â€œYou gave him a letter because you have been followed by the Gestapo since you left Karlsrhue, you took the train to Heidelburg you have been followed by 3 different me of the Gestapo. At the end I said â€œOk, but I didn’t know what was in the paper because it was coded. So they knew that Pierre Dupont brought me to M .Cassidy. He had said that we had to have an excuse so you are his fiancÃ©. So they brought me back to the prison. I had the visit of a Gestapo man who brought me some sandwiches & etcetera. He said to me â€œWe have arrested your parents. I said â€œThis is not possible because my mother came to the prison yesterday & brought me some dresses..
So she had heard what had happened?
She knew I’d been arrested but
How did she know?
The Gestapo told her because they came to see her. I was not on bad terms with the director of the Gestapo. He was the not the Gestapo man you can be frightened about you know? So I asked to talk to him & they brought me to the Gestapo again & I said to him â€œYou sent a Gestapo man who threatened me. He said to me that my parents are arrested; this is not the truth. I want to change; I don’t ever want to see that man again. So they changed me & gave me another inspector. You know the Germans.you must never show them you are frightened & I knew that.
Because you’d had some experience presumably?
No, I was still frightened of being tortured. One day they brought me to a room & in this room there was nothing. Just a bureau, a chair, a fireplace with a thing in the fire, you know. I thought then they will torture me. I was alone. I thought I will throw myself out of the window; it was the 4th floor. So I was waiting. I was standing in front of the big window & I was still waiting & then I had the biggest scare of my life. It was a horrible decision to take & I was waiting
How long were you kept waiting?
Half an hour.
A long time.
A long time, & when they came in this room, they said to me â€œCome with us. I could walk. My legs were very weak, but I didn’t show it. Then they said to me â€œYou will talk one day ??? TERRIBLE BACKGROUND NOISE HERE every German soldier has written on their bag â€˜God is with us.’ All of a sudden I ?? will die & I said â€œYes, maybe . He said â€œYou’ll go to court & your head will be cut off with an axe. This is the truth. And I said â€œYes.
This was one of the Gestapo men?
Yes. â€œ but God is with me & not with you & they brought me back to the prison. In the meantime, M. Dupont had gone to the Gestapo & said â€œVoila, I have asked Mademoiselle Graaf to bring the letter & she didn’t know what was on the paper. For me it was finished you know? I met him & I said â€œWhy did you do this? And he said â€œBecause they would have tortured you to death, so I said it & he was arrested too, but because he was a diplomat, he was put in a cell & nothing happened, but I would have been killed by the Gestapo because I gave the paper; voila.
What was the Gestapo HQ like in Karlsrhue?
It was a house like another house.
And how were you taken there? Put in a car or a truck?
It was in a car first & then walking. I had 2 Gestapo men with me & I was walking.
Were you handcuffed at that point?
No, not in the street.
You never thought of running?
No, I could not run. I would have been shot. That would have been stupid.
When you first went to Karlsrhue to study, where did you live?
I had a room in an apartment with a lady, that’s all. She was very nice; a German lady. She rented a room & I was staying with her & we were talking normally about music, art & all other things; all very nice.
Not about the war particularly?
Not really. She was not political. She was a German, living in Germany, but she was not politically involved, so we didn’t speak about political things. We talked about the theatre & movies etcetera. That’s all; that’s fine. She was very nice to us.
When did you first take up your studies in Karlsrhue?
As soon as we’d been integrated into Germany, so 1941.
So you were in Karlsrhue a year and a half before you were arrested?
Yes; I was arrested 19 March 1942 & I entered the resistance in 41.
So you hadn’t been there long?
No, not to be arrested! One year.
What were the conditions like in Karlsrhue? You had enough food?
Oh yes, it was normal; no problems. It was a normal life in a German town. I had no problems; not at all. Then I was put in prison, in my cell & it is funny what I am telling you because even in dramatic situations I am telling intimate events. The one who was surveying the prisoners – the Guardian – she was an older woman, very rigid TERRIBLE BACKGROUND NOISE HERE she was an employee of the prison & when we arrived I think she had a sympathy for me because I was not a killer; I was not a whore or something like that. She was Catholic; I was Catholic..
You were political rather than a common criminal.
Yes, voila & so I said to myself ??? I must have her with me (???) so when I arrived they brought me potatoes to peel. I will not peel potatoes for the German people. When she arrived in the evening she said â€œYou didn’t peel potatoes? I said to her â€œMadame, M’selle – I am a political prisoner. I will be condemned to death probably. Do you think I will peel potatoes for the German prisoners? No, I don’t peel potatoes. She said â€œYou have to do it because if you don’t do it, I will put you in the cellar. I said â€œYou cannot put me in the cellar because I am not condemned & if I am in the cellar you cannot give me potatoes. So she was astonished & I never got any potatoes again! I was very, veryhow do you say this? I cannot ??? I don’t want to be beaten & she liked it.
She liked the fact that you had the nerve to stand up?
And I was a political prisoner. So I had no potatoes & one day another guardian was on duty & she brought me potatoes to peel & I said â€œI don’t peel potatoes because the main guardian said not to give them to me. So I went to the church with her. She gave me an iron so I ironed the altar things of the church. It was important because we are ?? with my iron when I heat some soup I have it on my iron. Inside prison you must have a ? to live and second in the evening, at night, I had another guardian & she came to my cell, talking with me because she wanted someone to talk to. She told me about her private life. I said to her â€œYou will lose the war so you can help me & I can help you in the war. My friend is a prisoner on the other side of the prison & he is in very bad hands. Maybe you could bring him some ??
Who was the friend of yours?
The doctor; the one who wanted to bring Cassidy over the border. I had the possibility to entertain her (???) so far but she said yes, so naturally I wrote a message in French. What I read to her was not what I wrote in the message. I said voila, he’s very depressed. I wrote on my message, when you get this letter, will you whistle the national song of Alsace? I shall know if you get the message. The first message I was writing was not important. So she said yes, & at night when the guard was ?? she went upstairs because the women were downstairs & the men could not enter the women’s place. She brought the message & 10 minutes later he whistled the Alsacian song. In the morning at 6 o’clock she went to the kitchen. She could have been caught; she could have been killed. She was a German..
She didn’t have to do what you asked her to do did she?
No, she did it because she liked me. I was talking with her very nicely all the Sunday afternoon – she had a friend in prison – a political not a .I was alone in a cell, all the time.
