Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Rene Lichtman - August 13, 1998

Le Vert Galant

What was the name of the village?

It's called Le Vert Galant. And uh, it's just northeast of Paris, maybe a half hour by train. It's now considered part of the suburbs, because it's, it's so close now, because Paris has expanded. But the house is still there and it looks the same. And it was, in those days it was just a very small town. And, and most of the people, you know, were still part...partially farmers and, and, and, and worked in the city. For example, Papa Paul um, I'm sure came from some kind of farming background. He was not a professional. But he worked, he worked as a bank clerk uh, in Paris, he was a clerk in a bank. And very debonair, very kind of sophisticated, a strict gentlemen um, but um, and she was extremely warm, extremely loving. And they had a wonderful relationship. And then in the back, the farming aspect was uh, that they had uh, um, you know, there was a big vegetable garden in the back. And we always had um, chicken and rabbits and um, you know, turkeys that we were raising, ducks and all kinds of things floating around and stuff like that.

All right. Uh, just so we clarify this, that they were not Jews.

They were not Jews, no, they were French Catholics. As a matter of fact uh, there were crosses all over the house. Um, and um, I um, and again, you kind of wonder how much of this, you know, how much do I really know the details, but I was baptized at one point. And I, I don't know if my father you know, went along. I, I assume he, he knew that was going to be happening. But if she was going to protect me and protect themselves, then I had to be baptized. Um, and I, I've always been curious. I've always wanted to get my baptism certificate. But, but um, um, I don't clearly remember going to church. And I think that had more to do with, with not being seen. Interestingly enough, I mean, essentially, I, I was, I was in hiding. I did not participate in any kind of social activities, birthday parties or school or day care center or going to the swimming pool in the summer or anything like that. Um, uh, and we lived, by, by sheer coincidence, geographically, we lived, if you can imagine a town being a square, um the bottom part was the railroad track and um, the, this part of it was at the beginning of a forest. So we lived right on the corner, right down here, totally isolated. Uh, and then there was this big forest and there was a railroad track here. So we really didn't have much contact with people. It's not like we were in the middle of town. Um, and it was such an interesting location, because of the railroad track and the forest, that the Germans, as soon, as soon as they showed up, that's where they put their foxholes, right across the street from us. And uh, they would come to our house for water. I remember that one um, image.

All right. You were three, two and a half, when the war started.


Do you remember some, some of the, of the war experience?

Uh, no, very little, because, because I was shielded from there, because um, and some of the things that I, that I know occurred, occurred because I sai...asked my guardian afterwards. Uh, for example uh, people were suspicious that she was hiding Jews. And that's, at, at one, one time, you had to register all your Jews. Uh, and she was going and she didn't register me. And she was going uh, to a, to a barbershop and the barber was, was um, the male barber was friendly to her, but the, the woman was not. Um, and the woman made a crack about, you know, "Aren't you--don't you have a Jewish kid in your house and shouldn't he be registered?" or something like that. And she said, "No, he's not, he," I don't know exactly how she described me, but I, you know, I was like the son of a niece or something like that or someone like that.

Well, what would have happened if they had been...

Well, I think the law in, in uh, I mean, it, you know, it was, it was different, but I think in France, certainly, I would have been taken away. And in terms of--I don't know if they had the death penalty for her. I know in Eastern Europe they did, for hiding Jews. But they had, I think in France um, that there would have been some kind of penalty for her, for, for hiding me.

So she was fully aware of the danger of the situation?

Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. She was, yeah, of course, she was aware, yeah.

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