What a privilege and delight it was to meet Denise Holstein this week at her home in the gloriously beautiful Juan les Pins, South of France. As I have mentioned in past posts, Denise looked after my mother from August 1943 to July 1944 in the Jewish orphanage at Louveciennes, Paris. Denise was sixteen years old and made a monitor in charge of a group of nine young children. She was arrested in July 1944 along with all of the other children in the orphanage (except Mum who was in the hospital at the time) and survived Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. She is now, at 87 years old, one of the youngest Holocaust survivors in France.
After the war Denise was encouraged to write of her experiences which she did in a book which was not published until 63 years later: Le Manuscrit de Cayeux-sur-Mer. Before that in 1995 she had published her testimony of the Holocaust: Je ne vous oublierai jamais, mes enfants d'Auschwitz with the photo of my mother on the cover which is how they came to realise that they had both survived the war and reunite after 62 years in 2006.
Despite her years and all that she lived through Denise was able to answer my questions this week and give me some invaluable information for my book. We also went out for a delightful lunch and I was able to meet another fascinating lady, Francoise Bottois, a non-Jewish historian who has worked with Denise and is currently researching and writing a book about the history of Jews in Rouen. She also offered to help me with my research as she will be visiting the Shoah memorial in Paris shortly and said that all of the information about the Holocaust in France can be found there. This is good news as I had previously tried to get information from the government in Poitiers, where my family were relocated to, and drew a big blank.
Photo left: Denise and I. Photo right: Francoise, Denise and I. Juan les Pins July 2014.