David Hirsch was only eighteen years old when David Boder conducted a brief interview with him in the ORT School for Boys in Geneva Switzerland on August 26, 1946. Hirsch was born in Mannheim, Germany. In 1937, his parents left him with his grandparents and emigrated to Buenos Aires, planning to send for their son. The war intervened, and in 1940 David and his grandparents were deported to Gurs, an internment camp in newly conquered France. From there, in the spring of 1941, they were sent to Rivesaltes, another internment camp in France.
David fortunately was taken from Rivesaltes by the Œuvre de secours aux enfants (OSE), a French Jewish organization. However his grandparents were deported—almost certainly to their deaths—in the summer of 1942. After spending approximately two years in France under the care of the OSE and the French Jewish scout movement, David was able to cross the French border into Switzerland. He came close to being deported back to France, but luckily was able to find sanctuary in Switzerland. At the time of the interview, he was awaiting his visa to Argentina to reunite with his parents.
David Hirsch’s interview casts light on the rescue efforts of the OSE and the French Jewish scout movement, the life-saving importance of skillfully forged identification papers, and the callous policies of neutral Switzerland towards Jewish refugees. An estimated 20,000 refugees who managed to get close to the Swiss border or enter the country were turned away or deported. David Hirsch was one of the 25,000 who managed to find asylum in Switzerland and survive the Holocaust.
Like so many of Boder’s interviewees, David was preparing for his postwar life through diligent study and seeking to gain admittance into a new country. At his young age, he had his whole life ahead of him. At the conclusion of the interview, Boder, as he had done a number of times before, offered his help to the interviewee. He promised to seek out an official who would speed the immigration process for David.