September 1, 1943: “We have become lathe operators in a war factory”
Mr. and Mrs. Jean Maurel and their son
1 Cours Gambetta
Munich, September 1, 1943
We’ve been working for a month now in our new function as specialized workers. We have actually become off-line lathe operators in a war factory in Munich. We never knew we had such talents!
Munich is a very beautiful city, surely one of the most beautiful in Germany, with many museums, huge statues, streets that are wide and straight with buildings richly decorated and sculpted, its huge gardens, and the green Isar [River] which crosses it at several places. It seems to be the capital of German art; there’s a middle-class, historical and traditional feeling to the city. It is the birthplace of the national socialist party. Therefore, we’re lucky to be in this big Bavarian city. Our life here is not interesting except when we leave to discover Munich. As for the rest, it’s better not to talk about it. We think that despite the events, you have probably enjoyed your vacation, and Paul must soon be ready to go back to school.
With warm regards from your former students,
[Maurice] Carlue [Seraphin] Carlue
Notes from the translator, Janet:
– The address “and their son”: Paul is mentioned in the last line.
– Aix-en-Provence is a lovely old university city in the south of France, part of the so-called ‘Free Zone.’
Notes from Carolyn:
– I found digital records for Maurice and Seraphin in the Arolsen Archives. Their birthdates are the same (March 31, 1920), so it appears they are twins! Based on their age, they likely would have been part of the group of young men sent to Germany in lieu of military service.
– It is a bit surprising to see their enthusiasm for being in Munich. The records in the Arolsen Archives appear to show they arrived August, 1943, which matches their reference to being there a month. Perhaps at this early point in time the reality of life inside a labor camp hadn’t set in. BMW currently has a number of buildings on Moosacher Strasse in Munich, so I wonder if they weren’t working at a BMW facility. If that’s true, BMW’s website admits, “As the war progressed, foreign workers gradually also lost their rights and privileges and this ushered in a gradual transition to forced labour. All the forced labourers had to contend with shortages of food and inadequate accommodation, and their living conditions underwent further drastic deterioration as the war progressed.”