Saturday, 25 February 2012

# 45 [11 November 2009]

Journal de Rivesaltes. by Friedel Bohny-Reiter, Published 1998, written whilst she was a Red-Cross worker at Rivesaltes during 1941 - 1942:

13th September [1942]. It is 12.30 and we have only just got back from the station. We have been there since 3pm. It was horrible today. Such scenes. The people were left standing up for the roll call under a leaden sun, from 7am to 11am. Then they separated those who had to leave from those who stayed. I can still hear the cries of the women. I managed to free the children of one of the mothers. When I wanted to take them she pulled them to her. I lifted the children in my arms and took them to our quarters. When the mother refused to get into the truck the guards pushed her in.

Wagon after wagon was filled. Two were still empty and they had to find more to fill them. A woman who was a Belgian Protestant had come to the camp with her two children to look for her Jewish husband. Three more were needed to make up the convoy and they seized her and her children. The guards held her down as they took her and her to the wagon and shut the iron door behind her. ‘I am not a Jew’, she screamed.

Sometimes I feel afraid that we are implicated in this terrible betrayal.

The journal cites many incidents of children being separated from their families, some with a happy ending.

Whilst researching Holocaust survivors who were interned at Rivesaltes I came across Norbert Herz who was a child at the camp. He is 78 now, a retired teacher living in Cheadle, Manchester. He escaped from Nazi Germany to France, where he was interned at Rivesaltes and then fostered into a Jewish home at which time his mother was kept prisoner by the French administration.

He escaped to Switzerland and then headed for Palestine and eventually settled in Manchester.

Yesterday I contacted Dr Jean-Marc Dreyfus a lecturer in Holocaust Studies at Manchester University who invited Norbert Herz to give a talk last year at a conference on Holocaust education at the university. He is kindly going to request that I meet Mr Herz - I would like to interview him, not only as an important part of my research but with a view to form a new series of works. Watch this space . . .

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