And you were so young.
Well, what can I do; I have to survive.
I just wonder how you got through the day. How you kept your sanity.
I was waiting until they would bring me to court..I was waiting to be tried.
Apart from the ironing, did you have anything to entertain you?
I could have some books from the library, so I read a lot of books in German. I saw the Gestapo nearly twice a week because they had to do my ?? & bring it to court.
So they came to visit you?
No.I must tell you something that is very strange..I said there is a guardian angel. The man in the Gestapo who wanted to do my ?? to bring it to court
He had to compile a case against you?
Exactly, it was a chance that..I could have been sent to a camp & die, so I was lucky to be in prison in Germany – it was a chance. M.Lehmann (?) was very kind to me. He said â€œSit down Madame eh voila..& one day a girl came into his office & she was looking like me. She had the same face. She was a little taller.& that is why he was kind to me.
Because you reminded him of his daughter.
Yes, & I said to him â€œImagine M. Lehmann if it was your daughter in the same situation & this was strange, non? I cannot imagine a thing like this. You put this in a film, they don’t believe it, but it’s the truth & that’s the reason to explain why this man was correct with me & polite & nice, you know? He recognised.& he never said nothing. I was very hungry & one day I was so hungry I said I must do something, so I rang the bell & the guardian came & I said â€œWill you tell the Gestapo that I have something to say to them. They called the Gestapo & 10 minutes later they came & I entered the office of M. Lehmann & He said â€œSo what can you tell me more? I said â€œI cannot tell you anything more, but I am so hungry, I would like to eat. He said â€œSit down please, & eat. I had soup. He was not bad with me that man; I was very lucky.
If you hadn’t looked like his daughter, do you think he would have actually treated you any differently?
I don’t know. He was not a bad man. He came to take me out of the prison to walk with me in the garden next to the prison. He was in uniform & I said to him â€œM. Lehmann, you will lose the war. You are a very tall man but in France we say sometimes you need somebody who is shorter than you are, so if you need me, you can always write to me. After the war I wrote a letter saying he was correct with me & nothing happened to me because he was correct with me. No-one who had to do with him has ever had to complain about him; this is very important. Voila, so he was in uniform & people were looking at us & I said â€œYou know what people are thinking? What is this nice girl doing with this big Gestapo man? One day, Madame Becker (?) entered my cell & said â€œYou are leaving for Berlin tomorrow.
As soon as she said that, you knew why you were going to Berlin?
It was after one and a half years. I knew the court was waiting for me in Berlin. I knew I was to be sent to Berlin, to the High Court. So I said OK. Two Gestapo men took me to the train to Berlin & I remember..
When was this?
17 July 44. I don’t remember the concourse. It was completely destroyed by the allies. Berlin was completely destroyed.
Were you shocked?
I was very happy. No houses.
Were you shocked to see how much destruction there was?
I was shocked but happy. Horrible; horrible.
You knew that Germany was finished?
I knew as soon as Madame Bakker, the second guardian, the night guardian that I was friendly with, she told me. The 6 June, she entered my cell & said â€œVoila – the allies. I said â€œI told you. In Berlin, they put me in a cell. In a big prison. I came the day after bombing & they put me in a cell & I wait & in this cell, it was the cell of those condemned to death. Light at night with a double ?? special gate – condemned to death.
So you thought then that you were going to be executed?
I was expecting it.
Were you prepared for that?
Yes, I was prepared, hoping that I could be lucky.
So you never gave up hope?
Never; no, you are lost if you give up hope; you are nothing. So anyway in the cell I found a ??victory with the cross of DeGaulle written in French. Even in Berlin, we can smile. There are many things that are more important. Signed Vicky (?) – condemned to death. I was crying in the cell because anyway I was not very happy & when I saw this I think this is a message & the prison was bombed in the night & in the night they took us down because of the bombs & I am pushed against a woman & she says in French, â€œDon’t push me, I have my ?? How you say
I say â€œWhat is your name? She says â€œAhh! You are French?! â€œWhat is your name? She said â€œVicki & I said â€œI got your message; I am in cell 52. I am condemned to death & I have asked forhow you say..you can ask to be not condemned to death – there is a law. Because you are in the hands of the judge, not in the hands of the Gestapo any more. You can ask to have the judgement.
Voila, yes, you can appeal. I said â€œI will be condemned to death after tomorrow.
After your trial?
Voila & she said â€œYou must ask the judge not to have the ?? There is a little song & she sang it to me. She said every morning I will sing it & you will answer.
So you were then put back in separate cells again?
I am alone in a cell.
So you were only together that one night because of the bombing?
Yes, one night. She has never seen me but I have seen her, because once she was running ? & I could see her but she hasn’t seen me because it was at night. Anyway, so the 19 July I was the only prisoner which could have a court because everything was bombed out & because it was important. So I arrived with my friend the Gestapo. The judge was ???
Did you know who he was?
I knew who he was; he was well known all over Germany.
So when you saw him, did you think.?
No, I knew.
But when you saw him did you think your chances were less?
I was alive, so I had a chance; I took the chance. He started & I had a very brilliant lawyer.
How did you get him?
My father’s father in law was a lawyer & he arranged for me to have a good lawyer. I said to my friend â€œI have nothing to lose. I said to the Mr Kaitel (?) â€œWe are in a war & I am not German; I am French. You cannot say to me that I was a traitor & if you had been in my place, you would have done the same. And there were angels flying ?? & he didn’t ask ????
Can you remember when he made his judgement – what he said?
He was a judge who was asking for my permission.it was the prosecutor.he didn’t ask – he knew (???) My lawyer has been hung later, by the Germans, because he was accused of a plot against ???? this is strange, no? They have chosen this man – voila. It’s an amazing story. You’d never believe it but it’s the truth.
Can you remember how you felt when you heard that you weren’t going to be executed? When you went to court you were expecting to end up being executed.
Yes, I was expecting.
And against all expectations, you were given 13 years labour. When you heard that judgement, what did you do?
I jumped on my lawyer & kissed my lawyer. What could I do more? I was very happy because on the other day on the ? was.they didn’t shoot you, they cut off your head. I met a German in the camp who was assisting ?? & my friend to whom I was whistling every morning, one day she was whistling to me, so I jumped on the window & she said to me â€œI am going to & the door was opened & the guardian came & I don’t want to be hit, you know, so I get down from the window & when she went away, I went back to the window & she had been sent to ??? & she had been killed & I met her family later; her family didn’t know. She was Russian, but French. She had married a ??? whose mother was a cousin of the Czarina, voila & when I saw her parents, they didn’t even know the daughter was helping to ?? the Germans.
