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Oral history interview with Claude Kacser

Oral History | Accession Number: 2016.102.1 | RG Number: RG-50.106.0256

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

Claude Kacser (né Klaus Kacser), born on April 13, 1934 in Paris, France, discusses his childhood; his father Felix, who was an electrical engineer, and his mother Katie, who was born in Berlin; moving to Vienna, Austria in 1935 and then to London, England in 1936; speaking French as his primary language; his father’s internment on the Isle of Man as a friendly “enemy alien” in June 1940; the release of his father after three months to the countryside to help develop small motors for aircrafts; his mother writing her 51-year-old distant cousin, Martin, in New York to sponsor six year old Claude; how at the pier, before his journey to New York, he held his mother’s leg and she had to push him on the boat (Cunard “Samaria”) and they were both in tears; landing in New York on an immigrant’s visa and with stateless nationality on October 3, 1940; his uncle placing him in a small boarding school in Forest Hills, Long Island; being moved to the Crow Hill School in Rhinebeck, NY with 30 other student boarders; his mother working for the BBC and sending him letters and many books from London; returning to England in July 1945; reuniting with his mother and learning after four hours that she and Felix were divorced; being introduced to his new father; having a difficult transition at school knowing American history but not British history; changing his name to Claude as Klaus sounded German; attending college at Oxford and completing a post-doctoral degree at Princeton; immigrating in 1962 and working at Columbia University; teaching at the University of Maryland from 1964 to 1997; giving up his British citizenship when he was naturalized but still admiring the Queen and English virtues; seeing a letter in the Washington Post in 2000 asking if there was an American Kindertransport; contacting Iris Posner in Silver Spring, MD who researched 1200 names of children on ship manifests and HIAS and Joint Distribution Committee records of unaccompanied children who came to the United States (of whom 600 were still alive); Posner founding the organization “One Thousand Children”; attending an OTC conference in 2002 in Chicago, IL and his identity changing then as he began considering himself a child survivor of the Holocaust; regretting his anger at his mother when she sent him away though she said “I had to save you"; feeling his psyche was damaged by his childhood experience, making him cautious, shy, and introverted; and his commitment to the OTC organization and the "Never Again” movement to aid refugees.

Interviewee
Claude Kacser
Interviewer
Gail Schwartz
Date
2016 May 24  (interview)
Geography
creation : Rockville (Md.)
Language
English
Extent
1 digital file : WAV.