Albert and Makrouhi Hougassian and their daughter Berthe
In early 1942, the Tancmans, Jews of Polish origin, left Paris with their daughter Paulette (b. 1937) and resettled in Lyons, which was then in the unoccupied zone. One day, while walking in the street, M. Tancman saw the French police arresting Jews. Sure that he was witnessing a roundup, he fled in fear to a bakery. The only person on the premises was the salesgirl, sixteen-year-old Berthe Hougassian who immediately offered the terrified man shelter in the home of her parents, Albert and Makrouhi Hougassian. Tancman’s wife and five-year-old daughter joined him later. Until Lyons was liberated in September 1944, the Tancmans stayed in the Hougassians’ modest home, together with the Hougassian’s daughter, Berthe, and twelve-year-old son, Raymond.
The Hougassians, of Armenian origin, were especially sensitive to the French authorities’ persecution of the Jews because Albert had been spared in the Turkish genocide of Armenians in Turkey. Hougassian, fluent in several languages, worked as an interpreter at police headquarters and used his connections to supply the Tancmans with forged papers. The Hougassians wholeheartedly sheltered the Jewish family who had come into their lives unannounced. They shared their food and their small apartment and enrolled young Paulette in school. In her postwar testimony, Paulette noted that she was so confused by her identity change that she found it hard to answer “present” when her false name was called. Throughout the Tancmans’ stay, the Hougassians hid their rescue action from friends and acquaintances and assumed great risk in so doing. The Tancmans’ relatives knew where they were hiding, and despite the danger, the Hougassians allowed them to visit on several occasions.
On December 22, 1993, Yad Vashem recognized Albert and Makrouhi Hougassian and their daughter Berthe as Righteous Among the Nations.