Childhood and family background
Blima Krauze was born on November 22, 1927 in the 12th district of Paris, in the Seine department of France. Her family’s last known address was 77, rue Voltaire in Montreuil-sous-Bois. Before the war, she was training to be a ballet dancer.
Blima’s parents both came from Poland, but moved to France in the first half of the 20th century.
Her father, Chaïm (Charles) Herez Krauze was born on May 10, 1904 in Cramozow/Warsaw in Poland. A varnisher, he was married and had 2 children: Blima, who was born in 1927, and Alice, who was born in 1931. He was arrested by the French police during the “Green Ticket” round-up on May 14, 1941, and interned in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp. He was later deported from Drancy to Auschwitz on July 19, 1942 on Convoy No. 7 (he was interned with serial number 50004). He was then transferred to the Oranienbourg camp, and finally to Dachau, before being liberated by the American army on April 30, 1945 and repatriated to Paris on May 24.
Her mother, Chana Ita Krauze (née Rapaport/Rapoport) was born on February 19, 1903 in Warsaw and died on August 26, 1942 after having been deported to Auschwitz. She was a cleaning lady by profession. Chana Rapaport arrived in Auschwitz on Convoy 22 on August 21, 1942, and was killed shortly afterwards. Her official date of death was 5 days later.
We have very little information about her sister Alice prior to the 1950s. We only know that she was evacuated from the Zysman children’s boarding house on July 22/1944 just before a roundup took place. She had been sent there after her parents were deported. This home, founded by Sarah and Isaak Zysman on rue Clémenceau in Saint-Maur-des-Fossés, south-east of Paris, took in the children of Jews who had been deported.
During the Occupation: a stay in a children’s home and deportation
Blima’s arrival at the children’s home
After her parents were deported, Blima was sent to live in a children’s home at 9, rue Vauquelin, in the 5th district of Paris.
The home was run by the UGIF (Union Générale des Israélites de France, or General Union of French Jews), an organization set up by the Vichy regime to organize the Jews in France. As all Jews in France had to join this organization, and other Jewish groups had been dissolved, the UGIF was used by the Germans to keep tabs on French Jews.
The home at 9 rue Vauquelin, which opened in January 1943, could accommodate up to thirty-three girls.
Blima arrived there at the age of 16 and worked as a knitter for the next few months.
Life in the children’s home
Blima quickly made friends with some of the other girls in the home. We were able to find some traces of Blima’s friends, in particular through letters they wrote about having been deported with her. We had to research their stories too, in order to complete our biography of Blima.
Germaine Wagensberg was born in 1927 in Paris. Deported alongside Blima, she wrote testimonies about their journey through the camps. She died in 2020, in Nice, on the south coast of France.
Jeannine Akoun was born in 1928 in Paris. She also testified to her deportation together with Blima. She died in 2009 in Sainte-Feyre, in the Creuse department of France.
Yvette Dreyfuss was born in 1926 in Paris. She is still alive today (at the time of writing in 2022), and has given numerous interviews and testimonials about being deported. She too was rounded up at the rue Vauquelin children’s home, and although her journey differed from Blima’s, it has provided us with a wealth of information on the events and circumstances surrounding the deportation. Her story, which overlapped Blima’s, added more detail to our investigation.
The roundup at rue Vauquelin
On the night of July 21-22, 1944, the Gestapo raided the girls’ home. The residents were all arrested and taken to camps to be deported.
Blima, together with most of her friends, was sent to the Drancy camp north of Paris, where she was interned (internment certificate number 25489) from July 22 to 30, 1944, before being deported to Germany.
The itinerary of a deportee: A journey across Europe
Blima was deported on Convoy 77 from Drancy to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp on July 30, 1944. She was tattooed on her left arm with the registration number A16750, and her transit number was 83 / 67276. Her name was changed from Krauze to Krause. She was held in Auschwitz from July to October 1944.
She was then transferred from one camp to another as the Americans and Russians advanced and the Germans were gradually defeated:
- From October 1944 to February 1945 she was sent to Bergen-Belsen,
- From February to April 13, 1945 she was in Raguhn (near Leipzig)
- From April to May 31, 1945 she ended her journey at Theresienstadt (in Czechoslovakia).
During her time in the various camps, she was often kept together with her friends from the orphanage, in particular Violette Parsimento. Blima recounted how she had to dig graves for victims.
Blima also met up with her father in Auschwitz, where he was a kapo (a prisoner who supervised other inmates). Yvette Dreyfuss-Lévy later recounted that he wanted to help to get her transferred, but Blima refused, in order to stay with her friends. In the end, Blima was taken to Bergen-Belsen together with Violette, who died there.
Her sister Alice, who was 13, was not sent to the camps in 1944, but escaped and found refuge in the Zysman boarding house. After it was evacuated, just before a roundup, she went into hiding until Paris was liberated in August 1944.
Liberation, return to France and moving to the United States
Blima was liberated on May 7 1945 by the Russian army and then repatriated by air from Pilsen in Czechoslovakia to Lyon in France on June 1, 1945. She then returned to Paris, where she tried, and succeeded, to find her sister and father in a city that had been thrown into disarray by the war.
During her time in Paris, she worked for the Joint Distribution Committee as a type of social worker.
She then went to join her mother’s family, as her maternal grandmother did all the paperwork to enable her to move to the United States and make a fresh start. At the beginning of 1947, less than 2 years after she was liberated, she left for America.
Life in America
Blima and her sister Alice arrived in New Jersey aboard the liner the Queen Elizabeth in March 1947. Blima was 19 and Alice 16. They went to stay with their maternal grandmother, Fanny Rappaport, at 127 Rose Street in Newark. Their aunt, Molly Rosen, also lived there. Two weeks after she arrived, she underwent an operation for appendicitis. It is interesting to note that she checked in as “Bertha”, the name by which she known when she was deported, while her sister checked in as “Lea”. Her father, Chaïm, opted to stay in Paris, where he opened a cleaning business after the war.
The two girls spoke no English at all when they arrived. They had to study, learn American history and enroll in language courses in English and Spanish so they could manage on their own. They took lessons at the Central High School on four evenings a week and Blima took an “Americanization” class at the Jewish Community Center. She also changed her first name to Betty.
The sisters soon found jobs, Blima as a seamstress and Alice in a bakery. Blima had to give up her dream of becoming a ballet dancer.
This enabled Blima to rent a little basement apartment at 50 Renner Ave. Newark, 30 minutes from her grandmother’s, where her sister still lives.
In a newspaper interview, she commented that she liked the fact that women were much more independent in the USA than in Europe, but that life there was also more expensive, which meant she could not go out very often. She added that she has painted some of her furniture herself, and that her apartment was full of books and records.
She also made her own clothes at that time, while listening to music, one of her favorite things to do in her spare time.
His sister Alice got engaged to an American as early as 1948. As for Blima she married Guy (né Gaetano) Callea in 1953.
1953 was also the year in which she was naturalized as an American citizen. However, having failed to reapply for French nationality before July 15, 1960, she lost it for good. In December 1961, she applied for the to be officially recognized as having been a deportee.
In 1962, she was living at 2 Custer Avenue in Newark, New Jersey and was working as a secretary.
In the 70s and 80s, Blima, now Betty, was actively involved in the Weequahic Chapter of B’nai B’rith Women (which became Jewish Women International in 1995), where she held the positions of administrator (1972), president (1974) and treasurer (1980).
This is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women and preventing domestic violence.
Blima died in the United States on August 5, 2011. Guy died on April 19, 2016 and is buried at Beth Israel Cemetery, 19 Ridgedale Avenue, Cedar Knolls, New Jersey.