La Petite Mama

The (Previously) Untold Story of a Mother in the Maquis

By Barry S. Willdorf

La Petite Mama


Copyright © 2008 by Barry S. Willdorf All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form whether in print, electronically, by mechanical means or otherwise, including information storage and retrieval systems without the prior written consent of the publisher except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

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La Petite Mama


abbi Samuel Zaitchik stood at the bimah in his Lynn, Massachusetts synagogue. It was 1991. He looked out at the sparsely attended funeral for Rebecca Senders lamenting: "If the Jewish community had known the heroine Rebecca was, this place would be filled to

He might have been speaking directly to me. I was her step-grandson for forty-two years. As she'd done with the Nazis and the Ukrainian nationalist anti-Semites before them, Rebecca kept silent with her family and her congregation about her exploits. The Rebecca I knew was shy, obsequious and often seemed uncomfortable. She did not talk much about the war, or her experiences in it, though the opportunities to do so in my typically Jewish family was plentiful enough. I knew that she'd come to America from France after World War II and that she'd lost her entire family in the holocaust. I could only imagine the rest because she did not talk about it. So I imagined the typical — a Jewish family rounded up and taken from their home to the inevitable concentration camp. She'd been lucky enough not to have been present at the time of the raid and so survived. I could not have been more wrong. It was only long after her death that I stumbled upon the documents that validated Rabbi Zaitchik's observation. From 1941 through the liberation of Paris, this diminutive, middle-aged, Jewish mother had been a fighter in the Maquis, rising to command a communications and supply unit. During that time, she saw death close up. She participated in two of the most daring operations undertaken by the Maquis in Paris. She crossed German lines innumerable times, transporting Jewish children to the relative safety of the Vichy zone. She lost her husband and two children — who were also combatants. And then, after liberation, she made many more painful trips south to recover these children. I call this story La Petite Mama because that was the term of endearment used by her children to describe her. But in making my discovery, I came to learn that there are likely hundreds of Jews

La Petite Mama


today, now in their sixties and seventies, who could also justifiably use that term when referring to Rebecca. Though anonymity may have been Rebecca's desire in life, there is no point in keeping silent now. Her deeds should be an inspiration to us all, as well as a reminder that meekness and heroism are not mutually exclusive. Hopefully, this story will be one small step in rectifying Rabbi Zaitchik's lament. *****

Charonne — to what was once her home. All of Paris seemed to be caught up in the euphoria of liberation. It had been four long years under the Nazis. She supposed she should have been in a celebratory mood as well, but there was so much gone, so much taken from her. For Rebecca, liberation was not so much an occasion to celebrate as it was at last a time to be able to grieve. And of course there was still much to be done. She stood in this surreal new world, holding on to a pole with one hand, a light valise in the other. Around her, passengers pressed in, their bodies adding heat and humidity to the car. It had been only June when she'd last traveled the Metro, but the circumstances could not have been more altered. The Allies had just landed in Normandy. A bravado that comes of optimism was growing among the French, coupled with lunatic desperation on the part of the Gestapo and their collaborators. Two kinds of madness then. Yet everyone shared a sense that a climactic battle was about to begin. For Rebecca, it would be the conclusion of her war but hardly the beginning of her peace. In Paris, the Gestapo responded to the Allied invasion with a frenzied panic. This was their twilight —their last chance for vengeance against those Jewish terrorists of the Maquis who'd harassed and befuddled them all these years and who they'd never been able to completely eradicate.


t was the beginning of September, 1944 — less than two weeks since Paris had been liberated. Rebecca Gluzman took the train up from the former Vichy zone. At Gare de Lyon she transferred to a familiar Metro line that would take her to within a few blocks of 120 Rue de


