Like a fairy tale Château de Chaumont arises on a hill above the town of Mainsat, Creuse in the South Central part of France.
Previous: We sneak out of occupied Paris at midnight for the trip to Chaumont. See previous chapters at bottom left.
During the time Wolfgang and I moved around France we were constantly shuffled from place to place and each time we became part of a new group of children who were strangers to us. All of Europe was in this constant state of turmoil caused by the Nazi regime’s foremost objective to kill all Jews and certain other groups. Various organizations countered this mania as best they could trying to save as many children as possible. They had to move us kids around swiftly each time they received information of an incipient roundup for our deportation to the death camps. Leaving the Auerbach we became part of a group of 42 boys from all around Berlin. After we were kicked out of Chateau de Quincy just Wolfgang and I met a whole new group in Paris. And so as Wolfgang and I became residents at Château de Chaumont again we met about 50 new kids from all over Europe. We had become quite accustomed to sudden changes of our living quarters and associates.
Most of all we dreamed and cried for the day we would return to our parents. We were so sure that would happen one day.
Food was a little better than what we received in occupied France. It was still far below the nutrients a growing child needs. It was just barely good enough to prevent any further destruction from scurvy and rickets but not enough for healing.
Recently I contacted the mayor of Mainsat. He sent me a copy of the students registered at the town’s school in 1941. Listed in it are my name and Wolfgang enrolling on Feb 20, 1941 and leaving on Jul 31, 1941. I assume we arrived at Chaumont in late January as I remember lots of snow. We probably left Chaumont August 1, 1941 to begin our trek to the Serpa Pinto.
The town of Mainsat was about 1 mile from the château which we had to traverse every school day going down the hill in the morning and climbing the hill in the afternoon. I clearly recall a bakery in Mainsat where we would stop on the way back to the Château to pick up several loafs of bread.
As the heat of summer increased we tried to bring back to life an ancient antiquated swimming pool near the Château. It consisted of big stone blocks around and covering the bottom of a pit. No matter how much it rained the pool never held more than a foot of water. Next to the pool was a rectangular area with poles supporting a network of slanted planks to shade a resting area. The planks had huge openings. We scurried around the fields to bring back dried stacks of grass which we used to seal the openings in the planks. But to no avail. Any rainstorm easily destroyed our laborious patching of the roof. Life at Chaumont was idyllic, the war far removed.
Me on the left, Wolfgang on the right busy trying to control the tangled growth in the garden of Château de Chaumont.
Unknown to us the Nazis had begun to demand the roundup and deportation of Jews from Vichy France. Once more we were targets for the depravity of the SS. In July, 1941 two strangers, a man and a lady, appeared. They asked a group of us if we would like to go to America or Israel. We only had vague knowledge of either place, America where the Indians would scalp us, Israel where it is so hot a match would burst into flame if thrown in the air. It did not matter to us.
A few days later our teachers gathered a small group about 10 of us boys and girls and informed us we were going to America. It was no surprise that we would once again be shunted to a new place with new boys and girls. We packed our few belongings and left for Marseille around the first days of August, 1941. Most likely we were transported to Lyon and put on a train to Marseille.