At the start of the war in 1939, I was 9 years old. I was living in an orphanage in the Alsace region of France. The orphanage was evacuated and moved twice, first to a sanitarium near Bordeaux, then to Bergerac. In 1941, my father appeared with an unfamiliar woman whom he introduced as my stepmother. He told me that my mother was dead and that the three of us would be going into hiding on a farm outside of Carcassone, France; however, unable to stand the pressures of being in hiding, my father hanged himself in May 1943. I found him.
I could not bear to remain with my stepmother and went to live in a convent with three other Jewish girls. The nuns at the convent were constantly trying to convert me until I finally told the priest that I was born a Jew and would remain a Jew. I was taken to stay with a family and then to a boarding school where I met a most remarkable person. Rose Fulda, or "Mamou" as I called her. She gave me the nurturing love I needed to attain my emotional rehabilitation; we spent weekends, vacations, and holidays together until the end of the war. Not yet 21, I came to America in 1949 at the request of an aunt and settled in Webster, New York. I began my new life.
I married and had two children, but remained silent about my experiences. My husband felt helpless when he was unable to help with my horrible flashbacks and panic attacks. I felt uneasy and tried desperately to hide my emotions believing that it would be best to protect my children from my terrible memories. I worked at the University of Rochester for 36 years. It was there that a coworker urged me to write my memoirs. I have only recently begun to revisit the past in order to build a healthy future. I know the past does not merely fade away, but one can confront it and learn from it, and I have tried to do just that.
Biography from the
Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project, Monroe Community College
Photograph by Louis Ouzer