La Petite Mama

Just three days before her flight from Paris, Rebecca had a meeting with her commander, comrade Sevec, a member of the Paris Maquis general staff. The following morning, he was arrested. The very next morning, Rebecca noticed that that she was being followed. Desperate to evade this Gestapo agent, Rebecca descended into the Metro, repeatedly transferring between trains, going first in one direction, and then another. Finally, after eight harrowing hours, she was able to evade the surveillance. She made her escape to Vichy along a route she'd followed many times before while smuggling Jewish children. Now, less than three months after that harrowing flight, the Metro was filled with nightmares. She changed trains at Nation. Only two more stops. As she walked from her station in the 11th Arrondissement, not far from Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, her mood became increasingly apprehensive. Every building, every store, every lamppost and kiosk was familiar yet unreal. Had any of the people on the street collaborated? Who was still here? Who had been taken? Rue de Charonne had been her home for nearly thirteen years — since she, Joe and her two children, Rachel (Cypa) and Chaim (Elie), had been deported from Cuba. But it was not the same. Now she was very much alone. Joe, last she'd heard, was a POW. Rachel, her daughter, whom she called Cypa, was…well her last letter had been tossed from a train somewhere in Belgium. And her baby, Elie, only twenty-one when he was caught, she already knew he'd not made it.1 Rebecca had not been to 120 Rue de Charonne for more than a year and a half. In a stroke of good fortune, she'd abandoned it early 1943 when it looked like the Nazis were starting to deport the Jewish spouses of POWs. Shortly afterward, the Gestapo raided the apartment. After that, she'd not dared to return. She climbed two flights of stairs to the flat, her heart pounding. Had it been occupied by squatters? Had the Gestapo carted off everything that had been so dear to her? She had returned to Paris as she'd fled it, with only the clothes on her back. Had the Nazis left any mementos of her lost world —anything that she could hang on to?

La Petite Mama


When Rebecca reached her apartment, she found the front door sealed by a large brass padlock with a swastika engraving, a warning that no one was to enter. She summoned a locksmith and a short while later set foot inside the museum that was her flat. To her amazement, the Gestapo had left it in remarkably good shape. Perhaps they had left it that way in hope that Rebecca might return, and finding it in nearly the condition she'd left it, would not be scared off. Perhaps they had only sealed it after they'd become convinced she'd not fall into their trap. Shafts of sunlight streamed into parlor at the far end of the long hall reflecting air laden with dust. Moths had been at the curtains. The bedrooms smelled of mildew, the bathroom and kitchen of fungus. Paintings on the walls were ajar. Yet the furnishings were where she'd left them. Photographs were in their customary locations on desks, bureaus and tables. Joe's books were shelved. Clothing, the last tangible evidence of the human dimensions of the family that once lived there, was hanging in closets and folded away in chests. Here were Elie's schoolbooks and childhood playthings. There were Cypa's drawings and the mementos from Jean, her last love. She sat in her parlor holding a picture of her contented family. Joe, in his best suit, wire-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, his hair carefully combed, his moustache neatly trimmed, smirked at her through that mouth that got them all thrown out of Cuba. Cypa, arrogant, fearless Cypa, who'd gotten expelled from the elite Rothschild school because of her political agitation, looked back at her wide-eyed and proud. And Elie, at sixteen, baby-faced, the only French citizen among them due to Rebecca's giving birth to him on a French flagged ship as she sailed for Cuba, was giving her his shy for-the-camera smile. She caressed the photograph, closed her eyes and saw them all again as they were on Sunday, September 2, 1939. Joe, reading l'Humanité, then slamming his fist into the arm of his chair and vowing: "Tomorrow will be the beginning of the end for that swine." Cypa — helping her in the kitchen as they prepared Sunday dinner of boiled chicken, gefilte fish and lokshin kugel —forever pushing her shoulder-length brown hair out of her eyes and away from the food. Elie at the dining room table hunched over his engineering texts, his slide rule clasped in one hand, pencil in the other.


