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Oral history interview with Haim-Vidal Sephiha

Oral History | Accession Number: 2007.444 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0521

Haim-Vidal Sephiha, born January 28, 1923 in Saint-Gilles-lez-Bruxelles, Belgium of Istanbul-born Jewish parents, discusses his childhood and family life in Belgium and his schooling in Saint-Gilles; his memories of first hearing about the Nazi Party from Jewish refugees; a general absence of fear in Belgium and the consequential shock on May 10, 1940, when Germany invaded Belgium; his inability to obtain a scholarship because of his religion; his studies in agronomy, paid for by his father; a Ministry of Education letter telling him to stop his studies because he was a Jew; his memories of the school director, Haroun Tazieff, who later joined the Belgian Resistance; his educational pursuit through private lectures in hiding in early 1942; his recollections of the slow growth of Jewish restrictions under occupation and some anomalies such as his parents' freedom to circulate without wearing Jewish stars because of their Turkish citizenship, yet the presence of a sign indicating a Jewish-owned shop on their house; his own restrictions as a Belgian-born Jew and his requirement to wear a star; his March 1, 1943 arrest in the street without his star and detention in isolation for two nights by the Gestapo; his March 3, 1943 transfer by truck along with other Jews to a transit camp in Malines (Mechelen), Belgium; recollections of the camp, where he was designated with the letter E, indicating a forthcoming decision as to whether he was a Turkish Jew and therefore not deportable; a failed intervention by the Turkish Embassy in Paris to declare him Turkish; his designation with the letter B for Belgian which meant that he was not deportable because of Germany’s agreement with the Belgian Queen Elizabeth; the liberation of some Jews from the camp in March to September 1943; the Nazi revocation of the agreement in September 1943 and steady arrival of Jews in Malines; his life in detention; the presence of Flemish and Wallon Belgian SS guards; his friendship in Malines with the Belgian philosopher Leopold Flam; his departure for Auschwitz-Birkenau in the 22nd convoy with 1,600 other inmates; being in Auschwitz for eight days; aspects of gradual Nazi dehumanization of Jews; his deportation in 1943 to Furstengrabe sub-camp and mine; conditions working in the mine; violence of Nazis toward prisoners and the treatment of prisoners towards one another; his evacuation from Furstengrabe on January 18, 1945; his long march in harsh winter conditions and train transport to the Dora labor camp; his imprisonment in Dora until March 20, 1945; his transfer by train to a military base at Bergen-Belsen; his liberation by British on April 15, 1945; his views on the forgotten Sephardic Jews of the Holocaust and, in particular, those from Salonika, Greece; his efforts to preserve the Ladino language; and securing a commemorative plaque in Auschwitz inscribed in Ladino to the lost Sephardim.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Haim-Vidal Sephiha
interview:  2007 December 21
creation: Washington (D.C.)
2 videocassettes (DVCAM) : sound, color ; 1/4 in..
Record last modified: 2023-08-25 12:29:52
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