What had she been doing?
She belonged to a French ?? & she has been caught in France, voila & brought to Berlin.
And she had her head cut off?
Yes, but I said to her parents that she must have been shot; I never said.
How horrible. When you were sent off to do your 13 years labour, where were you sent?
A nice camp! Waldheim (?) near Dresden – 60km from Dresden.
It was a concentration camp was it?
Yes, but we were not killed.
It wasn’t a death camp?
No, but we were dying by illness, hunger & so on but not killed.
Presumably you knew that the war was coming to an end by then?
And you knew you just had to keep going
Unless I would die in the camp.
How were you taken from Berlin to the camp?
By a train.
No, a normal train but full of prisoners. Horrible.
Too many. We arrived at the camp & the president of the camp was a woman, so I cam in front of her & she said â€œWhat can you do? I said â€œI can do a lot of things; I can sew; I can She looked at me & she said â€œWe do not do these things. So she put me in a cell for 40 days. 40 days I was alone in this cell pulling feathers ?? for Germans. (I am not sure about this bit in red but it’s something like that!) After, they took me out, it was a punishment because I told her I could do everything.
Basically, it was for your remarks; your comments?
I don’t know but she wanted to show me that in this camp you can’t
I don’t understand what you were doing with the feathers.
You have a feather & on the side of the feather there are little feathers, so you take the little feather out of the big feather & the little feather you put them aside & this feather they are used. Voila – 40 days without going out of the cell.
You never went out once?
No, I was punished for one and a half months.
I am fascinated by how you made the time pass.
You had no choice.
But did you play games with yourself?
No, I was thinking of my life; I was not unhappy but I ??? I had no choice.
Did you think of the future?
Yes, I thought of the future because I knew I would come out.
I am someone who gets bored very quickly..
I never get bored.
I would go mad.
I have never been bored.
Would you say your character was such that you were well equipped to deal with your ordeal?
Voila, voila, probably. Then I entered the camp. They took me out & there were 60 German prisoners. Better alone than with these horrible people.
Why were they so horrible?
They were criminals. One woman, she had ??? a child (???) & given it to the cochons – the pigs to eat. Horrible. There were 10 politicos & the other 50 were criminals.
What were the living conditions like? Were you sleeping in
Bunks, like every camp.
In a hut?
No, we had a big thing. It wasn’t like the death camps. It was a big camp.
With barbed wire around the edge & towers?
No towers because it was not a death camp. We couldn’t escape anyway.
You couldn’t escape. You were saying there were 60 of you..
In my block.
Oh ok, but it was a proper building?
With brick or wood?
It was a building not very hot; not very nice.
One storey high?
We had a fire place.
One level high?
One level high.
It wasn’t one floor on top of each other. It was just one big room?
I can’t make out what she’s trying to say here.one down, one up, not three, but separate by one meter.
Was there a mattress on your bed of any type?
Yes, a wood bed with a mattress
What was the mattress made out of? Straw?
I don’t know.
Did you learn how to sleep on this?
I had no choice. I sleep. I had to sleep; I had no choice. But when I entered the camp with the guardian, they give you a uniform.
What was that like?
Horrible, horrible; just black – a dress with a yellow thing here. We had wooden shoes..
Voila & stockings.
Yes, a pilote (culottes ???)& trouser & a little shirt.that’s all & when I entered the camp & I looked at the faces, I said â€œThis is hell. A girl came to me; she had no hair here; she had her hair cut off completely & I didn’t open my mouth I had the number 470 & the guardian came and said â€œYour 470 no name. This girl came to me & I had not opened my mouth. She said â€œVous etes Francais n’est pas? She was a ? like me. I said â€œHow did you know that I was French? She said â€œI felt it. So we became friends & I still see her.
Why was she there?
I think she had written false papers for prisoners. The same; she was political & so voila, I had a friend.
That was a relief?
Yes, it was a relief. In this village there was a factory for ??? how can they be so stupid & TOO MUCH BACK GROUND NOISE
Yes, an electric thing you put in ? you know. We had to protect the .they said â€œWhat do you think you are doing? At a certain moment they had a doubt about it because it didn’t work & they asked us to put our number in the & we didn’t do it you know. In a certain way, you must fight the Germans. If they say it is verboten – forbidden – you don’t do it, but the French, we do it, you know? That’s the difference between the French & the Germans, thank God. So we heard on a certain moment, January 45, the Russian guns far away.
That must have been exciting.
In this factory, I was on good terms with the ?? I said â€œYou know you are losing the war, so if you need me & every day he came at my table & said ?????when I came out & we heard them coming..
Did you hear about the bombing of Dresden?
I had seen Dresden.
You could see it burning from the camp?
Yes, for one week. I said to my friend â€œWe will escape. Because we could escape from the camp because in the front of this camp there were private people working & we could have jumped out of the window when we were in the toilet because . When we were in the factory.
How far was the factory from the camp?
Er, 10, 15 minute walk in the snow. 30 degrees under – I don’t know how we survived in this cold. There were many things that happened, but I can’t tell you all – it’s too long. We one day saw the man coming in & making a big hole, like bigger than this room. I said â€œThey will kill the politicos & will throw them in this hole. We are in a bad situation. The Russians entered the camp at midnight maybe hours before. So the Russians came & then the Americans came in the morning. I have been delivered by both armies & I went to the Russian general & I said â€œDo you speak German? He said â€œRuska (?) I went out of the camp with another girl who was English, condemned to death. She was put in the camp before – an English, a Belgian & me & we went to the airport – I met Eisenhower! For 10 minutes & then I had been brought to the American office & then how you saythey were asking a lot of questions about my working for the OSS. How could I prove it? I had nothing – no paper. So they spoke with me in English & German & French etcetera. The general was ok & they were very nice because they brought us to Paris by a special flight – there were only 4 on this plane & they brought us to Paris. I didn’t wait for the French ?? I was with the Americans & it was a funny story because in this plane was a mando you remember ??? the same face as ???? I wanted to speak with him ????
So when they were digging this pit when you were in the camp, you thought any minute now, we are going to be executed & then the Russians arrived?
