Inicio NOTICIAS Holocaust survivor to donate mother´s poignant letters

Holocaust survivor to donate mother´s poignant letters

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Old photos don’t stir memories for Jean-Claude Goldbrenner, but words do. He was able to identify himself at age 3 in a picture posted recently on a special U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website. But his mother’s letters – given to him by an aunt – are more poignant reminders of a childhood shaped by tragedy.
Estera (Elsa ) Goldbrenner was arrested by German police in May 1943, at age 28, as she traveled to visit her jailed husband, Willy, in Nice, France. She began writing her family after being shipped to Drancy, a transit camp outside Paris where thousands of French Jews were deported to camps. She wrote about 10 letters that June and July. At first, she was optimistic she’d be released because she was pregnant. Later, she described living conditions in Drancy, urged her family to avoid arrest, and vowed, "I give you my word that … I will come back."
"What I suffer most," she added, "is to be separated from my little Jean-Claude, of whom I think all the time."
Jean-Claude was taken in by his grandparents and an aunt, and also hid with other children on a farm in southwestern France.
Estera Goldbrenner’s despair grew as her deportation became inevitable. In her final letter to her husband and family, she admitted to being a "little scared," but was hopeful: "I am leaving tomorrow and … to say that I accept this very courageously would be a lie, but it does not do any good to lament about it. … My strongest wish is to see you again, my darling, with my little Jean-Claude and all of you."
She writes about her pregnancy, wondering how she’ll fare on a "one-way trip" in oppressive heat.
"It is not possible that fate persists incessantly against us …," she wrote. "How is my big son that I love? … Dear God, why was I hit by such misfortune! I will need a heart of stone and I must think of myself only, I must forget everything in order to keep all my courage."
She consoles her parents – "my dear Papa and Maman … we will see one another again" – then writes her husband: "I love you more than ever … How you will have to spoil me to erase all those bad memories. What a beautiful dream: Will it happen some day? When I think … that the war will soon end and that my future is so dark, so dark. But it is not so, I must not fall apart, I want to be strong, I want to live, survive those miseries and be happy again among all of you … I am saying to you: so long, so long, my dear beloved Willy, my darling Jean-Claude … may hope at least sustain me … Your Elsa."
That letter was dated Friday, July 31, 1943. Seven days later, she arrived at Auschwitz, where she was immediately killed in the gas chambers.
Goldbrenner’s husband survived; he was released from jail and rearrested. In March 1944, he escaped from a train heading to Auschwitz, but was recaptured and sent there in June. He was liberated by British forces in 1945, while at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
Jean-Claude Goldbrenner, now 69, says his father didn’t talk about his past, but at one point, revealed that his soccer skills may have saved him: The Nazis let him play and fed him better. But he was forever haunted by his ordeal. "He couldn’t walk in a big crowd," Goldbrenner says, adding that he couldn’t wear a seat belt. "That traumatized him."
Goldbrenner, now 69, lived in France before settling in the U.S.; he became an investment adviser at the World Bank.
He told his story for the Holocaust museum’s photo project on displaced Jewish children, and notes: "Some of these children went through hell. Not having a mother – it was difficult for me. But I was cared for lovingly by my grandparents, father, stepmother and my aunt. I’m sure there is some degree of damage. But I have not suffered like the children who were deported, or were older and could feel all this. What can a 3-year-old perceive and remember?"

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