Yvonne and her little sister Renée lived in the small town of St. Gratien on the outskirts of Paris, France. Yvonne, born in 1929, was five years older than Renée, so she was always the one in charge, even when they were children. If they played house, Annette was the loving mother and Renée was the baby. If they played school, Yvonne was the wise teacher and Renée was the student. They would also include their beloved German shepherd, Mirka, in their games. Mirka was a loyal friend to the girls, escorting them to school in the morning and greeting them again upon the conclusion of the day. When they were not at school, they spent their time playing hopscotch, jump rope, or hide and seek. When they were inside with the family, there was always a lot of reading and music, especially opera.
Maurice Ferstenfeld believed in teaching his two daughters about history and culture. He introduced Yvonne and Renée to these topics through the arts, and focused on the history of their native France. The family celebrated French national holidays with great enthusiasm. Maurice Ferstenfeld was born in Poland and Annette was born in Russia, and they later met and married in Germany, but ultimately they chose to move and raise their children in France. Maurice Ferstenfeld and Annette believed that France was a special place.
Maurice Ferstenfeld and Annette worked during the day, but when Annette was home she loved to sing to the girls, dress them in pretty dresses, and brush their hair. Annette, of course, was the prettiest of all the women of the family, with her soft pink skin, blond hair, and clear blue eyes.
It was their grandmother, Oma, who was the disciplinarian at home during the day. Oma also cooked the meals, which often included soup, vegetables, meat, and fresh rolls. Oma came from an orthodox family, which strictly adhered to traditional Jewish practices. Yvonne would sometimes see Oma cover her hair and light candles on Friday nights. Her parents never explained that this tradition was part of a special prayer for Shabbat. To Yvonne, these traditional practices seemed meaningless. Her family identified more with French society and culture than with Jewish traditions. For example, Maurice and Annette had the Jewish names of Moshe and Chana, but they never used them, preferring to answer to Maurice and Annette.
Yvonne turned 10 years old on May 12, 1939. As she became more aware of the world around her, she realized that she had stopped hearing her favorite music on the radio. Instead, her concerned parents were listening to daily bulletins that reported news about frightening events happening. Some of Yvonne’s relatives fled from Germany in the 1930s and told her family about their experiences under the Nazis. Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany after the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, and the danger became personal for Yvonnee when her father, Maurice was drafted into the French army. Yvonne feared for her family and for her country.
With the beginning of the Nazi occupation of France in the summer of 1940, Annette became nervous and decided to flee from their small village of Saint-Gratien. Annette and Oma piled the car with as many things from the house as possible, even putting a mattress on the roof. Finally, Yvonne and Renée got into the back seat of the car and everyone was ready to go, except for Mirka. They looked around for their beloved pet. They considered her a member of the family. Where could she be? Annette announced that they would not be able to take Mirka with them for the long journey.
How would Mirka survive alone until they came back? Yvonne saw Mirka approach the car waiting for someone to open a door for her. Suddenly, a neighbor dragged her away. Without the chance to say a final goodbye and crying uncontrollably as Annette started the car, they watched as the neighbor shot Mirka and left her to die.
People were escaping in all kinds of vehicles, carriages, hand-pulled trailers, and bicycles, going south on the one main road that led towards the border with Spain. Yvonne and her family traveled for three weeks, driving all day and sleeping on the mattress in the street at night. Annette sometimes had to plead and bargain for gasoline, but she was determined to get to the south of France.
When the family arrived in the South, the authorities assigned them to live in the small agricultural village of Grenade, outside of Toulouse. They lived on the edge of the village, near a market square in a simple two-room home. Water came from a pump across the street, there was no toilet, and Oma cooked over an open hearth. Annette sold the car so that the family would have enough money to buy food to eat.
While the conditions were difficult, Yvonne felt that they were finally out of danger when her father, Maurice tracked them down and joined them. Maurice had escaped from a German prison camp, returned home to find the family had fled, and so he headed south, as well. With everyone back together again, life began to feel normal for Yvonne. The girls went to school, and the whole family began to develop a social life with the other Jewish refugee families who were assigned to live in the town. Maurice and Annette gathered with their new friends in the café to play cards, and sometimes Annette would take the girls to the Garonne River to swim and sunbathe. Yvonne loved to spend time at the farms playing with the other kids and the animals. As the days passed, Yvonne was content to wait until the war was over. She didn’t realize the hardships that her parents and the other adults were quietly confronting.