They arrived at midnight.
You saw them arrive?
No, I couldn’t see; we were in the camp. So they entered the camp & opened the doors; in the middle of the night.
What did you do then?
We got up; we were quickly dressed & I talked to the Russian & the Americans came immediately after; at 6 in the morning.
So before you’d decided what to do, there were Americans
No, finished – everybody was disappeared because the guardians were not bad. Although we had to do some work we didn’t like, but we were not beaten.
You were saying it was horrible because there were lots of criminals in the same building as you, did they make your life difficult?
Yes, they made our life difficult. They stole our bread; they didn’t like us. The woman who killed this a horrible storythe woman who was cutting the bread in the camp, has cut the penis of her husband – he died – because she was jealous. But isn’t it funny that she was put on cutting the bread. She was there for life, because he died. There was another woman I liked very much; she was very nice looking. She had put some poison in the water of her fiancÃ© & he died. She had killed a German soldier, so she was sympathetic to me. She was the only one I was speaking to; I didn’t speak to the others.
You preferred to keep out of ..
Yes, we were 5. A Czech, A German, 2 French, a whore from Paris & voila.
And your friend Susie? And you kept together.
Not too much with the whore because she was rough (?).
But the 5 of you looked out for each other?
Yes. This German we liked. One day she came & said â€œI want to talk to you. Voila. I have a ? belonging to a family, a peasant family who wanted to have more space & they obliged me to marry this man I didn’t like, so one day I couldn’t stand it any more & I took some arsenic & poisoned my fiancÃ© & I was condemned for the rest of my life because I killed a German soldier. I said â€œFine; why are you telling me this? She said to me â€œBecause my father was French. He was a prisoner in the first world war & I had sympathy for her. She was a killer but she’d killed a German soldier.
Do you think that seeing all these criminals, prisoners & so on, did it change your view of your fellow man?
No; why should it change it?
I just wondered if you looked at people in a different way.you’re obviously a very strong character, do you think that helped you to get through it?
I am struck by how young you were at the time & you seemed to take everything that happened to you with such determination not to be cowed..
I had to survive.
That was your one overriding thing?
It was, voila. Whatever I needed to survive ???????? we are in war; I am French.
After that prosecutor said â€œWe’re only asking for 13 years
It was very nice for me. My step father.. he had met them. He was of the old German school; not a Nazi, which was lucky.
You said your step father – when did your own father pass away?
My father died when he was 40 years old.
How old were you?
12 , 10.
Did that have a big effect on your life?
Yes; one time he was slicing jambon, ham & the knife slipped & cut his hand badly & he went to his office & I heard him whistling & he cam back with a bandage but acted like nothing had happened.
He was very controlled?
Voila & maybe I got it from my father.
You must have been distraught when he died?
I was young but I was very sad, yes.
How long after did your mother re-marry?
Not very long. He was a good friend of my father & my father told him he should take care of my mother.
But you liked him?
He was very nice. My father knew he was dying. He was many times in the sanatorium in Switzerland. At that time, you couldn’t do anything against Tuberculosis; he died.
Were you close to your mother as well?
My mother ?? c’est ca.
When you were in Karlsrhue, you were in prison with other political prisoners, with SOE agents, like Sarah wrote about in her book
You were in prison with other political prisoners, with British agents.
I never met anyone.
I thought there were some English agents in there who’d been captured?
But I never spoke to them. My friend she was French. One day when they opened the door, the cell next to mine was open & I saw a girl & I said she’s French, bon. So the door closed & 5 minutes later the door closed & she knocked Morse through the wall & we spoke for months through the wall & she was working for the burgh master (???) Martine & when she left she gave me the name of her mother. Every night we spoke for hours in Morse.
When did you learn Morse?
When I was a girl guide, voila, so I remembered very easily.
What did you use to tap?
My knife, or scratch with a fork because you hear a scratch better. It was very easy. She was killed & I didn’t know. Because when I left Karlsrhue I was very sad & had the impression I wouldn’t see her again. I was crying for her when I left & I didn’t know anything about her & I told you some things but I didn’t know what happened; nobody knows. So I went to see her mother in Lille & I told her I has seen her daughter but she’d had no news of her but nobody knows what happened to her; not even her. So one day I brought my son to the camp & we saw the camp in the snow; it was horrible. We saw where they burned the bodies, how you say?
We entered & on the wall was this inscription â€˜Here have been cruelly murdered – Martine Amarande (?) etcetera, etcetera’ and she had been cruelly murdered & we didn’t know how. She had been brought to the hau (?) & murdered. The official, the general been caught after & put on ??? I went to the prison where the official had been ? & because of my friend Vicki, I brought some flowers & I had seen all the meat hooks, voila, ????? I took my children there to show them how we’ve been held during the war. It was a horrible story. There were meat hooks & they had been hung there, alive until they died. There were many things happening when I was in prison. One day my night guard didn’t bring me the answer from my friend, so I said to myself, she has been caught. So I rang my bell at night. The guardian man arrived but they cannot enter the women’s..I said through the door I don’t feel well; where is the night guardian & he said â€œI’ll call her, so she came & I said â€œWhat are you doing? I am waiting for the answer. She said â€œI am very sorry, I fell asleep & I have completely forgotten. Now we have a problem because you rang the bell & what do I say to the chief guardian about what has happened? I said â€œThat is very easy; you tell them that I came out of my bed & fell on the floor & fainted, voila. The main guardian said â€œOk, we are bringing you to the doctor. The doctor looked at me & said â€œYou need some food, So they gave me more soup! It’s funny.
Did you ever get ill?
You must have seen a lot of people suffering with dysentery & so on.
In the camps yes, voila. I was ill in the camp because this stupid German woman denounced me. She had tried to escape & I asked her what she did & this stupid woman denounced me. So I stood in front of the main character of the camp. She said â€œYou are denounced by number so & so. Would you be so kind as to ask members to come in front of me ?? I said â€œWhy are you lying – saying I want to escape? On the contrary, you talked to me, you told me you tried to escape So she has been punished. I was put in a cellar without dresses; with horrible insects
You had no clothes?
They were afraid I would try to commit suicide.
So you had nothing to wear?