La Petite Mama

And then, she remembered the next morning, after war had been declared. Joe leaving the apartment — but this Monday not for work — returning early to announce that he'd joined the army. "There were thousands of us, thousands of Jews, signing up to fight the fascists," he enthused. And how still later, Cypa confided to Rebecca that Jean, her boyfriend, was planning how he might best avoid conscription and pleading with her "petite mama" not to tell Joe. Soon Joe was away, to return only for a brief leave and then gone again. When Rebecca next heard from him, he wrote that his regiment was incarcerated in a place called Stalag XIII, Kriegsgefangenenlager 383, somewhere in Bavaria. He had been there since June 1940 when, after the fall of Paris, Marshall Pétain (the "Hero of Verdun") signed off on France's surrender agreeing to order more than one million French soldiers to lay down their arms and march into captivity.2 *****

collaborators enacted a series of anti-Semitic laws (the Statuts des Juifs) that barred Jews from the army, government and many professions. But that was only the beginning. In June 1941, Vichy instituted a second set of Jewish laws that stripped Jews of their property and as if to underscore their commitment to the Final Solution, sent three hundred Jewish boys to the Mauthausen concentration camp only a few days later. None survived. Rebecca recalled how, in July, a member of Pétain's cabinet celebrated the deportation of another 5,000 non-French Jews by boasting, "France is the only country, except for Germany, that persecutes Jews the most." The enthusiasm of the Vichy French toward destruction of the Jews encouraged the Nazis. Soon they were demanding registration of all Jews. They set up the "Coordination Committee" and imported two shadowy Jews from the Vienna Judenrat to be its "technical advisors." The advisers recruited Jewish informants whom they rewarded with identity cards describing them as Vertfulle


hen in June 1940, the unthinkable happened. Paris was occupied. For French Jews, the holocaust was about to begin. In August came the first attacks on Jewish businesses. In the same month, Pétain revoked the citizenship of 6,000 French Jews. In October, the Vichy

La Petite Mama


Juden (valuable Jews) — who would be exempt from deportations — in exchange for their service turning in Jews who refused to register with the committee. Rebecca and her children had no illusions about what was to come. First Cypa moved out to serve in the L'Union de la Jeunesse Juive (l'U.J.J.) - The Union of Jewish Youth — a clandestine arm of the French resistance. For security reasons, she could not tell Rebecca where she was living or what she was doing. From late 1941 onward, they could only communicate by message. Then Elie, also a member the l'U.J.J., quit his job at an aircraft factory and joined a special operations unit of what the Nazis called the "Manouchian Group" under the command of an eighteen year-old Austrian Jew named Julien Zerman.3 Rebecca was now alone. Difficult as it was, she recognized that she could not simply sit on the sidelines and wait for her inevitable arrest and deportation, while her children were fighting. She joined the newly forming resistance.4 *****

was a willingness to die in the cause. A woman passed the word. There could be no writing, no posters, nothing said over the phone. Rebecca was not to bring her children. No one could bring a child. "We cannot risk our youthful combatants," was the explanation passed by the incipient Resistance. At a set time on the following day, you will attack the "Judenrat." At first you will appear to be just a group of mothers who came together by coincidence. When your numbers are sufficient you will march on the Coordination Committee offices. You will be instructed further at that time. Everything would be tentative and dependent upon the situation they found. The women in the leadership had discretion.


here was no way to know whether the orders were genuine or whether it was a clever trap. There was no way to tell who had issued them. The Resistance was in its infancy. It was operating entirely on trust and desperation. The only weapon in the hands of its members


