Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Isaac Jarkovsky

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:16 - The beginning of the Holocaust in Brussels

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Partial Transcript: You know what I wanted to ask you? Once, once, um--I'm just always curious about this--when, uh, the schools were closed--

Segment Synopsis: Jarkovsky discusses his upbringing and education in Brussels, Belgium during the Great Depression era. He notes that Jews in Belgium were not persecuted until a deportation order for children was given in 1942, at which time his mother voluntarily accompanied him. He recalls that none of the Jews imagined the Holocaust at the time, and that it was the turning point of his life when he became pessimistic about people in general. He adds that many of the Nazis after the war were not punished but instead given refuge by other governments, and that although he received token compensation such as easier entrance into a university, nothing could repay what the Jews suffered.

[[Recording is interrupted at 15:20.]]

Keywords: Concentration camps; Jewish ghettos; Nazis; Secular education; War crimes; War criminals

Subjects: Brussels (Belgium); Family life.; Great Depression; Holocaust; Religious education.; Schools.

GPS: Brussels (Belgium)
Map Coordinates: 50.850, 4.350
00:15:28 - Moving from Cuba to Belgium / attempts to escape Belgium

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Partial Transcript: Yeah. Well, I have to track back a little bit, before that.

Segment Synopsis: Jarkovsky describes his childhood in Cuba and his move to Brussels, Belgium, where he joined Jewish youth organizations. He describes his family's attempts to leave Belgium in late 1939 as the war began, attempts that were frustrated by other countries' refusal to accept Jewish refugees. He discusses Nazi movements in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe during the 1930s.

Keywords: Bnei Akiva; Croix-de-Feu; François Mitterrand; Immigration and emigration; Jewish refugees; Le Pays Réel; Léon Degrelle; Polish pogroms; Vichy (France)

Subjects: Brussels (Belgium); Degrelle, Léon, 1906-1994.; Havana (Cuba); Nazis.; Parents.

GPS: Havana (Cuba)
Map Coordinates: 23.133, -82.383
00:31:26 - Nazi-occupied Belgium

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Partial Transcript: And, uh--but we didn't do that. We came back. And, uh, hopefully--we were hoping that, uh, well, the thing will blow over. We'll overcome them, you know. How long can that last?

Segment Synopsis: Jarkovsky describes the Jews' desperate attempts to leave Belgium, many of which (including his family's) did not succeed before the Nazi invasion in May 1940. He describes the initial persecution of the Jews, leading up to their deportation. By that time, he explains, his family had gone into hiding, which was dangerous because of Nazi collaborators, some among them even Jewish. He describes the widespread antipathy toward Jews even in France, although a small minority of non-Jews helped Jewish refugees.

Keywords: Collaborators; Food coupons; Hitler; Les Verrières (Switzerland); Resistance movements

Subjects: Deportation.; Jewish refugees.; Nazis

00:38:42 - Failed escape to Switzerland

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Partial Transcript: Did they help you?

Segment Synopsis: Jarkovsky, describing his escape through occupied France to Switzerland, explains that he became one of the one hundred thousand Jews who were rejected and sent back across the border by the Swiss authorities, after which he and his girlfriend Rachel returned to Belgium.

[[Recording is interrupted at 47:01.]]

Keywords: Jewish refugees; Swiss refugee camps

Subjects: Brussels (Belgium); Switzerland; Vichy (France)

00:47:04 - Betrayal and his father's death

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Partial Transcript: Rachel's father had been caught before, and he was sent to a concentration camp.

Segment Synopsis: Jarkovsky recounts his betrayal in 1943 by another Jew to the Gestapo in Brussels, Belgium, his move to a concentration camp at Mechelen (Belgium), and his release effected by the Swiss government. His girlfriend Rachel at this point was deported, he says, and did not survive. He and his father, again in hiding, were eventually apprehended: his father was sent to his death at Auschwitz in January 1944, which Jarkovsky says was especially tragic because his family was issued American Visas but too late, and because his father was on the list of Jews which the Jewish Agency for Israel had been trying to save.

Keywords: Gestapo; Jewish Agency for Israel; Malines (Concentration camp); Mechelen (Belgium); Penne (student cap); Sicherheitsdienst (SD)

Subjects: Germany. Geheime Staatspolizei.

00:58:42 - Internment in Vittel / the Jewish underground railroad in Belgium

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Partial Transcript: But to continue the story, that was, uh, d--so in February 1944 we were transferred to Vittel.

Segment Synopsis: Jarkovsky explains that because of his Cuban citizenship, rather than being sent to a death camp he was sent to an internment camp in Vittel, France, where he says the Jews were not treated badly. His mother evaded the Gestapo, he explains, and survived the war. In late 1944, he was able to return to Brussels, where he was reunited with his mother. He describes the underground efforts to smuggle Jews out of Belgium into liberated France.

Keywords: Battle of the Bulge; Concentration camps; Gestapo; Underground railroad

Subjects: Brussels (Belgium); Jewish refugees.; Vittel (France)

GPS: Vittel (France)
Map Coordinates: 48.203, 5.950
01:09:28 - His mother's survival / the end of the war

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Partial Transcript: And, so, you're not--your mother hid during the whole, during the whole war?

Segment Synopsis: Jarkovsky explains how his mother survived by hiding, mostly in hospitals. He discusses his move to the United States after the war, including his meeting his wife Michelle. He describes his day-to-day life when he and his mother were hiding together, and he explains that although a minority of non-Jews in Europe supported the Nazis in their anti-Semitism and another minority helped Jews escape, most Europeans were passive toward Jewish persecution.

[[Recording is interrupted at 1:14:01.]]

Keywords: Cuba; Hiding; Hospitals; Kapos; Liberation; Rations

Subjects: Brussels (Belgium); Emigration and immigration.; Nazis