No, only a coverlet & it was so cold that I was running around all night. I had hot water during 2 days & then I caught a big cold & I was in the hospital. I don’t know why – the matron of the hospital, she was nice to me. I don’t know why – voila & I was put in the bed; they gave me some pills. In front of me was another prisoner; she was pregnant; she had no hair & she was dying of tuberculosis. She came always sitting on my bed because she was so hungry. I said â€œYou eat what I can give you. I cannot eat because I have fever. 4 days later I came out, but she died.
And the child as well of course?
Yes. Tuberculosis. That was the only time I was ill.
So you were strong in the head & healthy. You had 2 & a half years in prison didn’t you?
I was one month in Berlin; horrible Berlin.
Were there lots of allied raids on Berlin while you were there?
No. When Berlin was bombed out, I was in prison & I met Vicki, & after we went to the camp & near the Polish frontier – very cold.
It must have been miserable.
Terrible but you had no choice. If you are a victim at the beginning, you remain a victim & you die, because I am sure there are some Jews who stayed alive because they were not victims. They said no, & if you say no, you can have a chance, no?
Strength of character is very important – mental strength.
Mental strength, yes. If you are in a war & you are fighting an enemy you have your strength. If this guardian in the prison had been caught – finished. One day I was bombed out, so I jumped on my window because it was very high & I could put a chair & a ? & I saw a bomb fall into our ? I said in French how happy I am! I was singing so I was denounced again. The guardian said â€œYou were singing out & I said â€œThese 3 women who have denounced me, what are they here for? â€œOne is a whore, one stole & the other denounced . defamation So I asked the barrister of the prison – I have been denounced & I never said that. I would be condemned to death – do you think I would be so stupid to say out of my window that I was happy? How can people say some lies like this? I have been denounced by 3 prisoners who are my neighbours – whore , thief & defamer – voila, you see this woman has just invented something to put me on the ??. When she took out my toilet tin you know, one day she forgot to take it out & I said to the guardians that she forgot to take it out & so she was punished & she said to me that she would remember this. They were punished – I was not punished. That’s war my dear!
After you had been flown back to France at the end of the war, did you go back to Strasbourg or straight to Paris?
I have to see my parents. I went to Strasbourg & immediately afterwards, I went to Paris, to the Conservatoire to be an actress & then I studied & I was very happy.
This was a continuation of what you had been doing before?
I had a first prize in the Conservatoire of Karlsrhue before the war, so I continued
The reason you went to the Conservatoire in Germany was because that was the best place you could be to help?
Yes, there was nothing in Strasbourg.
I want to get it straight in my mind – the war was declared in September 1939 & then the phoney war was on when nothing much is happening, but in Strasbourg you must have seen the Germans on the other side of the border.
No, they didn’t cross the border.
But they must have only been a few km’s away?
Most of the Germans came from Brussels, from Belgium; they didn’t cross the border in Alsace, because of the Rhine; the river.
I am not making myself clear – in the first few months of the war, France is at war with Germany 4kms away from Strasbourg is the border with Germany, so you can see the Germans; you’re at war with the Germans, but nothing’s happening?
Just carry on as normal?
No-one was in Strasbourg any more, so we didn’t see anything.
Because you were in the country?
Yes, no-one is in Strasbourg, anyway, they didn’t cross the Rhine, so when they arrived in Alsace, we were in the country, in our country house & I was standing at the balcony & far away I saw on the road, the German army. I went to the room of my father & I took his rifle because I wanted to shoot. My step father took it out of my hands. I said â€œI don’t want to see the Germans here. He said â€œYou can’t do it. But that was my first reaction.
How far away were they?
Far away, but it was a hunting rifle; a big rifle. I said â€œI must do something, but that was my first reaction & voila & when I was in Germany understandably, with this family who were friends of Goebbles, it’s funny that I ? with such a family & he said to me â€œWe are preparing for war. We are taking Alsace again.
They sounded very arrogant.
They prepared for war for a long time & we didn’t know; we are stupid.
Didn’t do enough about it. Do you remember thinking then, â€˜we’ve got trouble coming’?
Of course. All the Jews who were persecuted came to Alsace, so we knew.they could speak a German patois, so the Jewish Germans came to Alsace.
So from that early stage you instinctively disliked Nazis & Fascism & all it stood for?
You couldn’t think of it; it was impossible. My father was against the Germans & my step father. He came to see me at the Gestapo many times. He came to Berlin to see the prosecutor.
Was that a risk for him to do that?
No, no, no problem
How long was it after the defeat of France – France was defeated in June 1940, how long before the annexation happened?
When did you move to Karlsrhue?
When we came back to Strasbourg?
As soon as the war was signed, everybody came back to Strasbourg.
How long between arriving back in Strasbourg & going to Karlsrhue?
Hmm – quickly, because there was only solution in Germany & I had the proof of it hah? In Strasbourg, no-one asked me anything but the first thing which happened in Strasbourg was 3 students, 15 & 16 years old put a bomb under a car – an important German political man – to kill him was important. But the bomb went off before he entered the car. They were arrested & my step father was taking their defence. They were not murdered then because of their age; they were imprisoned & immediately they put a new law out saying that 16 year olds would be considered like 21 year olds, & then they were killed.
You moved to Karlsrhue NOT because there was a Conservatoire there, but because you wanted to go & do something?
I said I can help the Frenchmen if I am there. I was interested in a certain way, but it was an excuse. I knew in Germany there were French people; people who had been taken to Germany, so it was easy for me to get in contact with them & because I had the contact, I have been contacted by Dupont – voila.
You were saying that the Conservatoire was interesting enough but it was an excuse for going there, but all the same, had you always wanted to be an actress?
Of course, yes.
Had there not been a war, you would have still trained to be an actress?
Your mother & step father, they didn’t know your real reason for going?
No, never. The first thing I said to the Gestapo was that I was on bad terms with my family. But the Gestapo gave permission for them to come & see me, but at the Gestapo, not at the prison. You cannot visit in the prison.
Did they get in touch with him, or did you?
I wrote to them. The letters went to the Gestapo & they decided whether to send them, of course. I gave the address of my parents to the Gestapo; I had to do it, voila.
And your step father came to try to help you?
He had a nice conversation with the Gestapo; very friendly – it was important. It was a theatre play all the time – lying; inventing stories to get out; it was my head you know? I was very cool. I didn’t care about the others being killed. I didn’t care about the guardians. I didn’t care; we were in war.
You mentioned that when they took away the girl in the cell next to you at Karlsrhue, that you cried for her because you sensed that something was going to happen..
