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Paul S. Holocaust testimony (HVT-4275) interviewed by interviewed by Yannis Thanassekos and Michel Rosenfeldt

Oral History | Fortunoff Collection ID: HVT-4275

Videotape testimony of Paul S., who was born in Paris, France in 1926 to Polish émigrés, the second of four children. He recounts his family's move to Brussels when he was three; a happy childhood; his father's and his participation in the socialist movement; attending public school; observing Jewish holidays at home, but not attending synagogue; his older brother's influence on his intellectual formation; his death from appendicitis; fleeing briefly during the German invasion; attending art school for a year; his father arranging for false papers and a hiding place for the family in 1942; making new friends who did not know he was Jewish; meeting his future wife, a Catholic; arrest with his family in 1944; deportation to Malines; receiving a package from his girlfriend, including her photograph (she had learned he was Jewish and his location); deportation to Auschwitz/Birkenau on July 31, 1944; separation from his mother, sister, and younger brother upon arrival; the degradation of being stripped, showered, shaved, and tattooed; his father advising him to volunteer for any “good” job; their separation when each took different jobs; his privileged job based on his artistic abilities; seeing his father every Sunday and being told by him that his mother and sister were alive; learning of the gas chambers and crematoria; numbing himself to the horrors all around; a death march to Gross-Rosen; joining a group of French Jews; their transfer to Dachau two days later, then to Waldlager V; slave labor chopping wood and carrying cement; his friends carrying him back to camp every night; public hangings; receiving a Red Cross package; a two-day hospitalization; train transfer; bombing of the train; escaping with friends; hiding in farms; entering a church where they were given food; and liberation by United States troops.
Mr. S. recalls repatriation to Brussels, with assistance from the Red Cross; his sister's return; reunion with his girlfriend; recuperating in Switzerland for three months; realizing his parents would not return; attending school; working as a graphic designer; marriage to his girlfriend; the births of two children; and visiting Auschwitz with his sister, his first opportunity to have a “tomb” and mourn for his murdered family. Mr. S. discusses the immediate postwar time, his darkest period; his camp experiences as an integral part of his life; not identifying or associating with the Jewish community; the difficulty of conveying the omnipresent tension and panic he felt in the camps; believing survivors should not be glorified; the importance to his survival of luck and having his girlfriend's photograph, which gave him hope he would see her again; and not reading about the Holocaust so his memories are not influenced or tainted by experiences of others. He shows letters from students to whom he has spoken about his experiences.

Author/Creator
S., Paul, 1926-
Published
Brussels, Belgium : Fondation Auschwitz, 2001
Interview Date
January 12, 2001.
Language
French
Copies
2 copies: Betacam SP dub; and 1/2 in. VHS with time coding.
Cite As
Paul S. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-4275). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.