Lydie STRAUSS

1936 - 1944 | Birth: | Arrest: | Residence: , , , ,

Lydie STRAUSS, née ZITKO

Photo from the Serge KLARSFELD collection held by the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

This biography was written by Sigrid GAUMEL, Associate Professor of Geography

In this biography we have tried to trace the personal history of Lydie Strauss née Zitko. We also encourage the reader to refer to the biographies of Madeleine Edmonde Strauss née Geismar, Léon Norbert Strauss, Rosalie Marie Geismar née Bogusch, and Juliette Jeanne Bogusch on the Convoi 77 Association’s website. These five people, all from the same Jewish family, who lived in Colmar in the Haut-Rhin department, were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on Convoy 77 on July 31, 1944.

 

Lydie Zitko: probably an adopted child, who was living in Colmar in 1936-1940.

Lydie Zitko was born on November 14, 1936 in Wiesbaden in Germany[1], a town about 40k from Frankfurt where her mother, Lisbeth[2] Zitko née Kohn, lived on Otto Strasse. Lydie’s father, Gust(av) Zitko, a travelling merchant with no fixed address, seems to have been absent at the time of her birth. The declaration of her birth was made not by her father but by the office manager of the Wiesbaden  hospital, which was at 62 Schwalbacher Strasse. Lydie’s birth certificate has a note on the bottom right, which says: 15/5 1927 Belgrad, Jugosl. Might Lydie and/or her father have been Yugoslavian?

Lydie was taken in by the “NID” in Strasbourg[3], an association or public welfare service that took in orphaned or abandoned children for adoption. We have been unable to find the legal act relating to Lydie Zitko’s adoption,[4] and thus do not know the exact date when Lydie arrived at the home of Madeleine and Léon Strauss, her “adoptive” parents.

Lydie’s “adoptive” parents , Madeleine Edmonde Strauss, née Geismar, was born on April 24, 1911 at 35 Bärengasse  in Colmar and Léon Norbert Strauss, born November 24, 1907 at  12 Marktgasse  at Obernai[6], were married on September 26, 1934 in Colmar[7]. There were married without a marriage contract and had no children at the time.

After they were married, Madeleine and Léon Strauss lived in a second floor apartment at 17, rue du Nord in Colmar[8] with Madeleine’s mother, Rosalie Marie Geismar, née Bogusch, who was born on February 23, 1881 at Hanover, in Germany[9], the widow of Marcel Geismar. Madeleine was an office worker, a secretary at the Colmar medical union. Léon was a salesman at Lehmann, a leather store, in 1936[10]. The 1936 census mentions that Madeleine, Léon and Rosalie were of French nationality and spoke French. Léon was educated to a level equivalent to Sophomore year and held a certificate of musical aptitude and a driving licence[11]. He was 5’93 tall, had brown hair, grey-blue eyes, a high forehead and a round face[12].

At the end of the 1930s, anti-Semitism was increasing in France. The population, which was suffering from the world economic crisis, political clashes and politico-financial scandals at the time of the Popular Front, turned against the Jews. In Alsace, extreme right-wing organizations and parties called for a boycott of Jewish businesses and distributed anti-Semitic leaflets and newspapers[13].  After the signature of the Munich Agreement, on September 30, 1938, the Jews were accused of inciting France to go to war in order to defend German Jews. Anti-Semitic groups attacked Jewish businesses, particularly in Strasbourg and Mulhouse, breaking windows, ransacking and looting shops and injuring their employees.

At the beginning of April 1938, Rosalie Geismar, Madeleine and Léon Strauss, probably together with Lydie (?), moved to 8, rue Erckmann-Chatrian in Colmar[14] (although, according to the 1938 Colmar town directory, they were still living at 17, rue du Nord in Colmar and, what’s more, in the 1939 Colmar directory, they were not listed at all).

 

The start of the war and the flight to Cannes and then to Le Cannet, in the Alpes-Maritimes, in 1940.

