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Oral history interview with Daniel Bessmann

Oral History | Accession Number: 1995.A.1281.29 | RG Number: RG-50.146.0029

Daniel Bessmann, born on 15 September 1925 in Paris, France in the 14ème arrondissement, discusses his parents; his father Léo Max, who was born in the 14ème; his mother Suzanne Sarah, who was born in 1904 in Safed, Palestine (now Tsefat, Israel); his family’s relocation in 1931 to Nice, where his father was a leather worker; not growing up religious and not speaking Yiddish at home except when his grandparents visited; being in Vidauban, France with his mother when the war began in September 1939; his father being called up mid-April 1940 while he and his mother remained in Nice; being put in a Catholic school; the emerging Resistance amongst some teachers and students; the return of his father at the end of August 1940, enrolling in the Grand Lycée de Nice; the growing antisemitism after Paris fell to the Germans; the publication of the Pétainiste anti-Jewish legislation on 3 October 1940; street violence and the attack on the magasin Boucharas where they would shop; his father’s refusal to register the family as Jews at the town hall, saying he was French and not Jewish; continuing in school until he was expelled from school during the 1941-1942 year; moving with his family to Saint-André-les-Alpes in 1941, after his father was told by a friend that the Jews were in increasing danger in Nice; returning to Nice in October 1942 and entering a hotel school; being aware that the Jews were in danger; learning that the Jews were being rounded up in Paris from reading newspapers and letters from family; the mayor of Nice in November 1943 telling the Jews that the Gestapo would soon begin roundups, yet his father continuing to say he wasn’t Jewish he was French; the fleeing of most Niçois Jews before the Gestapo began searching for them; his family staying in Saint-André-les-Alpes where they felt safe; the Maquis action beginning to develop during the winter of 1943-1944, which was linked to the Francs-Tireurs et Partisans; joining the group and being trained in acts of sabotage and assassination; various incursions by the Maquis; his friends Pierrot Blanc [PH] and Charles Viale [PH]; the gendarme in the village who were also linked to the Maquis; near misses when the Nazis came to his village looking for members of the Maquis; having run-ins with villagers who threatened to denounce him; enlisting in the air force at the end of the War; and his end of service in 1946.


Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Interviewee
Daniel Bessmann
Interviewer
Yvette Wirtschafter
Date
interview:  1994 June 27
Language
French
Extent
1 videocassette (VHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
 
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:32:28
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn507962