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Oral history interview with Etan Guinat

Oral History | Digitized | Accession Number: 2012.296.3 | RG Number: RG-50.710.0003

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    Oral history interview with Etan Guinat


    Interview Summary
    Otto Giniewski (nom de guerre Toto and now known as Etan Guinat) outlines, differentiates, and describes several Jewish youth resistance movements including, the Eclaireurs Israélites (EI), the Jewish scouting movement, and the Mouvement de la Jeunesse Sioniste (MJS). He describes the primary difference between the MJS, which was comprised of children of foreign-born parents, and the EI, which was made up primarily of the French-born youth of French-born parents; the early recognition of the MJS of the Nazis’ intentions and MJS’s subsequent allegiance to establish a Jewish state; how the failure of the French resistance to stop deportations, help Jews escape, and hide Jewish children drove the Zionist youth group and their clandestine objective to create a Jewish homeland; the flight of many Jews to southern France at the outbreak of the war, where they congregated in cities, like Montpellier, Grenoble, Nice, Toulouse, and Lyon, where there were vibrant universities and restive Jewish students eager to organize; his Montpellier university life as a chemistry student; how there was an EI branch in Montpellier but no Zionist Youth Movement; founding the "Sionistes de Montpellier", which was comprised of Jews of all political persuasions; attracting students away from Rabbi Henri Schilli's group; founding the “g'doude de Montpellier" in 1941 with support and assistance from Spanish republicans fleeing Spain, who also taught them how to acquire and use arms; how at the May 1942 congrès de Montpellier he co-founded with Simone Lévitte and Joseph Fisher the MJS, which united all French Zionist youth organizations under Lévitte’s and Fisher’s leadership; the military activities of the MJS; the organization of “L’armée juive” (AJ) in Toulouse; the creation of four maquis within the AJ in Nice, Lyon, Toulouse, and Paris; the participation of the Paris maquis in liberating Drancy and as special escorts to Charles de Gaulle at Liberation on Champs-Elysées; the elimination of a group of white Russian denunciators of Jews in Nice; the Organization to Save the Children (OSE) and the "sixth" from EI collaborated to create routes through the Pyrenées to facilitate the escape of Jews to Spain and alternative routes to Switzerland; organizing and training groups of young girls and social assistants who travelled the countryside to identify hiding places; the help of local authorities in these efforts; being transferred to Grenoble to head the Grenoble wing of MJS in November 1942; founding the “g’doude de Grenoble”; creating a robust center of Zionist activity and rescue operations within his chemistry lab at the university; forging documents, transferring funds, and identifying hiding places; hiding thousands of foreign-born Jews who would otherwise have been deported; the efficiency and capability of his document forgery operations and sending documents to the “g'doudim” in Nice and Lyon via Lévitte; his objective to save the children, knowing that the future of the Jewish state lay in their survival; the network of convents willing to help hide children; supplying young “g'doude” members to help transport children to safety in Switzerland; his strong relations with the prefecture of Grenoble, which enabled the MJS to secure already-registered identity cards; his link to local parish priests, who helped secure the local mayors' aid; the failure of the French resistance to help save Jewish children; his belief that because of lessons in Hebrew taught to the g'doudim thousands of patriotic young French Jews were prepared to make aliyah at war's end; his departure for Palestine in July 1945 after the MJS elected him as its leader; how he resigned because the MJS had instituted new policy, splitting it into different political groups; the various MJS financing links organized by Joseph Fisher, issuing guarantees to Jews seeking shelter for their fortunes and eventually reimbursing all contributions; the JOINT; working in Spain to collect donations from the United States; transferring funds to Simone Lévitte, who distributed it to the g'doudim and Palestine; creating a "fonds de secours” that was deposited in Switzerland and managed by Nathan Schwalb; how the money was used for salaries to young social assistants, purchases, the production and distribution of forged documents, and arms purchases and training; how the Nazis searched for him in Grenoble in 1944 and how Jacques Dubois warned him saying, "Ginot, it's time to leave!", collecting his box of secret documents from his lab, and fleeing to an army base near Toulouse to the lab of Colonel Nicolo [PH], who provided him with a false identity and a safe haven; how in 1947 he was attached to the science unit of the IDF and was instructed by Ephraim Katzir to gather scientific intelligence in France; revisiting Nicolo [PH]; and his marriage to Lili, their family, and his work life in Israel.
    Etan Guinat
    interview:  approximately 2005

    Physical Details

    2 videocassettes (DVCAM) : sound, color ; 1/4 in..

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Guinat, Etan.

    Administrative Notes

    The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum acquired the oral history interview with Etan Guinat, conducted for the 2006 film “Ich Bin Jude! Ich Bin Jude!,” from Bryan (Barak) Bard in March 2012.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this oral history interview has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 09:28:56
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