Where do you think that sense came from because it seems that throughout your experiences in the war, you seem to have had a sixth sense.
I had some dreams when I was alone in the cell. Nobody believes it, but it’s true. I made a little paper – I had papers to write in my cell, if I wanted to write to the Gestapo or something like that & I was waiting & one day I had visions – real visions & I say use the vision & the mother of my friend who was arrested with me & condemned with me.all my friends were arrested when I was arrested – about 15 people & there were 3 they kept. They kept the mother of my friend, the doctor; she was arrested in Strasbourg & she was in the cell next to mine. One day I had the vision – I see this woman coming out of the prison, & her husband who I knew, waiting for her. I called her & I said â€œI have good news for you – you will be freed & your husband will take you. â€œNo, it’s not true, the Gestapo told me they would put me in the camp – the death camp – I’m going next Friday. I said â€œNon, pas de tous – it’s not true, you are getting free in the next few days. She said â€œYou say this to me because you want me to feel better. I said â€œNo, & I got mad. I said this on 1st January & on 4th January she went out of the prison & she was delivered & her husband waited for her. Something happened. So I had a vision & then I had another vision. I see a man in black entering my cell – impossible; no man can enter my cell; no-one, only the guardian. On Mercredi, the door of my cell opened & a priest entered, which was completely forbidden by the Gestapo, & you know why? Because my step father had asked the apostolic nuns of Germany to have a priest in my cell, to talk to me, because I could have been killed. It had never happened in the prison before. A vision. I had another vision when I saw one day that I was leaving Karlsrhue & I saw a trial & I didn’t feel a death. So I saw the trial; I saw the judge; it was a vision, so when the guardian came & said â€œYou are leaving for Berlin tomorrow. I said â€œI know it. She said â€œHow do you know it? â€œI know it. When I left & I whistled for Martine – no answer, no answer. Three times a ? and a death & that’s the reason I cried because she died & afterwards I never had a vision any more because I was not alone & I hadn’t the possibilitybecause when you are alone in a cell & you know you will not survive, you have .how you say.the possibility to go out somewhere, you see? I had it, that’s all, voila. I had some premonitions yes. But then no more visions. I tried to do the cards, but it doesn’t work. I went to see some card.I know how to do the cards – I remember in Paris I went to see the salon of ?? & I had a young woman in front of me & she was making a card & she was making the cards very well. I say to her â€œYou are making the cards very well. She said â€œWhy do you say I am doing my job well? I say â€œBecause I can do it myself. She said to me a lot of things which were true. Then she said â€œI want to ask you something – I have a big problem in my life; can you play the cards for me? I played the cards & I said â€œYou have 2 men in your life – one young – you shall not do anything with this man & an elder man who loves you & wants to make a life with you. She looked at me & said â€œIncredible – I have 2 men in my life? It’s true, the older man he’s coming to my house tomorrow & wants to marry me.â€œ Telepathy works.
When you were doing your Morse with Martine, over many weeks, what did you talk about?
Everything; her life; my life; what we did during the war.
So you get to know someone really well.
Yes, it was a conversation – I had a friend; she had a friend. I was the last one she saw.
Do you think she was scared? Worried about.?
She was strong too?
She didn’t know. She had not been told she would be killed. She didn’t know what would happen to her. She was caught with the book master (??) & put in jail without anyone being told. She didn’t get in touch with the Gestapo. I think she was put into jail for 2 or 3 months before she was put in the camp.
And the Gestapo were never rough with you?
Non, but to the others..yes.they were taken out.one I have seen with swollen feet, but not Martine, she never has been thank God but she has been killed & the other one with the foot is alive.
After the war, you went to the Conservatoire in Paris & trained as an actress & became an actress?
Yes, I was an actress for a long time. I did a lot of things, especially TV, but malheureusement, I met a man & fell in love with him & I married him & it was the biggest mistake I made in my life, so I had my son & I stopped being an actress for 3 years to take care of my son, because I divorced 3 years after & when you stop in this job, it’s hard to get back. Then I did not know what to do because I had my child & I didn’t see my husband any more, so I thought I must do something quickly.
So Graaf is your name?
My name – I always took my name, always & my son was always written Graaf.
What is his name?
Cotain (???) so I needed a solution quickly because I needed money & I didn’t want to ask my parents because they were not very happy about my marriage; it created enormous family problems. I had always an instinct for art, furniture, objets, so I was in an apartment in Paris – I had bought it with money I earned when I was an actress & there was a shop on sale just downstairs, so I thought maybe I can open an antique shop & I bought the shop in 10 minutes. I started to be an antique dealer & I came higher & higher & I became known & I did this shop with.not with passion but..my passion was theatre, but with a certain pleasure. C’est tout, but I had a knife in my heart because I did not continue in what was my passion.
You never went back to acting?
I tried but..when you stop..I have seen a director who was a friend of mine. I said â€œI want to play again, & he said â€œLise, it’s so long since you worked & there are so many people.I have 3 or 4 afternoons in my theatre. Would you like to do something? So I did something & I was very happy, but voila. If you go to an agent, he isn’t taking you seriously because he says â€œWhen did you stop? You are forgotten.
When I was reading through some of these documents you gave me, Chavan, the man who betrayed you(Her mobile rings)
You ask me more questions than the Gestapo did!
When you won first prize for comedy, what was your
The war? The war was declared
No, sorry, when you won that prize..
It was the ending of studies. You had to study to be an actress & you get a prize at the end of the studies – 3 years. When you have a prize, then you can start & ask for some work. I wanted to go to Paris, to the Conservatoire, but it was impossible.
I saw that it said First Prize in Comedy.
I had 2 prizes in comedy. So it is the end of the studying like the Baccalaureate.
But you came top of your class?
Yes, you go on the stage & you play & you got a prize.
Can you remember what you did?
Yes, I remember, I played ???? & I played La Reine de I can’t remember..Camille.
Do you find yourself thinking about those times during the war much?
No, when the curtain is closed, it’s closed. I never speak about it. I am speaking to you..I think you have to close the curtains because you have to survive; you cannot live in.
You cannot dwell on the past?
You don’t think you’ve made any decisions in life that have been affected by it?
No, never, pas du tous. If I did not have all those decorations, I would not talk about it. It happened on 3rd June this year; this was done by a friend of mine. He knows me very well. He has a good sense of humour.loads of Frenchyou cannot live in the bad past – nice past if you wish, but it’s not constructive.
