"Unfortunately, the French didn’t have nothing. Absolutely nothing. No guns, no equipment, no clothing. We were wearing the clothing from Napoleon , I couldn’t believe it but this was it."
I come to Palestine [from Hungary] in 1939. I don’t know exactly, July or August - July maybe. My ship [the Rim Panama] was burned down near Ródos, Rodi [Rhodes] island; in those times it was an Italian island. And then we was picked up by the Jewish association I think, they had about three ships, Agios Nikolaos, Greek ship, and Thassos and it landed Palestine. I landed at Netanya on the port. I swim in, I didn’t want to lose my certificate [most of his belongings and official papers had been destroyed by the fire].
So I was in Netanya for a couple of days, couple of weeks, maybe. And then we went to Tel Aviv. In those times they called it Palestine. [Later] I heard of a group of Czech volunteers going to France and I had a couple of friends I landed with, [we] went to Sarafand [Tzirifin], not far away from Tel Aviv.
And we stayed until the morning and [discovered] a couple of people was missing from the group. They didn’t want to go to France. So I said, I go [instead]. We were three friends, three Hungarian friends [who took their places]. And we joined under, I don’t remember what names. Anyway, we arrived in France, Marseilles, and a couple days later, they [the French authorities] tell me, you can’t be in the Czech Army because you are not a Czech. I was Hungarian-born. So I said, so what, what shall I do now? They said, you have three choices: we’ll send you back [to Palestine], we’ll send you to jail or [you] join the Army. I said, okay, I’ll join the Army.
We all three of us joined the [French Foreign] Legion. And then we were sent near Perpignan in France. The place was [camp] Barcarès, they called it Barcarès, to make us soldiers, French soldiers. But we didn’t know one word of French so naturally it was a little hard. Unfortunately, the French didn’t have nothing. Absolutely nothing. No guns, no equipment, no clothing. We were wearing the clothing from [the] Napoleon [era], I couldn’t believe it but this was it.
Anyhow, after three months, we come to be a soldier and you know, three months we exercised over there, until everybody understood a little English - I mean, French - and they told us, we’re getting new equipment and new everything, everything new – we got beautiful clothing, winter clothing from England, or from America. And we were ready to go to Finland, they wanted to send us to Finland, 1939 [to fight against Soviet forces]. But then the [Finnish government] capitulated [signed the Moscow Peace Treaty of March 1940] and they [the French government] was afraid that they will catch us, so instead of sending us to Finland, they sent us to Syria, back to the Middle East.
We were there a couple of months in Syria, Iran, Iraq. And we didn’t like it. So one night, we organized a couple of fellows, we took some bicycles, went to Beirut [Lebanon] and for miles, to Ra’s an Naqurah. But the bicycle broke down so we had to walk. So we arrived in Palestine - in those times it was Palestine not Israel - at a kibbutz, I don’t remember exactly the name. Near Ra’s an Naqurah, there was a kibbutz. And we arrived there and we had lots of trouble because we throw away the army, army things we dressed with [uniform] because I was before in Israel so I said, I don’t need the army equipment. We went like tourists, you know.
[After being apprehended and interned by Palestinian authorities, he escaped] and I don’t remember where we slept, to tell you the truth. So I went [to the British recruiting office in Tel Aviv], I wanted to join the Navy. And I went to the office and I told my whole name, - my name was Sauerbrun - and I thought I [would] just write the name and then I go [be admitted without question]. So he said, we will investigate you, two or three days, and let you know. Oh, that’s no good, right, I just came from the jail, not jail, the camp. So the next day, I joined, eventually went to the Army and I joined the Army, the British Army.
So we went to Italy and landed in Salerno. Meanwhile we lost a ship [sunk by German shellfire near Malta in April 1943] with 160 people I think in my company, my battle unit [462 General Transport Company]. And all the time, we was doing transport to the front, food, men, ammunition, different - general transport. Until the end of the war, we were in Italy. We landed, the German was on the top, boom, boom, boom, boom, we didn’t care, we were twenty-one and twenty-years old, who cared? So that’s the way and then I finished the war, we went back to Israel.