Guest poster, my cousin Léo.
His father, Victor, married Ruth Rathaus, my aunt whose parents and eldest sister are proudly posing in this photo, outside their Leipzig (Germany) shop circa 1920.
Moses Rathaus, my grandfather, Rifka née Schmarak, my grandmother.
Downtown Ironing – Clothes Repair Shop – Men and Women’s Cloakroom – Phone 10270
Originally from Tarnopol/Ternopol, Ukraine, Opa (Grandpa) and Oma (Grandma) were “Galizianer�?. They came from Galicia, that south-eastern region of Poland that once belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. This is why Opa served, much to his discontent, as level-crossing guard in the Austrian army during World War I.
Opa and Oma’s story
In 1933 when Hitler “urged�? foreign Jews to leave, they fled to France leaving all their belongings behind, but two cases. As refugees they rented a miserable apartment at 16 rue Pascal in the 13th arrondissement (district) of Paris. When France was invaded in 1940, a neighbor of theirs, a truck driver, offered to drive them as far down south as possible. This part of French history is known as “l’exode�? (the exodus). When they found themselves blocked with thousands of other refugees, relief organizations dispatched them into villages.
They were welcomed at Le Pescher, a remote village of Corrèze, in central France, which happened to become one of the strongholds of French resistance.
Until the end of the war, they lived there, under false identities with forged documents made out for them. They even received refugee allowances. Above all they enjoyed the protection and loving care of the village “mayor�? and of all the villagers.
After the war they returned to Paris, but in 1961 my Oma managed to see her lifelong dream come true and they emigrated to the United States to live in Forest Hills, New York, next to their second daughter Henni. Alas! Oma soon died. In 1965, Opa, who was homesick about France, had come to visit his youngest daughter, Ruth (my mother) in Deauville. I was an exchange student in the States at the time and Opa wanted to get back to NYC for Easter so that we could meet up over the school vacation. He never made it: he had a stroke, and died at Caen University Hospital.
As he wanted to lie by his wife’s side, his body was flown back to NYC and a cemetery in Queens was Moses and Rifka’s terminus.