Isaak (or Isaac) Gerszon Jacques JAKUBOWICZ
We are Kinga Dubel, Marta Danek and Róża Majchrzak. We study French at the bilingual high school no. 1 in Poznan, Poland. Together with Ms. Anna Klinger, our French teacher, we had the opportunity and good fortune to participate in the “Convoy 77” project.
The day that we saw the photo of young Isaak, who was born less than 100 miles (150 km) from Poznan, we began to think about him and to look for information about his life, which ended so soon.
Thanks to the power of the internet we made contact with Isaak’s nephew, Mr. Gerard Jakubowicz, who provided us with some information about him and his relatives. Thank you very much! He called him his “Uncle Jacques” and for this reason we decided to call him by both first names.
The aim of our project was to retrace Isaak’s life, partly to broaden our historical knowledge and to improve our French language skills, but above all to make people think, to never again allow such atrocities, to never again remain indifferent and to never forget. As Zofia Nalkowska wrote in 1946, “people inflicted this fate on people” (“Ludzie ludziom zgotowali ten los”).
We made use of some documents from the “Convoi 77” website as well as freely accessible texts and photos from the geni.com website and various other sources, which are noted in the references section below.
Isaak Jacques Jakubowicz was born on December 17, 1922 in Kalisz, Poland. Little is known about his childhood or his youth. He was the youngest child of Hanoch/Jacob and Brandla/Bronia/Bradjal. He had a brother, Charles Szaja, born in 1914, and a sister, Hélène Chaja/Fradela/Charlotte Lewinger, born in 1919.
Translator’s note: The following texts in bold italics refer to the images that appear at the end of the biography, in the order in which they appear. The description is given in English but the file names are in French. The first two photos are of Jacques, taken in 1942.
Family tree (1_annexe_arbre généalogique)
Charles and Helène in Kalisz, in 1921 (2_annexe_Charles_Helene_Kalisz_1921)
Kalisz and its Jewish community
The Jakubowicz family lived in the Wielkopolska region in the western-central part of the country, initially in Sieradz and then in Kalisz, a town about 35 miles (55 km) away. In Kalisz, the Jews mainly lived in an area surrounding the famous Rozmarek Square, or “horse market” in Yiddish. In 1908 fourteen thousand Jews lived in the town, which had a total population of almost forty thousand. They therefore accounted for about 35% of the total population. It was a very active community, whose members participated in a variety of activities: sports, amateur theatre, music and teaching. They formed associations such as the “Jewish Gymnastics and Sports Association” and the “Association of Jewish colleges”» (
Jewish culture played an important role in the town. A wooden synagogue in the middle of the Jewish quarter was founded in 1358 by King Kazimierz Wielki (Casimir III the Great). In the 17th century it was rebuilt in stone, in 1852 it was damaged by a fire and then in 1878 it was damaged during rioting. In 1939 the Nazis ransacked it and then in 1940, in order to humiliate the Jews, they forced them to demolish it.
There are now several monuments commemorating the Jewish community in Kalisz, such as plaques with inscriptions in Polish, Hebrew and English, which refer to the presence of the Jews in the city over the centuries. In addition, some contemporary artists have designed some architectural features to remind us of this co-existence in the community. There is also a cemetery, which was reconstructed using gravestones that were recovered from the Rypinkowski Canal after the war.
The town of Kalisz is also known for the Charter of Kalisz, the “General Charter of Jewish Freedoms”, published on September 8, 1264 by the Duke of Great Poland, Bolesław Pobożny (Boleslas the Pious). The Charter guaranteed the personal liberties and security of the Jews. It was ratified by the following Polish kings: Casimir III in 1334, Casimir IV in 1453 and Sigismund I in 1539.
There was a Jewish school in Kalisz (Żydowskie Gimnazjum Koedukacyjne) at 13, Kiliński street. The school was opened in 1920 and remained in operation until 1939. The curriculum was the same as that of the public schools but there were some additional subjects: Hebrew, Jewish history and Talmud studies (2). The building is now a branch of the Statistics Bureau.
Isaak’s nephew told us that the family was not very religious and that his father, Charles, had gone to Polish schools. At that time, in the late 1920s and early 1930s, some Jews from Poland were in the process of integrating into Polish society.
Charles at the Polish school in Kalisz, in around 1925 (3_annexe_Charles_ecole_polonaise_Kalisz_vers_1925)
In the school photo, Charles is sitting to the left of the teacher.
We have some information about Hanoch, the father of the family, given by his great-granddaughter:
He lived in Poland until 1928. He was a craftsman then, and did embroidery on a frame. He was a man who respected the Jewish holidays, but did not follow Jewish customs to the letter: we can see this in photos of him, where he is wearing neither a beard nor a hat. He came to France a few years earlier than his family, to settle in and to look for work. I know from my father that he worked in Besançon and Lyon. At that time, he often came to Roanne where there was already a Jewish community with the same background. Thérèse Kott, who knew him at that time, told me that he was extremely well brought up. He died of leukemia in 1933(3).
