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« I didn't tell my children I was Jewish. »

Francine Christophe

Francine was born on August 18, 1933, into an old French family with many well-established professionals. Her father, a prisoner of war, managed to send her mother a coded letter advising her to leave Paris with their eight-year-old daughter. She followed his advice, but the police arrested them on July 26, 1942, in La Rochefoucauld, as they tried to cross the demarcation line. Together, they were first sent to the Poitiers camp, guarded by French gendarmes, then to Drancy. Francine has terrible memories of seeing countless children there, alone, wounded and exhausted. She would later learn that they had been separated from their parents after the Vel’ d'Hiv round-up in a brutal way. She was terrified the same thing would happen to her. In theory, however, neither of them could be "deported", since as the wife and daughter of a prisoner of war, they were "protected" by the Geneva Convention. So, they were not sent to Auschwitz, but to Pithiviers, then Beaune-la-Rolande and back to Drancy, for a further eleven months. On May 4, 1944, they were eventually deported to Bergen-Belsen. There, they discovered the horrors of daily life in a concentration camp, the starvation, the role calls lasting hours. Both stricken with typhus, they barely escaped death. Miraculously, Francine's father also returned. Francine became an interior decorator and a writer. She is married and has two children, to whom she revealed nothing of her past, or even of her Jewish origins for years. Then when each child turned fifteen, she finally told them in a very abrupt way.

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