Tomorrow is Mother's Day in the UK. My mother was the reason and inspiration behind my research and writing my book but she died in 2010 and so tomorrow my sister and I will be visiting her grave. After arriving in England after the war Mum thankfully managed to live a full and happy life before dying from a mercifully short illness on her 72nd birthday - yes, still too young to die when she should have had many years left but when compared to the fate of her poor twin sister Annette, who was brutally murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz in August 1944 at the age of six years, my mother seemed like the lucky one.
She was lucky to have survived the Holocaust because she was in the infirmary with measles when the German officers and French police came to empty the children's home knowing that the liberation of Paris was days away and attempting to eradicate all witnesses of their treatment of the Jews in France. Lucky to have been hidden by the nursing staff of the hospital once she had recovered from the measles, and to have in that way escaped arrest for a second time when the Gestapo came to collect her from the hospital desperate to remove all evidence even that of a 6 year old child. And lucky to have been given the wonderful support and care of the staff at the North London Hospice. The Hospice is a very special place and I know that all of my family were extremely grateful to them for everything they did for Mum and for us. The counsellor at the Hospice told us of his surprise that Mum refused to discuss her childhood with him - it didn't come as a surprise to us, her family. Why bring it up at the end when she had so successfully buried it deep during most of her adult life.
I do wonder though if she thought about Annette as she realised that her life was ending. I am almost sure that she must have, and that she thought about her every day of her life too. Would she have felt guilt about being given such wonderful end of life care, when her twin sister had died in such a horrific way? It is too tragic to even think but none of that changes the gratitude that we have for the North London Hospice and next Sunday I shall be participating in the Big Fun Walk for the 4th year running, in aid of the hospice, and this Sunday I shall celebrate my mother's many years of happy life here in England.
The children's home in Louveciennes, Paris. In the back row second from left is Annette and third from left is my mother Paulette.