At the time of the German invasion, Maurice Szmidt and his family fled from Belgium and took refuge in the Hérault department of southern France. With the help of refugee support organizations, Maurice attended the agriculture school at La Roche. He was arrested there during the police raid of the southern zone in August 1942. Interned in the Casseneuil camp (Lot-et-Garonne), he was transferred to Drancy prior to deportation in Convoy N°30.
Charles Palant was born in Paris in 1922 in the working-class district of Belleville, home of many Jewish immigrant families like his own. Early in life, he gave voice to his convictions and his commitment to the service of others. At Lyon in August 1943, Charles Palant was arrested by the Gestapo together with his mother and sister. Interned at Fort Montluc, they were deported in October to Auschwitz.
Eugène Klein had an extraordinary, multi-faceted life, which he describes here along with his rich and hitherto unpublished eyewitness account. Eugène spent his youth in Hungary in a state of cruel deprivation. He was able to settle and found a family in France, in the period between the two wars. As Jews, Eugene and his family faced the Nazi persecutions. They were arrested in Paris on May 1, 1943 and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
KLB 58907 was the prisoner number to which the Nazis reduced Gabriel Lampel at the Buchenwald camp. Gabriel was one of 440,000 Jews who, in 1944, were deported from Hungary in just two months. Originally from Transylvania, Gabriel was subjected to the Hungarian oppression and anti-Semitic persecutions of the Horthy regime. After the invasion of Hungary by the Nazis, Gabriel was deported with his mother to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Régine Skorka-Jacubert was born in Poland is in 1920. Her family subsequently emigrated to Nancy. In May 1940, the exodus took them to Bordeaux. Her family was sent to the La Lande camp near Tours. Fleeing to Lyon, she joined the Jewish resistance with her brother Jérôme who had managed to escape from the La Lande camp. In 1944, Régine and Jérôme were arrested by the French Militia. Identified as Jews, they were interrogated by Klaus Barbie and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
A hero of two wars, a prominent 44-year-old lawyer and very modern leader of the Jewish community, Paul Ghez is a man of character who successfully defied SS Colonel Walter Rauff. His diary, which he kept daily, enlightens us on the incidents of the fight against the Gestapo and on the fate of the Jewish population and those condemned to forced labour.
Gaston Lévy, paediatrician at the Strasbourg and Paris faculties, is one of the major figures of the Organisation to Save the Children - OSE (Oeuvre de secours aux enfants). After France's defeat in 1940, Dr Lévy made his home in Béziers with his family and made contact with the OSE. In 1941, he became medical inspector for the children’s homes and director of the babies' home at Limoges.
Pierre Auer Bacher was originally from Wissembourg in northern Alsace. From the outbreak of war, the border population was evacuated to the south-west of France. Pierre was ten. He discovered Paris occupied by the Nazis, crossed the demarcation line into the "free" zone with his mother and grandparents and was reunited with his father, demobilized from the French Army at Limoges.
"Pitchipoi" was a strange name that sounded unpleasant to us, Provençal Jews who had grown up with the patois of the South of France. It was at Drancy, the camp where out family was interned that we first heard the word Pitchipoi. We didn’t know its origin in the Yiddish culture of Poland in which it referred to a little imaginary village. “We knew even less what was to be the reality of this unknown destination for those interned at Drancy. When we discovered it, all hope vanished. It was Auschwitz.
Denise Holstein was arrested with her parents during the great police roundup of the Jews of Rouen in early 1943. Committed to hospital, she could not be returned to the camp at Drancy where she had been interned. At 16, she became a monitor at the Louveciennes centre for children whose parents had been deported.