1902 - 1944 | Arrestation: | Résidence: ,


This biography was written by Lucile Etienne, with the guidance of Denis Baud, her history teacher at the Pierre Mendès-France high school in Tunis.
Authentic information about Émile Smadja
Information verified/found on the internet
Information provided by the people I met at Émile Smadja’s former address
She was there, looking out to sea, staring into space. Liliane was thinking about her father and his life, which, as wonderful as it was, was so rudely interrupted by the Nazi tyranny.
Because of men like Hitler, her father was taken away from her, and she knew that she was not the only one to whom this had happened. She had very little memory of him, yet she seemed to remember his minty, smoky smell that reassured her and comforted her so when he took her in his arms, the bright smile that he always had on his face, his tender, warm and protective gaze and that flame, that passion for the life which burned deep in his beautiful, chocolate-colored eyes. Oh, his eyes! Those eyes that had closed for the final time far too soon. He had not yet experienced everything, or seen everything. She, and her mother before her, had investigated and tried to find out what had happened to him. Why had he disappeared?
Émile Smadja was born on February 12, 1902. He was a good-natured little boy, full of life and good humor. From the moment he was born, a passion for life had burned in his eyes. He was born in Tunis, in the Lafayette district, in the heart of the of the capital of Tunisia, which had been ruled by the French since 1881. He lived near the great synagogue. Since both of his parents were Jewish, he was circumcised in that same synagogue when he was eight days old. Little Émile grew up in a Jewish home with parents who loved him from the bottom of their hearts and did their best to ensure that Émile and his six brothers and sisters had everything they wanted. He learned to walk when he was about a year old and soon began to talk, repeatedly shouting meaningless words such as “babou” and “mawa”. What could be more natural for a child so young? Then, as the years went by, the baby turned into a young boy. On his first day at school, Émile proudly put his navy-blue backpack on his back and wore his best smile as he left his house to walk to school. He adapted very easily to his new school. He was cute, kind and sociable: the perfect friend. He went to play almost every day with his friends in the neighborhood; they ran around, played tag, went to eat makrout at the bakery or candy apples from the street vendor opposite. This group of children, despite their differences, spent all their time together. It was a real cultural mix; they were all either Jewish, Maltese, Italian or French. Oh yes, the Lafayette neighborhood was the place where all the foreigners lived and that’s probably what made it so unique. But whether it was Jacob, Manuel, Roberto, Pierre or Émile, they all liked the same things. They loved to annoy Joseph’s grandmother by stealing her delicious strawberry tarts and playing soccer in the Belvedere park with Roberto’s fine leather ball. They loved to play marbles on the sidewalk in front of the synagogue and have tournaments while admiring the bigger guys smoking in the café next door. Ah, they were so cute!
As the years went by, Émile grew up to be an energetic young man, eager to make the most of life. He rode his bike around town with his friends. He really wanted a moped, but they were too expensive. He was happy enough with his bike, which was very practical nevertheless. He spent his time strolling around trying to pick up pretty young girls, but Émile was far too polite to be pushy and therefore had a hard time of it, whereas his friends didn’t seem at all embarrassed by the idea of accosting young girls. In fact, Émile’s frequent outings caused his grades to slip at school, which made his parents very angry, and his father didn’t refrain from lecturing him. Despite the passage of time, Émile continued to value his religion. He went to synagogue every Friday night and Saturday and kept the Sabbath to the letter. On his thirteenth birthday, he celebrated his bar mitzvah after which, for the first time, he felt privileged and proud as he went up to read the Torah in the synagogue. He always enjoyed doing that, much to the delight of his parents and Rabbi Jeremiah.
Émile knew everyone in the neighborhood. He was a helpful young man. He was always happy to visit Sarah Adelman, a very old woman in the area who was extraordinarily kind and who had witnessed everyone growing up, including Émile’s parents. He took care of her by visiting her every day for two years until she died. Sarah Adelman’s death affected Émile much more than he cared to show. That same year, Émile returned to the Lycée Carnot, which was a very good French high school. He had decided to pull himself together and was determined to get good grades. There he found his faithful friends, Jacob, Manuel, Roberto, and Pierre, with whom he had painted the town red in the past. He worked hard all through school, while still having fun with his friends and enjoying his youth. For example, he liked to go to the movies on Sunday nights with his friends. He would go to Mon Ciné, the little movie theater in the neighborhood. He loved the atmosphere of the place, the big red curtains on each side of the big screen that seemed to dominate the auditorium and the dozens of comfortable seats that you could easily fall sleep in. Then came his graduation year. His mother was so proud, and his father too; both had a contented glint in their eyes. They had huge grins on their faces when they told everyone that their son had graduated from high school. That day, Émile celebrated all night, first with his parents and family. His grandmother had prepared a feast fit for a king. There was carrot and eggplant zaalouk, delicious briks, fricassee, fish couscous, molokhia, ojja with merguez (spicy sausage), succulent bomboloni, yoyos and makrouts, and of course dates and melon. Émile had never eaten so well, except perhaps on special Jewish holidays. There was still food left over two days later. In the evening, after dinner, Émile went out with his friends to a kind of bar where a very enjoyable concert was being held. They sang and danced all night. They laughed and reminisced about their childhood memories.