While searching for information about the photographic studio from which the photo of Jakob Jakubowicz (4_photo_annex) originally came, we discovered that the “Dyzma” workshop was one of two well-known studios in Kalisz. Its owner was called Boretti and the name is still known in the town. Thanks to him, we have a wonderful picture of Isaak’s father, who appears to have taken meticulous care of his appearance (4).
Henoch Jakubowicz left for France at some point, but we do not know when exactly. His family followed him a few years later. Thus, on August 20, 1932, at the age of 10, Isaak arrived in Roanne with his mother, Brandla Jakubowicz, and his brother and sister.
The three children in Roanne in 1933 (5_annexe_les_trois_enfants_à_Roanne_1933)
They must have missed their father. Alas, the following year he died of leukemia.
The family lived at two different addresses in Roanne: 62, rue du Canal and 7, rue Burdeau.
At the age of 15, the young Jacques began work as an apprentice locksmith. We do not know why but, according to the attached work record, he only worked for one day at the workshop in question.
Jacques’ work record, dated 1937 (6_annexe_livret_du_travail_1937)
Having reached the age of majority in 1940, Jacques applied for naturalization. The government had enacted a law on July 22, 1940, which updated the nationality law of August 10, 1927. This had widened the scope for the acquisition of French nationality.
1960s Request for the title of political deportee, mentioning Jacques’ request for French nationality in 1940 (7_annexe_information_sur_la_demande de naturalisation)
Thanks to the kindness of Mr. Gerard Jakubowicz we were able to obtain a copy of yet another important document, the identity card issued to on March 17, 1941 Jacques (the one with the photo!), a Jewish locksmith and mechanic of Polish nationality.
Jacques’ identity card, dated 17.03.1941 (8_annexe_carte_identite_17.03.1941)
One can just imagine the life of a young boy who wanted to meet new friends, to travel, and to get to know his new homeland. A photo taken at the Pont de Presles in the Ile-de-France on June 22, 1941 includes seven young people, with Jacques in the middle, smiling slightly with his arms around his friends’ shoulders.
As one member of the Jakubowicz family noted, the photo was taken on the day that the Third Reich invaded the Soviet Union, in what was known as Operation Barbarossa.
Photo of Jacques and his friends, 22.06.1941 (9_annexe_ Jacques_avec_ses_amis_ 22.06.1941)
Let us pause for a moment and look at the philosophical reflections in our hero’s diary, written on Saturday, January 10, 1942:
The war has turned my way of life upside down (…) It seems to me that I carry a burden on my shoulders and in my heart (…) My brain refuses to think, all the ideas get blurred and there remains only a black hole, yet in this darkness I feel millions of restless thoughts that want to come out, but my head is weary and my brain refuses to light up the darkness (5).
After that, events unfolded rapidly. Jacques joined the Union of Jewish Youth, in which he was an active member in Roanne. This was a Resistance organization that worked in secret and sought to free the country by fighting against the Nazis. The movement included about 500 activists in several cities.
A statement dating from 1966 tells us that in the context of his clandestine activities Jacques used to go back and forth between Roanne and Toulouse.
Statement by Jacques Kott about Jacques’ involvement in the Resistance, 1966 (10_annexe_attestation_resistance_1966)
According to his friend Jacques Kott, with whom Mr. Gerard Jakubowicz spoke, he was involved in writing an underground newspaper. In any case, according to one of the documents we were able to consult, Jacques was arrested by the police in Toulouse in January 1944: “arrested for belonging to the resistance (as an active Resistance fighter)”
Arrest record, Toulouse, January 1944 (11_annexe_arrêté_toulouse)
Another reason given in the documentation for Jacques’ imprisonment is: “Jude”, meaning “Jew”. His nationality was classified under the term “staatenlos“, “with no national affiliation”, meaning “stateless”. On the Certificate of Incarceration number 907.819, the Germans noted that Jacques had been sent from Drancy to Auschwitz on July 31, 1944.
Certificate of Incarceration (12_annexe_certificat_incarceration)
In the following section, we provide two versions of events and try to corroborate each of them.
Life behind barbed wire
The Germans interned Jacques in Compiègne, at a camp in Royallieu called “Fronstalag 122“. We found a document on the GENI page which states that he was arrested in Roanne on May 18, 1944. He undoubtedly arrived in Compiègne towards the end of May.
Document about deportations from the Loire showing Jacques’ arrest in Roanne, 18.05.1944 (13_annexe_arrete_a_Roanne_18.05.1944)
According to the archive documents that we received from the “Convoy 77” project, Isaak Jacques Jakubowicz was transferred from Compiègne to the Drancy camp (no. 24.897) which was about 8 miles (12 km) from Paris. He would have arrived there on July 6, 1944 and been issued with the registration number 41.739. The last known address before the arrest was given as 26, Allée de Barcelone in Toulouse. However, we have also seen documents mentioning the town of Roanne as his last known address.
