Claude Klein

Testimony from the Occupation Years — From Grenoble to Switzerland


My mother’s letter, written in 1944, after our family had entered Switzerland illegally, forms the basis of the present article. The letter was discovered in 2004 in a Swiss archive. It was written in German (Hochdeutsch), is annotated, and presented with an explanatory introduction. In order to obtain financial help from a Swiss charitable association, my mother was asked to describe the events that had befallen her and her family from 1939 onward. The letter’s content may be considered as a representative summary of Jewish life during the war years: the story begins in Poland, continues in Western Europe, and ends with the war and the German occupation of France. The letter describes the prevailing conditions in the French “Free Zone” and climaxes with the extraordinary flight of our family through no-man’s land and across the border into neutral Switzerland.