FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld  

 
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[impor…] tantly, we have been able to add to the historical record of the Holocaust in France.

I conceived of French Children of the Holocaust: A Memorial (Le Mémorial des Enfants Juifs Déportés de France) as an instrument of memory. The Shoah, this systematic hunting down of Jews, from the newborn to the aged, took place in France – my country – in each department and in each city and village where there were Jews. The trip that ended in Auschwitz began on the streets where people live today. To know the neighborhoods, the specific streets and houses where these children lived, familiar places for many French people, would create a powerful grip on memory. This is why I was determined to find the children's addresses at the moment of their arrests. A review of depart mental and prefectural records in regions throughout France, and some information released only after legal or court action, provided crucial data on where many of these children lived.

I believe that when individuals, whether they are teachers, students, writers, journalists, or simply good people, learn what happened in their own neighborhoods or cities, the knowledge will grip their consciences. Perhaps a class will choose a way to remember a deported child who attended their school: a commemorative plaque might be put up, or the life of a Jewish child might be recreated by teachers to help students comprehend the horror created by the anti-Semitism of the Third Reich and its Vichy accomplices. Unquestionably, what gives this work its intensity are the children's photographs and what they evoke; but without their last addresses, this book would have much less force.

Family Names

Many of the last names of the Jews deported from France had difficult and varied spellings. It has been calculated, for example, that the name usually spelled "Schwartz" can be spelled 156 different ways. It would have been wrong to assign standardized spelling arbitrarily, even using recognized models. Many immigrants to France between the two world wars saw their names misspelled at the moment they were first recorded on French identity documents. Yet the misspelled name became their family name and their children's as well.

A major effort has been made to restore the spelling closest to the one the family used at the time of deportation. In general, when a name with questionable spelling on a deportation list was found spelled differently on the lists from the 1940 census of Jews, we used the census spelling. The deportation lists were made up under pressure, and greater care was taken to assure the accuracy of the census. However, the census records themselves were limited. First, we had access to the census for the German-occupied part of France, but not for the Seine Department, which covers Paris. And second, the census records are difficult to use because the departmental records are not fully alphabetical; rather, they are alphabetized only for each commune of one or several villages.

First Names
Many children from families of Polish, Russian, and other Eastern European origin had two first names: a French name used in school, and a Yiddish name used on identity papers and in the family. Because of space constraints we could not include both. As a general rule, though there
 


   
   

FRENCH CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST

A memorial
Serge Klarsfeld

 
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