La Petite Mama

On the next day, at the appointed time, in ones and twos, Rebecca, along with other trusted women who were pretending to be shoppers, converged on the Committee offices and lingered. In a short while they were several dozen. Someone cut the phone lines. This accomplished, a handful passed the word for them to enter the building. Some began to shout. "Close the Committee. Destroy the records." The office staff, those Vertfulle Juden, were startled. They tried to call the police and when that failed some of the braver of them tried to pass through the crowd of women. "Close this place. Destroy the records," the mothers demanded. But the leaders of the Committee refused. Finally, some of them made it out of the building. Knowing they were risking death if they were arrested, the mothers quickly followed the escaping Committee members out of the building and dispersed as they had come. When the police arrived, they only saw the ordinary pedestrian traffic, people going about their business. A few nights later, a mysterious fire destroyed the office and all of its files. *****

Cypa around age 21

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ragically, Cypa's career in the Resistance was short-lived. On March 10, 1942, Cypa was betrayed by an informant and detained with 80 other Jewish women in Tourelles Prison. At first, it did not appear that Cypa's plight was serious. She was incarcerated in a

dormitory on the third floor. The women there were accused of what might look like minor infractions —possession of banned literature or fliers, attendance at suspect meetings, alleged membership in a forbidden organization. Couldn't these things be explained away? Surely one ought to be excused for inadvertence or a mistake. Perhaps she'd taken a political tract believing it to be an ordinary commercial handbill. Such assumptions can be the only explanation for Cypa's (and Rebecca's) subsequent behavior. For over the next several months, Cypa engaged in reckless correspondence with Rebecca, apparently in denial about the Nazis' true agenda.6 On one occasion, Cypa and Rebecca even collaborated on a letter to Elie in the Vichy zone, in which they suggested that life in Paris was hard and that it would be best for him to "stay on the farm." Perhaps their initial assessment of Cypa's situation was correct. However, on June 7, 1942, things took yet another turn for the worse. All French Jews were ordered to wear a yellow Star of David. A few weeks later, Cypa, along with the other Jewish women at Tourelles, was turned over to German authorities to be shipped east. Not long after, Rebecca received a letter from Cypa. She'd managed to toss it out of the death train. Miraculously, someone picked up and mailed it. Cypa's last words to her petite mama were: "One must pay for nourishment. We cannot pay, but do not worry petite mama… I am with Pauline, be of good courage. Soon we shall return to you. A thousand kisses…." Now, with her dear Cypa deported and her son in combat, there was no turning back. It was time for Rebecca to leave Rue de Charonne and go underground. *****

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La Petite Mama


his was not Rebecca's first war. She was born in the Ukraine in 1902 into an Orthodox Jewish family of six. When she was seventeen, brutal civil war and anarchy came to her town of Baranovka, approximately halfway between Kiev and L'vov.

Three armies, the Greens, the Reds and the Whites were laying waste to the fields, forests and meadows of this part of the Ukraine as they vied for power. And in their wake came an untold number opportunistic bandit groups. Each, in turn looked upon the Jews as a source for plunder. Indeed it was often a matter of hours between one band of marauders leaving a village, having looted it of everything of value, than another would follow, demanding the very same wealth. It was no excuse to claim that the prior mob of plunderers had absconded with everything; the inability to deliver more was punishable by rape, pillage, mayhem and death.7 Things were even worse for Jews who took to the road. Outside of one's village, there was no safe haven. There was no law. The life of a Jew was worthless. To murder a Jew was seen by the antiSemites as justice itself. In this terrible time, there was no competent knowledge of when a storm might be bearing down upon your village and no ability to run from it. And so, the Baranovka rabbi hit upon what must be considered an unorthodox solution. Baranovka being then a small town, the rabbi knew Rebecca's family quite well. One evening he paid them a visit. "Your daughter," he complimented Rebecca's parents, "has extraordinary qualities." They must have wondered what he meant. She was only seventeen and a plain young woman in every physical sense. She was not even five feet tall, with thin lips, a small nose and a strong cleft chin. She was lean enough to be an embarrassment to her mother. Rebecca did not fit the Ukrainian stereotype of a Jew. Equally as important, she had no especially distinguishing blemishes or physical impairments, nothing that might catch the attention of a casual observer. She spoke Russian and Ukrainian without an accent.

