From the memoirs of Shlomo Fischer-Shenkar
[Shlomo Fischer-Shenkar was born in Belgium in 1936. When the Germans invaded Belgium, the family fled to France and settled in Paris. Shlomo’s father was arrested in one of the first razzias, but managed to flee and to return home. Shlomo was a student at Joseph Migneret’s school in rue Hospitaliers Saint Gervais. In December 1943 the police came to arrest the family at their apartment. Shlomo's mother, Touba, realizing that they were all doomed, managed to push him out of the apartment and told him to run. The mother, his sisters Chana-Anna (aged 12) and Shoshana-Rosa (aged 5) and his brothers Israel (aged 2) and Zeshel-Chil (8 months old) were deported to Auschwitz on 7 December 1943 where they were all murdered.]
…On 7 June 1942…the decree requiring every Jews above the age of six to wear a yellow batch in public came into power…Six months after I had began school in first grade, the decree came into power and as a child I didn't understand reality and the significance of this order. It filled me with shame and feelings of inferiority – this did not contribute to my learning capacity and to my studies, which were not to last long anyway.
I remember asking my mother why this was happening, and if there were no small Jewish badges for children. With a bitter smile, she said that there weren't, and watched me closely as she responded to my question. I would go to school or to the outside and try to hide the hated star with my scarf or the shoulder strap of my school bag.
The first day I appeared in school with the star on my clothes, I was surprised to see, when entering the classroom, that there were more children with the star…. Following this humiliating decree our life changed drastically. Our outings stopped and we tried to stay at home as much as possible. My father, who was usually looking for business opportunities…would only leave home when he was sure of being able to close a deal. The economic impact was hard for us and all the Jews of Paris. My parents began to cut expenses, and my father would sit in his chair, watching the street from the window. My mother would serve him tea, and they would whisper about the situation in which we found ourselves.
The attitude of the non-Jews in the street changed, and on my way to school curses and abuse became common….
It one morning in December 1943. Early in the morning we heard the shrieking of brakes as cars stopped in the street next to our building; then there was shouting and the noise of feet running up the stairs to the third floor where our apartment was.
As soon as they heard the cars' brakes, my parents woke up from their light sleep. My father jumped into his pre-prepared hiding place in the sofa [since he had been arrested before, the family felt he was in greatest danger], and my mother managed to button her dress with trembling fingers when the knocking on the door grew louder and shook us up. The noise could be heard all over the building.
We were all awake from the noise, and now we heard the shouting of the French policemen, and the two large men in civilian clothes who yelled: 'all of you get dressed and pack'. My big brother was already dressed. He passed by my sister Chana's bed and saw that she was in deep sleep. She had worked on her homework until late at night and was oblivious to the confusion around her. He turned over her bed and said 'get up', and ran to the back room of the apartment. Chana who was unaware of the events, was lying on the floor, thrown out of her bed, and opened her eyes in shock, not understanding why her bed had been turned over and why she wasn't allowed to go on sleeping. It took her one minute to get a grip of herself, see the policemen running around and hear the crying coming from the babies' beds. She began shaking all over.
Mother realized that the henchmen had trapped the entire family. She went to the window from which father would watch the street, opened it wide and began screaming. She was mumbling words of prayer to God 'save us'.
I don't know what made my mother pick me out of the others in those terrible moments. I cannot guess her thoughts and what judgment she applied. She took my hand in hers and walked holding me close to her body to the bathroom that was close to the apartment's entrance door. The policemen were standing near the door and stopped her. She pointed at the bathroom and asked to let her go in. 'The boy needs to relieve himself'. The policemen stepped back and I went into the bathroom with my mother. She stood me on the toilet seat, touched my chin and lifted it to her so that our eyes met. Her expression was different than usual. Her eyes were wild, eyes that had lost their softness and kindness, and were now resolute and commanding. When she opened her mouth, her voice was chocked with tears. 'Shloimele, my Shloimele', she repeated, weeping, 'run away, or you will die'. She added: 'do you remember the dead corpses at the side of the road on our flight from Belgium?'. While murmuring a prayer her hand tore off the yellow star from my clothes, and she whispered: 'this is better'.
I hugged her and cried: 'Mother, I love you! No, no! Mom, I don’t want to'.