You never have any bad dreams?
Never, no nightmares; no bad dreams; never.
The Military Medal came in 1950, some years after the war?
Yes because when you came out of the war you have a dossier of what you did & the decorations are not coming immediately. The minister of the army (?) has to decide whether you deserve it or not! The Military Medal is not as often given as the Legion d’Honneur. The ?? does not change my life, alors. C’est bien ca.
LISE GRAF PART 2
So I went there, I said, â€œOkay, I have to stay there to see if I can do something. So I went to see them in the camp because the letter, being in an occupied country like Alsace, I could get the letter from Germany, from the camp.
I see, I see. But why were you allowed to go to the camp? Was it like visiting in prison?
No, I was asking, I asked the German Government, and I had the possibility to enter the camp, and I had the possibility to enter the camp.
You must remember that being an Alsatian I was considered like a German, but French prisoners were French prisoners, and as an Alsatian I had the permission to go and see them. The excuse was to bring them some gift, some food, etcetera.
And he was a friend from Strasbourg, was he?
Yeah, he was a journalist, yeah. The name is, ohh. I would give you the name but I don’t have it in my mind. He was a journalist and when I had the examination during the French time, before we have lost the War, I met him at that time so we still, uh, we never lose the friendship, and when he was prisoner, he wrote to me immediately and I said, â€œOkay, so I had to do something. So I said I’m going to Karlsruhe because I was asking the Germans to go through to France, and when he was prisoner, he wrote to me immediately and I said, â€œOkay, so I had to do something. So I said I’m going to Karlsruhe because I was asking the Germans to go through to France. That is forbidden. An Alsatian couldn’t go to France. So I said, â€œOh, okay, so I’m staying in Germany and I try to do something in Germany. Because there were French workers who had been sent to Germany, French people, you know, they were How do you say? They were
Yeah. French labourers sent to Germany.
Okay, so your friend was made to work for the Germans and at the end of every working day he was
No, no. My friend was a war prisoner.
Oh, he was a war prisoner.
A war prisoner, yes.
So he had been in the French Army and been captured, had he?
(Exactly, deuxieme debe). So he wrote to me and I asked the Germans if I could go see him, because he was a friend. So when I went there he told me what I could do and I told him what he should do, if some prisoners wanted to escape, they should get in touch with me, I would try to bring them to Alsace and from Alsace to France, you know, crossing the mountains.
Right. Okay. And then the other thing I wasn’t quite clear about was how Monsieur Dupont got in touch, how he heard about you?
Yes, this is very important. One day I found, this is because I was not any more in Karlsruhe, I was in Baden Baden because Karlsruhe was too dangerous. So I was in Baden Baden and one day Monsieur Dupont got in touch with me and I was very I was a little suspicious, you know because Karlsruhe was too dangerous. So I was in Baden Baden and one day Monsieur Dupont got in touch with me and I was very I was a little suspicious, you know, and I ask him how He said, â€œI have known by the French people, the French men who have been sent to Germany to work, that you have tried to help them. They knew about you. I said, â€œOkay. So I got in touch with them. They were two French men who I said to, â€œIf you want to go back to France you must stay in touch with me. You know, I was doing – how do you say – I was running around to see what I could do for these people. So he came to me and he said, â€œVoila! Monsieur (Antell) and -â€œ Monsieur Antell, I don’t remember the name of the I will try to find the name again. I find the name. The prisoner was Jacques Schnieder, Jacques Schnieder.
Right, Jacques Schnieder.
Schnieder, right, Schnieder. It was a German name but he was Parisian, but with a German name, with a Alsatian name. And he was prisoner, he was in the in the Army, deuxieme (debe/DB), the army of Leclerc, and he had been prisoner as he had been captured by the Germans, okay?
And he was in Germany in a camp, I don’t remember the name but I went to the camp. Bon! And in Baden Baden I had helped French, not prisoner, French normal people who had been sent to Germany to work. Because they took the French men.
So you got in touch with French nationalists in Baden Baden?
Yeah. And I met them, I knew them by chance, by relation and maybe, I don’t remember if it is not Jacques Schnieder who said to me, â€œI have friends in Germany. I don’t remember. It’s too far away.
No, of course. So how long were you in Baden Baden, in Baden Baden for?
Yes. Were you actually living there or had you left?
I was living with a German family, I had a room in the family.
In Baden Baden?
Yeah. The American Embassy was prisoner in Baden Baden.
Okay. So you went to Karlsruhe to go to the Conservatoire?
I went to Karlsruhe to go into the Conservatoire. I came back to Baden Baden to go into my German family. They had been very nice, because when I was captured by the Gestapo they tried to help me.
Yes, I see. So what were you actually I mean, I know you were doing Resistance work in Baden Baden but what I mean, you weren’t being an actress at that point. What were you doing by day? What were you doing for a job?
I was going at the Conservatoire, at the class in Karlsruhe.
I see, but living in Baden Baden?
Because Karlsruhe was too dangerous but it’s not far away by train.
I see. So you were living in Baden Baden but going to the Conservatoire every day?
At the beginning I had a room in Karlsruhe and I thought it was much better for me to be in Baden Baden than in Karlsruhe, because Karlsruhe was bombed out, eh? [Break in rec?] From Strasbourg. My parents’ were in Strasbourg so it was better for me to stay in Baden Baden. It was near Heidelburg and it was near Karlsruhe. So I took the train and I have been arrested in Karlsruhe in the Conservatoire by two Gestapo men, they arrested me in the school. It was near Heidelburg and it was near Karlsruhe. So I took the train and I have been arrested in Karlsruhe in the Conservatoire by two Gestapo men, they arrested me in the school.
And the Director of the school went to the Gestapo and testimony in good times for me, I have still the papers. Help me, he tried to help me, because they were not Nazis, you see. Artists were not Nazis.
Right. Got it. That’s cleared it all up for me, thank you.
