Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Rene Lichtman - August 13, 1998

Reflections on Time in Hiding

You, you said you, you wonder what had happened if you had a normal childhood. Th...those five years, as you're describing them, sound like they may have been--given there's a war on, they may have been normal to some extent. It's the, it's the, it's the sandwich that doesn't seem normal, you know, it's the beginning and the end of it. Do you think that you would, you would, like maybe Madame Lepage gave you a foundation of some sort of...

Oh, yeah, yeah...


Yeah, she gave me a foundation of security, yeah. Um, but it wasn't normal in the sense of, you know, making me a social being. You know, I wasn't um, I don't know where I learned that, but I learned it, yep, I learned it, because I got to New York, I, right away I, I knew how to blend in and, and um, make friends and be popular and belong to the right gangs, et cetera. But uh, um, no, she, I think she gave me, she gave me love and security and, and she gave me a, a kind of uh, you might say uh, they were, they were wonderful role models for what parents could be like, you know, very loving, very forgiving. He was the strong, tough guy, you know and she was able to, she had, uh, she taught me negotiating skills. She says, okay, Rene, "You do what Papa Paul says," because he always had the last word. You know, he was the authority, you know, in the and uh, even though it may--"We'll discuss it later," you know, "You can tell Mama Nana, now if you have any problems with it." So that was the tactic that we used. So I learned a great deal, plus I was a kid--I was loved. I just felt, just um, um, you know, I felt okay there.

In, in all this time, you don't think that there was even any proselytizing done?

No, they weren't uh, they weren't those types of Christians, they were, they were what I think of French Catholics. You know, French Catholics, they like Catholicism, but they don't uh,

They don't hoist it.

They don't, no, they don't it too seriously, no.

And when you were, when you were ill and you had these doctors...

Yeah, I never understood that.

...do you think that they realized, the doctors realized that you were Jewish?

You know, I, I don't know. And there's no way of a--knowing that. And I would assume that my guardian would have chosen someone who was sympathetic...


Um, to her situation or would keep their mouth shut. You know, I mean, I don't think, I think in those days, they knew who the, who the pro-fascists were, who, who the uh, uh, you know, the right-wingers, the, the pro-German elements, the, the French fascists. There was French fascists who were anti-German, they were just French fascists, you know. So I think people knew who they were dealing with. And uh, and I think also maybe that my, my guardian's nephew had contacts. Um, and I have a picture of him also. He was an interesting guy.

But you never felt in danger?

I never, I never, I never felt in danger, no. I think for me, you know, the, the Holocaust was the fact that we knew, you know, you'd think, well, you know, people who experienced the Holocaust and they come home and then you go back to school. You know, like, like Fred says, you know, "Okay, that's just all over again." And I, I think, I think the Holocaust didn't stop in 1945, that, that the repercussions sometimes were as, if not more severe. Because I mean, I've heard a lot of stories where people were hidden in a somewhat safe environment and suddenly they had to become Jewish again. And, and that whole trauma, that whole identity, well, what the heck am I now? You know and then suddenly I was, one minute I'm French and then five years later I'm, I'm going to live in America and, you know, I don't feel terribly American. I don't feel terribly French. I'm not Catholic, but I don't feel much like a Jew, so...

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