Project carried out by the students in the 9th grade at the Michel Richard Delalande Junior High School in Athis-Mons (Essonne). School year: 2017-2018.
Photo above: Bernard Goldstein, published by Serge Klarsfeld in the Memorial of the Jews Deported from France. Additif n°7, FFDJF, 2006.
Along with the historical undertaking with which we have familiarized our students, we have also wished to let their imagination be expressed freely, especially through drawings, because to understand involves the ability to extrapolate. The graphics you will find here are the students’ free interpretation of events and are intended to illustrate the blank absence, through deliberate destruction, of all traces.
Bernard Goldstein was thirteen years old when he was deported from Drancy to Auschwitz-Birkenau in convoy 77 on July 31, 1944. His assassination in the genocide of the Jews and Gypsies of Europe, like that of 6 million men, women, and children, is a reminder of the catastrophe we call the Shoah.
As students in the Michel Richard Delalande Junior High School in the town of Athis-Mons (Essonne department) we have taken part in the European project named Convoi 77 with the goal of resurrecting the identity of Bernard Goldstein by writing his biography. Our project, entitled ” Student Biography: On the Tracks of Bernard Goldstein”, combines several disciplines, including history, geography, French, and plastic arts. The project was carried out over the 2017-2018 school year.
We started the job with a historical investigation, for which we split up into four groups. Each group worked on various documents, notably from the archives of the Mémorial de la Shoah and the National Archives. Our work also relied on the specific archives of the Goldstein family, searched out and brought together in her blog by Michelle Goldstein, one of Bernard’s cousins.
While carrying out this enquiry we also got several statements, especially the testimony of Marianne Lévinas (Marie Goldstein), Bernard’s older sister. Having escaped the Shoah, the only family member who was not arrested and deported, she is now living in the United States. Her exceptional testimony was obtained by her daughter, Sonia Golin. We also heard the testimony of Daniel Urbejtel, a survivor of Auschwitz-Birkenau, arrested in Paris in July 1944 and deported in convoy 77, like Bernard, at the age of 13.
Following up on this research, we produced the biography during several writing workshops. At the same time we wrote poems on the Shoah and put together an art exhibition to express our anger, our sadness, our incomprehension, and other emotions felt during the project. In Art Class we created images under the three headings: “So much hatred makes my blood boil”, “Time capsules”, and “My remnants fade away”.
Part 1: Before the Shoah — the exile of the Goldstein family
In 1910 Bernard Goldstein’s grandparents, Samuel Goldstein and Jochwet (also called Hélène) Leibivitz, left the city of Lodz, located about 100 kilometers (sixty miles) from Warsaw, having decided to flee Poland, which was then under Russian sovereignty.
Like many other Jews, they were fleeing persecution and violence (known as pogroms — assaults and plundering organized against Jewish communities), which occurred frequently in the countries of central and eastern Europe. There began their exile.
Married since 1906, Samuel and Jochwet, took their three children, Isaac, Wolf and Gita, and headed northwest, toward Copenhagen (Document 1).
In Denmark the family continued to grow with the birth of five more children: Taubias, Kopel, Elieser, Léa and Tauba, born in Copenhagen between 1914 and 1920.
The exile then continued southward, through stops in big cities along the way. The Goldstein family thus arrived in Berlin, Germany, where Jochwet gave birth to a girl Feiga (also called Viola) in 1922.
Berlin and Germany were apparently just a stopover in their exile, as the family, now made of up 11 people, reached France in February 1923. The presumably saw France, the first country to have granted the Jews equality before the law during the French Revolution, as a country of refuge. Even though anti-Semitism was not totally absent, France had recently been marked by the rehabilitation of Captain Dreyfus in 1906.
In Paris, Samuel and Jochwet had four more children between 1923 and 1929: Anna, Georges, Joseph and Louise. The latter died of whooping cough as an infant.