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On the other hand, the rabbi knew she possessed keen intelligence, resourcefulness and nerve. He recognized her potential as a spy. "Would you be willing to allow her to travel to the nearby shtetls and cities, to return to us with news?" he asked. Understandably, Rebecca's parents were not keen that their child-like, young daughter be sent alone on the roads of the Ukraine during a civil war. But the decision was not theirs to make. Rebecca volunteered, and for almost a year, with her dark hair tightly bound and a wooden cross around her neck, she passed unmolested, often unnoticed and without reward from Jewish village to Jewish village bringing and returning with information. *****


ow had it come to this? Upon her return to 120 Rue de Charonne, Rebecca had time to review the events. At the conclusion of her activities as a spy in the Ukraine, she'd married. She was

seventeen, her husband Pinia Gluzman was thirty. The couple immediately moved Rovno with the hope of immigrating to America. It was here, in 1921 that Rebecca gave birth to a daughter, Rachel. But by 1921, it was already too late for the Gluzman family to immigrate to the United States. 8

Rebecca and Rachel (Cypa) around 1921

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Then, in January 1923, tragedy struck. Pinia was felled by a heart attack leaving Rebecca seven months pregnant. Now she was alone, pregnant, with a baby and far from home. All but the most intrepid might have become immobilized, might have surrendered to fate. Rebecca though was determined to press on. In March of 1923, she managed to book passage on the French steamer Missouri, bound for Havana.9 She boarded the steamer nearly nine months pregnant. Her son Elie (Charles or Chaim) was born on board in April. Also on board the Missouri was Joseph Kisner, an eighteen year-old labor militant. When they arrived in Cuba, Rebecca married Joseph. They took up residence in Havana, which was then home to more than fifteen thousand Eastern European Jews, many of whom were creating a flourishing garment industry. Joseph quickly found employment, supporting his new family as a union organizer for Cuba's new garment workers. But it was not long before another misfortune befell Rebecca and her family. In 1927 Cuba became a dictatorship under Gerardo Machado y Morales. Machado outlawed independent trade unions and barred aliens from working. Thousands of Jewish workers lost their jobs.10 In 1931, the underground labor unionists organized a general strike in Havana. There was an uprising in Pinar del Rio Province. Machado brutally suppressed the opposition. Kisner was jailed and the Kisner/Gluzman family was put on a boat bound for France. *****


hen mass deportations of non-citizen Parisian Jews began in mid-July 1942,11 the Parisian resistance made their number one priority saving the children. As the wife of a French POW, Rebecca had identification papers that permitted her to

travel outside of Paris. Able to speak French without a Yiddish accent, inconspicuous nearly to the point of invisibility and able to pass for French, the Maquis assigned Rebecca to conduct Jewish orphans to the unoccupied zone posing as their mother. From July to November 1942,12 Rebecca regularly travelled from Gare de Lyon like a latter day Harriet Tubman — a conductor on a death-defying underground (as well as actual) railway —

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ushering orphans to the relative safety of the south, one or two at a time. Upon arrival, she'd make contact with sympathetic nuns, lay church people and priests who'd assist her in placing the children with farmers or tradespeople. Then she'd return across German lines to Paris and do it again. In December 1942, Elie was sent to Paris on a secret mission. Somehow the Gestapo got wind of it. On January 31, 1943, Elie and his entire unit were captured in a raid. On March 23, 1943, he was transferred to Drancy for transport to the east. From there he was sent to Maidenek, one of the Nazi's four major Polish death camps.13 He was never heard from again. *****


t early February 1943, the Maquis got word that the Nazis were planning to deport the more than one hundred and fifty children at Paris' Rothschild (Jewish) hospital. They put all of their resources into a rescue attempt.

