Oral History

Max Karl Liebmann describes arrival at and conditions in the Gurs camp

Because he was Jewish, Max could not join the army when World War II began. Instead, he had to perform labor service. In October 1940, Max and his mother were deported to the Gurs camp in France. In Gurs, Max met his future wife, Hanne. In 1941, with the help of the Children's Aid Society (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants; OSE), Hanne left the camp. Max followed in July 1942. He escaped to Switzerland through the French Alps and was in internment and refugee camps throughout the war. Hanne reached Switzerland in 1943. Max and Hanne married in 1945 and immigrated to the United States in 1948.


Well, the beginning of course, was very chaotic. We didn't, and the first night, we didn't even have our luggage. The luggage was brought the next morning. It was just dumped in the rain and we had to pull our, you know, was lying, uh, in a big pile and we had to find our luggage. And, which I did for both myself and my mother. And so my mother was in one block and I was in the other, and there was nothing to do, of course. We could not get out of the block. Uh...and I was, uh, here and my mother was a few, uh, hundred, uh, yards further north in another block with the women. And by the time, uh, all of the transports had finally arrived, uh, there were over 7,000 or 8,000 people in the, in, in the camp for which the, uh, authorities had, of course, very little advance warning because nobody knew we were coming. Well, eventually things settled down. Uh, every time it rained, uh, people would fall in the mud, particularly the old people. Uh, the food was abominable. Uh, we had very little to eat. The French had nothing to eat, so we had even less. Uh, and since a friend of my father was the vice-chief of the block where I was in, I managed eventually to get myself occupied by working in the office, in the, um, each block had its own administrative office and I managed to work in the office. The one advantage of this was, uh, that it was warm. There was no heating material but the offices had, of course, more heat so during the day I was reasonably warm while I was working there.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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