On their arrival in France the Goldstein family resembled many other Jewish families that had emigrated from Eastern Europe. Integration must have seemed difficult at first for a Yiddish-speaking, working class family that had just journeyed through several European countries. Samuel was, for instance, a tailor. Nevertheless, in 1927 he compiled and filed a dossier with the Ministry of Justice requesting naturalization. In it we learn that the family wished “to settle permanently in France” and that it resided at n° 10 rue des Deux-Ponts in Paris. The naturalization request was granted in 1928; all of its members were thenceforth French citizens (Document 2).
In Paris in July 1928 Wolf, one of Samuel and Jochwet’s sons, who was then 20, married Sonia Similiansky, born in Ukraine and 18 years old at the time (Document 3). They soon had their first two children, Marie, born on October 14, 1929, and Bernard, born on January 14, 1931 (Document 4). Later on came their little brother Daniel on December 26, 1938.
Bernard and his family were then living at n° 11 rue de Nancy in the 10th district of Paris. His father Wolf worked at the same trade as his grandfather Samuel, as a tailor. His mother Sonia was a housewife.
Although his parents had been born abroad, they were bent on integrating completely into French society. His sister Marie tells how their father diligently read the newspaper every day to improve his master of the French language and to enrich his vocabulary. He took his children to the opera and filled his home with art, books, and musical instruments.
Bernard’s parents also wanted their children to get the best possible education in all fields. Bernard and his sister Marie thus read a great deal. Marie recalls that they even went to the booksellers on the banks of the Seine to buy the most wonderful stories, such as those of Alexandre Dumas. The children also took music lessons; Bernard took violin, and Marie learned to sing.
Marie says that in school Bernard was studious and liked his classes. His strong suit would have been mathematics.
This strong will to integrate can also be explained by the desire to be considered truly French, and not just Jewish immigrants in the 1930’s, which had seen the development of violent anti-Semitism in several European countries. That was notably the case in Germany, stamped with the rise to power of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler on January 30, 1933.
In the big cities like Paris the Jewish immigrant population maintained close ties. There were thus gathering places for the community. Bernard practiced boxing in a group of girls and boys established by the Rothschild family for the Jewish refugees from Poland and Russia.
The only photo of Bernard that we have confirms that he boxed. He is pictured in shorts and tank top, his arms raised in the posture of a boxer. Published by Serge Klarsfeld, this is the only photograph of him in the archives.
As seen in this picture, Bernard appears to be a serious, determined boy. It does not look like it was taken off the cuff, but rather posed.
The family residence on the rue de Nancy in Paris. Drawing done by Émilie.
Bernard Goldstein. Drawing done by Émilie.
Part 2: The Goldsteins during the dark years
The Régime de Vichy, under Marshal Pétain, came to power in July 1940. It inaugurated many anti-Semitic measures in the likeness of the Laws of Nuremberg; in October 1940 the “first Jewish statute” was decreed. It forbade the Jews access to many trades and professions, such as journalism, justice, government, teaching. This statute defined a Jew as “any person with three Jewish grandparents or two grandparents of that race if the spouse is also Jewish”.
In July 1942 it became compulsory for all Jews over the age of 6 to wear the yellow star. This measure stigmatized the Jews and made it possible to recognize them publicly. It was accompanied by numerous exclusions from public places such as movie theaters and children’s parks.
A photo taken in August 1942 in the courtyard of the school on the rue des Deux-Ponts in Paris shows several students with the yellow star sewn onto the breast of their clothing. In this photo a cousin of Bernard’s, Dora Bender, is sitting in the first row but not wearing the yellow star because she was not yet 6 years old. As for Marie Goldstein, she rebelled against this discriminatory measure and removed the yellow star sewn to her clothing when she went to the movies with her friends. That worried her mother Sonia considerably.
The obligation to wear the yellow star provoked diverse reactions, notably among children. In Paroles d’étoiles it is told, for example, that Annette Muller was ashamed of being Jewish. Another child, named Simon, had the support of his classmates, who cut out paper yellow stars and wore them themselves.
