Sixty-three years ago

divingintothepast.jpg

To listen to this post in French, click below

Julie and meSixty-three years ago, on September 24th, my father rode his bicycle from Thoiry to Issoudun to meet his newborn daughter. The war was not over yet, but the German armies were starting to leave and there had been heavy bombing in the area. Joseph always said that there were corpses and burnt cars on each side of the road.
From what Gitta said, getting me into the world was a breeze. She claimed that when I got out, her belly went down with a plop and that she started giggling, which made the matron worry! I always thought that she had made that part of the story up! 😉 I was the only girl born in the maternity ward and I had brown curly hair that the matron combed, and apparently, she paraded me around, showing of my curly hair.
When they took me back to Thoiry, the hamlet where they hid during the last part of the war, a kilometre away from Saint-Georges sur Arnon, and some 10 kms from Issoudun, Solange, who lived on the farm opposite, had torn sheets into nappies that they gave my mother for the newly-born baby.
I wish I had written down all the stories that my uncle Victor, my aunt Fanny and my parents have told me. I was quite upset, when I started writing this because I looked for Solange’s last name in my memory, and it wasn’t there any longer. I phoned my brother, who was ten at the time. He remembered Solange very well, and also her two sisters, Louisette and Paulette, but couldn’t remember their last name either. How unfortunate, when you think that these wonderful people knew all along that we were Jewish, and never said a word.

When the war was over, and my parents were ready to go back to Deauville where they lived before the war, my mother went to thank those kind people for everything they’d done to help them and said:

You know, Solange, I have to tell you. We are Jewish. We couldn’t tell during the war, but now I want to tell you.

And Solange said that they had known all along.
Without Solange and all the wonderful people like her, I wouldn’t have been around to celebrate my 63rd birthday, yesterday, with my daughter.

Edited September 27th, my brother finally managed to remember the last name of Solange’s family. The Perrot family from Thoiry who welcomed and helped our family through hard times certainly deserved to have their name remembered. Thank you.

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32 thoughts on “Sixty-three years ago

  1. With tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I wish you a very happy birthday. The tears are, of course, of great happiness (that you are here), profound gratitude for your brave parents (the miracle of loving and bringing new life during war), and endless honor for the righteous non-Jews who protected all of you at grave peril of risking their lives.

  2. Happy Birthday, Claude.

    I just listened to the most remarkable story on National Public Radio about a young soldier from Iowa who took part in the liberation of a Nazi slave labor/concentration camp in April 1944. It’s a powerful narrative and well worth reading, especially in these days where Holocaust deniers are allowed to sit in Presidential palaces. You can fit it here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14661020

  3. Wishing a very Happy Birthday!!

    What a wonderful story.

    I really enjoyed what you wrote about how your mother said, “you just plopped out.
    Steve always teases me by saying that I say “it was the most enjoyable experience of my life,” Balony!!!

    And being born with curly hair – I never heard of a baby being born with curly hair, that proves it, always thought you were special. 😉

    Have a wonderful year, enjoy your daughter, your trips, your photos and all that wonderful Paris pastry!!

  4. Happy belated birthday! What wonderful (and horrid) stories you have. Wonderful because you are a survivor and you write about humanity. Horrid because they are true and so many had to live through them, or died for no reason. Thank you for sharing and reminding us of the past — and present. Beautiful daughter too, but you already know that.

  5. Wishing you a belated VERY Happy Birthday, Claude!
    And what a story you shared with us. It just restores my faith in human nature and the kindness and compassion of many people. I had no idea your parents were hiding out during the war in that hamlet. I have always been drawn to these war time stories and I’m happy to hear yours had a very nice ending.
    Your daughter is beautiful and I hope you enjoyed your special day with her.

  6. Oh my gosh….how could I miss saying Happy Birthday to you Claude? I’m sorry I missed your day yesterday….but my wishes that you had a wonderful birthday are no less heartfelt. HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY my sweet friend. I LOVE the photos of you and Julie…..adorable.

  7. Happy belated birthday, Claude! I am so glad that Solange and her family were there for you and yours. And it’s wonderful that your brother remembered their family name! Now I will go look up the Thoiry area on the links you have provided. Thanks again for such a wonderful story and for all the marvelous things you share. Sara

  8. Hi Claude,

    I’m Ken’s friend from Alabama- We share Sept. 24th birthdays! I’m a year behind you;-) and also a cancer survivor. I never tire of hearing stories of human kindness, yours especially. BTW, have you seen the German flic called “The Lives of Others”? It’s a great movie about compassion.

    I’m glad that your brother remembered the name of your family. I have a brother ten years older than I who also helps me remember things.

    I love your blog, especially when I can listen to you in French.

    Evelyn

  9. very, very belated good wishes for the coming year, claude. i look forward to more of your remarkable memories. you offer us a window into a time that needs remembering–for so many reasons.

    Solange is the name of our french neighbor’s five year old. it was unknown to me; googling brought forward a meaning you’d appreciate, “rare jewel.” yours, naomi

  10. Belated birthday wishes – and thanks for such a moving memory. How easy it has been to overlook what risks people so close to one’s own generation were subjected to, and how fragile the boundary of chance can be.

  11. Belated birthday wishes; I can’t imagine what everyone went through during those times. How wonderful to have found her last name; it makes it all the more important to record everything, and not leave it all the precarious memory.

  12. Happy belated birthday, Claude! I see now that I need to be reading your blog every day! Your story is very touching. I am Jewish also; I cannot imagine what it must have been like in Europe during WWII. I think your parents must have been very brave.

  13. Pingback: When they were my age « Blogging in Paris

  14. Now we can go searching and have a remembrance trip to Thoiry in a few days. I am already studying the maps and planning (you kbow how good I am at that !) our visit down there ! i can hardly wait !! And now I know when is your birthday !
    After all these years !! See you soon xxx

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