Yvonne never saw Nazis in her village, but the radio did broadcast news about the war. Maurice and Annette tried not to reveal their concerns to the girls, but they worried that the situation could get worse. Maurice and Annette considered fleeing across the border to Spain by foot, but feared that the journey would be too difficult for the small girls and their elderly grandmother.
As a precaution, Maurice and Annette went to the city in 1941 to ask the Archbishop of Toulouse, Jean-Geraud Saliège*, for help. They had learned that the Archbishop was an opponent of the Nazis. He agreed to hide Yvonne and Renée in a local convent. Yvonne was 12, and Renée was 7 years old. The only condition was that Maurice and Annette Ferstenfeld had to allow the girls to have a baptism and participate in all the Christian rituals. The Archbishop explained that otherwise the whole community would be in danger, because it was strictly forbidden for anyone to help Jews.
One day Annette packed a suitcase and told the girls they were going to live at a convent, for their own safety. Mother Superior, the nun in charge of the convent, greeted the family when they arrived. She wore a traditional black robe, white bonnet, and black veil. Everything about the convent was strange and unfamiliar at first. However, Yvonne gradually began to accept her surroundings and realized the generosity and kindness of her caregivers. Within a short period of time, she even made a lot of new friends. She understood that she had to learn how to adapt to her new life.
But Renée was having a very different experience: First she lost her home, then her dog, and now her parents and everything familiar. She had grown up tenderly loved and cared for and was not prepared to be alone. During her free time, Yvonne would find Renée crying and neglected. Yvonne remembered pretending to take care of Renée when she played the baby in their childhood games. Now, Yvonne actually had to take on the role of parent to Renée and did her best to protect and give comfort to her little sister under these new conditions.
Yvonne and Renée never had any kind of religious upbringing, so they received their first religious education at the convent, as Catholics. Two weeks after their arrival, Yvonne was baptized and renamed Marie Marguerite. Renée was renamed Marie Therese. Dressed in white for the ritual, Yvonne felt like a bride. The nuns (called “Sisters”) at the convent were kind, both the ones who knew the girls were Jewish and the ones who did not know. Yet, during the ritual Yvonne could hear Annette quietly crying in the chapel when she came to watch the ceremony. Annette didn’t know how this new and different lifestyle would affect her children. While they never practiced Judaism in their home, Yvonne did know that she was Jewish. How would life in a convent affect her identity? Annette simply hoped the girls would be safe.
Maurice had befriended a warm and protective monk named Père Agathange who helped the girls while they were at the convent. Yvonne and Renée thought he was very handsome, and his visits brought sunshine into their lives. He always made sure to remind them that they were Jewish, and tried to reassure them by telling them that they would return to their family at the end of the war. He also promised that, if it were necessary, he would bring the girls into his own family and take care of them.
Life at the convent was difficult. The nuns were strict, food was scarce, and infections could easily spread among the rooms crowded with girls. The nuns would regularly check the girls for lice. As soon as they saw a child scratching her head, they cut off the girl’s hair, applied gasoline to her scalp, and had her wear a beret for several days to avoid further infestation. Renée loved her beautiful long hair, and Yvonne convinced the nuns to allow her to keep it long. Remembering how Annette used to love brushing their hair and knowing how important this was to Renée, Yvonne took personal responsibility for the upkeep of this priceless treasure. At the same time, she constantly worried that her sister would have to cut her hair because of lice. Yvonne believed that if the nuns cut her hair, Renée would be traumatized. In spite of herself, Yvonne finally decided to protect Renée by cutting her little sister’s hair herself. She gathered her courage and promised herself that she would not cry. If Renée saw her crying, how could she understand that this was in her best interest? Yvonne worried that Renée would feel deserted once again, this time by her sister, caregiver, and last friend in the world.
