Concordia University MIGS

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Table of Contents

Chapter One: Antwerp

Chapter Two: Age Five, July 1940-June 1941

Chapter Three: Age Six, September 1941-July 1942

Chapter Four: Age Seven, August 1942-June 1943

Chapter Five: Age Eight, July 1943-June 1944

Chapter Six: Age Nine, July 1944-June 1945

Chapter Seven: Age Ten, July 1945-June 1946

Epilogue: Fifty Years Later

 

Volume 2

Marcel Braitstein

Five to Ten: Story of a Hidden Child

May 1994

published by the
Concordia University Chair in Canadian Jewish Studies

Copyright Marcel Braistein, 1999


Key Words

Antwerp, Belgium, Brussels, Charleroi (town in Belgium), hidden children, intervention of Christians to save Jewish children, effect of Nazi edicts on Jewish life, Allied liberation of Belgium, Montreal. 


Abstract

The narration is told in first-person in the voice of an adult recollecting his childhood and represents reality through the sensibility of the witnessing child. It begins in Antwerp, Belgium on Friday, May 10, 1940, the day the Germans began bombing Antwerp. Describes the family attempts to escape the invading Germans by travelling on a crowded truck toward the French border, but forced to return as the Germans are already there. Mother takes ill and dies. Moves in with maternal grandparents -- Yiddish-speaking immigrants from Poland -- in the town of Charleroi, where grandmother earns a living selling cigarettes. Grandparents are traditional Jews who celebrate the Holy days. His father remarries and Marcel stays with new family for a short time but is so unhappy that he is returned to the care of grandparents. Describes the imposition of Nazi regulations concerning the Jews: the Yellow Star on clothing, expulsion from regular school. Plans are made to hide the children with sympathetic Protestant Christians. Describes his new life with pious Christian family; given a new name; attending church services regularly; enrolled in Christian school. Recalls narrow escapes from the Germans. Dramatic incident when Jewish woman with three year-old child begs Marcel’s "godfather" to take her child too -- and disappears. Aid is given by local pastor. Detailed description of life as a hidden child, with new name, identity, religion, etc. Because of Allied bombings the schools are closed and for months children are given schoolwork material to be completed at home. Describes the food and clothing shortages affecting civilian life. Witnesses the Allied entry into Charleroi and the town’s jubilant reception. At war’s end he considers himself a Christian and, when he learns that his grandparents have survived and he is returned to them, he is unhappy about leaving his Christian family. Family gets court order demanding he be returned. Initially suffers culture shock and his Christian practices clash with grandparents’ Judaism. Encounters difficult adjustment in returning to his real name, former identity, and Yiddish language. Learns of the fate of family members. Participates with group of hidden children in activities sponsored by Jewish agencies. Learns from the Red Cross that his father had been sent to Auschwitz and is presumed dead. Concludes with epilogue, "Fifty Years Later." Gives a summary of his present state of mind and addresses the lessons imparted to him by his wartime experiences and how they contributed to his post-war life as an artist.

 

 

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