Prof. Leon Zamosc
A GOMBINER FRENCH CONNECTION
Published in"Bnai Gombin". Volume II No. 1, Winter 1997
In recent years, people interested in Jewish family istory have benefited from the publication of many good books on how to do Jewish genealogy. Among these books, Gary Mokotoff’s How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust (Avotaynu, 1995) is a particularly important work at a time in which we see attempts to deny that the Holocaust ever happened. Benjamin Meed, president of the Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, prefaced the book saying that by focusing on concrete persons, the documentation of victims and survivors is an effective way to make people realize not only that the Holocaust happened, but that it happened to actual people. In his words: “The Holocaust was people, each individual with a story to tell, sometimes of survival, more likely of death.”
One of the many sources listed is Mokotoff’s book is Serge Klarsfeld’s Memorial to the Jews Deported From France 1942-1944 (published in English in 1983), which) contains very complete listings of the Jews deported from France in train shipments, most of which went to Auschwitz. More than 70,000 names are listed, with data about birth dates and places and citizenship. For each convoy, there is information about how many people were gassed on arrival, how many were selected for work, and how many were still alive at the end of the war.
Klarsfeld’s book on the French deportees was especially interesting to me because we have a French connection among our relatives: Regina Blat, one of my father’s aunts from the Pioro side of his family.
Until WWI, most Jewish emigrants from Eastern Europe had flocked to America. Between the wars, however, anti-immigrant sentiment and legislation made it very difficult for them to come to this country, so France became one of the main destinations. Over 150,000 Jewish immigrants and refuges entered France between the wars, about 60% of them from Eastern Europe. On the eve of WWII, the Eastern European Jews (legal and illegal) had come to represent about two-thirds of the Jewish residents of Paris.
Among these Jewish immigrants in Paris was Regine (Rivkah) Pioro, born in Gombin c. 1905, one of the youngest daughters of Iehiel Michael Pioro and Ita Schklova. The Pioros had three sons and six daughters, and the family connection with us was that one of the older Pioro sisters, Chana, was the mother of my father Icek Zamosc.
In Paris, Regine Pioro met and married another Polish immigrant, Mordka Blat, from Opole. Their son Michel Blat was born in April of 1941, several months after the German occupation. They had been active in leftist politics and got involved in the resistance. But Mordka was arrested and, on December 15, 1941 he was one of the 95 hostages — “Jews, Communists, and anarchists,” — who were executed at the Mont-Valerien prison in retaliation for an assassination attempt against a German officer in Paris.
Before his execution, Mordka wrote the following note:
To my dear wife and son Michel, This is my last letter to you. Dear Regine, I ask you to raise our beloved son as a courageous Jewish woman who raises a son of the Jewish people. I die calm, an innocent man. I want my son to carry the name of his father with the dignity of a Jew, and I suffer because I will not be able to participate in his education. I embrace you both from the depths of my heart, many times; and my only thoughts are for your happiness and your future. Do not forget me!
Mordka Blat Regine and her child survived the Holocaust hidden in the French countryside. After liberation, her only other surviving brother, Isadore Pioro (who had managed to emigrate to America before the war) found her in Paris. Regine stayed in Paris and did exactly what Mordka had asked her to do: she was courageous, and worked hard as a seamstress to see Michel through medical school (his doctoral thesis, Meditations Critiques Sur la Psychiatrie, was published in 1979). Unfortunately, Michel died a very young man in the early 1980s, a terrible final blow for a woman who had suffered so much in her life. Regine followed him few years later.
My father’s aunt survived the Holocaust, but 77,320 Jews who had been deported from France to the extermination camps of the East did not. Were there Gombiners among the many thousands of Polish Jews who were sent back to their deaths? Scrutinizing the lists for each train convoy in Klarsfeld’s book, I found the names of twenty-two persons who had been born in Gombin. They are listed in the table below. The original Klarsfeld listings include some additional data about these deportees, and I will be very glad to share the information with anyone interested.
Gombiners Deported from France:
Name of Gombiner (birth date), Departed, From
Bernard, Macha (1907), September 1942, Drancy
Bursztejn, Maryem (July 16, 1914), August 1942, Beaune Rol
Finkelkraut, Zoner (June 4, 1932), September 1942, Drancy
Frenkel, Zylberszte (May 3, 1883), September 1942, Malines(Belg)
Fuksa, Max (July 16, 1900), March 1943, Drancy
Goldszmidt, Jacob (May 15, 1885), September 1942, Malines(Belg)
Krachevitch, Feiga (March 15, 1885), July 1944, Drancy
Makarowsky, Nuchka (December 26, 1897), September 1942, Drancy
Makovoski, Idel (September 23, 1903), June 1942, Pithiviers
Rafal, Chaim (February 16, 1886), February 1943, Drancy
Rosenblum, Chaja (1917), July 1942, Pithiviers
Hodys Rozanska, (May 4, 1902), August 1942, Beaune Rol
Sender, Icek (February 6, 1916), July 1942, Pithiviers
Zajak, Israel (March 5, 1907), July 1942, Pithiviers
Zawierucha, Riwka (January 10, 1919), July 1942, Drancy
Zawierucha, Fajga (May 22, 1924), July 1942, Drancy
Zawierucha, Perla (1890), July 1942, Drancy
Zawierucha, Mordka (October 28, 1921), June 1942, Drancy
Zielonka, Leon (February 17, 1913), March 1943, Drancy
Zylberberg, Szrul (December 8, 1905), March 1943, Drancy
Bernard I. Kouchel: Resources For Tracing Victims and Survivors of the Holocaust From France
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Last updated July 28th, 2006