Michel Jeruchim was born on April 4, 1937, in Paris, France. His father, Samuel, was born on December 24, 1898, in Ostrow, Poland, and his mother, Sonia, was born on August 18, 1899, in Garwolin, Poland. They left Poland because of antisemitism. He had two siblings, Alice, born on February 18, 1928, and Simon, on December 25, 1929, both in Paris. The family lived in Montreuil and Samuel worked as a watchmaker in Paris. They were not religious. When World War II started on September 1, 1939, the family was vacationing in Richebourg in Normandy. Simon and Alice stayed there and attended school. Michel returned to Montreuil with their parents. Samuel returned on December 24 and brought Simon and Alice home.
Germany invaded France in May 1940. School-aged children, including Simon and Alice, were evacuated to the south of Paris. Samuel arrived shortly thereafter to collect the children and to go further south to St. Savinien, where Sonia and Michel were to meet them. After 2 months, Sonia and Michel had not arrived, so Samuel and the children returned and found them in Paris. In November, the family had to register with the German authorities and carry identification cards stamped Juif [Jew] in red. Three year old Michel was exempt, due to his age. Food was scarce and Simon was sent to Richebourg to obtain provisions.
On July 14, 1942, during a visit from friends with a young son, Joseph, they heard a rumor that all Parisian Jews were to be arrested. Both families hid with the Jeruchim’s gentile housekeeper. On July 16-17, the mass arrests of the Vel d’Hiv roundup occurred. Samuel and Sonia arranged for the children, including Joseph, to go into hiding. They were sent to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bonneau, Protestant members of the underground, who placed Michel and Simon with a man named Ernst and Alice with Mrs. Ledauphin in Normandy.
Ernst slaughtered steers and sold the meat on the black market. He did not want to care for 5 year old Michel and sent him to live with the LeClare family in St. Aubin-les-Elbeuf. Their farm was close and Simon visited every few weeks, until Simon was moved to another home. The family, which included a seventeen year old son, Gaston, took good care of Michel. They changed his name to theirs and treated him as their own. He attended public school and church.
Normandy was liberated in August 1944. In 1945, Michel’s maternal uncle, David Szpiro, became the children’s guardian and brought them to live with him, his wife Berthe, and son Raoul. Michel did not recognize Simon and referred to him as Monsieur. Due to a lack of space and money, the siblings were sent to a Jewish orphanage in Cailly-sur-Eure. In 1946, Simon received a scholarship to study commercial art at the School of Applied Arts in Paris. In 1947, Michel spent time in the Les Eglantines and the Les Glycines homes for children in Jouy-en-Josas. In 1948, he was transferred to the Moissac children’s home near Toulouse.
Michel’s parents never returned. Eventually the family learned that Samuel and Sonia had been arrested and deported to the Drancy internment camp and then to Auschwitz concentration camp on September 11, 1942, and murdered.
In 1949, David arranged for the children to emigrate to the United States, to live with their maternal grandmother, Tessie Shapiro, and her son, Sam, in New York. The three siblings sailed on the tourist ship, SS Sobiesky, and arrived in New York on October 25. Michel later married and had 2 children.