Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Rene Lichtman - August 13, 1998

Awareness of Being Jewish

Why the Jews, why the Jews, all the time, the Jews.

Why the Jews, all the time the Jews, you know. And she spoke mostly Yiddish with me. That was the other thing. Suddenly I was going from a French, you know, uh, did I know Yiddish? From where, you know? So I go to my mother who I hardly know, who's, who's, you know, a young woman with this foreign accent who speaks Yiddish mostly. Um, and so I learned to understand Yiddish. And um, but I like I said, I, I did, I did begin to like the, the Yiddish culture that I, that I was being exposed to, you know, the singing and those people and they were very um, kind of vibrant people, you might say.


But I, but I knew, I knew about the Holocaust, that they were all--it was like every family was like amputated somehow, that there was pieces missing. And when I asked and even, even with my, I mean, it's like, how do you learn about the Holocaust? You learn little by little. And I would ask my mother, um, like I asked about my cousin one time, she told me that um, let's see, that was interesting, because, because we had this beautiful picture which, which I still have of, of um, my mother and, and my young cousin and me in the middle; a formal portrait. And I said, "What happened to her? How come she's not here?" You know, we were, because we had no, hardly any relatives. I had a few cousins.

Was the portrait before the war?

It was a portrait pretty close to the war, you know, I think before the invasion, possibly or maybe just a month before.


And my, my mother looks, she looks pretty serious. My cousin is smiling, but my mother looks pretty tragic. And so I said to her, "What happened to my cousin?" I forgot her name, even, because she was a strange ghost, you know. Um, and she says, "Well, she was out in the street one time when she wasn't supposed to be." because they had these regular hours that the Jews are allowed to go out shopping as long as they're wearing their Star of David. And um uh, some took, had different clothes if they wanted to pass and, and they had fake ID, et cetera, they could go out at other times and of course, they would not wear their Star of David. And that's what she did, but she got caught in a raff where they, they, as a matter of fact, my cousin was on, on, on, on her way to, to see us, it seems. And she was out in, in um, in the street. And they barricaded the end of each street. And then of course in order to get out, you had to show your ID cards. And if it said, Juif, which is what ID cards would say and you were not wearing your--that's it. And so it was the first time I heard the word déportée, deported, which is a strange word when, in translation, deported. But in French, it means--déportée means you went to the death camps.

The word means, well, that's what it,

Déportée, the, the word means one thing in French, is death, in terms of the Jewish context, in terms of the Holocaust. I mean every--and uh, I heard that word over and over and over again about the family member, you know, about friends and I would, you know, ask questions, well, where was her husband? You know, because her husband wasn't there. Where were the kids? And the, this, "Ce lui si ils est déportée" and et cetera, you know. Um, deported is the term...

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