On the eve of the Second World War, in 1939, about 25,000 Jews were living in the Alsace region, and in January 1940 there were an estimated 6,000 Jewish soldiers in the French army[15]. Among them was Lydie’s “adoptive” father, Léon Strauss, who was called up for duty on August 23, 1939 and assigned to the 28th Fortress Infantry Regiment (RIF) stationed on the Maginot line of the Rhine, in the Fortified Sector of Colmar[16].

On September 1, 1939, the German army invaded Poland and then on September 3, France and England declared war on Germany. The inhabitants of all the villages in the Alsace and Moselle regions, near the German border, as well as the city of Strasbourg, were ordered to evacuate. The evacuated area, which became known as the “Front d’Alsace”, or Alsatian Front, was to remain peaceful for eight months. During this “phony war”, the soldiers, such as Léon Strauss, remained in their bunkers on the Maginot Line, waiting for orders and finding things to do.

Madeleine, with Lydie who was then aged 2 years and 9 months, and probably Rosalie, fled Alsace on September 1, 1939 and took refuge at Eloyes in the Vosges mountains (about 50 miles west of Colmar). They appear to have returned to Colmar on January 15, 1940, to 8, rue Erckmann-Chatrian[17].

On April 6, 1940, Madeleine and Lydie, accompanied by Rosalie[18], Lydie’s grandmother and Juliette Jeanne Bogusch[19], Rosalie’s sister, fled Alsace and found refuge in Cannes, in the Alpes-Maritimes department in the south of France. They stayed at 14bis, rue d’Antibes in Cannes[20] [21].

On May 10, 1940, the German army launched an offensive and invaded the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, circumventing the Maginot Line. On May 14, 1940, German tanks entered into France near Sedan, and a month later, on June 14, 1940, Paris was occupied by the Wehrmacht. The 28th Fortress Infantry Regiment were holding the fortified sector at Wolfgantzen, to the north-west of Neuf-Brisach, and Léon Strauss was among them. They were attacked on June 15, 1940 during the German assault on the Rhine. The regiment withdrew under orders, from June 17, 1940 onwards, back towards the Vosges, where the two battalions were finally captured on June 21 and 22, 1940[22]. Léon Strauss was taken prisoner by the Germans on the Maginot Line, but he managed to escape and join his family, probably in Cannes[23].

The family then moved to Le Cannet, a town close to Cannes, although we do not know the exact date on which they moved. Madeleine, Léon, Lydie, as well as Rosalie and Juliette, lived in the Villa Le Bosquet at 6, rue de Madrid in Le Cannet[24], a magnificent villa with a huge garden, where they stayed until June 25, 1944.

The armistice, signed with Germany on June 22, 1940, and with Italy on June 24, 1940, came into force on June 25, 1940. France was divided into two zones: the zone occupied by the Germans in the north, and the so-called “free” zone in the south, controlled by the Vichy government. Alsace-Moselle was effectively annexed and incorporated into the Nazi Reich. The German army occupied this area and established its headquarters there. On July 13, 1940, Robert Wagner, the Gauleiter, the head of the civil authorities in Alsace, decided to expel the remaining Jews in Alsace and to confiscate all of their property, interests and privileges for the benefit of the Reich[25].

More than 3,000 Jews were expelled to the non-occupied zone. Within 3 days, the Nazis had turned Alsace into a Judenrein (German for “cleansed of or free of Jews”) area. The Nazis also sought to erase all traces of the Jewish presence in Alsace. They destroyed or damaged many synagogues, particularly in Strasbourg and Mulhouse, and ransacked Jewish cemeteries, notably the one in Colmar.

 

Life under the Vichy regime (June 22, 1940 – November 8, 1942), and under the Italian occupation (November 9, 1942 – September 8, 1943).

