To listen to this story in French, click below
When Gitta talked about her native town, Slonim, then sometimes in Poland and sometimes in Russia, and nowadays in Belarus, it was the most wonderful place on earth. There and then, life was easy, just as it looks in this photo. Her father had a cinema and a printing press, she went to the gymnasium in spite of the numerus clausus that applied to Jews in those days, she had her sister and brothers around her and played the piano.
She made it sound like her life was a succession of parties, music and fun.
Little did she know when that photo was taken, that her world would collapse with World War II, and that nothing, whatsoever, would remain.
Lately, France was celebrating her Justes, the good and righteous people who sheltered and saved Jews and people persecuted by the Nazis, risking their lives.
In Slonim, the only Jews that survived were the ones who had taken to the woods or managed to flee Poland. Like in many other places, after my grandfather and uncles and aunt were forced to give their earthly possessions to the Nazis, and when Jews had no gold or money left, the whole Jewish community were taken to a place, where they dug the hole that was going to be their tomb, and were shot to death.
My mother only learnt about this tragic end, years after the war, and kept hoping her family and relatives were alive. This tragic story, one among thousands, was told by one of those few people who survived and witnessed the slaughter, hidden in the forest.
This photo must have been taken by a professional photographer. Our sophisticated cameras of today wouldn’t capture the gentle way of that life any better than this wonderful sepia photo does.