Saturday, 25 February 2012

# 50 [24 November 2009]

Interview with Norbert Herz, Holocaust survivor and Rivesaltes intern.

Section Three

Then I was taken out again by OSE and returned to the children’s home where I was. In the morning we went to the village school and in the afternoon we had tuition in the home. I was there till 1943. In 1943 there was a decree that all Jewish children, non-French because I was not of French nationality, who were not with their parents and considered abandoned would be deported or whatever, so they made frantic efforts to get as many children out as they could. I was lucky because I had an aunt in Switzerland, a Swiss aunt and she vouched for me, so I was smuggled across the border at Annemasse [next to Geneva on the French / Swiss border] . . . I was in Switzerland at Zurich for 3 months with my aunt and then she put me in a Jewish childrens’ home which was a Zionist home and from there, at the end of the war, May 1945, I emigrated to Palestine. That’s the story in a nutshell.

JM – When you were at Rivesaltes did you attend a school in the camp?

NH - At Rivesaltes there was no school. In Rivesaltes the conditions were very, very harsh. In our Ilot was a barrack that was allocated to the Swiss Red-Cross and the Swiss Red-Cross had sent over two nurses, not Jewish ones. They tried to make the lot of us children a little bit easier, I remember what they did was bright and nice in that place. Outside it was horrible and they even made us a little Christmas party, it brightened a bit of the daily existence.

Rivesaltes was a very harsh camp, it was a notorious one. Interestingly the village of Rivesaltes is just next door to it, the French saw everything that was going on. I never realised the village was just next door, I was too young of course.

JM – Do you remember any of the locals visiting the camp, did the Rabbi from Perpignan visit?

NH – To visit what?

JM – The camp at Rivesaltes.

NH – At the time? No. Why would they? A Jewish person visit? They would be hidden, They wouldn’t be allowed to. It was very, very harsh, I can assure you. Also, initially it was guarded by Vietnamese from the French colonies.

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