In addition, the Goldstein family, naturalized with French citizenship since 1928, was investigated by the Paris Préfecture of Police for a dossier opened on December 3, 194- (illegible date) dealing with the revocation of their citizenship (Document 5). In this investigation document for the eventual nullification of the French nationality of Samuel Goldstein, Wolf’s father, can be read what is being held against him: violence committed against a police officer in 1936. This violence was stated to have been motivated by the support Samuel was affording a neighbor who was being arrested. In this same document the investigator notes that the military service performed by Samuel’s children pled on his behalf.
The Vichy Régime in this way took away the French nationality of around 7000 Jews between 1940 and 1944. The aim of this move was to excise the Jews from the national community. That this did not affect the Goldstein family was due to the fact that several of its members had done their military service in the French army in 1940, as mentioned earlier.
During this time, roundups were organized by the French authorities, like the one at the Vel’ d’Hiv on July 16, 1942, which saw the arrest of around 13,000 Jews. This caused ever-increasing anxiety in Jewish families, as they thenceforth were aware that women and children were also being arrested.
Wolf, who was working as a tailor in a police station, was warned of the coming roundups, and was thus able to escape with his family. Other members of the Goldstein family were rounded up, such as Bernard’s uncle Elieser, who was arrested and deported on October 28, 1943 to Auschwitz-Birkenau at the age of 27.
Marie Goldstein tearing off her yellow star. Drawing by Émilie.
Part 3: Arrest and imprisonment in the Drancy camp
On June 6, 1944 the Allies carried out the big landing operation in Normandy. The American, British, and Canadian soldiers progressively liberated the French territory, chasing out the Nazis. This did not, however, mean the war was over, and the dangers that threatened the Jews were still dire.
And so on July 1, 1944 the Gestapo organized a roundup in the 10th district of Paris, where Bernard was living with his parents, his sister, and his brother. His parents and his little brother Daniel were arrested at the house at n° 11 rue de Nancy and immediately taken to the internment camp at Drancy. Bernard and his sister were not at home at the time of the roundup. Bernard was with his aunt Tauba at the UGIF Center on the avenue Secrétan, as his parents had requested. Tauba was employed there. Marie refused to go the Center and took refuge with friends. According to her they had been denounced by neighbors hoping to acquire their apartment.
On July 22, 1944, the SS officer, Aloïs Brunner had the French police arrest 71 children and 11 staff members at the Secrétan UGIF Center, among whom were Bernard, his aunt Tauba, and his cousins, Jacques, Dora, and Jean Bender.
Sent to Paris in May 1943 to speed up the deportation of the Jews of France, Aloïs Brunner had nearly 300 children, aged 2 to 15 rounded up from the UGIF Centers and orphanages.
Marie once again avoided being rounded up, since she was not on the premises. She nonetheless decided to return to the family home, where a neighbor warned her of the Gestapo’s presence and told her to flee. She then hid out at other neighbors’ until Paris was liberated
Despite our research we were unable to find out what happened to Bernard between the 1st and the 22nd of July, 1944. We presume he was arrested with Tauba and the Secrétan UGIF Center.
Bernard, Tauba and the 80 other people arrested at the Secrétan UGIF Center were trucked to the Drancy internment camp.
When they got out of the trucks the children and employees of the UGIF were grouped and sent to the hut in the center of the camp to be searched. There their personal belongings were confiscated. They were then registered, and French police filled out a card listing their family name, first name, date of birth, nationality, profession, and the place and date of their arrest. They were allotted an I.D. number. The number on Bernard’s card is 25,378 (Document 6).
Bernard then had before his eyes a U-shaped internment camp, initially intended to become a modern housing center for 1250 persons — the Cité de la Muette. Under construction up to 1938, it remained unfinished for lack of adequate financing. The overall structure of the development was complete, but the inside was bare and there was no sanitation.
The prisoners were regularly moved around in the camp. The internment cards of Wolf, Sonia, Daniel, and Bernard let us follow their moves through the staircase and room numbers written at the top right of the cards. That is how we know that Sonia and her son Daniel were first separated from Wolf Goldstein upon their arrival at the camp on July 3, 1944. When Bernard was interned at Drancy on July 22nd, he was apparently not at first placed near his family. Later, several days before they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, he, his parents, and his little brother were grouped together in room 2, staircase 8. This corresponds to the way the Drancy camp worked, as staircases 1 through 8 were reserved for the prisoners to be deported in the next convoy.
