Caroline was really moved to hear Julie, a young Israeli soldier, to whom she asked what she would want to do after her army period, answering that her ideas were not perfectly clear but that the only thing that really mattered to her was perpetuation of remembrance. Caroline then offered to tell Julie her own story. Here is the transcript of their interview.
Caroline : What do you want to know?
Julie : Everything.
Julie : When were you born?
Caroline : January 22, 1932.
Julie : Where did you live?
Caroline : In the twentieth arrondissement.
Julie : In Paris?
Caroline : In Paris. I had a sister, a brother … I’m number 3. All together, we were 6.
Julie : What were the names?
Caroline : Before or during the war?
Julie : Both.
Caroline : Gracia, she kept her name because she was not hidden … Shaya became Charles … Caroline, it’s me, but it was too long, so, the nanny called me Line. Sarah, it was too Jewish. She became Ginette …
Julie : It’s weird to go from Sarah to Ginette!
Caroline : … my brother Yacob who was named Jacques. And Sammy who became Claude.
Julie : And this nanny, what was her name?
Caroline : Mrs. Dard (which means “sting” in french)
Julie : Like a bee.
Caroline : Yes. A bee that stings.
Julie : Why was she wicked?
Caroline : …
Caroline : We were a family of three girls, three boys. We were not rich but we were happy. My mother’s name was Régine. Our neighborhood was three quarters jewish and we called each other from one floor to another, what did you cook today, beans, I come …
Caroline : 1939. The war begins. My dad always listened to the news. And he heard the crystal night. You know what it is ?
Julie : Yes, I learned it at school.
Caroline : A Jew had killed a German and as a response, the Germans raided the Jews and broke everything and killed many people. My father, who heard that so many Jews had been killed, joined the army on the condition that we are all naturalized French and he went to war … We had a grandmother who lived in the 11th arrondissement and she came every day to help from Voltaire (XIth) to Père Lachaise(XXth). But it was hard for her so she found us a room in an old house next to her house. And we went to live next to her.
Julie : And you moved there, you 6 or 7?
Caroline : Yes. But every night my grandmother took one of us to sleep with her. Arrived at Voltaire, we were summoned by the town hall to look for the yellow stars to sew.
Caroline : The Jews could not take the subway, not to go to the cinema, to everything that was nice, we had no rights. And even the supermarket, we had some hours to go, at the time when there was nothing left. A social worker helped us. Did you hear about the Vel d’Hiv raid?
Julie : Yes, I do.
Caroline : The social worker went to visit my mother. She told her that something terrible was going to happen and that all the Jews of Voltaire were going to be taken away. She proposed to my mother to save 5 of her children on the condition that they be baptized and declared as orphans.
Caroline : The 5 little ones, we left. We took the bus to Noisy-le-Grand. We arrived in a nice little house, we were served a lunch. But just as the social worker left, the nanny said, “Come on, little Jews, outside!” And she took us out into the garden. “But madam, it’s raining!” “There is a chicken coop outside, take shelter in it.” We’ve been in a chicken coop under the rain when we had just left our mother. Charles told us “Keep calm, I’ll tell you stories.” He was very smart, Shaya. And Ginette too, she always helped me.
Caroline : The nanny brought us to church to be baptized. The priest understood that we were Jews. He told us “we have the same god, the main thing is to pray, but in the meantime, to save you, I will teach you prayers.” And this is how my brother Shaya became a choirboy. Months passed until Shaya decided that we would escape on Sunday after mass. Problems : our youngest brother never came to the church and we had no money. So we told the nanny that the youngest one had to come with us, and luckily she gave us some money to buy bread. We got on the bus, the controller was surprised to see us alone. And we did not have enough money, so a nice passenger paid for us. We arrived at the station Chateau de Vincennes and from there to Voltaire, we had to walk 5 stations. The look on my mother’s face when she opened the door… Worst terrible and dramatic moment. The next day, my mother rushed back to meet the social worker. And this time they decided to separate us. We were each placed with a nanny, but very kind people this time. The nanny I met with Ginette took us in a horse drawn cart. We, that just left this horrible woman who counted us the bread (100 g per child, and if it was 110 g, she took the 10 g and gave it to the dog), were very spoiled by this lady.
Caroline : After the summer holidays, we went back to Voltaire. And when the Germans came to arrest my grandparents, the neighbor saved us. The next day we went back to my parents’ home and my mother went to meet her cousin who was married to Mr Disizian, an Armenian. This guy bribed guards of Drancy to release Jews. He told my mother to hide her parents in the cellar of his house in Bruney. But my grandparents only spoke Spanish, that’s why I had to go with them to be the translator. The guy worried when he saw me because there was not enough room and I had to sleep with my grandparents. He smoked meat, so neighbors used to see smoke coming out of the cellar and we could cook and live without anyone suspecting anything. After a year, Mr. Disizian worried because I was starting to wither and he took me out of the cellar. He changed my name and introduced me as his granddaughter, Line Disizian. To people surprised to see me so thin he told he cared for me because I was sick. I went to church and he also wanted to send me to school. The nuns were surprised that I cannot read or write at age 11, but he told them that I was mentally retarded. I made my communion.
Caroline : 1945. End of the war. My father is released and he arrives at Père Lachaise and does not find us. Nobody could tell him where we were. My father, terrified, runs to my grandmother’s house and sees the seals on the door. But a neighbor told him where my mother was and he realizes that we all are saved.
He has found all of us . Missed the oldest two, Shaya and Ginette, who were in Bruney. Their farmer did not tell them that the war was over.
When Caroline stopped talking, she just opened her arms to Julie who had not dropped her hands during the whole interview and the two hug each other for a long time.