Yom Hashoa is a day where we commemorate Holocaust survivors. It usually occurs around April.
Here the story of a woman, Fran, who went through the Holocaust, but didn’t let it defeat her.
Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, has a special meaning for a vibrant woman. Her childhood was spent hiding from the Nazis during WWII.
Today, Fran leads a fulfilling life. This busy wife, mother, and grandmother has a busy career in sales. In addition, she finds time to do volunteer work.
Fran remembers living in France during World War II. She lived with her parents, and sister, Gloria, in a two bedroom apartment. “I remember the apartment. My mother was always amazed at how much I could remember, but they were not good memories,” said Fran.
When Fran was a small child, there was a knock at their door in the middle of the night. She remembers her father being taken away by French citizens sympathetic to the Nazis. She never saw him again. Many years later, she discovered that he died in Auschwitz, a German Concentration Camp.
At first, the men were the only ones taken away. No one believed that people would arrest and kill women and children too.
Fran’s mother hoped that they could continue living in their home. Several days after her father was taken, they returned to the apartment. “It was padlocked. All our possessions were gone,” said Fran.
The two sisters, and her mother moved in with a Jewish friend, Berthe, who lived on the other side of Paris with her son, Armand.
Fortunately, there were non-Jewish people who were willing to risk their lives for them. The landlady of an apartment building distracted some soldiers when the family was hiding in a closet. A neighbor pretended the children were his own, so they wouldn’t be taken away by Nazis.
Fran remembers her mother reassuring them. “She never wanted us to be frightened,” said Fran.
Soon, things became so dangerous that Fran’s mother hid in the forest with others. The girls were placed in non-Jewish homes in the French countryside. Fran remembers her mother trying to see the girls at night. Sometimes, she would give the foster families a little money so the girls could have more food to eat. “We sometimes lived on one or two pieces of bread a day,” Fran recalled.
As a result of poor living conditions, Fran contracted childhood tuberculosis. She stayed in a TB sanitarium run by Catholic nuns. “The nuns were wonderful to me,” Fran said. Consequently, Fran adopted Catholicism into her life.
The war wasn’t officially over for Fran until the family was reunited, and moved back to their two room apartment.
Fran wanted to attend church, and her mother would say to her, “Go ahead because wherever you go, God will hear you. Pray that your father comes back… Someday you will be a Jew again.”
Unfortunately, her mother became ill, and died. Fran was devastated.
When Fran was eleven and her sister twelve, the girls came to America by boat. “The struggle didn’t end when we landed in America,” said Fran. She was shuttled between relatives and given away for adoption. The hardest obstacle she faced was being separated from her beloved sister.
After many years of struggle, Fran found happiness and stability with her husband and their four children. They have six grandchildren.
Her mother’s prophecy came true—Fran found her way back to Judaism.
There is much more to this story, and Fran tells it when she speaks to schools and organizations about the Holocaust.
The only tangible reminders she has of her early life are some photographs.
Fran still has a close relationship with her sister. Although Fran’s life has been tumultuous, she is a happy person.
“ Tragedy becomes a part of you, but you can choose to be positive about life,” Fran explained.
- Yom Hashoa 2012: a disturbing tale of contrast (pitputim.wordpress.com)
- In Israel, remembering the forgotten survivors of the Holocaust (mcclatchydc.com)
- Yom HaShoah: Holocaust Remembrance Day (atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com)