After the signature of the Armistice by France on June 22nd 1940, the Alpes-Maritimes department was in the southern zone, or Free Zone, where the Vichy regime was in power. Marshal Pétain’s government demonstrated its racist anti-Semitism and declared the existence of a “Jewish race” in the autumn of 1940. On October 3, 1940, it passed a law on the “Status of the Jews,” and on June 2, 1941, it ordered a nationwide census and enacted a second status for Jews. Until the end of 1942, the French State adopted and published more than a hundred legal texts targeting the Jews[26]. It was also actively involved in the deportation of foreign Jews. Jews from Alsace, although they held French nationality, were subject to the Jewish Statute of October 3, 1940. However, the Vichy government did not require Jews in the Free Zone to wear the yellow star.

In response to the Anglo-American landings in North Africa on November 8, 1942, the Germans immediately decided to invade and militarize the Free Zone, leaving the area east of the Rhône to the Italians, including the Alpes-Maritimes department where the Geismar-Bogusch-Strauss family lived. In the departments they controlled, the Italians proved themselves to be sympathetic towards the Jews. There were almost no more arrests, and they even opposed the German and French directives by force, thus putting pressure on the Vichy Prefects not to require the mention of the word “Jew” on identity papers[27]. The Geismar-Bogusch-Strauss family must have benefited from the clemency of the Italians. Lydie Strauss, who was 6 years old in 1942, no doubt went to a school in Le Cannet[28].

 

The German Occupation (from September 9, 1943), arrests and deportation (July 31, 1944).

Everything changed with the Italian Armistice and the arrival of the Germans on September 8, 1943. The Alpes-Maritimes department, occupied by the Germans until August 1944, ceased to be a safe haven for the Jews. Aloïs Brunner, the Obersturmbannführer (literal translation “senior assault unit leader”) of the SS, arrived in Nice on September 10, 1944 to lead a special commando unit responsible for organizing a systematic hunt for all of the Jews on the Côte d’Azur[29]. Their headquarters, the Hotel Excelsior, near to the Nice train station, was used to assemble and house Jews destined for deportation. Paid informers and “physiognomists” assisted the Gestapo units. They roamed the streets and raided the hotels. All the men were forced to drop their trousers, examined and, if they were circumcised, were immediately arrested[30]. From when Brunner and his men arrived in Nice until their departure in December 1943, about 80 days, 2142 Jews were arrested and registered at the Hotel Excelsior[31].

The fate of little Lydie, who was only 7 years old, of her “adoptive” parents Madeleine and Léon Strauss, of Rosalie Geismar, and of Juliette Bogusch, was later described by Doctor Kruger from Cannes[32], during the trial on June 7, 1945, at the court in Grasse, of the man who denounced the Geismar-Bogusch-Strauss family, a man named Finck. According to Dr. Kruger’s report, the family was arrested on June 25, 1944 and taken to the Villa Montfleury, the Gestapo headquarters in Cannes. On June 27, 1944, the family was transferred to the Excelsior Hotel in Nice, and then, two weeks later, transferred to the Drancy camp, located 4km (about 2 miles) from Paris in Seine-Saint-Denis.

Drancy was a transit camp, where Jews were assembled before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. On arrival at the Drancy camp, the French authorities seized all the internees’ possessions, meticulously filling out a form for each person[33]. A duplicate of the receipts for confiscated valuables was issued by the Jewish service. Usually only one receipt was issued for an entire family. Léon Strauss had 3158 francs confiscated by the administration, as can be seen on the receipt dated July 12, 1944, signed by the “chief of police for Jews” at the Drancy camp[34].

On July 31, 1944, Lydie, her “adoptive” parents Madeleine and Léon Strauss, Rosalie Geismar and Juliette Bogusch were deported from Drancy to Auschwitz-Birkenau on Convoy 77, as recorded on the original list of those deported[35].  They arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau on August 3, 1944.

According to the testimony of another deportee, Albert Broido or Broydo[36], Leon Strauss’ comrade in the Auschwitz camp, it is more than likely that the three women and Lydie, “being pale and suffering,” were immediately transferred by truck to the gas chambers where they were gassed and ultimately incinerated[37]. Rosalie[38], Juliette[39], Madeleine[40] and Lydie[41] all died on August 3, 1944.

