In the middle of 1939, there was talk of war. People in our apartment building were putting sandbags under their windows and stairs. We were required to go to the fire station to be fitted for gas masks. A few months later, the children of Paris were sent off to the country to summer camp to protect them from the bombing. The trip to summer camp was horrendous, with all the crying and screaming children.
Soon after reaching the camp, war broke out. We heard the bombing in the distance. We girls, all from the same Jewish school, were scared and lonely. My brother had been sent to a camp in Normandy.
By late 1939, my parent’s had moved to a small village in the center of France. Someone important in the village told my mother to retrieve my brother from Normandy because France was going to be divided into Free France and Occupied France. She got him back just in time. She came for me a few months later.
By 1942, many of our relatives in Paris had been caught and sent to concentration camps. By then, the danger of being caught had spread to all of France and we were also in danger. The wonderful villagers of Paulhaguet all helped. We were told to separate, and I was sent to a farm nearby, but I was terribly afraid of the cows. I was then sent to a hamlet (a small village) where I was protected by the wife of a friend of my father. However, there were too many SS men there with black leather boots and black leather jackets with the swastika. They would pat me on my head and me a nice little French girl. I would be shaking in my boots, so my mother came to get me.
When I was back in Paulhaguet, dear Dr. Boulagnon decided to send me to the best hiding place one could ever find. It was four miles from Paulhaguet, in the beautiful castle of General Lafayette. Part of the castle had been made into a clinic for sickly girls while the boys were lodged in a modern building a quarter of a mile away. Here, we pretended to be Catholic to protect Dr. Boulagnon and the head doctors of the clinic who were risking their lives for us.
Every Sunday, we went to church and sang in the choir. The priest knew I was Jewish but never tried to convert me. He was very nice to me. My mother would visit every few weeks, walking four miles to see me. She would bring packages of clothing and sweets. Lucien and I both lived in fear that one day our mother would not come back. But after the south of France was liberated in 1944, our mother arrived at the gate. It was not a visiting day, and she had no packages. She was smiling and I knew I was going home. My family was saved by the kindness of the righteous doctors and villagers. They save our lives, and I will never forget it.