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The Last Train Out of Paris

Auschwitz train. Photo by MaximilienM (2011)
Auschwitz train. Photo by MaximilienM (2011)

At 3:00 AM on Sunday, 6 August 1944, Gestapo agents burst into the third floor apartment in Paris belonging to Jacques and Hélène Boulloche (28, avenue d’Eylau). They were looking to arrest Christiane Boulloche, Jacques and Hélène’s 20 year-old daughter. The Boulloche sisters, Christiane and Jacqueline, and their brother, André, had joined the fledgling resistance movement in Paris at the outset of the Nazi occupation beginning in June 1940.

What made these 3 Résistants different than most? Well, first of all, they survived (André was one of the few who returned from the extermination camps—three including Auschwitz). The life expectancy of a resistance member in Paris (especially after Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and the resistance movement became more active) was about 4-weeks. The second major difference was that they joined early on without having any political agenda. They joined because it was the right thing to do. Many of the Résistants during the subsequent years of occupation were communists and their leaders had political agendas. Towards the end when it became clear the Allies would liberate France and Paris, many people “joined” the resistance movement. Read More The Last Train Out of Paris

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The Children Who Survived

Child survivors of Auschwitz (Photo - 1945), Belarussion State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.
Child survivors of Auschwitz (Photo – 1945), Belarussion State Archive of Documentary Film and Photography. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

Born in Poland, Jacob Bresler, 16-years old, survived 5 concentration camps. He lost his entire family to the Holocaust. After spending 2 years at the Landsberg DP (displaced persons) near Munich Germany, Jacob moved to the United States. Mr. and Mrs. Samuels took him into their family and treated him as their son. Jacob went into the US Army, became a television producer, restaurateur, and successful businessman before retiring.

Jacob was fortunate—he was one of very few children who survived.

Shortly after World War II ended, the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) produced a series of radio broadcasts with the purpose of attempting to locate relatives of the children who survived the Nazi concentration and extermination camps. If the children found their living relatives, most of the stories did not have happy endings like Jacob’s story. Most of the children were rejected or treated shabbily by their relatives.

I am researching the material for my fourth book, Where Did They Put the Gestapo Headquarters? —A Walking Tour of Nazi-Occupied Paris (1940–1944). There are many stories contained within those 4 years of occupation—many of the stories are not very nice. In fact, there are many disturbing stories.

One of the most disturbing is the story of deportation of young French children. The Vél d’hiv raffle or Grand Roundup took place in Paris over 2-days starting 16 July 1942. A total of 12,884 Jews were arrested and moved to Vél d’hiv (a giant bicycle racing covered arena). From there, they were moved to a detention camp known as Drancy located on the outskirts of Paris. This was their last stop before being herded into the cattle cars and taken to Auschwitz. Between 17 and 30 September 1942, 34 convoy trains carrying 33,000 French Jews left Drancy for the extermination camp.

July 1942 was the month the Nazis decided to deport Jewish children regardless of age. The French government known as Vichy agreed. Their reasoning was that they didn’t want the children growing up and figuring out the government’s complicity in having their parents and families murdered. The ages of the deported children ranged from babies to teenagers.

More than 11,000 children from Paris were deported to the extermination camps during the period of occupation. It is estimated that only 300 survived.

Jacob Bresler, 86-years young, continues to this day to search for members of his family.

Read the entire BBC article (Tracing the children of the Holocaust)

Do we have a lot of stories? Of course we do. I’m looking forward to sharing these with you. Please continue to visit our newsletter and blog. Perhaps you’d like to subscribe so that you don’t miss out on the most recent newsletter and blog posts.

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