Leon Strauss, when he arrived at the station at Auschwitz, walked to the Auschwitz camp [42]. Stripped naked, shorn and tattooed on his left arm (B88 and two unknown numbers), Leon was forced to work for two months in the camp; he was assigned to the kommandos working on street repairs and later on the sewage system. At the end of September, Léon Strauss had an acute finger infection and had to go to the camp infirmary. On October 3, 1944, Leon Strauss was killed in the gas chambers at Birkenau and then incinerated in the crematorium. His death certificate includes the words “Mort pour la France“, i.e. “Died for France” as recommended by the Department of Veterans Affairs on November 28, 1945, which every deportee who was deported due to their race is entitled by law, along with the words “Died during Deportation” in accordance with the recommendation of the Minister of Defense dated September 29, 2003[43].

 

Memorial sites and commemorative projects.

Various memorial sites exist to commemorate the deportees. On the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris are the names of Strauss Lydie, Strauss Edmée, Strauss Léon, Geismar Rosalie, and Bogusch Juliette[44].

The memorial monument at the Jewish cemetery in Colmar mentions the names and ages of the Jewish deportees who lived in Colmar: Strauss (Zitko) Lidy (8 years old), Strauss-Geismar Madeleine (33 years old), Strauss Léon (38 years old), Geismar-Bogusch Rosa (60 years old), and Bogusch Juliette (58 years old). In Mulhouse, the memorial monument at the Jewish cemetery mentions the name of Bogusch Juliette (55 years old). We note the approximate spelling of the first names, and the differing ages of the people named on the monuments.

In the Tivoli gardens in the heart of Le Cannet, a monument was erected on July 1, 2011, near the 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 War Memorials, in memory of the Jewish inhabitants of Le Cannet who were deported between 1942 and 1944. The plaque mentions the names of Léon and Edmée Strauss and their daughter Lydie (8 years old). Once again, the spelling of first and last names is an approximation: Madeleine Edmonde Strauss née Geismar and Lydie Strauss née Zitko. Also, the names of Rosalie Geismar and Juliette Bogusch are not included on this monument. We contacted the Association pour la Mémoire des Enfants Juifs Déportés des Alpes-Maritimes (Association for the Memory of the Jewish people deported from the Alpes-Maritimes) about this and A Mr. Wolman, on behalf of the Association, assured us that the names of Rosalie and Juliette will soon be added on a new commemorative plaque.

The memory of Lydie Strauss, née Zitko, of her “adoptive” parents Madeleine Strauss née Geismar and Léon Strauss, and of Rosalie Geismar née Bogusch, could be further honored by the laying of Stolpersteine outside their last home, 8, rue Erckmann-Chatrian in Colmar.

 

 

Note 

The photograph of Lydie Zitko included in this biography comes from the website of the Shoah Memorial in Paris, the Memorial being one of the sponsors of the Convoi 77 association. Reference: Add8=144a.jpg, Serge Klarsfeld collection.

 

Acknowledgments 

I would like to thank Ms. Nicole Hermann, daughter-in-law of Ms. Mariette Hermann née Geismar, for allowing me to complete the family tree of the Geismar family. I would also like to thank Mr. Ivan Geismar and Mr. Jacques Geismar and his father.

I am very grateful to Mr. Serge Jacubert and the Association Convoi 77, for providing me with many documents from the Victims of Contemporary Conflicts Archives Division of the Historical Research Service in Caen.

I would also like to thank Ms. Michèle Merowka, President of the Association for the Memory of Jewish People Deported from the Alpes-Maritimes, an association which aims to put up commemorative plaques in educational establishments, and Mr. Roger Wolman, who provided me with information about the archives available at Le Cannet town hall, and some photographs.

I also thank Mr. Daniel Fuks for sharing work papers and for his help and advice.

Finally, I would like to express my thanks to Ms. Doris Kohl, archivist at the Colmar municipal archives, for her help, advice and the documents provided, and to Mr. Olivier Holder, archivist at the Haut-Rhin departmental archives, for his assistance and his availability. Lastly, thanks to Mr. Martin Gugg, a German teacher, for his linguistic assistance.