Archive document from 1967 mentioning dates that Jacques was in Compiègne and Drancy (14_annexe_compiegne_drancy_copie_1967)
He waited for the final verdict to be delivered in Compiègne. On July 31, 1944, the German enemy reportedly deported him on Convoy 77, heading for the German concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland, the largest of the Third Reich’s concentration camp complexes.
It is difficult, however, if not impossible, to provide reliable, accurate information on the period following his arrest.
Brandla Jakubowicz, Jacques’ mother (15_annexe_la_mère)
After the war, his mother, Brandla Jakubowicz submitted various requests to find out the truth, but she received sometimes contradictory documents about the final months of her son’s life. There are, however, documents confirming that he was present on Convoy 77 from Drancy to Auschwitz:
Convoy 77 deportees list (16_annexe_liste_convoi_77)
We also found a document in Polish in reply to Charles Jakubowicz request to the Auschwitz archives department in 1978. The director of the museum confirmed that Jacques Jakubowicz had arrived on Convoy 77 from Drancy, but he could not say with 100% certainty what fate had befallen Jacques due to a lack of documentary evidence.
Reply from Auschwitz in Polish, 1978 (17.1 annexe Auschwitz 1978 polonais)
Reply from Auschwitz, French translation, 1978 (17.2 annexe Auschwitz 1978 français)
There are also documents that say that Jacques died in Germany. Might it be that someone thought Auschwitz was in Germany?
Extract from the town of Roanne civil register, saying that Jacques died in Germany (18_annexe_fiche_état_civil_Roanne_1967)
The second version is based on the testimony of a lady and on the fact that it seems illogical to have transferred a condemned man to be deported from Compiègne to Drancy, all the more so at a time when the landing had already taken place. Now, the family says this:
Until now, it was thought that Jacques had died in Auschwitz. However, Ms. Charlotte Golgewitch’s recent testimony contradicts this assertion: Jacques reportedly died in Dachau. He escaped to Roanne from the train that took him from Bordeaux to Auschwitz. He then found refuge at Le Coteau, just outside Roanne, with Charlotte’s family, before being recaptured a few weeks later by the (French?) police. What is most striking is that his name appears in the list of deportees at the end of the book “The Last Train”, written in 1962 by the historian Christian Bernadac. In July 1944, the said train transported a thousand French Resistance fighters from Compiègne to Dachau. There are no other Jewish names in this list. One might think that the Germans, having no other train at their disposal, put him in with the resistance fighters. That’s what he was, by the way, a resistance fighter. It is not certain that he arrived alive at Dachau because a third of the deportees died on the journey due to the heat, the lack of water and the collective madness that took hold of human beings subjected to such living conditions, etc. (6).
Reconstruction of the route of the death train (19_annexe_train_de_la_mort_reconstitution_itineraire)
The book “Le train de la mort”, “The Death Train” (20.1_20.2_annexe_livre_train_de_la_mort)
In our research we came across the website of the Foundation for the Memory of the Deportation on which Jacques Jakubowicz is mentioned as having been a prisoner in Dachau, but question marks have been added after his name (7).
Mr. Jakubowicz has sent us his analysis of the current state of play:
“These two convoys left after the Allied landings had already taken place (on June 6, 1944). At that time, the Germans had more to do than to make accurate lists: they still wanted to send as many Jews and resistance fighters as possible to their deaths. In May 1944, at Roanne station, Jacques escaped from a train going from Toulouse to Drancy. He was then recaptured and sent to Compiègne. From there he was put on the “train de la mort” (a train for resistance fighters) which left Compiègne on July 2 and arrived at Dachau on July 5. Around a third of the prisoners died during the journey.
(Jacques was probably one of them).
As for his presence on the departure lists from Drancy, I think that the Nazis simply took the list of prisoners who had left Toulouse and did not check whether a prisoner had escaped. These things are not 100% clear because there are contradictory documents and some of them are even completely wrong: at the time of the Liberation they were in such a hurry and didn’t care too much about the truth.”
What is important is that life goes on, and that the Jakubowicz family, and his nieces and nephews, remember their uncle Jacques. We are grateful to have been able to use the resources that the family had made available on the Internet.
On the photo of Jacques’ brother Charles’ wedding to Liliane Blima, in Nîmes, all of the family and their friends must have been delighted at the prospect of a gradual resumption of normal life.
Charles’ wedding photo (21_annexe_mariage_Charles)
As Gérard Gerszon Jakubowicz writes:
It was certainly a big wedding for the time. Right after the war. Most of the family was there. I was born just nine months later, right on schedule, you know.…
And it is life and the new generations that we must think about, in honoring the memory of those whose lives were so short and so sad.
Kinga Dubel, Marta Danek and Róża Majchrzak, students at the bilingual high school No1 at Poznan, in Poland, with the guidance of Ms. Anna Klinger, their French teacher.