Holocaust survivor Jeannine Bouhanna (née Sebbane) describes the events that transpired in her building and her neighborhood during the Vel d'Hiv roundup on 16 July 1942.
"Dear Sebanne family… Leon, who remained, has also left… I am still with my little sister"
The Zonszajns were Polish immigrants from Siedlce, who moved to Paris and settled in the Jewish quarter in the 4th arrondissement (district). They lived at 43 Vieille du Temple Street, on the same floor as the Sebbanes.
Szoma Zonszajn, the father, was arrested before the Vel d'Hiv roundup, incarcerated in Pithiviers, and deported on Convoy 4 to Auschwitz on 26 June 1942.
Szoma's wife, Sura Zonszajn, was arrested with her children during the Vel d'Hiv roundup. They were held together with their neighbors, the Polakiewiczs, and eventually transferred to Pithiviers. On 3 August 1942, Sura was separated from her children and deported with the Polakiewiczs on Convoy 14 to Auschwitz, where she was murdered.
10-year-old Jacques (Jackie) Zonszajn and his 3-year-old sister Liliane Zonszajn were left behind in Pithiviers following the deportation of their mother and neighbors.
Jackie, an unusually mature 10-year-old, wrote a final letter to the Sebbane family describing their ordeal. His letter provides a rare document, written from the vantage point of a child, describing the attempt to survive in Pithiviers. Jeanine Bouhana (née Sebbane) recalls how Jackie's letter described Liliane's extreme distress following the separation from their mother and how he was unable to comfort her.
Jackie was eventually deported with his sister on 19 August 1942 on Convoy 21, surrounded by strangers. They were both murdered in Auschwitz five days later, on 24 August.
During this time, Szoma Zonszajn was already a registered prisoner at Auschwitz, having passed the selection earlier that summer. He survived 2 ½ years in Auschwitz. On 18 January 1945, 9 days before the liberation of Auschwitz, he was sent on the Gross-Rosen death march with 50,000 other inmates. The appalling conditions he endured on the death march eventually took their toll, and Szoma perished in Buchenwald on 20 February 1945, succumbing to frostbite and a septic infection.