In July of 1943, the Ferstenfelds decided to bring the girls home for a short visit. Though everyone was happy to be reunited, Annette and Maurice were worried about raids on Jewish homes and arranged accommodations for their daughters at the home of a Christian neighbor. In fact, one day Yvonne woke to learn the terrifying news that Nazis had been to her parents’ home in the early morning hours. The girls quickly ran to find their home empty and in shambles. Only Oma was left, hysterical.
After their parents’ deportation, Oma decided to hide in a quiet place with farmers, and offered to cook for her keep during the war. Yvonne and Renée made their way back to the convent with the help of a neighbor. Because they no longer had family members to take care of them, they were now considered orphans. In order to stay at the convent they had to do more chores to pay for the cost of their room and board. Life in the convent became everything to them now, and religion was their only comfort. With their lives absorbed in Catholic religious practice, Yvonne became devout and even thought of becoming a nun.
By the end of 1944, the Allies had liberated France. With the war over, Yvonne and Renée were free to leave the convent. For Yvonne, however, freedom itself was frightening. Were they expected to return to their former lifestyle? Who would take care of them? So much had changed. Yvonne was tempted to stay with the nuns at the convent, but the girls were transferred to a Jewish orphanage. The Jewish orphanage was established by social service agencies at the end of the war to take care of homeless Jewish children whose parents were missing or had perished. At the orphanage, Yvonne and Renée met other children who told the stories of their own family’s horrors during the Holocaust. Many were now planning to immigrate to the Mandate for Palestine or other places.
Miraculously, some of the children at the orphanage were eventually reunited with their families. After years of holding on to hope while hiding in the convent, Yvonne and Renée were astounded to learn one day that their father, Maurice had in fact survived. They didn’t recognize him when he arrived to find them. Maurice had been a handsome, smiling, happy man. Now, he looked like a walking skeleton. He had suffered through the killing centers, and ultimately survived until he was liberated by American troops at the Buchenwald concentration camp. He believed that Annette had not survived. She was a prisoner at Auschwitz, where Dr. Mengele conducted his gruesome human experiments. Yvonne understood that Maurice was a broken man. She would now have to care for both Renée and Maurice as they all tried to rebuild their lives together.
To find comfort and strength, Yvonne turned once again to religion. She would sneak away from her family to go to church on Sundays. Oma, who had also survived and was now living with them again, declared, in dismay, that her grandchildren had become “Goyim” (non-Jews). But Maurice said nothing. He hoped that Yvonne would grow out of this phase and eventually turn to the usual pastimes of young women her age, such as school, boys, and dancing.
While trying to reestablish their normal lives, Yvonne and the family were also waiting for news of their other relatives. Some letters arrived from family members who had survived, and other news came of relatives who had perished. The family started spending time listening to the radio and the news bulletins that would announce the names of survivors looking for their families. One day, they all were listening to the radio and couldn’t believe what they heard: Annette had survived!
After all of the papers were obtained for Annette’s return to the family, Maurice went to meet her in Paris. She had been recovering in Sweden with other women who were liberated from the Ravensbrueck concentration camp. Maurice brought her home, but to Yvonne she now looked entirely different. The girls even wondered if she was the same person. Annette had been blond before, now she had dark hair. She was swollen and aged from all she had gone through during the war. Yvonne and Renée had changed a lot, too. When Annette saw them last they were children. Now, they had grown and matured. Everyone needed time to get used to the changes.
With the family reunited, they decided to move back to Paris. They were dismayed to find another family living in their former home, but managed to find a small apartment where they could try to begin anew. The girls began making up for years lost, meeting with friends socially and even being courted by suitors. In 1949 Yvonne married a young Jewish man from America, and the couple brought the other members of her family to New York in 1950.
Life continued for Yvonne in America, but she admits that all her experiences are not yet behind her. She struggles with her sense of identity, but concludes that, “You are who you are.” You inherit all of your life experiences, and they build your unique individual identity.
