43 Vieille du Temple Street
"They had no family; we were their only family."
Paris, 1942: Three Jewish families - the Sebbanes, the Polakiewiczs and the Zonszajns – were living in the same residential building at 43 Vieille du Temple St. in the fourth arrondissment (district) of Paris...
Paris, 1942: Three Jewish families - the Sebbanes, the Polakiewiczs and the Zonszajns – were living in the same residential building at 43 Vieille du Temple St. in the fourth arrondissment (district) of Paris, then a busy Jewish neighborhood (the Marais) comprising mainly eastern European immigrants. Most of the families in the area, including the Polakiewiczs and the Zonszajns, were rounded up on 16 July 1942 in the infamous Vel d'Hiv roundup. The Sebbanes' names were not on the lists, probably due to their native French origins. Neighbors wrote to Mrs. Sebbane describing their ordeal and asking for help as the other Jewish residents at 43 Vieille du Temple St. had already been arrested.
In this exhibition, we follow the destinies of these three families from that fateful day in 1942, via testimonies, photographs, and letters sent to Mrs. Sebbane.
"All I do is cry, I don't believe it helps me in any way, but it is stronger than I am"
"It's not possible that something so horrible has happened to us, but it's the sad truth"
"During the ride, they threw some bread on the bus for us."
"We are in a sad situation. Mother, Mrs. Wartski have been sent to an unknown destination…"
Between 1880 and 1939, some 110,000 Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe arrived in Paris in search of better living conditions. A large percentage settled in the fourth district (also known as the Marais) where they had relatives, friends and a semblance of Jewish life. The Jewish immigrants lived primarily in crowded streets around what was known as the ‘Pletzl’ (little square in Yiddish): Des Rosiers St., Des Écouffes St. and Pavée St. The area flourished with creativity, culture, religion and tradition, social life and politics. Jewish trade unions were particularly active in a population comprised of thousands of small-scale artisanal workers, mainly in textiles.