In the early hours of a dreary Parisian winter's morning, when the sky was the same color as the stones of the hospital building, a column of German army trucks rumbled down the narrow street and came to a halt at the hospital. An SS officer in pressed, black uniform, his peaked cap low on his brow, alighted from the lead vehicle and barked his commands in perfect German. His grey-clad squad piled out of the trucks, hoisted their Mausers on their shoulders and formed at attention. Everything was done with the military precision that Parisians had come to expect from the SS. The sound of boots hitting the pavement in unison caromed off the stone walls as two columns of soldiers entered the barebones hospital. A private opened the door to the administration offices for his commander. The officer clicked his heels to command attention. He held out his orders to the Jewish doctor in charge as if the man were infectious. Without exchanging words, he snapped his fingers and sent his men on a general search to collect the children. The appearance of these large armed men must have terrified the little ones. There were screams as they were plucked from the floor or their beds and carried off under the arms of the soldiers. A sergeant with a clipboard kept careful count of the number as they were placed in the trucks. Other soldiers were posted to restrain any attempt to flee. Then the soldiers returned to corral more of their human cargo.

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La Petite Mama

In all, one hundred and sixty-three children were loaded into the trucks. The officer noted the total and gave the doctor a receipt. Without more formality, he did a smart about-face and they were gone down the narrow stone-lined street from whence they came. A short while later, several German army trucks pulled up to the hospital. An officer in pressed, black uniform alighted and assembled his squad. He entered the hospital and presented his orders to the Jewish doctor in charge. "But you have already taken them," said the stunned doctor. The perplexed officer scowled. "Do not take me for a fool." He ordered his men to search the hospital but there were no children to be found. Meanwhile, Wehrmacht trucks were individually making their way through the neighborhoods of Paris. From time to time they would halt at a nondescript building where a soldier would leave a few children and then drive on. Much later, the Nazis recovered these trucks but by that time, Rebecca and her colleagues were already in transit to Vichy with some of the children.14 *****


s the weeks and months went on, it became increasingly difficult to travel to Vichy, even with papers. And once there, the zone was not as safe as it previously had been.15 In the spring of 1943, Rebecca was given false papers identifying her as Genvieve, a

gentile domestic, along with command of a four-woman underground cell in Paris. Twice each week, Rebecca would receive assignments. Twice each week, she would get together with her "girlfriends" at a different cafés or restaurants, telling them where to pick up a gun or a grenade or an explosive or where to deliver a weapon they already possessed. None of the women knew the real names of the others, nor where they lived. Each step of the way required a face-toface meeting. A courier might receive a weapon in one place but not know where to take it until receiving further instructions from Rebecca. In this laborious manner her unit supplied special operations forces throughout Paris almost to liberation day.

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It was on one of those idyllic spring days in Paris, perfect for sitting at a sidewalk café, sipping coffee and watching the passers by. Rebecca was alone at a table for two, not far from a Metro stop. She stirred her coffee languidly as she waited for her friend. She watched shoppers. She read a book and over time she became concerned. Several men were loitering at the Metro station exit. This was France, midday, in the midst of a war. Able-bodied men did not loiter, much less in groups. Curiously, the gendarmes passed them by. They did not disperse them nor did they question their business. Then she saw her "friend" exiting the Metro, her eyes searching for anything amiss. She saw what Rebecca saw. Were they looking for her in particular or simply women meeting? How had they come to this place? She knew at once that she could not meet Rebecca. She turned away from the café and began strolling down the street, pretending to shop. But there were other cafés on the street and when she passed them by, the men realized that she was on to them. She would not lead them to Rebecca. They closed in on her. Suddenly, there was a tremendous roar and she was gone. The men were down. Windows were shattered. Body parts littered the sidewalk. Blood began to puddle. She'd blown herself up and with several Gestapo. Rebecca put her hand to her mouth and left the café as might any terrified citizen. They had been compromised. It would take time to reform the unit. But they did and continued their missions until Rebecca was forced to flee Paris. *****


fter her return to Paris, Rebecca was quickly drafted into service by its new mayor. Initially she was asked to help displaced survivors regain their apartments and homes. Her success at convincing squatters to surrender living spaces led to a more difficult

assignment — reuniting Jewish children with their parents. Many of the children had been baptized. Many who had provided refuge had bonded with the children and wanted to keep them. The clergy who had been so helpful in placing these orphans resisted handing them back to non-believers.

