Swastika over Paris after the occupation June, 1940
Previous: We tried to avoid the oncoming German army only to find ourselves in the middle of the battle at Chailly-en-Bière. A night at the battlefront was enough to last a lifetime. We returned to Chateau de Quincy and were unceremoniously escorted out into the street by the Luftwaffe as they took possession of the chateau. Select prior chapters from the index at the page bottom.
True to Mr. De Monson’s words the American Quakers appeared less than an hour after the Luftwaffe forced us out of the chateau onto the lane outside the chateau gates. Two beat up old ambulances were filled beyond capacity by all the boys. The short 30 km ride to Paris was bearable despite our cramped environment.
As we entered the occupied city this was no longer the Paris I had been privy to on my last visit. The SS Waffen troops were everywhere. The populace were subdued avoiding eye contact with the Boche. (The French term for the hated German occupiers loosely translated means ‘cabbage head’). Sidewalk cafes were populated by German troops which depressed the former cafe adherents so much they were no longer in attendance.
Rue de Rivoli
As our ambulances drove down Rue de Rivoli near the Seine (above) the dreaded swastika was everywhere. In fact the Nazis had covered all the major boulevards of Paris with this intimidating reminder of their conquest.
The ambulances dropped us off at a 2 bedroom apartment in the middle of the city. I don’t know who was in charge of us at any of these changeovers. As we rested in the apartment we once again shared two sardines and a slice of bread for each boy. In less than a day all of us were shepherded to new locations. 4 boys were sent to the Rothchild Orphanage in Paris. Most of the boys were placed on a train to Château de Chabannes in the Creuse department in Vichy France. I have no idea how the OSE managed to spirit them thru the checkpoints between Northern and Vichy France. Wolfgang and myself were sent to an Ose orphanage located at 30 Rue Saint-Hilaire, La Varenne, Paris.
We had to quickly learn and obey the German decree of October 3, 1940; Jews lost all of their rights, following the trend that was taking place in Germany. Jewish businesses were Aryanized; Jews were only able to shop during select hours during the afternoon when most shops were sold out of whatever rationed goods they had; Jews were banned from public parks, cinemas, and restricted to a curfew.
The sign reads: Park games reserved for children — forbidden to Jews, Paris 1940.
On the rare occasions we visited the major boulevards we had to pass through checkpoints. Usually the check point barred direct passage of autos by movable gates stretched across the boulevard. At one end several armed SS troops checked many of the IDs as sidewalk passerbys ventured through the dreaded posts. A German patrol vehicle stood ready to transport citizens who had aroused the suspicions of the Nazis. Autos likewise had many IDs checked before a gate was moved aside to let them pass.
We attended a school just a few blocks from the orphanage. One day in the first week of January 1941, a French policeman came to the orphanage and presented the lady in charge with an order from the Nazis to leave immediately to knit clothes for the Germans. The policeman only gave her a few minutes to say goodbye to her baby daughter and gather a few clothes to take with her. This was the beginning of the deportation of Jews in France to unknown destinations such as Auschwitz and slave camps. That day we all were distressed at this dreadful arrest. Once again Wolfgang and myself felt the fear that always pervaded us when we came face to face with a Nazi transgression.
That night Wolfgang and I were awakened what must have been near midnight by a strange man and woman. The explained they were from the OSE and that we had to leave immediately. In a few minutes we packed our tiny suitcases with clothes and school workbooks. (I still have the school workbooks). We went out to the deserted street. The man told us to stay close to the building walls and remain totally silent. Along the way he whispered for us to make believe we were all part of a French family. He told us under no circumstance are we to say anything in German. The train station in Paris was crowded with people. The SS were everywhere looking at everyone with their usual suspicion. The crowd helped us to blend in with the other French civilians. In the middle of the night we boarded a train still not knowing where we were heading.
After some time the clicking of the railroad wheels lulled us to sleep. The lady woke us and explained we would be at a checkpoint in a few minutes. Reminding us not to utter a single word in German. The train slowed and stopped. Many minutes later two German soldiers entered our coach and slowly moved up the aisle occasionally stopping to look at IDs and valise contents. They reached us and appeared bored. They pointed to our valises and we opened them. They moved on and we were through the checkpoint. Soon we fell back asleep.
We left the train in a large city probably Lyon, transferred to a bus which took us to the town of Mainsat in the Creuse Department. A small auto took Wolfgang and myself to Chateau de Chaumont. We had successfully departed from occupied France to Vichy France to this chateau in the South Central area of France.
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