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Small watercolor of a woman with a halo created by Simon Jeruchim in hiding

Object | Accession Number: 2001.328.5

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Small watercolor done by Simon Jeruchim while a hidden child in Normandy, France, from 1942 to 1945. He began painting after a schoolteacher, Mr. Crochet, gave him a painting kit in 1943. It depicts the Virgin Mary, a woman with a halo wearing a blue cloak standing under a golden arch with floral garlands. It is based upon a statue in a home in which Simon was hidden. But Simon was fascinated by the stained glassed windows and gilded statues in the Catholic churches and would sneak inside to sketch. (See 2001.328.3) Germany occupied France in June 1940. Simon, age 11, his parents, Samuel and Sonia, and his siblings, Alice, age 14, and Michel, age 5, remained in the Paris suburbs until summer 1942. In July, Sonia heard of the Vel d'Hiv roundup, when1000s of Jews were arrested. The family hid with their gentile housekeeper and then arranged for the Bonneaus, members of the underground, to hide the children in Normandy. Simon posed as a Catholic and worked as a farmhand, moving often. After the area was liberated on August 6, 1944, Simon returned to Paris and lived with the Bonneaus; his siblings returned after the war ended in May 1945. Their parents had been deported in fall 1942 to Auschwitz and murdered. Simon, Alice, and Michel emigrated to the United States in 1949.
    Artwork Title
    La Vierge aux Fleurs
    Date
    creation:  1943-1944
    Geography
    creation: in hiding; Normandy (France)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Simon Jeruchim
    Contributor
    Artist: Simon Jeruchim
    Subject: Simon Jeruchim
    Biography
    Simon Jeruchim was born on December 25, 1929, in Paris, France, to Samuel and Alice Szpiro Jeruchim. Samuel was born on December 24, 1898, in Ostrow, Poland, and Sonia, on August 18, 1899, in Garwolin, Poland. They left Poland because of antisemitism. He had two siblings, Alice, born on February 18, 1928, and Michel, on April 4, 1937, both in Paris. The family lived in Montreuil, a suburb of Paris, and Samuel worked as a watchmaker in Paris. They were not religious and Simon did not know he was Jewish. When World War II started on September 1, 1939, the family was vacationing in Richebourg in Normandy. Simon and Alice stayed there and to attend school; Michel returned to Montreuil with their parents. Samuel returned on December 24, 1939, 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 after to collect the children and go further south to St. Savinien, where Sonia and Michel were to meet them. After 2 months, Sonia and Michel had not arrived; they had returned to Paris and Samuel and the children followed. In November 1940, the family was ordered to report and register for identification cards stamped Juif [Jew] in red that all Jews were required to carry. Jews, primarily foreign born, were being rounded up and put in internment camps. Food was scarce and Simon was sent to Richebourg to obtain provisions. By the end of 1941, Simon had to wear a yellow star and, for the first time, became aware of his Jewish identity.
    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 cleaning woman. 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, members of the underground who placed the boys with a man named Ernst and Alice was sent to live with Madame Ledauphin.
    Ernst slaughtered steers and sold the meat on the black market. Simon acted as a lookout during the slaughtering. Ernst did not want to care for 5 year old Michel and sent him to live with the LeClere family. Their farm was close and Simon visited every few weeks. Simon was afraid of Ernst and thought that he was dealing with the Germans. After 3 months, he wrote to the Bonneaus’ and asked to be moved. Their daughter Madeleine came to bring Simon home. The Bonneaus were angry that Simon contacted them and endangered their operation, but they found him another home. Mrs. Mounier, a Bonneau family friend, took Simon to live with Mrs. Huard in Savigny le Vieux. It was 3 miles from where Alice lived and Simon visited her. Simon worked as a farmhand and slept in the barn, but convinced Mrs. Huard to let him sleep in the house. He had inadequate clothing and was barely tolerated. Mrs. Huard was very religious and Simon pretended to be Catholic, attending Sunday mass and mumbling nightly prayers. He borrowed a prayer book and learned the prayers while tending to the cows. In April 1943, Mrs. Mounier visited Simon and told him his parents had been arrested in 1942 in Poitiers and sent to Drancy internment camp.