Voila! So then Monsieur Dupont met me and told me if I could try to help, because they had heard about me, that I was against Germany, or I don’t know if he has heard of me. I had a good reputation, you see. Very dangerous in a certain way. So I got suspicious, but no, I was not suspicious any more, so I told you if I could get in touch with Monsieur, with the, ohh Hold on. I’m tired, I have the flu With the American, Monsieur Cassady. I had to have an excuse to go and see him, so I told you we said, Monsieur Dupont said we were fiancÃ©e. So I had the possibility to go with him because the American Embassy was very well surveyed by the Gestapo. So I met Cassady and he told me what I should do, so I did it. I met him through Monsieur Dupont who had been French Consulate in Chicago, and when we lost the War he came back to France and the (riddle of it all was) it turns out it turns out he was coming back, you know, that he might work for the Vichy Government, which was not the case, but he has been sent by the French Government to represent France among the American Embassy, because they had been captured in France, you know, and brought back to Germany when the Americans captured the German Embassy in North Africa. I told you this.
Yes, yes. And then you got found out, you got betrayed by Chavannes?
And Chavannes met you at a, he approached you and you met in a cafÃ©?
No, no. It was not this at all. Chavannes has bee sent by the Gestapo to survey me, because And the Doctor Koebele who was working with me, and with him we tried to help Cassidy to escape, you remember I told you this. He sent He didn’t send The Gestapo didn’t send Chavannes to me, they sent him to Koebele, I have told you, because he was infiltrating – I don’t know if you say this, Il a infiltre. Because Koebele wanted to go to France, and to go to France, the student of the Doctor had to send the papers, so he was I don’t know how he got in touch with Koebele, but Koebele gave him all of his papers, the university paper, to brought them to France, to send them to France. He would cross the border and the papers were in France. And Koebele said to me, â€œI have found somebody who is very You can trust him because all my papers are in France, he brought them or he sent them to France to a certain family, a French family. So Koebele could escape to France and stay there, to quit, because he was considered like German. He didn’t want to be a doctor in Germany but he wanted to be a doctor in France. So the papers of him and other two friends, through Chavannes, arrived in France, you know?
Okay. So in a certain way, if they trust him, and he said to me, â€œYou can trust Chavannes. And he came to see me with Chavannes, okay? So this is And then Chavannes said to me, â€œIf you have some things to do, if you have some papers to send, if you can ask me I can, you can always ask me and I can try to help you. So this is the problem; Chavannes was an agent of the Gestapo, a French one of Lorraine, okay, so one day when I had the message of the, when I had done my job, when he was – how do you say – betrayed, you know, I was travelling in Germany, (travelling back) to see what happened in the German Army. Cassady told me, â€œTell me where are the defence of Karlsruhe, the defence of Heidelberg, the defence, you know, in this area.
So you were travelling around, picking up information and reporting it back to Cassidy?
For me it was nothing because with my card, Alsatian, I could travel through all Germany. It was very easy.
And you were reporting this information back to..?
To Dupont. Yeah, Dupont, and to And he had other information from another agent I didn’t know – it’s better we didn’t know – and this letter was a message chifree. Chifre. I didn’t know the Chifre. You know? Message chifree, you understand?
A message with code, a coded message.
Yes, a coded message.
A big coded letter with coded I didn’t know, you know, so Cassidy asked me, â€œIf you can send this to the American Embassy in Basle. – Basle or Zurich, I don’t remember where. So, where was the American Embassy in Switzerland?
Probably Geneva or somewhere.
Geneva, okay. Geneva, exactly, yes. So I said, yes, I have somebody who could bring the message, because he told me Chavannes to visit because he had a cousin who was living near the frontier, near the border. So then it was so stupid, so I said – stupid of myself, I told you – and I said we have an agent who can do this because we can have confidence in him, because he has brought through the border the paper of a French-Alsatian who wanted to cross the border and quit Alsace, you see?
And when we intend to bring Cassidy through Alsace and through the border, which was difficult to cross, Koebele would have gone with him, and me too, see?
Yes. Got it.
We would bring Cassidy to France and we would have stayed with him in France, Koebele and I. Malheureusement I have been arrested before, because Chavannes And Chavannes has been killed when I was in prison. He was, Il a defusillee because he has another thing in another Resistance and, okay, and my
So Chavannes was killed?
Yeah, fusillee, he has been shot. Shot.
Shot by other Resistance guys?
Yeah. But my father-in-law said it around, so he has been surveyed, I don’t know by whom because I was in prison.
Oh, I see.
Voila. He has been killed.
And do you know what happened to Doctor Koebele? Was he..?
No, no. Doctor Koebele came back to Alsace with me. He has been put in a camp, he was very ill, and I met ham after the War.
Oh, that’s good.
He became a Doctor, very well known, a surgeon. And then I have no news about him. He got married and he had a clinic in Lorraine. And then I was in Paris. We call sometimes and the life is going quickly. He came back, he was ill, because he went He was with me in Berlin, you remember? When I was in court in Berlin, Koebele was with me because we were both in the same Resistance and he was condemned like I was, and he was condemned to death (and God). Voila. So he was deported. I don’t remember the camp. And I was deported in (Valtime) and we met again in Alsace because we both came back healthy. Healthy is a big word but we came back, we had the chance not to be killed! Voila! I have a certificate from Koebele. I think I have given it to you because the letter I have given which has been written by Cassidy, the name of Koebele is mentioned.
Yes, that’s right, I’ve got that. The 13th of June 1946.
We intended, when we intended, I have not told you, when we intended to – people have crossed the border with Cassidy, hidden with Cassidy, Koebele and myself, would have stayed in France, you see? At (Visou) in France.
That’s cleared up everything I needed to know. Thank you.
If it’s not very clear you can
No, I was When our conversation was being typed up, transcribed, there was a bit of background noise and it was quite hard to hear in places. There were certain bits that when I reading back over the typescript I couldn’t quite understand what had happened, but you’ve cleared it up perfectly, so thank you.
Okay. You can always call me and I will try to find those photos. I must find them. I know but it’s I have to I will find them, I know where they are. Not really where they are, but they are in carton, they are very old so, okay. So, is that clear?
That’s perfectly clear, that’s really helpful.
You will send me the transcription anyhow?
I will send it to you anyhow. Yeah, I’ll send it all to you either on Saturday or Monday.
Thank you very much. [Non relevant conversation] But I have given you the name of Jacques Schnieder.
That’s great. That’s really helpful.
It’s, in a certain way, because of him that that I went to Germany to help him, and so I had to stay, and why shouldn’t I stay in a school which was my actress school? So I chose the school because I had to do something, I had to stay something, somebody, somewhere. And not in Strasbourg because in Strasbourg we had no Resistance, it was impossible.
Yes, yes. That’s really helpful, thank you.
Thanks you have called me. Bye Bye. [Conversation ends – 19:34]