- Photographic copies and vintage image document the family's lives surrounding the Holocaust in Lithuania, Poland, and France.
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Elen Chajet Murad
- Collection Creator
- Elen E. Murad
Helene Elke Chajet was born on May 27, 1935, in Paris, France, to Tzvi Abba (Abel) and Chana Bursztejn (Burstein) Chajet. She had three siblings: Isaac, born in 1928, Eva, born in 1932, and Leon, born in 1940. Abel was born circa 1886 in Janow, Lithuania (now Poland) and had seven or eight siblings. He was a tailor, as was his father. Abel was drafted into the Russian army in World War I (1914-1918). After the war, he moved to Paris. Helene’s mother Chana was born in 1903 in Eishyshok (Eisiskes), Lithuania, and had seven siblings. Chana’s father Itsrok was rabbi and shochet. Chana moved to Paris with her cousins and worked as a dressmaker. Abel and Chana married on April 13, 1926. They lived in the Jewish Quarter, kept kosher, and went to the synagogue weekly. Abel operated his tailoring business out of the home and Chana worked with him until she had children. Helene spoke Yiddish with her parents and French with her siblings. Helene’s paternal uncle, Ajzik, his wife, and their three sons Libman, Zelick, and Szolow, as well as her maternal aunt, Dora, her husband, and their daughter, Esther, lived close by. Her maternal uncle, Eli Burstein, his wife, and their three daughters lived outside of Paris.
On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded France. The Germans occupied Paris on June 14 and immediately restricted Jewish rights. Jewish stores were closed and Abel lost many customers. There were food shortages and their ration cards were stamped with a large J for Juif (Jew). After Leon was born, Chana was ill, so Helene, Eva, and Isaac stood in line for hours at the stores for food. There was often no food left, because it had been purchased by non-Jews earlier in the day. Beginning in 1941, many Jewish people were arrested, including Chana’s brother-in-law, who never returned. In the middle of the night, German Gestapo and French police came to Helene’s apartment to arrest the family. Chana wanted to heat a bottle of milk for Leon before they left and was thrown to the floor and beaten. They were taken to the police station, but were released because they had a child under the age of 2. The family was arrested several more times, but were always released. They were sometimes informed that the police were coming so Abel arranged for the family to hide. The apartment building owner, who was not Jewish, allowed the family to hide in a spare apartment when the police came. On June 7, 1942, Jews were required to wear Star of David badges. On July 16, the Germans began mass arrests of thousands of Jews and taking them to Vel d’Hiv, a stadium in Paris. Helene and her family were not arrested because they were hiding in the coal storage cellar underneath the building. A neighbor told Abel that his brother, Ajzik, sister-in-law, and nephews were arrested. Helene’s maternal aunt, Dora, and cousin, Esther, were arrested later that month.
Abel and Chana decided they had to find more permanent hiding places. Before the war, Helene’s sister Eva spent a summer on the farm of Georges and Louise Dussert in Arleuf, a small village south of Paris. Abel wrote to the Dussert’s and they agreed to hide 7 year old Helene. Helene and her brother Isaac took off their Star of David badges and rode on a train full of German soldiers. Isaac took her to the Dussert’s, then returned to Paris. Georges and Louise lived in a small house with no running water. There was often not enough to eat, but they sometimes bought bread and milk from nearby farmers. They were kind to Helene and treated her like a daughter. They promised to adopt her if her parents did not survive. Arleuf was a very small village and was mostly unaffected by the war. Helene lived a normal life and attended school with the other children. She only made one friend and was often lonely, so she made a stick doll to play with. Everyone in the village knew that Helene was Jewish but treated her well. In 1943, German soldiers came to Arleuf, looking for resistance members, and ordered everyone to assemble on the streets with their identity papers. Helene’s papers identified her as a Jew, so she hid in the cellar for several hours, listening to the Germans shout. After it became quiet, she left the cellar and saw that the Germans had killed the mayor and set his house on fire when they did not find any partisans. No one in the village had told the Germans about Helene. Helene was afraid that the Germans would return, but they did not. The German Army in France surrendered in August 1944. The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945.
Helene’s brother Isaac returned to Arleuf to take her home. Georges (1874-1954) and Louise had found a family in a neighboring village who hid 14 year old Isaac under the name Robert. Helene’s 10 year old sister Eva and 2 year old brother Leon were hidden together at a farm in Normandy. Her mother and father hid separately in Paris. The family was reunited in their old apartment in Paris and Abel resumed his tailoring business. They learned that almost all of their extended family had perished. Their relatives in Lithuania were killed in 1941. Helene’s paternal uncle Ajzik, his wife, and their sons, Libman, Zelick, and Szolow, were taken from the Vel d’Hiv to Drancy transit camp, then to Auschwitz, where they were killed. Her maternal aunt, Dora, and cousin, Esther, were also killed. Her maternal uncle Eli had served in the French army and was a prisoner of war in Tunisia. After the war, his wife died and he and his daughters moved to Boston. Helene graduated from college and worked as a secretary. She remained in contact with Georges and Louise. In 2010, the Dusserts' were honored as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. In November 1960, Helene moved to the United States, following her sister Eva, who went in 1955, and her brother Leon, who went in 1958. Helene changed her name to Elen. While she was visiting her maternal uncles in Boston, she met Marcel Murad (b. 1930), who had arrived from Cairo, Egypt, in 1956. In July 1961, Elen and Marcel married. The couple settled in Boston and had three children. In 1965, Elen’s parents, Abel and Chana, and brother, Isaac, came to the US. Eva, 38, died in 1970. Abel, age 87, died in November 1971. Chana, age 77, died in April 1980. Isaac, 68, died in 1996.
Rights & Restrictions
- Conditions on Access
- There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
- Conditions on Use
- The donor, source institution, or a third party has asserted copyright over some or all of these material(s). The Museum does not own the copyright for the material and does not have authority to authorize use. For permission, please contact the rights holder(s).
- Copyright Holder
- Ms. Elen E. Murad
Keywords & Subjects
- Holder of Originals
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- Donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Elen Chajet Murad.
- Record last modified:
- 2023-02-24 13:43:29
- This page:
Also in Elen Chajet Murad collection
The collection consists of a doll and photograph relating to the experiences of Helene Chajet during the Holocaust when she lived in hiding in Arleuf, France.
Date: approximately 1943
Small stick doll made by 8 year old Helene Chajet while in hiding in Arleuf, France. Helene was often lonely and had always wanted a doll, so she carved the doll out of a stick with a knife. Her foster mother gave her a scrap of cloth to dress it. Helene never named the doll but loved it and took it with her everywhere. France was occupied by Germany in June 1940. Helene was placed into hiding with Georges and Louise Dussert by her parents, Abel and Chana, after mass arrests in Paris in summer 1942. The entire village knew she was Jewish, but when the Germans searched Arleuf for partisans in 1943, no one gave her up. After the war ended in May 1945, Helene was reunited with her parents and three siblings, Eva, Isaac, and Leon, who had hidden separately. Almost all of Helene’s extended family perished in the Holocaust.