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Oral history interview with Sonja Samson

Oral History | Accession Number: 1997.A.0441.121 | RG Number: RG-50.462.0121

Sonja Samson, born in Aurich, Germany in 1931, into an assimilated but observant Jewish family; living with her grandparents for a year in Luxembourg circa 1936 until she joined her parents, who had moved to France; her family history and her childhood; her speculations on why her parents stayed in France instead of immigrating to the United States; her father volunteering for the French Army and his internment in 1939; staying briefly with her parents in the commune of Gurs then living in Garlin until August 26, 1942 when they were rounded up by French police and sent to Gurs; being transported to Rivesaltes in September 1942; her parents’ deportation and her mother managing to keep Sonja from going on the transport with the help of Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE); never seeing her parents again and still profoundly resenting this separation; conditions in the two camps and her life and schooling in the villages of Garlin and Gurs; staying in a convent and then an orphanage at Palavas-les-Flots with other Jewish children, under the auspices of the Union Générale des Israélites de France (UGIF) and the OSE; staying with distant relatives who were in hiding; staying in a boarding school in Chambéry, constantly on guard; a failed attempt to cross the border into Switzerland; working as a maid at an inn that was a substation of the Armeé Secréte (the French underground); inventing a new identity for herself as a non-Jewish war orphan and participating in Catholic rites to avoid discovery; becoming a messenger for the underground; how her presence of mind foiled a plot by the so-called "Butcher of Grenoble" to blow up the underground’s headquarters just after liberation in August 1944; her post-war life at the Chambéry boarding school, with her cousins; her search for her parents and being an active member of Hashomer Hatzair in Paris; how she learned what she needed in order to survive; how the loss of her parents affects her to this day; the changes to her outlook on religion, Jewishness, and Zionism as she matured; going to the United States from Sweden on the Gripsholm as a war-orphan in 1947; the difficult adjustment to life in the US; how she managed to get the higher education she wanted; and her post-war trips to Israel.

Interviewee
Sonja Samson
Date
1985 June 03  (interview)
1985 August 04  (interview)
Language
English
Extent
5 sound cassettes (60 min.).
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, gift of the Holocaust Oral History Archive of Gratz College
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Record last modified: 2018-01-22 11:02:16
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn515646