Mother tore my hands off her neck and put me down on the floor. She took a few money notes from under her dress and shoved them into my pocket, saying: 'for the road'. She placed me in front of the door, and stood closely behind me. Then she opened the door a little, looked out through the crack, saw that the policemen were at some distance, enabling her to open the apartment door and push me out. And this is what she did.
The policemen were astounded by her speed and reacted too late. The door closed behind me. Behind the door I heard my mother's terrible screams: "Shloimele, entloift. Wen nicht west du shterben.' [Shloimele, run away. If not, you will die'.
I ran away from my home, my family and my street. My face filled with tears. I didn't know where my feet were taking me…..
[Shlomo went to the Place de la Bastille, not far from where his home was, and spent the next days and nights wandering in the street and in the grounds of a circus that was stationed there. He was found by a woman who gave him food and asked him if there was no one he could turn to.]
When she asked me about my school, I gave her the address. She went on and asked if I knew anyone who could help me. Then I remembered our school principal who had often protected me at school. The woman said she would take me to the school….
As we neared the school that was close to my home, I felt pressure in my temples and the images of the past days began to come back to me….I saw the children going to school with their bags, as if nothing had happened. Some were accompanied by their parents, others were walking in groups, talking…
When the woman saw a police car she stopped and changed direction. We took the subway back to her wagon in the circus, and she said that we would return to the school in the evening. There was something strange in her attitude.
In the evening she took me to the school once again. This time we reached the gate. She said: 'go in. I will wait outside'.
I went through the school gate into the yard where we would play between classes. From there I went to the hallway leading to the principal's office.
It was in the afternoon, and the school was quiet. The students had already left. The hallway was dark, but there was light shining from the principal's office. I stood at the door, very apprehensive about the meeting. Would he help me? And what if he didn't? I knocked lightly on the door, and heard his familiar voice saying 'come in'. He was sitting in his chair. It was dark, and only the lamp on his desk shone and blinded me. After a few seconds, as I approached, I saw the surprise on his face. I said: 'Mr. principal, I came to you because there is no one left in the world to help me', and began crying.
The principal got up slowly, as if unbelieving, and said: 'I know. I know'.
He approached me and with his hand patting my head reached for the coat hanger and quickly took his coat and hat and put them on while we were stepping out of his office. He kept looking around. When we got to the gate, he anxiously examined the street. I wanted to tell him that the woman who had brought me to him was waiting there – I tried to find her – but she had gone…
The principal didn't listen. He got to his car and put me in. It felt like crawling into a shell that was protecting me from the outside world. The trip was timeless; there was no distance; the road went on without me; I was not there; I was nowhere on earth.
In a daze I heard him calling me by my French name: Salomon.
I woke up when the principal told me that we had arrived. I got out of the car in the darkness of night. I couldn't see anything and only heard the wind in the tree tops. I felt that I was breathing a different kind of air; there were new smells that I hadn't experienced in my short life. I was totally exhausted from the horrors of the passing week and worn out by the sights of my family and my parting from them.
I was taken into the principal's home, but I have no recollections of it. His wife gave me a sandwich and something to drink, but I rejected the food – I was totally indifferent to my surroundings. I wanted to disappear from the world.
I fell asleep on the sofa in the principal's home, and the next morning found myself in a greenhouse that was halfway underground, surrounded by pots and plants. I was hidden among the plants that the principal grew in his property. Most of the time I was in deep sleep, totally disengaged from the world….
I don't know how long I stayed with the principal and his wife. I was six and a half years old, and my longing for my parents and family dominated my thoughts. His wife would wash me, change my clothes and feed me in bed. I was totally immobilized by shock.
One day the principal came to my bed with a wide smile on his face: 'Come, get out of bed. This meeting will cheer you up.'
After getting out of bed with the help of the principal and his wife, I made the first steps since my arrival to their home, walking up the stairs. When the greenhouse door opened, I saw my brother Benjamin.
[A Jewish aid organization took charge of the two brothers and brought them to southern France, where they were hidden until the end of the war. At some point they were united with their father. Their father was unable to overcome the loss of his wife and children, and Shlomo and his brother Benjamin, the surviving children, were sent to the Land of Israel. Their ship was caught trying to break the British blockade on immigration to Palestine, and all passengers were put in camps in Cyprus. After the establishment of the State, they were finally able to come to Israel and rebuild their lives.]