Etsy seller goes verbal
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Yvette. She was a senior citizen, a retired school principal from Western France. Once, in her past, when she was about twenty, she tried to reminisce with her mother about the family’s best friends before the war, and where were they now. Her mother got all squirrely and weird, and Yvette eventually figured out that the other family had been Jewish and that they didn’t survive the war. It’s like that TV reality show, WDYTYA, when they trace the genealogy of a Jew, it’s always the same story, a dead end, literally. And yet, forgive and forget, as they say.
Anyhoo, when Yvette started to probe into dates and places and events, her family got really mad at her. This is what usually happens. But to this day Yvette is still always piecing bits of information together, and building her contacts, and it was she the archeology student contacted in 1999 when he unearthed the concentration camp records. She is pretty famous in her own little part of the world, and it was she who my husband contacted to get more info about LaMotte.
It turns out there were two separate survivors, a mother and a child. The mother went crazy around 1939, she seemed to have a pretty clear idea of what was happening around her, and what was going to happen. Sometime near the beginning of the war, she got word that her husband, who had gone off to fight with the Free French, had been killed. He ended up back in Paris eventually, alive, but either the damage was done, or like I said, the mom had some idea of what was coming next, because she never became sane again. (She died in 1984, in Jerusalem; her husband was sent to Auschwitz and killed upon arrival from Paris by the same route–and on the same dates!–his wife would have come, from LaMotte, had she not been in an insane asylum at the time: Pithiviers; Drancy; Auschwitz.) There were four children. The three older ones had never been sent to LaMotte. They went underground and survived the war, even though I believe all of them were abused and tortured by their paid protectors. Kids, and other French Jews, had a much better survival rate, because they didn’t have accents and could blend in, compared to the older generation, many of whom were refugees from pogroms elsewhere in Europe. In fact, through a quirk of history, there was an evacuation of Paris at the very beginning of the war, because of air raids and such. It was really well-organized; kids were sent to specific locations on a list, usually small towns. Eventually they straggled back to Paris, but when the Final Solution came to France, Jewish kids were sent by their parents back to these same homes to hide, because there was no other choice. And the result was, tiny towns with populations in the hundreds, which managed to hide thousands of Jews, each, until the end of the war. Although France was the most craven and capitulating nation, its private citizens saved a disproportionately large number of Jews.
The youngest child of this Jewish family, a little girl of about two, Leah, was by herself in the camp after her mother left, and starving. But the story goes that she held out her arms to, and smiled at, a visiting dignitary from Blois, who then whisked her off with him. Her name was changed to Lisette and she spent a happy four years as one of the family. After the war, the adoptive family managed to reunite Lea with her mom and her sisters and brother (the mother had to be shoe-horned out of an insane asylum) and they went to Paris to continue to try to survive after the war. The two families are still in close contact. Lea lives in Jerusalem and has 32 grandchildren. One of her sons was ambushed and murdered by a terrorist who was later freed in exchange for Gilad Shalit. In 2013, an 18-month-old baby, Renee Sznaper, who had ridden to her death on her mother’s lap, and consequently had not been in the official records of the French National Railways, was added to the list of victims of the camp. Her brother, who died in 2005, had been trying to track her down for forty years, but never found out what had happened to her.