Shattered Crystals - Colloquium Diary

DAY 4 – OCTOBER 18 (Colloquium Day 2)

The second day of the Colloquium was held at the Law School in Limoges; the facilities were again donated, and a sumptuous buffet luncheon with wine and champagne was provided by the office of the Mayor of the city. Among the foods on offer was thinly sliced roast beef, tender, juicy and delicious, and of course from the cattle for which Limousin is famous.

The Colloquium speakers included Rene Castille, an expert on the hidden children in Creuse. When he began his research in 1991, he found the local population knew nothing of hidden children. I was surprised to learn that until the end of 1942 it was legal in Creuse to hide Jews; after that it became illegal.

He was followed by OSE staffer Dr. Katy Hazan, who said most of the children who did not survive were non-French. Research shows that about thirty percent of French people were willing to help Jewish children.

Georges Weill, historian and retired OSE Archivist, spoke about Rabbi Abraham Deutsch. A leader of the Jewish community in Limoges throughout the war and a member of the Resistance, he participated in producing false papers and arranged for 10,000 packages to be sent to Camps. The Rabbi’s name was familiar to me as he helped my parents when they were destitute in Limoges in the fall of 1942.

Rabbi Deutsch was arrested in October 1943 and freed three days later. During his brief detention he refused to eat and managed to daven every night. He was forcibly shaved and molested. A bottle of wine was poured over him after which he was told, “Now you are baptized.”

Finally, there was a “round table,” welcoming comments from the floor by the Anciens, the people who had been there. Most notable was the point made by several speakers that children were sometimes misused, abused, and even raped by farmers and others who provided shelter. A woman whom I had gotten to know well during the two days as a level-headed individual was so adamant about this point that I half suspected that she had been raped as a child. Michel Kiener confirmed maltreatment, adding that at that time the victims included not only Jewish but also Gentile children.

After the colloquium ended, our bus drove us to the Limoges opening of an exhibit about the 90-year history of the OSE. This is a travelling exhibit which had already been in Paris, according to Georges Weill; it gives a comprehensive history of the organization from its founding in Russia in 1912 to the present day .

A number of enlarged photos with explanations gave the history of the organization and our own history as OSE children. Among the many interesting displays were photos of the vocational workshops, including the shoe repair shop which showed Norbert and his friend at work in 1940. ”That’s me,” he said, surprised and bemused to see himself.

I learned that the Villa Helvetia in Montmorency, the OSE home outside of Paris where I lived from October 1939 to June 1940, was opened in February 1934. OSE opened Montintin in June 1940 and closed its doors to Jewish children in February 1944 (exhibit photo, from 1940). By August 1942, OSE and the Resistance had managed the hiding of 1,600 Jewish children who were sought by the authorities. Through OSE’s efforts, 4,000 children were saved from deportation. On a more somber note, information is given about the children lost and the adults who helped children and were caught and murdered. Of general interest is the photo of arguably the most famous resident housed in an OSE home, Marcel Marceau, who was in Le Masgelier in Creuse Masgalier in 1942 and 1943 under his then name, Marcel Mangel.

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