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- Four children and eight adults pose outside a building.
Pictured in the middle is Beatrice Heffer. Jean and Maria Gasser stand behind her, next to Beatrice's father, Alfred Kahn.
- Beatrice Heffes is the daughter of Alfred Kahn (born May 9, 1904 in Merzig, Saar, Germany) and Rosa Moses (born April 6, 1909 in Frielendorf, Germany). They married in 1933. In January 1935, Germany reclaimed the Saar region, and the following December, Alfred and Rosa decided to move to France. They settled in Alencon, Normandy (120 miles from Paris), having seen an ad in the paper for a store that was for rent that sold scrap metal. They bought a house nearby and rented the store. Beatrice was born a year later on September 27, 1936. They also found a house for her grandparents and an unmarried aunt who came as well.
In 1939, Beatrice's father and uncle as well as his brother-in-law were sent to Le Mans internment camp and then to Albi (30 miles from Toulouse, Southwest France) to Camp Saint-Antoine as they were foreigners. Rosa remained in Alencon until 1941 keeping the business running. When it no longer was feasible, she managed to sell the contents of the store and move to Albi to join her husband. Beatrice had jaundice and in addition contracted psoriasis due to the stress she was living under. Her mother took Beatrice to the Gestapo hoping to get travel papers for them so that she could go for a "cure" in Vichy. Rosa's cousin Gerard (Horst) Meyerfeld was living with them, and they all moved together to the South. They rented a small house which had no running water or bathroom 10 miles from Albi. Her father was able to leave the camp and work on farms in the area to help with the harvest. One farmer, Charles Gasser, noticed that Alfred did not drink wine at lunch and asked him "You are not from here?" He immediately offered that if he had any problems he could turn to him. Beatrice's mother went to this farm in order to obtain food and when he saw Beatrice he told her mother that they could sleep there when things became more difficult. Towards the end of 1942, Beatrice began to stay there regularly. She was given the name Beatrice Camp and began to attend school in September 1942. Her parents also assumed false names; Alfred became Albert.
At first her parents could visit her at the Gasser's farm. In September 1943, a gendarme warned her father that he was supposed to be deported but it was harvest time and he was working at the Gasser family. The Gasser family decided to help them escape. Beatrice's parents put her to bed and told her that they would have to leave. They had rented a place in an attic and went there by bicycle. In order to reach it, they had to cross a river which was guarded but luckily the guard was asleep and they managed to reach their hiding place. The couple that lived downstairs was paid to bring them food. The Gasser family did so as well. After four months, Mr. Gasser realized that their dark airless attic hurt their morale so he brought Alfred and Rosa back to his farm, hiding them in another spot. In fact, it was more than three weeks before Beatrice knew her parents had returned. Then she had to keep the secret and pretend she didn't know what happened to her parents because of the danger of denunciation.
Beatrice's cousin Gerard was sent to work on another farm. Her mother hoped he would be well fed, but since these farmers were on Petain's side, he really was undernourished. He stayed there for 5-6 months and then left to work with the Jewish underground together with Robert Gamzon ca. 1944. He remained with them until liberation, when he joined the FFI (Forces Francaises de l'Interieur) later the First Army). His parents survived in Germany moving continually during the war and his mother managed to work in factories probably under assumed names. His parents came to the American zone after the war. Gerard could not get to see them for a few months. They later immigrated to the US. Gerard kept in contact with Beatrice's parents via letters. Afterwards he returned to Alencon and remained for a while later. A few years later he visited his parents but did not remain in the US.
After liberation, Beatrice and her parents returned to Alencon. They did not find anyone alive. Her grandparents, two aunts and uncles, three cousins had been deported to Auschwitz, as were two other uncles and her other grandmother. Beatrice continued studying in high school, boys and girls separately. At the age of 15, she went to boarding school as the local school was not challenging enough. In 10th grade, she was awarded a scholarship from the American Field Service and was sent to high school in Wilmington, Delaware, having studied English previously. There she lived with a Jewish family, and half of the school children were of the Jewish faith, which was a new experience for her. She returned to France working as a bilingual secretary in Paris.
Beatrice married a man from Egypt she met at a Seder in France. She had 3 children, 19 grandchildren as well as 7 great-grandchildren. She immigrated to Israel in 1996 following in her children's footsteps. In 2001, Yad Vashem honored Charles and Maria Gasser and their son Jean as Righteous of All Nations.
- Photo Source:
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Provenance: Beatrice Heffes
- Photo Credit:
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Beatrice Heffes
- Record last modified: 2010-07-22 00:00:00