"Be careful and be patient"
Claire Sorias wrote these words from the jail in Milan, where she was being held prisoner together with her young son Giuseppe, to her husband Moϊse-Moshe and her daughter Carmen. Claire, Moϊse and Giuseppe were murdered in the Holocaust. Carmen survived.
Claire-Clara Arditti and Moϊse-Moshe Sorias met in Izmir (today Ankara) in Turkey. Moϊse could not find work in Turkey, and emigrated from there, settling in Milan, Italy. Claire was awarded a scholarship from the Alliance Francaise, and after completing her studies, she was sent to teach in Morocco. During all those years, Claire and Moϊse kept in touch, writing to one another in French. In 1938, Claire moved to Italy, and they got married in Milan. Their daughter Carmen was born in 1939, and their son Giuseppe-Yosef followed in 1941. Moϊse made a living in textiles, and the family lived comfortably in the city center, and led a traditional Jewish lifestyle.
After Italy surrendered to the Allies in September 1943, the Germans occupied most of Italian territory, including Milan. From then until the liberation of Italy, Jews were hunted down brutally and relentlessly. Whoever was caught and identified as being Jewish was arrested, regardless of citizenship or service to the Italian state. In April 1944, Claire, a Turkish citizen and two-year-old Giuseppe were arrested.
The evening before, five-year-old Carmen was at her aunt and uncle's house, situated close to home, and spent the night there. In the morning, she walked home accompanied by her two young cousins. The housekeeper came out to meet Carmen before she had a chance to go inside, and warned her not to enter, informing her that they had taken her mother away. Carmen and her cousins went up to the roof and hid there until the following day, when they left. Carmen met her father in the park, and he explained that they could not return home because they were being searched for. Carmen was sent into hiding outside Milan, and her father stayed in town with the Yani family, a friend who had married a Christian woman. During her time in hiding, Carmen met her father once. In her testimony, she recalls this visit:
"Father came to visit me once and brought me a present: toy houses to build… I accompanied him half-way to the train station that last time… while I was growing up, I always thought that I would buy the place where we parted. I would buy that plot of land, and build something there, I would leave a sign."
In one of the letters Claire sent her husband from prison in Milan, she wrote:
"I'm sure that you are going through hell trying to reach us… it must be very hard for you… we don't know what will be. Sometimes we hear rumors that they are going to release us, and other times that they are going to send us somewhere else… Pino (Giuseppe) is standing here and calling Carmen's name."
Moϊse did everything he could to get his wife and son released. A few weeks after Claire 's imprisonment, he was also arrested at the Yanis' house. His business partner betrayed him to the Germans when they came looking for him at the store.
Claire was deported to her death in Auschwitz in October 1944, and Moϊse was deported there in December. He was sent from Auschwitz to the Flossenburg concentration camp in Germany, and eventually murdered.
In 1999, Carmen Sorias Ezra submitted Pages of Testimony in memory of her parents, Claire and Moϊse, and her little brother Giuseppe. In 2015, she donated dozens of documents and letters to Yad Vashem for posterity as part of the "Gathering the Fragments" campaign, including the letter exhibited here.
Thank you for everything you sent: money, […], jam, candies, cheese, biscuits etc.
I don't need any more money as I have too much. Maria left me 2000 lira. I hope you managed to make contact with her and that the information she passed on to you calmed you down.
My thoughts are with you and Carmen.
Please Moϊsino, don't worry about us. We have everything we need.
Send me a little butter, whatever you can.
Also, go to the laundromat on Kazati St. and collect my skirt and dress, two sweaters for Pino and 150 grams of wool, and ask them to make Pino something to wear. Send a bib for him too.
Be careful and be patient. We will see each other soon.
Pino is doing very well.
Kisses to Carmen.
I hug you with all my heart, and send you kisses from Pino too.
Write me a few words.
*Translated from the Italian by Vivi Salomon