Bernard and Tauba elude the roundup on July 3, 1944. Drawing by Émilie.
The Drancy camp symbolically bordering Bernard’s internment card. Drawing by Émilie.
Part 4: On the way to Auschwitz-Birkenau
On July 21, 1944 Bernard, his parents, his little brother, and his aunt were sent to the Bobigny train station. As it was not far from Drancy, they were taken there in busses. Bobigny replaced the le Bourget station in July 1943 as the departure point for the convoys of deported Jews toward the East.
Bernard and his relatives, like the other deportees, were shoved and heaped together in cattle wagons whose doors were then locked and whose windows were obstructed (Document 7). The 77th convoy was thus ready to leave for the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was composed of 1300 persons, including about 300 children.
Among the deportees in this convoy was Daniel Urbejtel, whom we met on December 7, 2017 at the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris. He furnished us with some very important testimony on the conditions in which the deportation took place.
The trip took three days and four nights in horrible conditions. The deportees lacked water and food. There was a single receptacle for water, and another filled with bread, for 60 or 70 people. The toilet consisted of just one bucket. Convoy 77 took place in midsummer; the heat was unbearable. The wailing babies and the lack of room were intolerable.
Ignorant of their destination, the children, as well as the adults, invented and imagined places they sometimes called Pitchipoï.
The train stopped very often, but the doors were never opened and the stops could go on for hours. After three long days the convoy stopped for the last time and the doors at last were opened. The train had just arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau, a death camp. Men were yelling in German, ordering the deportees to get out of the cars and leave their luggage on the train.
Once out of the convoy Bernard and his relatives, like all the other deportees, were directed toward the selection ramp. At the end of this ramp there was a group of Nazi officers who went about sorting the deportees. The officers decided to put those considered “able-bodied” on one side, and those considered “inapt for work” on the other.
His father Wolf was selected for work duty and was tattooed with the I.D. number B-3774 on his forearm.
But Bernard, his mother Sonia, his little brother Daniel, his aunt Tauba and his cousins, Jacques, Dora and Jean, were deemed inapt for work. They therefore were separated from Wolf.
With the other deportees who were not selected for work duty (children, older people, those who were ill or frail) they were then piled onto trucks and sent off toward strange installations at the back of the camp — the gas chambers and crematoria.
Like the other deportees Bernard and his relatives were forced into locker rooms, where they were ordered to strip and go into what looked like collective showers. Once the doors were closed and locked, they were asphyxiated, because instead of water a deadly gas, zyklon B, issued from the shower heads.
The corpses were then moved and burned in the crematory ovens by Sonderkommandos, who were mostly Jewish deportees themselves. The Nazis wanted to expunge every trace of their existence.
Elieser Goldstein, who came back alive, was a musician in the Auschwitz orchestra. On his return he recounted how he was compelled, with a machine gun at his back, to play the violin to accompany the deportees, including the members of his own family, as they entered the gas chamber.
Bernard’s father Wolf also returned from Auschwitz alive, after being transferred to the Dachau camp and liberated. He returned to Paris toward August 1945 and was reunited with his daughter Marie. She had previously requested a certificate from the French authorities on January 29, 1945 in order to find out her father’s fate. (Document 8).
Arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Drawing by Nathan.
Selection on the ramp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Drawing by Émilie.
All of us 9th-grade students were moved by this project, which gave us precise knowledge of the Shoah, and more particularly of a Jewish family, the Goldsteins.
Through the personal destiny of Bernard Goldstein and his family we gained understanding of a fundamental period of History.
By working in groups, we were able fully to share our emotions and experiences and we emerged enhanced.
We will never be able to forget our meeting with Daniel Urbejtel, whose testimony still echoes within us today. His story helped develop our ability to imagine and form hypotheses about Bernard’s life.
