The group of children selected at Château de Chaumont to go to the United States. Collette Wormser one of our teachers at Chaumont took us to Marseille. I was lucky enough to get in touch with Collette a few years ago shortly before her death. She sent me this and other pictures from Marseille and Chaumont.
Previous: Life at Château de Chaumont. See previous chapters at bottom left.
Marseille was a busy spectacular port when we arrived. It also was a sort of melting pot for thousands of refugee children vying for the coveted visa that would set us free on one of the boats sailing to numerous destinations around the world unsullied by the Nazi imprint. We arrived in the first week of August, 1941. A few days later we were reunited with many of our original group from Chateau de Quincy. On August 19, 1941 we appeared before G. McMurtrie Godley, Vice Consul of the United States of America to receive our affidavit in lieu of a passport to allow us to proceed to the United States.
The upper half of my affidavit in lieu of Passport.
The lower half of my affidavit in lieu of Passport. All the kids in our group had the same affidavits.
We did not know when or how we would proceed to the ship. While we waited Collette took us all over Marseille. We visited the big port and crossed on a huge bridge. Another day we spent at the beach of the Mediterranean Sea.
All was not calm from the war. The Germans might as well have occupied Marseille as they dictated the lives of the citizens. And the British had begun to bomb Marseille as they considered it part of the German empire. We had become accustomed to sudden orders to leave our current homes and depart in a new direction.
Probably the next night after we received our visas around Aug 20, 1941, there was a huge British air raid which kept us from sleeping. During the air raid we were told to gather our belongings and rush outside. We boarded a big truck which transported us, in the midst of the bombs falling around us, to a railroad station somewhere in Marseille.
A train took us to the Spanish border. A man had been waiting for us and lead us on a short 2 hour hike through some hilly meadows to another train station. At the station an American met us. He said “You are in Spain now. I am from the Joint Distribution Committee of The United States”. He continued that we were illegally in Spain because Franco Spain was siding with the Nazis and we had to be very careful to not appear Jewish.
The man had train tickets for us to go to Madrid. I vividly remember some moments on that train. It was very old and when it reached one hill the next day the locomotive could not reach the hilltop. We had to wait several hours for another locomotive to help push us up the hill. While waiting the Spanish peasants who seemed accustomed to this rushed into the meadow at the trains side and enjoyed nice family picnics. As we pulled into the Madrid station, mostly female locals with baskets of food and sweets were waiting. We were pleasantly surprised when we found out they were waiting to welcome us. We were swiftly bused to what I believe was a monastery. The nuns made us bathe and dressed us in new clothes.
Do monasterys have weddings? That night we all participated in what I thought was a wedding with much dancing and music. The next day the same man took us to another railroad station and we boarded a train that took us to the Portuguese border. He turned us over to an American couple also from the Joint Distribution Committee. They were to chaperon us to the US.
Colégio da Bafureira
As we had arrived a week earlier than our ship was available for boarding we were sequestered in a beautiful small boarding college on the outskirts of Lisbon, called Colégio da Bafureira. That place still exists today. We spent a wonderful week with plentiful meals and lazy days watching sail boats on a sunny Atlantic Ocean.