In 1942, I went to camp with my school in Cannes, France. My brother Nathan was too young to go to the camp but the Principal gave him permission to come because he was always with me. At the last minute, my brother changed his mind though.
We had to wear a yellow Jewish star. Every Jew had to do this after the Nazis came in. My parents were no longer allowed to work in the market. My father got a job working in the coal mine and had to wear the yellow star.
On August 27, 1942, the Germans took my father out of the coal mine and my mother out of house with my two brothers. The Germans were looking for me too. My mother said that I was a bad kid and had run away from home. Actually, I was on my way back from that summer camp.
My family was now in jail. My aunt came to see my mother. Someone told my aunt to take the child out with her. She took my nine year old brother Nathan with her. But Nathan went back to the jail to be with our parents, he was afraid that the Nazis would beat our parents if he was missing.
I came back home from the camp after they took my parents. The next door neighbor, an architect, tried to tell me that my family went to Brussels. My mother threw some money under the chair of our neighbor for help. The neighbor also told me that the money was used up, there was no more money. I also knew that she had hidden some money into a brick in our basement, but I found nothing.
They took me to a farm and later came back for me. In order to buy bread, you had to have identification papers and special stamps. I had to get false identification papers that said that I was not Jewish in order to get food. I thought all of my relatives were dead.
An aunt was able to get me false papers and I was taken to a house in Stembert, Belgium. In that house, my maternal grandmother, three uncles, and two aunts were all hiding. Another aunt and uncle were in another location.
My uncle was able to make the financial arrangements to get me to them. The people who helped us find a place for my brother Emmanel, were Jacques and Hortense Nizet.
We in the house, people hiding my brother, my uncles Albert and Symcha worked in a tanning factory. I worked on farms there. I also worked in a bakery, 44 hours a week for three breads. The baker knew I was Jewish, that’s why he took advantage of me paying me so little.
When I worked on a farm too, they gave me flour. Our family shared the flour with a poor Jewish family that lived not far from us.
Three times we were stopped by Germans, twice they were together with Belgian police collaborators.
Once the Germans came into our house, my aunt this is not the address of house you’re looking for and they went away. Once, a German officer came to our house and asked if he could watch maneuvers that the army was conducting. We said yes. He was there for an hour watching the troops. Had he opened up the door to the bedroom, we all would have been dead. But he never opened up that door.
Once I was stopped at the train station. I was bringing potatoes to my aunt. German soldiers with machine guns were asking for papers and were putting people in trucks who they suspected being Jews.
I kept my cool. When I came to my aunt, an hour later, I couldn’t stop shaking. When I was being questioned, I pretended not to speak or understand German and didn’t answer their questions. I knew Yiddish which is similar to German and actually did know what he was saying but I had to pretend not to know. Otherwise, they may have suspected that I was Jewish.
After the war ended I found out that my father died in Buchenwald. Someone came back and told me that my father died in his arms. He was liberated by American soldiers who gave their rations to the survivors. He ate too fast apparently and could not handle the food and died. My mother was probably taken to Auschwitz with my brother Nathan.
As I think about it now, I am so lucky to be alive; some people knew that we were Jewish like the neighbors next door to us and helped us.
In 1952, my wife Rita and I came to America with the people who saved her. Their daughter had settled in Detroit with her husband and they wanted to be with her. These people were so good to her, they were like her family.