Yad Vashem

Letters to 43 Vieille du Temple Street

The Story of Three Jewish Families in Paris during the Holocaust

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...



Overview

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.

Watch a short film about the three families

Exhibition

16 July 1942

43 Vieille du Temple Street

"They had no family; we were their only family."


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16 July 1942

Velodrome d'Hiver

"All I do is cry, I don't believe it helps me in any way, but it is stronger than I am"


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17 July 1942

Velodrome d'Hiver

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


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21 July 1942

Austerlitz Train Station

"During the ride, they threw some bread on the bus for us."


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14 August 1942

Pithiviers

"We are in a sad situation. Mother, Mrs. Wartski have been sent to an unknown destination…"


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Summer 1942

Auschwitz

"We had no idea that something serious was going to happen."


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25 March 1943

Sobibor

" I am young and strong enough, I will come back…"


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3 Families

"Mother don't worry, my morale is intact, I am young and strong enough"

The Sebbane Family

"Dear Sebanne family… Leon, who remained, has also left… I am still with my little sister"

The Zonszajn Family

Historical Background

About the Marais:

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.