In July 1942, Zizi Lichtenstein, aged 10 was attending school in Paris. He and all other Jews had been instructed to wear the yellow star. Zizi remembers the day well. He spoke about it in his interview:
Zizi: The yellow star is from France. We had to put it on in school, in Paris, July 1942.
Interviewers: Do you remember as a child how you felt with the yellow star?
I really remember, because the day before, my teacher Monsieur Usheau told the students that on Sunday, which was the first day of school, he didn’t want any of the kids to tease their friend Zizi. And I was already in the second class, and there was a kid in the first class that said to me “ dirty Jew” and all of my friends in my class jumped on him and hit him.
It all depended on the teacher. Until this day, I remember this teacher’s name, Monsieur Usheau, and how he prepared the students to accept me and not tease me.
As a child did you understand why you had to wear the star?
I don’t remember I felt so bad. I had a sweater with buttons on it, and I didn’t have to wear it for long, maybe a month, because we went to the South of France. It’s important to me that people understand that in France, a country so enlightened, it was like in Germany and Poland. They should understand that in France, even with their human rights and citizens’ rights, it didn’t change a thing. They were the same antisemites and simply in French history, there was the Dreyfus trial, and the burning of sefer Torahs in 1248 under the kingdom of Louis IX who the French called Louis the Holy.
For class discussion
- What was the reason Zizi’s classmates came to his defense when he was being called a “dirty Jew?”
- Zizi says he didn’t feel so bad about wearing the yellow star. Why did Zizi have to wear the yellow star? Could he have chosen not to wear it, and what would have been the consequences, if any?
This is a drawing I sent to my mother. I drew a child who leans on a tree and looks at the most beautiful thing he can see. The sun is shining and the sky is blue. But I called the picture “Sadness.” These are the true thoughts of a child. This was in 1942. I was ten years old.
For class discussion:
- The sun is shining in the drawing and the sky is blue. Why is the drawing entitled “Sadness” and why was Zizi sad?
Letter written by Zizi to his mother from Le Masgellier, 1943
The following is a translation of the letter:
Dear Mother and Auntie,
I was playing chess with one of my friends, and suddenly Marcel came in and shouted “Zizi, Zizi, l received a telephone call from our mothers. They have arrived at Grandfather’s house.” After I heard that, I was so happy that I couldn’t continue playing.
Now that you are at Grandfather’s, tell me what happened to him, because I felt something wasn’t right, because it has been three weeks since I heard some news about him.
Not long ago, we began preparing for my end of year diploma. My teacher wants me to be the best from our area.
How are you and how is your leg? Only now I remember that you had an abscess on your leg. When will you come, because I want to see you and auntie? Here we are having fun.
Did you ask about the violin, because it is very dear to me, my little violin. The piano is dearer, but because it is not possible to get it, I would like the violin. Answer soon. I would prefer to hear your voice instead of receiving a letter.
I don’t know what else to write, so I will end with kisses from my heart and I hope that you will come quickly and we will be reunited with Dad, you and our dear Maurice who sadly, I will not see.
Your dear son,
For class discussion:
- Can you tell from the letter whether Zizi was happy or sad? What was he happy about? What was he sad about?
- What was he worried about, or what was he thinking about?