17 July 1942

Vélodrome d'Hiver

"It's not possible that something so horrible has happened to us, but it's the sad truth"

The lack of food, water and sanitary facilities, and the oppressive heat in the Velodrome d'Hiver had begun to take their toll. Despite this, Rachel’s second letter to Mrs. Sebbane is polite and apologetic, and reflects her efforts to look after others. She asks Mrs. Sebbane for bread, and a cookie for three-year-old Liliane Zonszajn. Astonishingly, she still thinks about her clients and completing fur work orders, and tries to coordinate these with Mrs. Sebbane.

Buses waiting at the entrance to the Velodrome d'Hiver
Letter from Rachel Polakiewicz : 17 July 1942, Vélodrome d'Hiver

Paris, the 17th

Dear All,

Again a few words to let you know that we are still in the Vel d'Hiv. Last night, we slept on the floor, but there was a constant coming and going, someone stepped on my foot and did a good job of it. I can hardly walk, my little toe is all bloody. Well, it's nothing compared to our really sad situation. We have very little food left and above all we are lacking bread, and with that, how long are we to stay here? Believe me, it feels like  a bad dream, it's not possible that something so horrible has happened to us, but it's the sad truth. From time to time we hear the screams of women, it gives us goose bumps. Mrs. Sebbane, if you could send us something, it would be very kind of you, we feel bad asking you as we know that you have enough to contend with without this.  My father worries too, and is asking you if you could pass by his boss and explain his case. Tell  him that we are here. It's 38 Hauteville Street, Mr. Fontebride, or if there is nobody there, then at Mr. Brochard, 135 Vieille du Temple Street.

If you could send us 1 or 2 small saucepans, it would be very useful. Take them from our place or Mrs. Zonszajn's place. We have no more bread left and it's impossible to get any. I am sending you coupons, in case you find cookies for Liliane. Put your return address on the package, so that they can return it to you if we are no longer here. I think Odette has written to Armand. Everybody sends you many hugs. Regards to the neighbors and to the concierge.

Big kisses to you all,

Jeannette, Raphael's girlfriend is here as well.

If you can, send me some inter-zone cards and a few envelopes.


If I don't contract a heart disease, I must be made of iron.

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