Date: 07/04/2013


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Remembrance Day for the Holocaust and Heroism

Shalom friends,
This newsletter is about survival, survival of the Jewish people through the holocaust. This newsletter is about my personal holocaust survivor who passed away last summer. This newsletter is about a child, not a hero, not a victim, a child who wanted to live and keep his brother alive through impossible circumstances. This newsletter is about my father.

Paris years

My father was born (1932) and raised in Paris to Jewish-Polish immigrant parents. They chose to give him a French name, Henri, in an attempt to assimilate in their new country. During World-War-II his father joined the French army and after the capture of the “Maginot Line” by the Germans, he became a prisoner-of-war. His mother died of illness when my father was 9-years old (1941).

Hiding in a church

Following these events, Henri and his younger brother, Lucien, were sent to hide in a little village in France called Foulletourte. They had to hide their Jewish identity to avoid being taken by the Germans to the extermination Camps. The local Priest made my father a choir boy in church to intensify his non-Jewish identity, but avoided giving him the sanctified bread in honor of his real religion. My father remembered that he actually wanted to taste the bread to be like everyone else. In a later visit to this village, we found out that this priest was a member of the French Resistance (a French movement which fought against the Nazi-German occupation) that was later captured and murdered by the Germans.

A child in Drancy concentration camp

Later on, my father’s Jewish identity was uncovered and he had to wear the yellow badge (טְלַאי צָהֹב) that was made mandatory by the Vichy regime in France to identify him as a Jew.


One day, the German police arrived and took my father, his brother, and some other Jewish children to a transit camp, not far from Paris – Drancy. Only lately, it was uncovered that the informant was the French woman who was in charge of the kids. Ironically, her son was a very good friend of my father.

Drancy was a camp that used to hold Jews (יְהוּדִים) who were later deported to the extermination camps (מַחֲנוֹת הַשְׁמָדָה) . The conditions in this camp were not human – my father was hungry and cold all the time, but shared the little food he had with his brother.


One of the women at the camp suggested that he should ask the SS commander of the camp, Alois Brunner, to move him and his brother to an orphanage because his mother died and his father was a prisoner-of-war.

The verdict of SS officer Brunner

Alois Bruner was known as Adolf Eichmann's "best man” and was held responsible for sending some 140,000 European Jews to the gas chambers. He devoted one hour a week to speak with his prisoners. After few weeks my then 10-year-old father was accepted to speak with Brunner.
He remembered entering an enormous room. The room was the size of a whole floor. In a lower floor, sixty prisoners lived in the same amount of space. The commander sat at the far end of the room, and the distance between the door and the commander seemed endless to the eye of my father. With much courage, he approached the authority and explained his situation with the help of a French-German translator. Brunner murmured something in German as a response which my father did not understand.

Guy Patin Orphanage

To his surprise, few days later, he was sent with his brother and some other children to the Guy Patin orphanage. The Nazis had free access to the orphanage and from time to time searched for older children to send to concentration camps. My father remembered hiding between the wall and the closet when the Nazis came to search for victims to be sent to Auschwitz. 65,000-80,000 Jews were deported from Drancy, of these; more than 63,000 were murdered including 6,000 children. My father and his brother were more than lucky.

Escaping to the Unoccupied Zone

But luck was not enough. My father knew that the Guy Patin orphanage was not safe, but there was nothing he could do about it. One day, an acquaintance of the family let him know that he would help my father and his brother escape into the unoccupied zone. He had to keep it in secret from his friends and his 5-year-old talkative brother. Eventually, they escaped to a Metro station and met their helper. Now, it was important to get rid of the yellow badge, but after taking it off his coat, the unfaded Star-of-David fabric was very clear and could reveal his Jewish identity. He went to the bathroom and smeared his coat to cover the unfaded area. Eventually, they arrived at Marseille that was at the unoccupied zone of France.

This story is only a part of my father’s survival story. He never referred to himself as a victim. As a child, I was even not aware of being the daughter of a holocaust survivor – not because he never spoke about it, but because he never referred to himself as a victim – he was too busy building his life and family future.

Now, that his generation is fading, leaving fewer and fewer people to tell their stories first-hand, it’s our turn to remember, honor, and tell their stories to the world. Every year on the 27th or 28th of Nisan (April 8, 2013) we observe in Israel the Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day (יוֹם הַזִּכָּרוֹן לַשּׁוֹאָה וְלַגְּבוּרָה) in commemoration for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its accessories, and for the Jewish resistance in that period.

See you,
שירה כהן-רגב
Shira Cohen-Regev
Hebrew Teacher @ eTeacherHebrew

Hebrew Words

Transliteration: sho’a
Translation: holocaust holocaust
Transliteration: hisardut
Translation: survival survival
Transliteration: yetomim
Translation: orphans Orphans by the fountain at Drancy

Hebrew Song

My Child is not a Child Anymore
Lyrics: Yosi Gamzu
Music: Haim Barkani יַלְדִּי אֵינֶנּוּ יֶלֶד עוֹד
מִלִּים: יוֹסִי גָּמְזוּ
לַחַן: חַיִּים בַּרְקָנִי

My child is not a child anymore
His eyes still immerse in light blue
But there is fire in his gaze
He returned to me so different
Silent but remembers
Short words like battle and mine Yaldi eynenu yeled od
Eynav tovlot bitxelet od
Ax kvar cemabatav ha’esh
Hu shave lay axer kol kax
Shotek aval zoxer kol kax
Milim ktsarot kmo krav uxmo mokesh יַלְדִּי אֵינֶנּוּ יֶלֶד עוֹד
עֵינָיו טוֹבְלוֹת בִּתְכֵלֶת עוֹד
אַךְ כְּבָר בְּמַבָּטָיו הָאֵשׁ
הוּא שָׁב אֵלַי אַחֵר כָּל כָּךְ
שׁוֹתֵק אֲבָל זוֹכֵר כָּל כָּךְ
מִלִּים קְצָרוֹת כְּמוֹ קְרָב וּכְמוֹ מוֹקֵשׁ

You can listen to this song performed by Chava Alberstein here.