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Allies had become adversaries. But again Rebecca succeeded. By 1945, a great many of the 10,000 children that the Resistance had saved had been recovered. Rebecca's very success presented another problem. Most of these children were orphans who had no family to go back to. To meet this crisis, Rebecca founded two orphanages for Jewish children in Paris and became the director of one of them.

Rebecca with Jewish orphans 1945 *****


n May 1945, the French POWs returned. Rebecca received a visit from a member of Joe's battalion, who brought her horrible news. When he learned of the Allied invasion of Normandy, Joe Kisner became ebullient. Though

he was warned by friends to keep his mouth shut, Kisner could not be restrained. "Now you're going to lose the war!" Kisner boasted to one of his guards while being taken on a work detail. A German officer overheard him and stabbed Joe in the back with his bayonet. Kisner was thirty-nine years old.

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Kisner's remains were returned to Paris by the surviving veterans of his unit and interred in the special place of honor for veterans at Bagneux. Like his stepson, Elie, Joseph Kisner received the honor, Mort Pour La France. *****


ater in 1945, Rebecca met a Jewish-American Army lieutenant named Erlich who was from Lynn, Massachusetts where her two sisters had settled. Miraculously, it turned out that Lt. Erlich's parents regularly played cards with her two sisters! Soon she was in contact

with them and they convinced her to come to the United States. It all happened very fast. By 1946, Rebecca was living in Lynn. She met my grandfather and when my grandmother died in 1949, married him, becoming Rebecca Senders. Rebecca's inquiries regarding Cypa resulted only in a cryptic report that she had "died under

Rebecca had not yet received the official papers but she knew that they would say "Mort Pour La

France," that he died for France.

The irony of Jean's decision was exquisite. The surrender documents made no distinction between

French soldiers of Jewish extraction and others. The term of incarceration was 'for the duration." The Germans believed the war would soon be over and they could deal with the Jews then. But the British fought on. Thus, unlike Jean, most of the more than ten thousand Jews who enlisted during the first week of the war remained POWs until its end and were not exterminated.

Fighting in the Vichy zone, over the twenty months of its operational existence, the Manouchian

Group was held it accountable by the Nazis for the death of one hundred and fifty German troops and the wounding of an additional 800. Its exploits were immortalized it a widely-distributed wanted poster, L'Affiche Rouge that the Maquis soon considered to be a recruiting poster. The poster has been reproduced in France with pride.

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By the spring of 1942, small groups of French soldiers who had refused to surrender joined up

with former Spanish Republican forces and a smattering of leftists wanted by the Gestapo, to form the first fighting units. Headquartered in Toulouse, the first combat units operated in Limousin and Puy-de- Dôme, where they became the Maquis - the French Resistance. Approximately twenty percent of them were Jewish.

In 1942, Tourelles Prison was specifically set aside by the Nazis for Jewish women suspected of

Resistance activities. Rebecca visited Cypa at the prison on several occasions until July 1942 when Cypa was shipped east. The Gestapo left the following letter from Cypa to Rebecca at 120 Rue de Charonne, where Rebecca recovered it in September, 1944. " Ma petite cherie, My great regret is not to have been able to embrace you before our departure, far removed from my sweet cherished mother to whom I send all my kisses and most affectionate thought; you know that very soon we will have the happiness to be reunited once again and that numberless are the happy years which we are yet to live."


