"I was so overjoyed to receive your parcels. I have already received six, and each time, it's like getting a little piece of you... I am looking forward to just one thing – that we will be together again."
Mila Racine wrote these words in her last letter to her family in France, from the Ravensbrück women's concentration camp in Germany in July 1944. Mila was killed in an Allied bombardment in March 1945. Her family survived.
George-Hirsch and Bertha-Basha Racine emigrated from Moscow in 1926 with their children, Emmanuel, Mila-Miriam and Sasha, and moved to Paris, where George had relatives. The Racine family was Zionist, and lived a traditional Jewish lifestyle. Mila was active in the Paris branch of Wizo. In 1938 Emmanuel married Sarah Wechsler and they had two daughters, Daniella and Lilly.
When World War II broke out, Emmanuel enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. After the occupation of Paris, he moved to Toulouse with his family, and then to Marseille, where he joined the underground. His sister Mila also joined the underground, and was active in southern France, Toulouse, Gurs, Nice and Annemasse from January 1942, helping camp inmates and smuggling children and adults into Switzerland.
In October 1943, Mila was caught in Saint-Julien-en-Genevois by a German patrol together with her underground colleague Roland Epstein and the group they were trying to smuggle into Switzerland. They were taken to the Pax Hotel in Annemasse, a section of which had been converted into a Gestapo jail. The Mayor of Annemasse, Jean Deffaugt, managed to secure the release of several of the children, including one baby. Deffaugt offered his help to Mila too, but she refused for fear that the children still imprisoned would come to harm.
Mila was transferred from Annemasse to Montluc prison in Lyon, and on 3 February 1944, she was deported via Compiègne to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. From there, she was moved to Mauthausen, where she was assigned to forced labor repairing railway tracks. In March 1945, Mila was killed in an Allied bombardment. Her parents and her sister Sasha, who had been working for the resistance, survived with the help of false ID papers. Emmanuel and his family also survived. Sasha and her parents stayed in France.
In 1956 Emmanuel Racine submitted a Page of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memory of his sister Mila. In 2016, Daniella Racine-Wechsler and Lilly Racine-Peiser, Emmanuel's daughters, donated letters, documents and family photographs to Yad Vashem for posterity, as part of the "Gathering the Fragments" project. One of the letters was the last missive from their aunt Mila displayed here.
[prisoner] No. 27918 – Block 13
My loved ones,
I was so overjoyed to receive your parcels. I have already received six, and each time, it's like getting a little piece of you. The packages are organized so artistically and everything is so good and useful. I am very well, my health and my mood are wonderful. I am looking forward to just one thing – that we will be together again in good health. What news do you have of Simone and beloved Lilly? Where is my little Suzanna? My darling Mola [Emmanuel], I miss you so much. Dearest Mother and Father, stay well and don't worry about me. I am impatient for your next letter. Maybe I'll get it tomorrow. Thank you for the money, but don't send any more. I don’t need it. Why didn't Suzanna send me a parcel? I'm worried. Have you heard from Jean Roland? How are Simon's parents, the family? How are my friends? I hope to receive a letter from Simone. Kisses for you, my dear ones.
Mr. E. Racine
2 Ben Road
[prisoner] No. 27918 – Block 13
F.K.L. [women's concentration camp]