Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Rene Lichtman - August 13, 1998


Could you tell me your name, please and where you were born?

Uh, Rene Lichtman and I was born in Paris, France.

Um, when?

On December 4, 1937.

So you were just a child when the war started.

Right. I was um, two and a half. The Germans invaded in uh, June of 1940 and I was born in December of 1937.

Tell me a little bit about the circumstances that led to your um, to your experience during the war.

Well, my--I don't know a lot of the details, because it's only recently that, you know, I've really be...become interested in, in those types of details. But evidently uh, prior to the war, my, my mother and father um, had an arrangement with--you might call her a foster mother. Uh, it was someone who lived just outside, a half hour outside of Paris, who took care of kids. And that was um, her name was Anne Lepage. My parents had come from Poland, from Lubartów, Poland, which is northeast of Lublin. And evidently my dad had come in 1936 uh, excuse me, in 1933. Uh, they were married in, in Poland. Um, he came to Paris to work in 1933. In 1936, my mother came from Poland and in 1937, I was born. So they were essentially Polish immigrants. And they both worked in Paris. Uh, and they had this woman on the outskirts of Paris who took care of me. According to her, she said she started seeing me when I was six months old. Um, I remember her telling me that at one time. I mean, it just kind of, you know, I thought, oh, that was kind of early, but it didn't make, it didn't have much meaning for me. But I could see where they would uh, put me in her care while they were working. It was a pretty common thing for working families to do. And she always took care of a number of kids. In all the photographs that I have and even my childhood memories uh, I always remember other kids hanging out, you know, hanging around, coming and going, type of thing. So it was like a day care center, you might say. Um, but then when the war broke out uh, for some reason, my father decided to join the French Army, which was very unusual for, for, for Jews. Um, and he approached her and he had uh, a relationship, he had a warmer relationship or better, friendlier relationship with her than she had with my, with my mother, because for one thing, my mother didn't speak French very well. And my father had been there longer, so he spoke French better. Uh, and my and Mama Nana, my guardian uh, liked him. And he said to her, uh, he said "If something is going to happen," now this is already the war period, or the beginning of the war and I don't, I don't know exactly what, what year, uh, "If something is going to happen, would you take care of Rene, would you let, if something happened to me and my wife, would you, would you let him stay?" And so she agreed to that. Um, I um, in, es...in essence, I spent those years with her at her house. Uh, at the beginning of the war, when, when Jews could still uh, travel, my mother came to see me a couple times, but I don't, I don't re... remember her very clearly. I remember this young woman who wore perfume um, who came to see me, but I don't even really rem...I don't even remember her holding me or anything. I remember kind of looking at her from a certain distance. Um, and then of course, as the war progressed and the laws got more strict, she went into hiding herself in Paris uh, so I didn't see her um, until um, you know, until the war was over. Um...

Can I, can I interrupt? The, was um, Anne L...Lepage, was she married?

Anne Lepage was married uh, and um, to Papa Paul, my, my guardian. Um, they had no children. Uh, animals and, and other people's kids were always, you know, they were big into animals. And we had a nice vegetable garden, et cetera, et cetera. But she also had a nephew. Uh, and he was an interesting guy. And he had, he had a son uh, Paulo, who I have pictures of who, with, with Paulo, who was in the, in the military by the time I went back to see them in the nineteen, late fifties. He was always a few years older than me and I remember him kind of going and coming. But my, my guardian's nephew uh, I remember him as, as--he's the guy at times, when my mother would come to see me when it was dangerous, because she did come to see me after, when it was illegal, actually, to travel at certain times. He went into Paris and kind of got her, you know, would bring her to see me and then take her back. And um, so I thought of him as a pretty um, courageous guy. And he turned out to be one, he turned out to be in the underground, later on I found out, yeah.

And, and was the--there was a farm, basically, right? Is it, was the, it was a village, is that,

It was a small village. And I went back there recently, a couple years ago.

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