Daniel Urbejtel and Bernard Goldstein, both of whom were arrested at the UGIF Center on the avenue Secrétan and deported in convoy 77, suffered different fates upon their arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Studying these crossed destinies and gaining understanding into the magnitude of the genocide of the Jews and Gypsies of Europe have also strengthened our desire to fight against all forms of discrimination. From now on we will spread the message given to us by Daniel Urbejtel:
“Learn how to understand instead of seeking to hate”.
The teachers and students wish to express their warm thanks to Marianne (Marie Goldstein) for her previously unpublished testimony, and to her daughter Sonia, for her precious help.
Particular thanks are also due to Michelle Goldstein, who provided us with many valuable archives on her family’s history.
We wish to express our gratitude and affection to Daniel Urbejtel and thank him for giving us his testimony at the Mémorial de la Shoah.
We would like to thank Georges Mayer and Serge Jacubert as well for their being there with their support when needed. Thanks are also addressed to Maya and Claire, students at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, who came to meet with us at our school.
Our thanks also go to the Ministry of Defense, the Essonne Department, the Seligmann Foundation, the Foundation for the Remembrance of the Shoah, and the SNCF Foundation, which helped finance our project. In addition, we thank the Mémorial de la Shoah for the welcome it gave us in Paris and at Drancy. Finally, our thanks also go the staff of the Maison d’Izieu for the quality of the activities we were offered.
List of documents
Document 1: Record of the Goldstein family’s civil status upon their arrival in Denmark in 1910.
Document 2: Dossier of the request for naturalization filed on June 27, 1927 by Samuel and Jochwet Goldstein. Archives of the Paris Police Préfecture.
Document 3: Announcement of the marriage of Wolf and Sonia, available on Michelle Goldstein’s blog.
Document 4: Extract from Bernard Goldstein’s birth certificate, established at the town hall of Paris’s 12th district. Archives of the city of Paris.
Document 5: Police investigation file for deprivation of citizenship. National Archives.
Document 6: Bernard Goldstein’s internment card, filled out at the Drancy camp on July 22, 1944. Archives of the Mémorial de la Shoah/National Archives.
Document 7: Extract from the list of the deportees in convoy n° 77, Archives of the Mémorial de la Shoah.
Document 8: Reverse side of Wolf Goldstein’s Drancy internment card, F9/5696, Archives of the Mémorial de la Shoah/National Archives.
ELMALEH Raphaël, Une histoire de l’éducation juive moderne en France, édition Biblieurope.
GUÉNO Jean-Pierre, Paroles d’étoiles. Mémoire d’enfants cachés (1939-1945), 2002.
KLARSFELD Serge, Mémorial de la déportation des Juifs de France, FFDJF, 2012.
KLARSFELD Serge, Mémorial des enfants juifs exterminés, additif n°7, p. 51, FFDJF, 2006.
MOSCOVICI Jean-Claude, Voyage à Pitchipoï, L’école des loisirs, 2009.
Doc 2 request for naturalization June 1927 by Samuel and Jochwet. Archives PPP
Doc 3 Bernard Goldstein Announcement of the marriage of Wolf and Sonia, available on Michelle Goldstein’s blog.
Doc 4 Extract from Bernard Goldstein’s birth certificate made out at the town hall of Paris’s 12th district. Archives of the City of Paris.
Doc 6 Bernard Goldstein’s internment card, filled out at the Drancy camp on July 22, 1944. Archives of the Mémorial de la Shoah/ National Archives. Drancy File F9 5744.
Doc 8 Back of Wolf Goldstein’s Drancy internment card, F9 5696, Archives of the Mémorial de la Shoah/ National Archives.
Doc 1 Bernard GOLDSTEIN Record of the family’s civil status on arriving from Denmark 1910
Doc 7 Bernard Goldstein deportee list Mémorial de la Shoah
Bernard GOLDSTEIN born on January 14, 1930 deported from Drancy on July 31, 1944 in convoy n° 77.
16431 Bernard Goldstein Doc 5