b. Volorice, Czechoslovakia, 1926
I was visiting my relatives in Belgium when the Germans took over my home town. My father wrote to my uncle asking him to keep me in Belgium. But in
1940 the Nazis took over there, too. My uncle and his family decided to try to escape, since he knew that all Jews were being taken away. We went to France by train.
The station at the border between France and Belgium was crowded. Everyone had to line up to get their identity papers cleared according to nationality, so I went to the Czech line while my relatives went to the Belgian line. I had with me a small parcel containing a few clothes, and around my neck a small sachet which my mother had made for me, which held about five hundred francs. When I went back to the spot where I thought I was supposed to meet my uncle, nobody was there. I waited. Finally, I sat down and cried. I didn't even speak French. I was fourteen years old.
Two kind families, the Tenenbaums and Sugarmans, came over and asked me why I was crying. They tried to page my uncle and searched throughout the station, but without success. They took me along with them when they boarded a train to Paris.
We learned that the Germans were approaching Paris also, so we left and went on toward the Pyrenees. At the stops along the way, we were fed by local peasants.
When the train arrived in the Pyrenees, we were given a meal. I was still with the Tenenbaums, and we all stayed in a room together. We had a small stove in the room which we used to heat light meals. We found that there were many other refugees in the area, including some Spanish victims of the revolution. We were all waiting for the war to be over.
After France agreed with the Nazis to be divided into two zones, the Tenenbaums decided to go to the nearest big city—Marseilles. None of us had any money left, but we felt that there would be other Jews there. We contacted the local Czech underground, which finally placed me in a convent.
My life in the convent started out comfortably and uneventfully. I even corresponded with my parents in Czechoslovakia. I was allowed to come and go from the convent, which also served as a rooming house for young girls. I went to visit the Tenenbaums and Sugarmans often. Since I couldn't go to school, I taught myself French by copying phrases from books.