Jacques Saurel was born in Paris into a Jewish family that had recently emigrated from Poland. During the war, Jacques’ father was a prisoner-of-war, which for a time spared his family. However, in February 1944, Jacques, his brother, elder sister and mother were interned at Drancy for three months. They were deported with the status of “hostage” to Germany’s so-called “star camp” of Bergen-Belsen.
Testimonies by deportees
Marie Rafalovitch was 14 years old gwhen her world came crashing down on July 24, 1944, in Toulouse. Denounced by a neighbor, she was arrested alone and deported to Germany to the women’s camp of Ravensbrück. Too young for forced labor, she suffered from hunger and abuse, and discovered with horror the terrifying fate awaiting the camp prisoners. (Only available in French)
In 1940, like all the Jews in Lodz, lzabela and her family were forced to move to the ghetto set up by the Nazis. Unable to leave, they suffered from hunger and illness; Izabela’s father did not survive. The young girl, just 11 years old, and her mother managed to escape the roundups, until the ghetto was eradicated in August 1944. (Only available in French)
Jacob Alsztejn was arrested in Paris on July 24, 1942 for fighting back during an identity check. Carrying forged ID, he was not identified as a Jew. At his trial, Jacob requested the harshest prison sentence rather than the Gestapo. Yet he was handed over to it once he had served his sentence, and interned in the Jewish camp of Drancy.
One of the few survivors of Ozarow, Hillel Adler, born in 1920, sketches a loving, emotional portrait of life in his native village. He realistically but humorously depicts Jewish life in a Polish shtetl wiped out by the Nazis, breathing life into its people, their customs, their celebrations and the events that marked the passage of time.
Isidore Rosenbaum was born in Paris into a family of very modest Polish immigrants. He was denied the love of his mother, who beat him, and ran away from home very young and repeatedly. As a delinquent, he was imprisoned before being subjected to the discipline and violence of a penal colony for minors.
Written right after the war, the account of Michel (Mietek) Pachter is exceptional for more than one reason. Mietek - who was only 16 at the outbreak of war - experienced the ghetto, the extermination camp and the forced labour camp. With his brother Vilek at his side, he was able to survive his terrible trials.
Originally from Czestochowa in Poland, Henri Zonus experienced the anti-Semitic persecutions and the terrible conditions in the ghetto. Unlike his family, he escaped deportation to Treblinka and death. At 14, Henri was forced to work in one of the most deadly Nazi armaments factories, Werk C of the Skarzysko forced labour camp. There, Jews were in contact with picrin powder, a toxic explosive which gave the nickname "yellow hell" to that part of the camp kept as a military secret.
Szyja Opatowski, nicknamed Samy, was 17 when the German troops invaded Poland in September 1939. For this young Jew, a long fight for survival began, a struggle at every moment to escape extermination. From April 1940, Samy was deported to Belzec, then a labour camp at the frontier of the Soviet Union. There, his analytical skills, his resourcefulness and extraordinary instinct enabled him to get out, without compromise.
Arrested with her parents March 31, 1944 in a village of the southwest department of Corrèze, Odette Spingam was taken to the barracks of Périgueux, then the transit camp of Drancy, before being deported to the extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where her mother perished.