In another letter Cypa asks Rebecca to pass on a "Dear Jean" message to her former lover,

chastising him for his lack of resolve in the face of fascism. She asks Rebecca to tell him she finds it impossible to envision a future with a man who does not share her commitment. Again, the Gestapo delivered it to Rebecca. Whether Rebecca did as Cypa asks is not known.

Over 200,000 Jewish civilians were murdered during the Ukrainian pogroms of 1919. The Russian Revolution and the "Red Scare" at home had changed the political climate


dramatically in the United States. 1921 saw the passage of the Emergency Quota Act, conceived with the specific purpose of excluding Eastern European, dark and Jewish immigrants, whom it was assumed were infested with revolutionary thoughts.

There was one loophole in the Emergency Quota Act. It was possible to legally immigrate to the

United States if you had been a resident of Cuba for one year. This loophole was closed in 1924 leaving 20,000 Jews stranded in Cuba. By 1930, according to the U.S. consul in Havana, 14,000 of

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those Jews had entered the United States illegally by boat, affording Jews the questionable distinction of being the first significant wave of illegal immigrants to the United States.

In this, Machado received the tacit support of the U.S. garment industry generally while the

American labor movement mostly kept silent.

In two days, July 16 and 17, 1942 nearly 13,000 Jews were rounded up, including 4,000 children.

Most were confined without food in the Velodrome d'Hiver, a massive sports complex with only four toilets. After a week in these subhuman conditions, the survivors were sent to Auschwitz. Of the thirteen thousand, only thirty survived to liberation. None of the survivors were children.

When the Nazis occupied the Lyon region. A French citizen by birth, his death certificate is inscribed in the margin "Mort Pour La France" an


honor the French government awards soldiers who die in the service of their country.

The 164 Jewish children rescued in the Rothschild hospital raid were but a fraction of the children

that the Paris Maquis rescued. Between 1942 and 1944, a small number of intrepid women, one of whom was Rebecca, shuttled about 10,000 Jewish children to the south of France.

In September 1942, the Gestapo, headed by Jew-hunter Klaus Barbie entered Lyons and began the

implementation of the Final Solution in the Vichy Zone. By November, all trappings of an independent Vichy French state were torn away. From January 1943 onward, the Milice, a French paramilitary group, was employed to hunt, kill or deport all Jews in Southern France.

- 21 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I want to acknowledge:

La Petite Mama

The Jewish Historical Society of the North Shore and in particular, Deborah S. Hallett, its administrator for all of their help in locating notes of Rebecca Senders' 1980 oral history. Deborah was tireless in her efforts to locate Rebecca's taped oral history. Professor Todd Endelman, for his guidance on the Jewish Council in Paris during World War II and its distinction from the Judenraten in eastern Europe – also for his reference recommendations: The Jews of Paris and the Final Solution, Jacques Adler, Oxford University Press, 1987 and The Burden of Conscience: French Jewish Leadership During the Holocaust, Richard I. Cohen, Bloomington IN. University Press, 1987. These books were extremely helpful in corroborating Rebecca's recollections. Nathan Gass, for his notes of Rebecca's oral history specifically and generally, for undertaking to obtain oral histories from Holocaust survivors, as well as his son David, for his diligent searching to locate Rebecca's original tapes and for providing me with his father's notes. Helen Alev, for providing me with a treasure trove of documents: birth and death certificates, photographs, copies of letters from Rachel and personal accounts of witnesses to the family's life in Paris during the 1930s as well as the account of Joseph Kisner's murder. The Journal of the North Shore Jewish Community article Rebecca…A Modern Day Hero provided helpful background. A version of La Petite Mama previously appeared in The Jewish Mag, issue 121. I wish to thank them for their support with this project.

La Petite Mama

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About the Author

Barry S. Willdorf is a trial lawyer in San Francisco. He is the author of Bring the War Home!, a novel about anti-War Marines during the Vietnam War and Dawn of Darkness, a historical novel about the coming of the Dark Ages. Both are currently available on Scribd. He has written and edited for legal publications. For more information, visit