Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Rene Lichtman - August 13, 1998


So you're not a, you're not French anymore, when you come to the States.


And you're not Catholic.

I'm not Catholic and I'm not French. I'll become a Jewish kid from Brooklyn. And they call me Frenchie, which is okay, because they couldn't say Rene or Renny. They--you know, it was a girl's name and a sissy name, so we got rid of that quick. I became Ronald. I actually became Ronald Branwine.

Ronald Branwine? Um, how did you become Ronald Branwine?

Well, my step dad was Branwine. And uh, uh, the closest thing to Rene was Ronnie, which was Ronald, so I became Ronald, including when I joined the military. My military papers say Ronald Lichtman. And at one point, I said, what is this shit with Ronald? I'm not Ronald, I'm Rene. You know, so at least I, I've, I did have some kind of authenticity. But uh, I became Ronald Branwine and uh, that was okay too, you know. I mean...

So your mother remarried...

She remarried a gentlemen by the name of Branwine who was from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And that's where we went to live. And my, my guardian in, in, in, in France, when she told me that, when she was reassuring me from my fit that I was going to come to the United States, she painted this, she said, "Oh, the United States, there will be skyscrapers and you'll be so happy and, and they have wonderful streets and it's very rich. And, and you know, like, think of Chicago." She kept talking about Chicago. And I came here and we were, we lived in the worst slums of New York, you know...


Williamsburg. Yeah, I slept on the--in the living room. I never had my own bedroom until--but that was okay too. I was very adaptable. But my step dad was not a very um, not very um, tolerant, accepting, understanding. And I and I can't blame him. I'm sure I was, I was a difficult kid, you know.

So, was he a survivor?

Um, I'm not sure when he came to the States, you know, come to think of it. I don't think so. I think he came a little bit earlier than that.

So, so you didn't get along with Mr. Branwine?

No, we, we, we had um, no, we had um, we had a real rough time. And it, it really--unfortunately, I think unfortunately, it colored my um, my perception of uh, the religion. And um, uh, you, you know just kind of reinforced, I guess, atheistic feelings in me, uh...

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