Chapter: 7 Paris Under Occupation

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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Chapter: 8 Château de Chaumont, Mainsat, Creuse, France

 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.

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Chapter: 9 Marseille, Madrid, Lisbon By Foot And Train.

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. 

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Chapter: 10 Serpa Pinto

Serpa Pinto 
Previous:  Marseille, Madrid, Lisbon. See previous chapters at bottom left.
After an idyllic week at Colégio da Bafureira we were awakened around 2 am on Sept 8, 1941 to prepare for boarding the Serpa Pinto.  It seemed we always were awakened around midnight to immediately move to a new environment. The roads were empty and within 30 minutes we arrived at the dock and saw our new home for the first time.  The boat was awe inspiring. I was truly excited at the thought I would soon be on that ship on the open ocean. I already had a love for boats and water ways.
Almost all the passengers were Jews escaping from the Holocaust. It took hours for everyone to board. All passenger’s papers had to be verified. We finally boarded late in the evening. We were led to our quarters which were in a converted steerage section near the bow of the boat. Bunks were stacked 4 high with straw mattresses. Each bunk had a child’s lifejacket. Our handlers instructed us to wear the jackets 24/7.  I lay on my assigned bunk and fell asleep instantly. Late on the morning of Sep 9, 1941 I awoke to a swaying motion as the ship began to leave the dock. I rushed up on deck not wanting to miss the moment when we left the port. Less than an hour later we all felt the curse of seasickness. By the mid afternoon I felt much better. I got no further seasickness for the  rest of the voyage. Later that day we were taken to one of the lifeboats. We had to remember it’s position. Every day thereafter the captain would drill the entire ship to stand next to our assigned lifeboat.
Our trip was scheduled for 8 days. However it took 16 days from Sept 9, 1941 to Sep 24,1941

The type of  German U-Boat that stopped us

On the second day in the open ocean we received our first delay. It became my costum to stand at the side of the rail near the bow where I could look down and see the bow splitting the water around our ship. In the morning of the second day I was at my station looking around at the distant horizon.
Suddenly with a great rush of water a Nazi submarine thrust it’s snout in the air and minutes later was floating not far from our boat. The U-Boat’s guns were trained our way each with a group of sailors behind them. A loudspeaker on the U- Boat instructed the captain to stop our ship and send a boat to the u-Boat. The small boat returned with the u-Boat’s captain or high ranking officer. Our captain was instructed to sail to Casablanca immediately and dock there. The u-boat followed us to make sure we did not stray. At that time we were not far from Casablanca and arrived there not long after. Several German officers and armed guards set up a table on the deck. They had come to make sure no wanted persons were on board. One by one the passengers had to appear at the table and present their papers. Children of our age were excluded. It took 3 days for the 600+ passengers to filter past the table.
While this was going on Wolfgang and I and several more kids got some rolls from the galley. We stood at the railing facing the dock and threw the rolls over to the starving kids ashore. The rolls were not able to fly all the way to the dock. The kids did not care and dove to recover each roll as we threw them. They were so hungry they swallowed the rolls in just a couple of bites.
On the eve of the third day we set out to sea again. The boat was slow and had to zigzag across the ocean to try to stay hidden from the numerous U-Boats. Early on the 5th day after our detour to Casablanca, we were awakened by a canon explosion. We ran on deck to find a British destroyer had shot a missile across our bow to bring us to a halt. As before with the U-Boat event, the British captain ordered us to follow him to Hamilton, Bermuda. We were held in Bermuda for 2 days and just like the Germans in Casablanca, the passengers were questioned to see if any were German espionage agents.
The first night in the port in Bermuda a small storm engulfed us. We were so fascinated looking at cars passing on a highway and other new technologies we hardly noticed the rain.
Most spectacular for Wolfgang and I were the fluorescent signs on the stores. They blinked on and off. They came in all shapes and colors. As the rain and fog increased or decreased the colors blended presenting us with a hypnotizing psychedelic display that kept us glued to the railing for hours.
It was our first encounter with the modern facilities of the new world were we were heading. The rain distorted the colorful signs and added to their mystique.  As before in Casablanca we were not permitted to leave the ship. That in no way diminished our wonder at these magnificent light displays.
Because we had already added many days to our scheduled 8 day voyage our food supply was dangerously low. Thanks to the sympathetic Bermuda officials they replenished our supply for the 2 day trip to NY.
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Chapter: 11 New York

