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Oral history interview with Simon Coencas

Oral History | Accession Number: 2014.237.1 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0765

Simon Emmanuel Coencas, born January 28, 1927 in Saint-Denis, France, describes his four siblings; his Greek father, Michel Coencas, who owned a chain of clothing stores; his mother, Victorine Behar, who was from a well-to-do Jewish family from Egypt; how his family was not especially religious; being raised partly by his maternal grandmother, who spoke Judeo-Spanish; attending a Catholic primary and elementary school; not experiencing antisemitism; moving to Montignac, France when France declared war on Germany in September 1939; discovering the Lascaux cave with friends in June1940; moving on September 12, 1940 to Paris, France; his family being registered in October 1940; living in their grandmother’s apartment on the boulevard Davaut in Paris; how his father’s five stores were assigned an Aryan administrator, named Charles Noyer and whom later denounced Simon’s father; his father being sent to the Fresnes prison; visiting his father in prison; being arrested and sent to Drancy; being in Drancy for about a month and a half and being released because the Red Cross decided that children under 16 should not be interned; the arrest of his parents while he was imprisoned; living in a tiny room under the roof of an apartment building in the 9th arrondissement with his aunt and cousins; how food was brought to them by the aunt’s second husband, Vilalik, a Hungarian non-Jewish painter; how he did not stay inside all the time because various Jewish organizations gave him small jobs; how two of his younger siblings were hidden by a woman named Suanne Raynaud-Coet, whom was later honored as a “Righteous among Nations”; working with his cousin, Raphael Nakache (also known as Miguel Cordoba), selling shoe polish on the streets when the war ended; being paid to attract clients to various businesses; working in Saint-Denis; meeting his future wife, Giselle Dufresnoy, whose father was a brocanteur; starting his own business collecting scrap metal; the growth of his business; moving from Charenton to Montreuil; his children; being recognized for his discovery of the Lascaux murals; being named a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres; the Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy bestowing the Ordre de Mérite on him; and his religious beliefs.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Simon Coencas
Peggy Frankston
interview:  2014 July 09
2 digital files : WAV.