My father, who was born in 1924, used to tell me of
seeing Civil War veterans march in first Memorial Day parades; through his
wonder at such scenes he conveyed a sense of the nearness of events gone by.
From my mother I absorbed a certainty that we would have been Hitler's next
victims, snatched from our seemingly safe American town, if the Allies had not
won the war in Europe. Thus, when I met Serge Klarsfeld in the early 1980s and
had the opportunity to work with him on the Memorial to the Jews Deported
from France, the book that names all of the 75,700 Jews deported from that
country, I felt that he was preserving documents about my people and my time.
My child was born on September 30, 1982; if time folded back four decades it
would have been September 30, 1942, the day that the 39th convoy deported Jews
from France. The youngest person on that Auschwitz-bound train, from which no
one survived, was Jacob Stolak, born on May 5, 1928, in Pultsuk, Poland. So we
took his name for our own son, not as a comfort, but as a connection. I hope
that readers will make their own connections to the past through this book.
Le Mémorial des Enfants Juifs
Déportés de France came into my hands in November 1994, three
weeks after I returned from a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the
revolt of Auschwitz crematoria workers. In the Birkenau section of Auschwitz,
standing in a cold rain on the steps leading down into the ruins of gas
chamber-crematorium III, I thought of the Jewish family whose home I had shared
in Paris after the war, and of their young daughter, who was taken down these
steps or those leading to one of the other Birkenau death chambers. Holding the
book in New York three weeks later, I knew immediately that I wanted to help
prepare an edition in English. My year's work on French Children of the
Holocaust: A Memorial is in memory of Juliette Mowszowicz, 13, deported on
convoy 59 from the Paris-Bobigny station on September 2, 1943, to be murdered
and cremated in Auschwitz two days later.
Howard M. Epstein