Statue Of Liberty
Previous: Serpa Pinto. See previous chapters at bottom left
The Serpa Pinto majestically sailed into New York harbor early on a sunny morning on Sep 24, 1941. We all stood at the railing mystified by the sheer beauty of the calm waters and shoreline. Suddenly someone yelled The Statue Of Liberty. I spun my head to the right and was completely blinded by the powerful vision standing so close to us with her arm uplifted in welcome. Tears welled up in my eyes. Sneaking a look to my sides I did not see a dry eye. These were not tears of sadness, rather of incredible relief. We had heard so many stories of how this vision protected you once you went by her and there right in front of me there was no reason to doubt all those folk tales were true. To this day anytime I give a presentation and mention this moment my eyes tear up and I feel the exact same relief.
As I glanced down I noticed either a govt patrol boat or elaborate motor boat followed at our side. We were headed to a berth on Staten Island. Before reaching our berth the boat slowed to a stop and the small motor boat was attached to a ladder at our side. A troop of men and women mounted the ladder many with cameras slung over their shoulders. All of the kids in our group were called into a large open space on the deck and the reporters lined up opposite us. Brilliant flash guns began to brighten our space as the reporters shot our pictures over and over. Many of the reporters were able to corner some of the kids and peppered them with questions. All to no avail. Only one of the older kids had some elementary knowledge of English.
Nevertheless we were all delighted to be the center of this friendly attention. As the day progressed and the boat was firmly tied to the dock scores of relatives for most of the kids went thru a grueling vetting of who they were and then left with their long separated children. When only a dozen or so were left including me and Wolfgang we became very depressed thinking about our own parents who we were certain we would soon come to find us.Wolfgang and I and the other children without relatives were escorted to a chartered bus and driven to Pleasantville, NJ to the Pleasantville Cottage School. This orphanage was a truly beautiful live in school. Some 20 self contained cottages held all the orphans. We were assigned to a cottage which like the others had a full sized kitchen, dormitory, play rooms and, a school room.
We looked forward to being placed with a foster family. People from all over NJ and NY states came to see us and slowly our group dwindled. We were informed that if we were un-placeable within 30 days we would be shipped back to Europe. Well that certainly put a strain on us.  Now we had the fear of being returned to NAZI rule as our time rushed toward the 30 day deadline. 20 days and only 5 of us left. 25 days and 3 of us left. Finally only Wolfgang and I were the last with only 2 days to go.
Amazingly on the last day we joined different families in New York city with incredible relief.
I was placed in PS 78 Bx in 4th grade. I was the oldest in my class and suffered non-stop taunting. I was given daily speech lessons. My foster family ruled that I must speak English or they would not respond to my requests.
Murray Sprung, a onetime war crimes prosecutor, Manhattan-based international lawyer and plain Pop to a generation of orphaned boys and girls, died on Monday, Nov 2, 1995, at Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan. A resident of the Upper West Side, he was 92. Pop Sprung began the annual summer vacation retreat for the orphaned Jewish children at Lake Stahahe in Bear Mountains, NY.
The summer retreats consisted of two camps, Wakitan and Wehaha, Wakitan for boys and Wehaha for girls. The camps were right across from each other on Lake Stahahe. My first summer at Wakitan was around 1942 for two weeks. Every two weeks a new group of orphans were bused in and the other campers bused back to NY.
I was excited to find Wolfgang on one of the buses. We spent hours discussing our foster parents and our new lives.
Erich Thorn one of our friends from the older kids from France had been hired as the garbage boy by Pop Sprung. His job was to bring clean garbage cans into the mess hall before every meal and clean the cans every morning after the garbage truck had collected the contents. Eric asked me to be his assistant for my last week that first year.
It was sad to leave the wonders of living in the camp after a short two weeks. The next year Wolfgang and I were both back. But Eric was unable to come. Pop Sprung who had watched me helping Eric the year before asked me if I would like to be garbage boy. I eagerly told him YES and asked him if Wolfgang could be my assistant. One of the privileges of being garbage boys was we became staff and could stay for the entire summer.
Camp Wakitan staff picture.
Wolfgang and I front row. All the young guys were counselors that lived in small bungalows with the boys in their care. Back row right center is our cook, Mr. Mc White. The ladies are Camp Wakitan staff.
So Wolfgang and I became the official Camp Wakitan garbage boys. The three years we spent at Camp Wakitan were some of the best years of our lives.
I lost track of Wolfgang and did not know he changed his name nor what a monumental leader of the Rock and Roll world he became. I only found out in late 1990 after his death

FINIS