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Five non-Jewish friends of donor Denise Caraco walk down a street of Marseilles.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 94088

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    Five non-Jewish friends of donor Denise Caraco walk down a street of Marseilles.
    Five non-Jewish  friends of donor Denise Caraco walk down a street of Marseilles.


    Five non-Jewish friends of donor Denise Caraco walk down a street of Marseilles.
    Marseilles, [Bouches-du-Rhone] France
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Denise Siekierski

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: Denise Siekierski

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Denise Siekierski (born Denise Caraco) is the only child of Jacques and Andree Caraco. She was born in 1924 in Marseilles, France. Denise grew up with little Jewish identity. Instead she belonged to the Protestant Scout movement, Eclaireurs Unionistes and subscribed to ideology of humanism. The realities of antisemitism first affected her personally after she graduated high school and was denied higher education necessary for her intended journalistic career. In 1939 Germany invaded France and occupied the northern half of the country. In September 1941 Denise joined the Jewish Scout movement that was active in the rescue of Jewish children; Denise spent some time working in one of the farm schools set up by the movement in the Toulouse region. She returned to Marseilles in September 1942, and using the pseudonym Colibri or hummingbird, she joined a clandestine Jewish group helping foreign Jews at risk of being rounded up by the Vichy government. The group included civic and religious leaders, among them Joseph Bass, as well as OSE social workers. The group worked on finding hiding places with French Jewish families and in non-Jewish homes and institutions. Claiming her old identification papers were lost, she obtained a duplicate so that she had one stamped "Juif" (Jew) and another without the marking that she used for moving around the country. After the occupation of Vichy France in November 1943, Denise became more active in the underground producing false documents, guiding persons to hiding places to the Swiss or Spanish borders, monthly visits to people in hiding places and distributing money and ration cards to various places in the south of France. Denise worked with Joseph Bass, also known as Monsieur Andre, who in 1942 made contact with the Protestant community in the Le Chambon region in the hills of Haute-Loire. It had become a safe haven for Jews, and Denise assisted him in bringing people to the village. In January 1943, Denise returned to Marseilles joining a group of Jewish resisters and Protestant and Catholic clergy to find hiding places for Jews. After the group was denounced by a Jewish collaborator, Denise fled to Grenoble. However Pastor Lemaire, the Protestant Minister with whom she worked was arrested and deported to concentration camp. He later was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Denise returned to Marseilles in June to see her family and met Joseph Bass. She joined his Service Andre and became the Pastor Lemaire and his administrative assistant. After barely escaping a German raid that autumn, Denise relocated to St. Etienne with the Service Andres. Bass switched his focus to armed resistance, and Denise helped to smuggle weapons from one location to another. After again barely escaping arrest during another visit to Marseilles in March 1944, Denise returned to the Chambon region where she remained until liberation. She then moved to Paris where she met Zelig Siekierski ; they married in 1946. One year later they moved to Israel.
    [Source: Mordecai Paldiel, "Saving the Jews,:" as summarized by Chana Arnon; also Yad Vashem Magazine]
    Record last modified:
    2010-12-16 00:00:00
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