    Simon wrote the Bonneaus’ and asked to be moved. Mrs. Mounier retrieved Simon and brought him to the home of Madame Prim, her daughter, and Annette and Maurice, siblings that Simon suspected were Jewish, as they did not know their Catholic prayers. One day, Mme. Prim was unable to attend a school meeting for Maurice and sent Simon. A teacher, Mr. Crochet, offered to lend him some library books. Simon identified a painting in the library and told the teacher he wanted to start drawing again. Mr. Crochet gave him a sketch pad and watercolors. Mme. Prim and her charges relocated to a larger house in La Renouardiere. Simon found drawing supplies and drew his surroundings. He heard news about the Allied advance on the secret radio of the neighbors, the Geslins. Simon developed a severe skin infection and was hospitalized for 2 weeks. When he returned, Allied forces were bombing the nearby town and they hid in the attic.
    Savigny-le-Vieux was liberated on August 6, 1944. Simon was in the yard picking dandelions for the rabbits when he saw American soldiers. The Geslins welcomed the soldiers with fresh well water and a toast, “A nos amis Americains” [To our American friends]. A few days later, Simon rode Alice’s bike to Paris. He slept in barns and depended on farmers for food on his 2 week journey. He returned to the Bonneau’s and stayed for a year. He asked what happened to his parents; they told him that his parents had tried to flee, with Joseph's parents, but were arrested and deported. Simon continued to hide his Jewish heritage. The German forces in Paris surrendered on August 24. Simon joined a Protestant Boy Scout troop, and finished high school. Alice soon joined him.
    The war in Europe ended on May 7, 1945. Simon’s parents never returned; eventually the family learned that Samuel and Sonia had been deported to Auschwitz on September 11, 1942, and murdered. The children’s maternal uncle, David Szpiro, became their guardian. They moved in with him and his wife, Berthe, and son, Raoul. When Michel returned from the LeClere house, he 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. The children lived in several orphanages; in each, Simon decorated the walls with Hebrew songs and murals. Simon learned about his religion and was one of the first French Jews to be Bar Mitzvahed after the war. In 1946, Simon received a scholarship to study commercial art at the School of Applied Arts in Paris. That spring, he created a comic book, Jambo, for Michel’s birthday.
    David arranged for the children to emigrate to the United States, to live with their maternal grandmother, Tessie, and her son, Sam. They arrived in New York in 1949. Simon served in the Korean War. He attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and became a package designer, book illustrator, and author. He married Cecile Rojer, who survived as a hidden child in Belgium then lived in a children’s home postwar until emigrating to the US in 1948. The couple married on November 6, 1955, and had 2 daughters. Simon wrote a book about his experiences in 2001: Hidden in France : a boy's journey under the Nazi occupation.

    Physical Details

    Language
    French
    Classification
    Art
    Category
    Children's art
    Physical Description
    Watercolor and ink drawing on light brown rectangular paper depicting a woman wearing a dark blue, gold lined mantle with a partial yellow halo around her head. She has dark hair worn in a center part and a white dress with red and blue dots. The mantle is gathered in her hands and she holds a red rose bouquet. She stands in front of a columned archway that surrounds a paned window trimmed with a red and blue rose garland. On each side are burning, white tapered candles in candlesticks, and yellow vases with red and white flowers. There is French text at the bottom. The reverse is blank.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 8.125 inches (20.638 cm) | Width: 6.500 inches (16.51 cm)
    Materials
    overall : paper, watercolor, ink
    Inscription
    front, bottom center, black ink : La Vièrge aux FLeurs [The Virgin of the Flowers]

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The watercolor was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2001 by Simon Jeruchim.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-06-09 14:26:03
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn520501

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