Fanny Reicher walks down a street of Antwerp holding the arm of another woman.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 98231
- Antwerp, Belgium
- Variant Locale
- Photo Designation
LIFE BEFORE THE HOLOCAUST -- Belgium
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Danielle Cassorla
Fanny Reicher walks down a street of Antwerp holding the arm of another woman.
- Danielle Cassorla is the daughter of Moïse Cassorla (b. August 12, 1913, in Bitola, Macedonia, Yugoslavia) and Fanny Reicher (b. March 20, 1923 in Kwaczala, Poland). Danielle was born in Saint-Julia (Haute-Garonne, France) on August 24, 1944. Fanny Reicher was born to Joseph Reicher (born in the late 1890's in Tchebinia, Ober Silesian border) and Helena Berger born ca. 1891, Kwaczala, Poland). Fanny's parents, Helena and Joseph, married after World War I and moved immediately to Antwerp, Belgium where Joseph found work as a diamond dealer. Helena had several miscarriages prior to Fanny's birth and hence returned to be with her mother in Kwaczala to give birth to Fanny. Helena later had two other daughters: Malvine, born January 1, 1925, and Rachelle, born 1934, both born in Belgium. Fanny and her sisters attended public school in Belgium. Fanny's parents, Helena and Joseph, were traditional Jews. They already knew Polish, German and Yiddish but learned Flemish and French in Belgium. They spoke Yiddish, Flemish and French with their daughters. Fanny did not graduate from high school, as World War II interrupted her studies (the middle sister was able to complete high school in France, the younger sister completed high school in Belgium after the war).
After the Germans invaded Belgium in 1940, the family, together with David Berger, Helena's brother, Riva, his wife, Sylvain, their son and, Eliane and Suzy, their daughters tried to flee to London by train. The train never got to the coastline, as the Germans destroyed the bridges. The passenger train was rerouted south to France and arrived in Toulouse. The French administration assigned the Reicher family to Saint-Julia (Haute Garonne), a small village close to Toulouse. The family found housing in an old house in the middle of the village and stayed together. Fanny's father went to work as a farm hand. At first, they did not register as Jews but later on, as the Vichy regime implemented its antisemitic program they had no choice. On occasion, Helena frequented the synagogue in Toulouse. There she saw a young Rabbi presiding and told her daughter Fanny about him. A short time later, Fanny attended services and met the rabbi. Six weeks later, she married Rabbi Moise Cassorla on June 25, 1942.
Rabbi Cassorla had grown up in Monastir (Bitola), Macedonia, then part of Yugoslavia, and had nine siblings. (They subsequently all perished.) In 1936 he came to Paris to study at the Seminaire Rabbinique. Upon completion of his studies, Rabbi Cassorla was sent by the Consistoire of Paris to be the Chief Sephardi Rabbi of Toulouse. Rabbi Cassorla used his position to assist foreign Jews being held in the internment camps of Saint-Cyprien, Gurs and Le Vernet.
The newlyweds moved into a rented apartment on Boulevard d'Arcole, in Toulouse. In 1942, Fanny's parents were rounded up together with her uncle while visiting a neighbor and sent to the camp of Noe. Rabbi Cassorla interceded with the camp's authorities to try to free his in-laws. The authorities allowed the Reicher family to remain in the camp without sending them to Germany, unlike other foreign Jews in the camp. However, Rabbi Cassorla could not save Helena's brother's family, who was sent to an extermination camp. After six months, the Reicher family was released. Meanwhile, Fanny's sisters, who were not caught with their parents, were hidden and placed in children's homes: Malvine as a pupille de la Nation for a few months where she was registered under the false name of Catherine Richard.
Rabbi Cassorla worked with Monseigneur Saliege, Archbishop of Toulouse, to help protect, and hide Jews. Each week Cassorla sent him a report on the condition of Jews in the area. During that time, a young teenager, Saul Bergman, and his father, refugees from Antwerp, Belgium, were arrested by the French police and sent to Recebedou, a camp in the Toulouse suburbs. By bribing the camp authorities, Rabbi Cassorla arranged for Saul and his father to be freed from the camp. Soon thereafter, Saul’s father was arrested again, and sent to an extermination camp where he perished. Saul, however, was able to cross the Swiss border and reunite with his mother. After the war, Saul graduated from Oxford University with a degree in physics. Saul came to the US in 1956, and worked for the US government as a physicist.
Rabbi Cassorla also had relations with other members of the Catholic hierarchy in the area. One day, after returning to his apartment, Rabbi Cassorla learned from neighbors that the French police had come to look for him earlier that day. The Vichy regime was implementing its anti-Semitic laws more and more aggressively, making the southwest of France too dangerous to stay in. With a safe-conduct given to him by Monseigneur Saliege, Rabbi Cassorla took his wife and in-laws to Nice, which was under Italian control. The family settled in Nice, and Fanny gave birth to a son Jose on May 19, 1943. One day in Nice, on the Promenade des Anglais, Joseph Reicher met a Maurice Schlussel, a friend and fellow diamond dealer from Antwerp, who offered to lend him 50,000 francs, a huge amount in those days. Joseph hesitated, saying that he had no idea if and when he would be able to return this money. He felt that he could not accept this sum of money. The friend insisted, saying that no one knew if either of them might survive the war and that they would worry about it later. In fact, both survived the war and the money was duly returned. Meanwhile, the Italian occupation was waning and the Germans were taking a more active role in the southeast part of France. As things started to become more difficult, the family left Nice and sought refuge in the mountains nearby. With the safe-conduct from Monseigneur Saliege they found shelter in a convent. However, because Jose, the newborn baby, was crying at night, the Cassorlas had to leave.
The family decided to return to the village of Saint-Julia, where they had a good relationship with the villagers; they felt safer there than in the large urban areas. Earlier on, before leaving Saint-Julia for Nice, Rabbi Cassorla gave the family's jewels and some money to a priest for safe keeping. When the family returned to Toulouse and asked for return of the money and jewels, the priest told him that everything had been stolen. The family lived in a house in the middle Saint-Julia. The village was on a hill with a commanding view of the surrounding farmland. Someone always stood watch for the presence of German troops. At the first sign of danger, the family hid in the orchards surrounding the village, returning only after the alert ended. At one point, there was an increase in the German troop activities in the area, and the family decided to scatter to different farms in the localities around St-Julia. Luckily, they came back together and at the end of the war. Fanny, now with two children, Jose and Danielle, born in Saint-Julia, moved to Boulogne sur Seine, near Paris, where Rabbi Cassorla was named director of a home for displaced children before becoming Chief Rabbi of a Sephardic synagogue in Paris.
Joseph and Helena Reicher, with Malvine and Rachelle, returned to Antwerp where Joseph went back to the Diamond Exchange. After the creation of the State of Israel, they moved separately to Tel Aviv. There, they reunited with the brothers and sister of Helena who had survived the extermination camps and were rebuilding their life in their new country.
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Danielle CassorlaSource Record ID: Collections: 2011.404.1
Record last modified: 2010-08-30 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1171415