Les Derniers - Jacque
My visit to

Jacques

« On the quay, I must have seen approximately 300,000 people pass before my eyes, all of whom went to their deaths. »

Jacques Altmann

Jacques, whose birth name was Adolphe, was born in 1923. He grew up in Romainville with his three brothers, soon joined by an orphaned cousin whom they considered to be their fifth sibling.
The day the police came to his house, Jacques wasn’t there. His parents and brothers were arrested. Eventually, he will be arrested, but he managed to escape from the police headquarters. Arrested a second time, he was made to stripped naked in the street. He was then sent to Drancy and then to Lévitan, a Parisian furniture store requisitioned to sort looted Jewish goods. It was there that he saw the who’s who in Paris come to shop for free. Deported to Birkenau on convoy 68, he was selected to work in a special kommando, named "Kanada", which, among other things, acted as a "welcoming committee". This group of deportees, in a slightly less dilapidated state than the others, was stationed on the ramp when the trains arrived - a staged operation designed to reassure the new arrivals and keep them compliant. Afterwards, the kommando’s task was to empty the cars and to sort out the belongings left behind; the valuables would be sent to Germany, and worn or damaged clothing given to deportees. Jacques saw hundreds of thousands of people pass through the gates, most of them going straight to their deaths. Among them, were his beloved grandparents. He saw them, and his friends had to hold him down so he wouldn’t follow his grandparents to their death.
After the war, he returned to Romainville but Adolphe would find not one family member. He changed his first name to "Jacques", in memory of one of his murdered younger brothers.
Jacques was the first former deportee I ever met and therefore the inspiration for Les Derniers/The Last Ones project.



More info on Jacques Altmann