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Oral history interview with Léon Klein

Oral History | Accession Number: 2013.310.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0726

Léon Klein, born on November 17, 1921 in Paris, France, describes his Polish parents, Israel and Karola Klein; his father’s boutique where he sold different types of underwear; his parents’ naturalization before 1927; his brother Jacky, who was born in 1928; attending French public schools, first in the 20th arrondissement and then in Romainville in 1927; receiving religious instruction from a rabbi who came to the house and being bar mitzvahed at a synagogue in the 20th arrondissement; how his family did not keep Kosher nor attend services; being apprentice to a tailor named Gaftarnik (1934-1940); being enthusiastic about the Front Populaire and his activities with the group; being wounded during the clashes between the Front Populaire and the far-right group, La Cagoule (Comite secret d'action revolutionnaire); his memories of the beginning of the war, including the bombing raids; the mass exodus when the Germans invaded France in May 1940 and leaving Paris with his family; refusing to wear the Jewish star; going with a friend to a small village called La Loupe, where the mayor and a schoolteacher made him fake identity papers; working for a year on a farm and sleeping in the barn with the cows; returning to Paris around 1942 and moving in with his non-Jewish girlfriend, Jeanne Cambron; the births of their daughter in 1944 and son in 1947; getting married after the war and divorcing in the 1950s; working at the tailor’s shop during the war and one of the main employees trying to get him to become active in the MOI; meeting Henri Krasuki, the head of the CGT (a powerful Communist labor union) for many years; learning that people were being gassed to death in the Nazi camps; his activities with the resistance, which included distributing resistance flyers and information; being arrested in July 1944 and sent to the Fresnes prison, where he was tortured; being in Drancy for a few days and escaping from a transport out of the camp with approximately 23 others; asking for shelter from a village priest, who had been suspected of collaboration; arriving back in Paris after the city was liberated; opening a shop for custom-tailored clothing; meeting his second wife; and his post-war meeting with people he knew during the war, including those with whom he escaped such as the Rabbi René Kapel.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Léon Klein
Peggy Frankston
interview:  2013 November 22
2 digital files : WAV.
Record last modified: 2020-08-03 11:26:21
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