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Oral history interview with Aimée Beressi

Oral History | Accession Number: 2013.139.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0713

Madame Aimée Beressi (née Setton), born on May 12, 1924 in Cairo, Egypt, describes her father Chaloum Setton, who was born in 1881 in Alep, Syria, but moved to Cairo, Egypt at a young age; her mother Esther Nahman, who was born in Cairo after her family immigrated from Kavala, Macedonia (present-day Greece); her family speaking French, Arabic, and English at home; her siblings in order of birth (Aimée is included): Joseph, Victor, Félix, Raymond, Aimée, and Robert; her father attending a Sephardic synagogue; how her family observed Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, but did not adhere strictly to Orthodox practices; receiving no Jewish education herself; living in the center of Cairo in a neighborhood where Muslims, Jews, Catholics, and Greek Orthodox families lived; attending a French private school for girls then the Lycée Français; attending the American University of Cairo for two years, wanting to become a journalist; abandoning her studies in 1942 or 1943 to take a job in an English firm as a translator and working there until 1947; not remembering the rise of Nazism during the 1930s and the plight of German Jews; meeting Jews from Vienna and Russian; her family being preoccupied by Mussolini’s conquest of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) and Libya; the treatment of Jews in Egypt during the war between Israel and the surrounding Arab countries; joining the clandestine Egyptian Communist Party during the war and meeting her future husband, Armand Beressi, who worked as an agent de change; dropping out of the university partly because attending an American university seemed to be in contradiction to Communist principles; being disappointed to find that the communists in France were hardline Stalinists and not open to discussion; severing her connections with the Communist Party in France; not experiencing any antisemitism until late 1947 when the U.N. voted the creation of the State of Israel; the arrest of her fiancé in 1948 and his imprisonment for a year at a detention camp west of Cairo (the camp of Huckstep); how Jews were convicted of “Zionist conspiracy”, even if they had no involvement in politics of connections to Israel; her younger brother, Robert, spending two years in a camp near the Oasis of Farga, in Northern Egypt (circa 1950); going to France on tourist visas with Armand in 1949 and becoming stateless refugees; her husband’s publishing business, which he later sold to Hachette; Armand’s death in 1979; her two sons; studying Arabic for two years at the Sorbonne; and also studying Jewish history, Hebrew, and the Talmud at the center for Jewish studies.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Aimée Beressi
Peggy Frankston
interview:  2013 May 17
creation: Paris (France)
2 digital files : WAV.
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:44:04
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