- Myriam Sanfuentes (born Myriam Mayer) is the daughter of Jean- Pierre Mayer-Astruc 1905-67) and (Zélia) Renée Kohn (1911-2005). In keeping with family tradition, there were many marriages between cousins. Myriam's three great- grandmothers were first cousins; her four grandparents and her parents were cousins. The Astruc family originally came from Portugal, settled in Avignon and later in Bordeaux where they were called the "Avignonnais". By a royal edict of 1750, the Astruc, as well as their descendants, were permitted to live in Bordeaux to work in the banking and maritime commerce.
Reneé Kohn was the daughter of Marcelle Levy-Astruc and Roger Kohn. Jean-Pierre Mayer-Astruc was the son of Marcel Mayer-Astruc and Odette Astruc, and the great-grandson of Belgium's Grand Rabbi Elie Aristide Astruc (1830-1905). The Rabbi's son, Gabriel Astruc, an impresario founded the Theatre des Champs Elysees, Paris, which first introduced the Ballets Russes and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. Marcel's sister Genevieve was married to Hubert Ansiaux (later Baron Ansiaux) who, as Director of the National Bank of Belgium, in 1940 took his wife and parents-in-law, Marcel and Odette Mayer, to England and saved the Bank's gold reserve. While in London, Marcel Mayer-Astruc organized an anti-Nazi exhibition entitled "Germany the Evidence" 1944. (He compiled a photo album of the exhibition which Myriam Sanfuentes later donated to the Holocaust Museum.) Marcel's only sister, Louise Ochsé, a sculptor, and her husband Fernand died in Auschwitz in 1943.
Myriam Mayer was born in Moulins (Allier) on September 6, 1934 and spent her first five years in Paris. Her father, a Belgian citizen, was drafted in the army in 1940, soon taken prisoner. He spent the duration of the war in different German prisoner-of-war camps, first in Stalag XC and later in Stalag XB. Other prisoners denounced him as a Jew, and as a result he was beaten and ordered to perform the most menial tasks. When the war started, the women of the family were vacationing in Pyla-sur-Mer, in southern France. In 1941 Jews had to register at the town hall. At the same time they were told to wear the yellow star, which was taken out of their cloth allotment. One day, French police came to their home, and arrested Myriam, her grandmother, mother and her mother's sister and took them to camp Merignac outside Bordeaux. For two days, they stayed in wooden barracks. Then the authorities learned that Myriam's grandmother was recovering from typhoid fever. Afraid of contagion, they released the women. The following night, they left for the Free Zone, renting a house in the countryside in Vic-sur-Cère. They remained there for the next two years. One evening in 1943 a young man knocked on their door and warned them of an impending round-up of the Jews. The women decided to flee but disperse to different locations. Myriam was sent to a convent of the Sisters of Saint-Vincent-de Paul in Aerium de Gayette. She was given the assumed name of Claude Mayet. Her mother Renée stayed with friends in Limoges, also under an assumed identity. Her mother's sister went to work as a farm hand. The farmers, knowing her identity, also accepted her four-year-old little boy. Myriam and her mother remained in hiding until their liberation in September 1944. They reunited with Myriam's father upon his return from prisoner-of-war camp, Stalag XI B, in 1945. They had to rebuild their lives as their apartment in Paris had been completely emptied by the enemy, but were luckier than many family members who perished in Auschwitz.