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Jacqueline - France


Jacqueline is an only child, born in 1921 in Paris, France. As a child she lived in various places all over France. One of her greatest aspirations was to become an actress. She idolized the movie stars of her day, and decided she wanted to become a screen actress.


In 1938, Jacqueline was seventeen years old. The Nazis were well established in Germany and Austria and were then spreading out to assume control of the rest of Europe. Everything Hitler had laid out in his manifesto Mein Kampf was brazenly coming to pass, though it seemed that nobody could believe, or wanted to believe, the enormity of it. Anti-Semitism was official policy for the Nazis; the rest of the world watched and waited. Jacqueline was part of the Jewish minority in France, although she never considered it a separate identity.


Just before the start of World War II, Jacqueline was in Italy taking small parts in the Italian cinema. Outside of Rome there was a little city of lots and sound stages patterned after Hollywood in America.


Italy was under the control of the Italian Fascists, headed by Musolini. The Fascists were sympathetic to the Nazis and ultimately joined them as their allies in the War. When Italy allied to Germany, Jacqueline knew she must return to France for her safety.


Paris was grim. By 1940 the war had stagnated. The French army were entrenched behind the supposedly impregnable Maginot Line, but the Germans suddenly came through to strike through Belgium -- a strategy they had used before, in World War I, but which no one seems to have anticipated them repeating. Soon, and with practically no fighting, the Nazis were in Paris.


Only shortly before this, Jacqueline and her mother had fled the city by train. The train was filled to capacity with fearful refugees trying to escape the Nazi invasion. The train took them to a small city called Biarritz, but they would find no lasting refuge there. Within days the German army they had tried so hard to evade made a triumphant entry into Biarritz. Jacqueline watched them through a crack in a shuttered window as they searched the buildings and rousted people out.


Since there was to be no escape, Jacqueline and her mother decided to return to Paris. They made their living as best they could, like so many, under the Occupation. One of their friends was a prominent attorney, and he and Jacqueline used to meet every afternoon for tea. One morning he was arrested. He was told he was being taken in for simple questioning, and that he would be released that afternoon. He never returned. He was arrested with several other well-known attorneys, all for the same reason: They were Jewish. This was one of the first Anti-Semitic actions taken by the new Government in Paris. More would follow. Soon after there was the requirement that all Jews must register with the government, and that their identity cards must be stamped in red "Jew". Jewish-owned business were compelled to declare their ownership in large signs for all to see. Jewish citizens were segregated on public transport, and could only shop for groceries during certain prescribed hours. A strict curfew was put into place. It became clear that Paris was being turned into a city hostile to Jews, and so Jacqueline and her mother left Paris once more.


France was by then divided into two zones, the north Occupied, and the south supposedly Free. Crossing between zones was illegal, although there were "passers" who could make the necessary arrangements for the right price. Jacqueline and her mother decided to make their break on New Year's Eve, figuring that the festivities would be enough of a distraction to German troops that the guard policing the border might be lax. On the last cold night of December 1941, they crossed a large barren field that separated them from the road to the Free zone. It was a long, fretful journey. At first light they boarded a train to Montpellier, were they stayed anonymously at a local hotel for some six months.


As their money began to dwindle, Jacqueline decided to make the move to Cannes, on the French Riviera, where their was a large market for scarce items such as jewelry and clothes. Her mother dwelt in Toulouse during this stay and would from time to time find items for Jacqueline to sell. One day Jacqueline's mother was stopped and her false identitification papers (bearing a non-Jewish identity) were questioned. She was told to report to the police. Instead she got on the next train to join her daughter, and together they fled to a tuberculosis sanitarium in the Assy region, where a sympathetic doctor took them in. There they remained until near the end of the War.


As news of the Allied advance spread, Jacqueline traveled to Paris to witness its liberation. Trucks of German soldiers were evacuating the city; the radio proclaimed that freedom was at hand.


On the 25th of August, 1944, the Allied forces lead by General LeCler of the Free French entered the city. By that afternoon, Paris had been retaken by its own people. Jacqueline was there as General DeGaulle and his troops marched down the Champs Elysses surrounded by the jubilant citizenry. The weather was glorious, as was the feeling in their hearts.


Jacqueline later married and came to live in America. She has lived and raised her family in Buffalo, New York for the last 50 or so years. She can never forget that she narrowly survived the Holocaust when over 70,000 Jews were deported from France and killed in the Nazi concentration camps in the East.



Related Resources for this Speaker:


Touch Wood: A Girlhood in Occupied France

Roth-Hano, Renee. Puffin Books, 1989.

Swastika Over Paris: The Fate of the Jews in France

Josephs, Jeremy. Arcade Publishing, 1989.

I Didn't Say Goodbye: Interviews with French Children of the Holocaust

Vegh, Claudine. E.P. Dutton, 1979.


The Children of Izieu

28 minutes

The story of a French couple who took in 45 children who were orphaned when their parents were sent to Auschwitz.