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Oral history interview with Paulette Fink

Oral History | Accession Number: 1992.A.0126.12 | RG Number: RG-50.156.0012

Paulette Fink (née Weill), born on October 22, 1911 in Mulhouse, France, discusses her parents, Jean Weill and Biorche Salomon; going with her mother and sister to Switzerland during WWI; going to Paris, France after the war; not growing up observant; attending a religious school at Reform/Liberal synagogue; attending boarding schools in Germany and the United Kingdom; seeing the anti-Jewish signs in Germany; getting married in January 1934 to Yves Oppert; her two daughters (born in 1935 and 1939); her husband’s chain of five and dime stores; living in Brittany, France when WWII began; her husband’s role as a lieutenant in the army and his capture by the Germans in June 1940; her husband’s escape; her parents and sister fleeing to North Africa via Spain; being a registered nurse and working in a hospital near Périgueux, France; never wearing a Jewish star even though the area was under Vichy control; joining a Resistance group formed by her husband after his escape; the arrest of her husband; getting her husband released; helping to hide Jewish children on various farms; her children who were hidden in Chambon and later sent to Switzerland; helping to helped rescue British and American courier parachutists who brought messages to the Resistance; living with 13 family members in a castle near Grenoble, France; the capture of her husband after D-Day and his death on June 24, 1944; the propaganda she saw that blamed Jews for the war and rationing; losing some of her family members; liberation in August 1944; the American troops setting up a hospital on the castle’s grounds; setting up housing for children with a little help from the Joint Distribution Committee; being sent by the JDC to the United States on the USS Thomas Barry in 1946 to raise funds; spending three months in New York City and traveling around raising money; her work for many years helping to raise money and working in orphanages in France; being involved with the Palestine Brigade which brought displaced persons (DPs) to the Paris area (Malmaison I and II); helping to smuggle immigrants to Palestine via Cyprus; working for JDC in Munich, Germany and in nearby DP camps; being involved with illegal immigration operations with local JDC head, Nelly Benetar; meeting her second husband in St. Paul while she was on a fundraising trip; getting married in 1954; her eight grandchildren; and the public speaking she has done in recent years.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Paulette Fink
Rhoda G. Lewin
interview:  1987 June 09
2 sound cassettes (90 min.).
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:50:47
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