Etoile jaune: le silence du consistoire centrale , Mémoire ou thèse7 pages,
réalisation 2013 Auteur :
Lorsque la 8e ordonnance allemande du 29 mai 1942 instaure l'étoile jaune en zone occupée, on peut s'attendre à la réaction du consistoire central. Cette étape ignoble de la répression antisémite succédait aux statuts des juifs d'octobre 1940 et juin 1941, aux recensements, aux rafles, aux décisions allemandes d'élimination des juifs de la vie économique, et au premier convoi de déportés pour Auschwitz du 27 mars 1942, le consistoire centrale ne protesta pas.
[Ajouter un lien vers un article d'intérêt ou un site internet] 1 Juifs en psychiatrie sous l'Occupation. L'hospitalisation des Juifs en psychiatrie sous Vichy dans le département de la Seine (Par une recherche approfondie des archives hospitalières et départementales de la Seine, l'auteur opère une approche critique des dossiers concernant des personnes de confession juive internées à titre médical, parfois simplement préventif dans le contexte des risques et des suspicions propres à cette période. La pénurie alimentaire est confirmée, influant nettement sur la morbidité. Ce premier travail sera complété par un examen aussi exhaustif que possible des documents conservés pour amener une conclusion. ) 2 Héros de Goussainville - ROMANET André (Héros de Goussainville - Page ROMANET André ) 3 Résistance à la Mosquée de Paris : histoire ou fiction ? de Michel Renard (Le film Les hommes libres d'Ismël Ferroukhi (septembre 2011) est sympathique mais entretient des rapports assez lointains avec la vérité historique. Il est exact que le chanteur Selim (Simon) Halali fut sauvé par la délivrance de papiers attestant faussement de sa musulmanité. D'autres juifs furent probablement protégés par des membres de la Mosquée dans des conditions identiques. Mais prétendre que la Mosquée de Paris a abrité et, plus encore, organisé un réseau de résistance pour sauver des juifs, ne repose sur aucun témoignage recueilli ni sur aucune archive réelle. Cela relève de l'imaginaire. )
4 La Mosquée de Paris a-t-elle sauvé des juifs entre 1940 et 1944 ? une enquête généreuse mais sans résultat de Michel Renard (Le journaliste au Figaro littéraire, Mohammed Aïssaoui, né en 1947, vient de publier un livre intitulé L’Étoile jaune et le Croissant (Gallimard, septembre 2012). Son point de départ est un étonnement : pourquoi parmi les 23 000 «justes parmi les nations» gravés sur le mémorial Yad Vashem, à Jérusalem, ne figure-t-il aucun nom arabe ou musulman ? Il mène une enquête, cherche des témoins ou des descendants de témoins, évoque la figure de Si Kaddour Ben Ghabrit, directeur de l’Institut musulman de la Mosquée de Paris de 1926 à 1954, fait allusion à d’autres personnages qu’il a rencontrés, et plaide pour une reconnaissance mémorielle d’actes de solidarité, de sauvetage, de juifs par des musulmans durant cette période. Et pour leur reconnaissance et inscription sur le mémorial de Yad Vashem. Cet ouvrage est fréquemment mentionné par voie de presse, avec force sympathie. Mais… rares sont les critiques, positives ou négatives, réellement argumentées. On a le sentiment que ce livre est légitime, généreux, qu’il "tombe" bien en cette période. C'est ce que le sociologue américain Merton avait repéré dans les phénomènes d'identification et de projection même si le rapport à la réalité est totalement extérieur. Aujourd'hui, l'Arabe musulman, sauveteur de juifs, devient un type idéal auxquels de nombreux musumans ont envie de croire. La réalité n'est pas celle-ci, mais peu importe ! On reproduit la quatrième de couverture du livre (qu'on n'a pas lu), on ose quelques citations d’extraits… Mais personne ne se hasarde à une évaluation de la validité historique de sa teneur. )
5 Paroles et Mémoires des quartiers populaires. (Jacob Szmulewicz et son ami Étienne Raczymow ont répondu à des interviews pour la réalisation du film "Les garçons Ramponeau" de Patrice Spadoni, ou ils racontent leur vie et en particulier leurs actions en tant que résistants. On peut le retrouver sur le site Paroles et Mémoires des quartiers populaires. http://www.paroles-et-memoires.org/jan08/memoires.htm. (Auteur : Sylvia, Source : Canal Marches) )
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