Oral History: Vichy France

Name: Monique Rauch

Date of Birth: 1929 (Unknown day/month)

Place of Birth: Paris, France

Subject: Vichy France

Monique was born in 1929 in Paris, France.  Her father was taken in 1943 and spent the war as a slave laborer in various concentration camps.  Monique and her mother managed to survive the war in the South of France without being discovered, frequently by taking shelter with Catholic friends during local selections.  Here Monique talks about her father being taken:


Interviewer: Were there any restrictions placed on you as a Jew living in…?

Monique Rauch: Yes, we couldn’t travel without, we have to ask if we want to take the train or something. If they find us in a train they would take us away, you know. And we had to be in the city, we had to be on the list of Jewish people, and we have to have Jew on our paper, because in France everyone has a carte d'identité, where is like here, the driver’s license, you know, you show, and it was marked Jew.  And, so we didn’t have to wear the star, I never wore the star, the star, in Paris they were wearing the star, and the occupy zone, but in the French zone we didn’t have to wear the star. 

I: Was your father’s job enough to take care of food and shelter and clothing for your family?

M: Yes because it was not too much to buy anyway. We didn’t have enough money for the black market, but for the little bit of food that we could buy it was enough. 

I: Were there any acts of resistance or…?

M: It was a lot of resistance around Brive, a lot of people were in the resistance. It was called le Maquis in French and it was in the country around, and it was a lot of people, and they were pretty active. But then they were reprisal, that’s during one of those reprisal, that was something that happened in Paris, but they had a lot of reprisal where I was too. And that’s during that time that they asked for two thousand Jews, and then my father was taken, that was in 1943. 

I: And how was he taken?

M: They came from the city around and a young man, he said that he needed, I was in school, but my mother told me that he said he needed him for a verification of paper. So he took him to city hall, and my mother said that she was coming too. And she came to school and got me in school and we both went to city hall and when I was there I saw when my father wanted to go to the bathroom, he had to have a gendarme in front of him and one in back of him because they didn’t want him to go away. It was not a verification of paper, but they were getting, they were taking them in deportation.

I: And what happened to him after that?

M: They put him in a camp in Brive, somebody came to tell us, and my mother and I went for two days bring him some food. And the third day was a Sunday, was supposed to be there, the director of the camp had told my mother, oh yes, they’re going to be there tomorrow, and when we arrived nobody was at the camp that Sunday morning. And somebody came during the night, I don’t know who it was, and yelled to us where my father was, that my mother should go with me since I was French that maybe they would let him go because he had a child who was French because they didn’t take the French people at this time. And we already didn’t have the right to take the train. My mother and I took the train, we went to that train and we couldn’t see him all day long. My mother asked about me being French if it would help, but they said no that he was Polish, and he was taken because he was Polish. And I knew a man who was Hungarian and I remembered that they released him at that time, they were taking only what they were supposed to take at that time.  And there were no Germans there; they were only French people who were working for the Germans. And there was a lady with a baby, a new baby, and her husband had never seen the child and she wanted to show him. And it was barbed wire, and she came near the barbed wire to show him the child and the French gendarme, or policeman, I don’t remember, said if you come closer, I have to shoot you. Maybe he had to, but I don’t know if he really had to or if he wanted to. And so she couldn’t really show him the child, probably he saw it that night. We stayed all day outside the camp, and at night they told us we could walk with them when they go to the station. So we walk with them and they put them on cattle wagon. And we went there and the last thing my father told me was take care of your mother and that was that. 

I: So that was a transit camp that he was…?

M: That was a transit camp; they were there a day I think, in that camp. And then they went to Drancy; Drancy was the outskirts of Paris, I used to pass there all the time when I was going to my grandmother. And they had big building, now when you go to Drancy it’s only big buildings, but at the time it was only, it was a gendarmerie and they had big [unintelligible] like building, that were big. And that was another transit for people who were leaving to go east. So that’s where he was and he sent us a card, a little card from there, and that’s the last thing we ever heard from him. And after that we really didn’t know where he had gone. Until I really saw in the book that Serge Klarsfeld made in France about the French people who had been taken in deportation. I saw the name of my father and the date and the number of the convoy and the place where he went. And that was the first time I had seen and I wrote not long ago to the Red Cross to make sure that they didn’t have any more information. And they gave me the same information that was in that book after the first camp. A man came to see us in Paris after the war and said that he was with my father and that they had gone to third camp, three camps, the first one and then they were supposed to walk to go to another and then to a third one. And from what this man said, he said that he would have died going in the third camp, that he couldn’t walk anymore and died. But we didn’t know, we never knew if it was really true or not because at this time people used to come and talk to people to try to get money, and we really, my mother really didn’t want to believe one way or another because she, she didn’t know. I was too young to do anything at that time, now I’m sorry that I didn’t take the name because in that book, Serge Klarsfeld gave the name of six people who came out alive from the convoy where my father was, and then I would have looked if this name had been one of the six. But I don’t have his name and probably now he’s been dead a long time. 

I: And according to the book, which camp was he sent to?

M: Majdan-

I: Majdanek?

M: Majdenek, that’s where they said they are sure that the convoy was sent there, and also the Red Cross said the same thing, that he was sent there. So that was the first camp where he was sent, but from that man he said that they had gone to three camp, because at then they were moving the people, the war was finishing, they were moving. But I don’t know, my father was not a man who did sports or things like this, and I think for him it must have been very difficult. He was only 42 and now I realize that he was not old, at the time when I was young, I thought he was old because he didn’t have any hair in the middle of his head. I thought he was an old man, and he was not; when I see my son now is 45, I realize that 42 was not an old man. 

I: In the card that he sent to you from the camp, what did he say on it?

M: Oh very little. I found it in my mother’s place and I misplaced it, I can’t find it now. But I know I have it somewhere. And he said that he’s been there and that the people are okay and if he can he will write more, you know. But he didn’t send, it was just a little card with a pencil.