 

 

Biography completed on April 5, 2020.

 

References

 

[1] Birth certificate of Lydie Zitko, Municipal Archives of Wiesbaden, in Germany.

[2] The first names of Lydie Zitko’s parents are approximative due to the illegibility of Lydie Zitko’s birth certificate, Municipal Archives of Wiesbaden, in Germany.

[3] According to the witness statement of Ms. Mariette Hermann, dated 22.10.1991, available on the Yad Vashem website.

[4] Documents consulted: register of acts required to be registered at the Tribunal de Première Instance in Colmar, business register O, P, Q, Z of the 1st chamber of 1934 to August 1941, Haut-Rhin departmental archives, AL125082; register of acts required to be registered at the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Saverne, alphabetical list of cases of the 1st civil chamber from 1903 to 1953, Departmental Archives of the, 2044W7; register of acts required to be registered at the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Strasbourg, alphabetical list of cases of the 1st civil chamber 1932 to 1944, Departmental Archives of the, 811D7, 811D8, 811D9 ; register of acts required to be registered at the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Strasbourg, alphabetical list of cases of the 2nd civil chamber of 1937 to 1939, Departmental Archives of the Bas-Rhin, 812D9 ; register of acts required to be registered at the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Strasbourg, alphabetical list of cases of the 3rd  civil chamber of 1933 to 1939, Departmental Archives of the Bas-Rhin, 813D31.

[5] Birth certificate of Madeleine Edmonde Geismar, Colmar Municipal Archives.

[6] Birth certificate of Léon Strauss, Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin(online), 4E348/55.

[7] Marriage certificate of Madeleine Geismar and Léon Strauss, Colmar Municipal Archives.

[8] Colmar town directories of 1936, 1937 and 1938, Colmar Municipal Archives.

[9] Birth certificate of Rosalie Bogusch, Stadtarchiv Hannover.

[10]  1936 census in Colmar, Departmental Archives of Haut-Rhin.

[11] Ministère de la Guerre, subdivision de Sélestat, registre matricule, classe de 1927,  3rd volume, n° matricule de Léon Strauss 1146, Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin, 806D20.

[12] Ministère de la Guerre, subdivision de Sélestat, registre matricule, classe de 1927,  3rd  volume, n° matricule de Léon Strauss 1146, Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin, 806D20.

[13] Freddy Raphaël, Les Juifs d’Alsace et de Lorraine de 1870 à nos jours, Paris, Albin Michel, 2018.

[14] Address record of Léon Strauss, Colmar Municipal Archives.

[15] Jean Daltroff, “Paroles de combattants et de prisonniers de guerre 1939-1945” in sous la dir. de Freddy Raphaël, Juifs d’Alsace au XXe siècle, ni ghettoïsation, ni assimilation, Strasbourg, La Nuée Bleue, 2014.

[16] Ministry of War, Sélestat Subdivision, registry entry, year 1927, 3rd volume, registration number of Léon Strauss, 1146, Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin, 806D20.

[17] Address record of Léon Strauss, Colmar Municipal Archives.

[18] Address record of Rosalie Geismar, Colmar Municipal Archives.

[19] Address record of Juliette Bogusch at Mulhouse, Mulhouse Municipal Archives.

[20] Address record of Léon Strauss, Colmar Municipal Archives.

[21] According to Mr. Roger Wolman, the number 14bis, rue d’Antibes does not or no longer exists now (June 2019). The numbers 14 and 16 have succeeded it.

[22] According to the website: www.memorialgenweb.org.

[23] Letter dated May 21, 1945 from Henri Strauss to the Ministry for Prisoners, Deportees and Refugees in Paris. Victims of Contemporary Conflicts dept., Historical Service of the Department of Defense, Caen (document obtained through the Convoi 77 association).

[24] Death certificates of Léon Norbert Strauss and Madeleine Edmonde Geismar dated 13.12.1948, Le Cannet town records; Death certificate of Lydie Strauss dated 03.05.2013, Le Cannet town records; Death certificate of Rosalie Marie Bogusch dated 06.01.1949, Le Cannet town records; letter from lawyers Maîtres Léon Rapp and Jules Weil of October 6, 1947 to the State Prosecutor.

