Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Rene Lichtman - August 13, 1998


Tell me, tell me about the, the ring that you got.

Well, this, the ring was uh, was kind of interesting. Uh, it was a--it had the Virgin Mary on it. And um, it was a, it was a gift, I, I suppose. And it had a kind of interesting story to it, because I um, I would take it out and I would suck on it at night or, or, or something. And uh, one time, I swallowed it. And that became a big, big episode. Uh, and my guardian was, you know, she would try to find it when I went to the bathroom. So eventually she found it.

She did find it.

She had a, you know, it was great "yeah, yeah" oh, you know, it was a big deal.

When did she give it to you? Was it during the war?

It was during the, yeah. How I got that ring, I don't know. But uh, you know, the Virgin Mary was all around me. It was on all the crosses. But they, they were French. You know, I don't think they went to church, but they were, in, in that respect, although we had a church right down the street. I mean, one of the warm memories that I have is the church bells, you know and...

But you never went to church?

Not that I'm aware of. I went back uh, when--we went back a couple years ago, my wife and Reesa and I. And I went back to the um, I went by myself to the town of Le Vert Galant. And I went to look, I went to look at my house. And, and I went to--and I was trying to get information, but it was, it almost looked abandoned or somebody hadn't been taking care of it and the people were, were not--they had been, they were on vacation or something. Uh, and then I went to look for the church, because I want, I wanted, I was interested in the baptism records and I wanted to know how, how to find out about the wartime history of the town. And it turned out the priest was not around and it was, it was kind of a dead-end. And um, it was really too bad. I'm not sure how, how to pursue all that.

Well, did and I, I don't want, not to dwell too much on the ring, though it's a funny story in the end, I suppose, but um, do you think she gave it to you as a, as a good luck ring, as something to remember her by--is...

Yeah, I don't know. You know, I think it's all, all those things and a religious um, um, I mean, if you're trying to be Christian, it's nice to have a, you know, people would notice that and then and it was probably pretty common for kids to be wearing something with the, but there was one, there was one thing that occurred that was kind of interesting which and I and I never talk about that very much at all. It was um, I, I remember I was pretty sick a few times. And I don't know how she was able to get these doctors to come over and take care of me, because I do, I do remember a doctor coming over. I remember there was one time I woke up and I couldn't open my eyes, because both my eyes were full of pus, I mean caked over my eyes. And um, that was one instance, when I just remember her kind of gently, each morning--I had some kind of infection or something. And then there was something more serious where, where the doctor came over and took care of me. Um, the um, and then one thing that, that occurred was that I, I was, which was kind of disturbing and I'm not a hundred percent sure about it, but, but I was always, I always had a lazy eye. And I was never treated for that because I never went to a doctor over there. You know, I didn't go--I mean, I know, I remember doctors coming to see me and I don't know whether it was at night or who these people were. But when I went back to--so when I was seven and a half, eight years old, I went back to Paris and there they tried to, they realized that I was losing the vision on my eye. And uh, they tried to patch it. And for some reason I was, I was really against that, because it was just one more thing, you know...

What do you mean, patch it? They give you a patch to wear?

They would give you a patch to strengthen the bad eye.

So you wear the patch on the good eye?

Yes, to force the, the bad eye to, to work. And so I rebelled against that. And um, and my mother couldn't deal with me, you know, so--and what happened is, I essentially lost the vision in my left eye. Uh, and...

At age eight?

Uh, yeah. And usually it's--uh, yeah and the same thing almost happened to David in some ways. That's kind of freaked me out.

Your son? Your son?

Yeah, yeah. Almost. It's sad. But I, I've always felt, you know, I always, I said, you know what? If I'd had a normal, a normal childhood uh, that could have been picked up. And uh, then as soon as I came to New York, right away in the public schools, they, they wanted, they couldn't do anything to save the vision, but they could do um, cosmetic surgery to straighten out the eye a little so it wouldn't look so, so strange. But to this day, I legally am blind in my left eye.

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