FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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the hand and walked with her for a while, until I noticed the Frenchman alongside us. He repeated in an authoritarian voice, "You don't understand what I told you about the children!" With a broken heart I let go of that little girl who was no longer alone, for we were in the midst of a great crowd, and I moved away toward two young women who were walking without children.

It was pitch-black outside, and search-lights lit the way. The train had stopped inside the camp; there was no station. We walked the length of the train until we came to a group of Germans who straddled the road and blocked our path: they sent some of us to the right, where trucks were waiting, and others, including myself, to the left. We saw at once that all the children had been sent to the trucks, as well as the old women and everyone with children in their arms...


August 17, 1944. On the day street fighting breaks out in Paris, one week before the city's liberation by Allied troops, Brunner is working to assemble one last large Jewish convoy from Drancy. He intends to use it to cover his escape from France.

Roger Appel, head of the camp's Jewish secretariat, and Georges Achille, chief of the Paris-Bobigny railway station, come to an arrangement to block Brunner's efforts. German security police agents from Drancy question Achille on August 16 about his meeting with Appel, but he denies conspiring to prevent the transport; he insists he does not have the freight or passenger cars needed to make up a final deportation train.

Brunner is forced to abandon the plan for a large convoy, but he does obtain three cars from a railroad anti-aircraft battery and they are prepared for his and the deportees' departure. The train leaves the Paris-Bobigny station with 51 Jews in one of the carriages, destined for Buchenwald. The Jews include one group chosen from among members of the Resistance held in Fresnes Prison and a group of prominent Jews intended as hostages for Brunner's protection if it proves necessary. The latter include Marcel Bloch-Das Sault, head of the Bloch-Dassault aircraft company. Twenty-one of the Jewish prisoners escape from the convoy while it is still in France, and ten of the others survive the war.

Brunner, whose anti-Semitic rage persists to the end, takes with him the Kohn family, whom he especially detests: Armand Kohn, director of the Rothschild Hospital in Paris, his mother, his wife, and their four children. Kohn and two of his children, who jump from the train and escape, survive. His son, Georges-André, 12, is sent to the Neuengamme camp in November and subjected to "medical experiments." After the Nazi doctors finish with him, the 12-year-old is hanged with 20 other Jewish children, among them a French girl, Jacqueline Morgenstern, also 12, in the cellar of the Bullenhuser Damm school, in the Rothenburg neighborhood of Hamburg. The children are hanged on April 20, 1945, only days before Hamburg is captured by the Allies and the Nazi regime collapses.

August 22, 1944. The final deportation convoy of Jews from France, carrying a limited but unknown number of prisoners, is dispatched from Clermont-Ferrand. After a slow journey via Dijon and Sarrebrucken, it reaches Auschwitz on September 8 and 39 men are selected for work.

With this last convoy, nearly 15,000 Jews have been deported from France to death camps during 1944, most of them to Auschwitz. At the war's end, 523 men and 766 women deported in 1944 are still alive.
     
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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