[25] In July 1940, the two heads of the civil administration, Robert Wagner in Alsace and Joseph Bürckel in Moselle, decided to rid Alsace-Moselle of all the “undesirable elements” unworthy of populating Germanic lands: Jews, gypsies, criminals and the incurable. The French and Welschisants were to be expelled to the unoccupied zone. The Jews of Alsace-Moselle had between one and twenty-four hours to prepare for their departure and could only take with them a 45-65lb suitcase and a small amount of money. From Freddy Raphaël : Les Juifs d’Alsace et de Lorraine de 1870 à nos jours, Paris, Albin Michel, 2018.

[26] Jean Kleinmann, « Les politiques antisémites dans les Alpes-Maritimes de 1938 à 1944 », Cahiers de la Méditerranée, 74, 2007 (online).

[27] Jacques Semelin, La survie des juifs en France 1940-1944, Paris, CNRS Editions, 2018.

[28] According to Ms Michèle Merowka, President of the Association for the memory of Jewish people in the Alpes-Maritimes, we cannot find out where Lydie Strauss went to school due to lack of school records in Le Cannet.

[29] Jean Kleinmann, « Les politiques antisémites dans les Alpes-Maritimes de 1938 à 1944 », Cahiers de la Méditerranée, 74, 2007 (online).

[30] Renée Poznanski, Les Juifs en France pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Paris, CNRS Editions, 2018.

[31] Jean Kleinmann, « Les politiques antisémites dans les Alpes-Maritimes de 1938 à 1944 », Cahiers de la Méditerranée, 74, 2007 (online).

[32] Jacky Dreyfus and Daniel Fuks, Le Mémorial des Juifs du Haut-Rhin, Martyrs de la Shoah, Strasbourg, Jérôme Do Bentzinger, 2006.

See also: http://judaisme.sdv.fr/histoire/shh/htrhin/GeismarRosalie.html

[33] Annette Wieviorka and Michel Laffitte, A l’intérieur du camp de Drancy, Paris, Perrin, 2015.

[34] Receipt in the name of Mr. Strauss, Drancy search logbook No 156, receipt No 6441, available on the website of the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

[35] Original list of the deportation convoy available on the website of the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

[36] Albert Broido or Broydo was born in 1905. Arrested on June 27, 1944 and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, his left arm was tattooed with the number B 3705. He was returned from Buchenwald on April 21, 1945. He was living at, 11 rue du Trésor in Paris in June 1945, and then at 33, Boulevard Saint-Martin in July 1947.

[37] Jacky Dreyfus and Daniel Fuks, Le Mémorial des Juifs du Haut-Rhin, Martyrs de la Shoah, Strasbourg, Jérôme Do Bentzinger, 2006.

[38] Death certificate of Rosalie Marie Bogusch, dated 06.01.1949, Le Cannet town records.

[39] According to the note on the birth certificate of Juliette Jeanne Bogusch, Municipal Archives of  Gunsbach. The Le Cannet town records department has not issued, to date, a death certificate for Juliette Bogusch.

[40] Death certificate of Madeleine Edmonde Geismar, dated 13.12.1948, Le Cannet town records.

[41] Death certificate of Lydie Strauss, dated 03.05.2013, Le Cannet town records.

[42] Jacky Dreyfus and Daniel Fuks, Le Mémorial des Juifs du Haut-Rhin, Martyrs de la Shoah, Strasbourg, Jérôme Do Bentzinger, 2006.

[43] Death certificate of Léon Norbert Strauss, dated 13.12.1948, Le Cannet town records.

[44] Inscription on the Wall of Names. Website of the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

Contributor(s)

Sigrid GAUMEL, Associate Professor of Geography

 

Lydie STRAUSS née le 14 novembre 1936 déportée de Drancy le 31 juillet 1944 par le convoi n°77.

Contributor(s)

Sigrid GAUMEL, Agrégée de Géographie
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