FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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AUTHOR'S PREFACE

The eyes of 2,500 children gaze at us from across the years in these pages. They are among the more than 11,400 children whose lives are chronicled here1 innocent children who were taken from their homes all over France to be deported and put to death in the Nazi camps. Here are the names, addresses, birth dates, and the truth about what happened to all of these children. Their biographies are brief because their lives were brief. On behalf of the few survivors of their families, this book is their collective gravestone.

More than 50 years have passed since the murders of these beautiful children – for they are all beautiful in my eyes – who once played in the streets of Paris, Marseilles, Lyons, Nice, and other French cities and villages you may know. It has taken so long for many people in France to confront what happened here, to these children from our neighborhoods and towns and cities. And perhaps it is time to share this with others so they may know how these terrible events happened and come to know some of the young victims, arrested in the streets you will find if you visit France.

This book is born of my obsession to be sure that these children will not be forgotten. Twenty years ago, when reconstructing the lists of Jews deported to death from France, I found that some of the deported children were listed only by number – the infants were too young to know or say their names – and I felt a deep shame that they died nameless to the world. At first I was gripped with an obsession to know all their names and to discover the places where they lived; eventually I had an obsession to know their faces. After year of searching, of asking French survivors, of writing in Jewish newspapers and speaking on the radio in France, Israel, America, and other countries, I have found photographs of more than 2,500 of these lost children. After 50 years their faces are seen again in the pages of this book.

There is no question that in France, during the period the French refer to as the Shoah and Americans as the Holocaust, children were a smaller proportion of the Jews annihilated than was the case in some neighboring countries. We know there was a great effort in France to rescue Jewish children, an effort initiated by Jewish organizations, supported by many Christian and secular groups, and aided by many ordinary citizens who acted spontaneously against the persecutions of ——————————
1. Jewish children under the age of 16 made up not less than 21 percent of the total Jewish population in France at the beginning of World War II, based on censuses taken by both the Germans and the Vichy government. This age distribution was probably similar in Belgium and Italy. While comparisons of relative numbers of deportees are not exact because the age categories do not match precisely, nonetheless they substantiate the point: In France, 9,300 of the 75,700 Jews deported, or 12.3 percent, were under age 16; 11,400, or 15 percent, were under age 18. In Belgium, where 5,200 Jewish children under the age of 15 were deported out of a total of 25,500 Jewish deportees, the proportion was 20 percent. In Italy, 21.5 percent of the deportees were under age 20.
 
   
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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