A few months later, Émile opened his own business with some money that his father had given him for his graduation. He started small, selling fabrics, wool and silk. Although he had a hard time making a name for himself to begin with, after a while his store became well known in the neighborhood, which made him financially independent. Émile thus decided to fly the nest, much to the dismay of his mother, who did not like to see her child growing up, but his father was very proud to see his son as a young man on the road to success. To placate his mother, he moved only a few blocks away, to 16, rue Glatigny, which was just behind the synagogue. It was a handsome, three-story building with an ochre-colored facade. The apartment was simple but cozy and Émile felt at home there. It was perfect for him.
September 21, 1924 was the day that changed his life. It was the day that a beautiful young girl walked into his store and asked for cotton fabric to make a dress for her sister. The young woman’s name was Lucie-Esther. It was love at first sight. From the first glance, Émile wanted to see her again to get to know her better. Her long hair, dark as ebony, tied up in a bun, her chocolate brown doe eyes, her delicate, feminine figure, her radiant smile; he loved absolutely everything about her. At that moment, he took his courage in both hands and asked her if he could see her again. To his astonishment, she accepted with a friendly smile. And so, for several months, they saw each other regularly. They went to restaurants, to the cinema, or simply went for a walk. They talked and laughed a lot. Émile introduced her to his family, who also fell under her spell. In his mother’s eyes, she was the ideal woman; young, beautiful and of course, Jewish. Émile loved her for that, but also and above all for her kindness, her goodness, her compassion, her unfailing support, her faithfulness, her resilience and her perseverance in difficult times. He loved her for what she was inside. He therefore asked her to marry him, and she accepted his proposal with tears in her eyes.
Émile and Lucie were married on December 1, 1925, in the great synagogue in Tunis. Rabbi Abraham conducted the ceremony. They set up home together in Émile’s apartment on rue Glatigny. They went on to have six children. Simone Smadja was born on December 19, 1926. This was a major turning point in Émile’s life; he was so happy to become a father. The young couple quickly adapted to their new lifestyle. They saw the birth as a blessing from God. By the same token, they considered the births of their other five children as a blessing and they were very happy. There was Victor, born on July 11, 1931, then Sion, born on January 8, 1934, William, born on May 15, 1936, Liliane, born on July 6, 1939 and finally Mireille, born on January 19, 1942. They were lucky enough to find a larger apartment on the second floor of the same building.
They led a peaceful and happy life. However, there were times when events disrupted their routine. A famous singer, Habiba Msika, lived in a house on a side street. She, like them, was Jewish. And even though she was world famous, she did not let fame go to her head or change her. She was a sincere and religious woman who went to the synagogue whenever she had the opportunity. She could not go often, as she traveled a lot. That is where, one Friday evening, she met Lucie Esther Smadja. They met and talked for several hours. After that, whenever Habiba returned to Tunis, the two women would see each other. Habiba would take little Simone in her arms and tell her about her travels and her new adventures, including her love affairs. She would tell her about this glamorous life which seemed appealing, but which in reality was hard and tiring. She told her about her commitments and all the things she wanted to do. Lucie often worried about her friend, who, as a result of various scandals she had been involved in, had sometimes received death threats. For instance, there was the time when she had performed in a play called Patrie, in which she had chanted separatist slogans. Then, one day, tragedy struck. Habiba had told Lucie a lot about a man called Eliahou Mimouni, her former lover. She had never suspected that he was crazy. This man had broken into Habiba’s home and burned her alive, and she died the following day. This news, which was on the front page of all the newspapers of the time, such as “La Presse”, devastated Lucie. Émile had to spend months consoling his wife, who was deeply shaken by her friend’s sudden death. The pain faded with time, however. Life went on.
Émile’s business was growing, and in order to develop new partnerships, he wanted to go to France. He always aimed higher and higher to be able to provide for his family. He wanted to give them the best. But the process was long and convoluted. The situation was further complicated by the fact that, around this time, the Nazi regime was expanding its influence in Europe. The 1930s were quiet in Tunis, but in Europe, particularly in Germany, a growing hatred of Jews was sweeping through the towns and cities. Anti-Semitism was gaining ground everywhere and even in some parts of Tunis, where Jews had always been accepted and were well-integrated. In response, those in Tunis, including many of Émile’s friends, decided to boycott German products. They encouraged him to do the same. He was worried about his family and did not want this wave of hatred towards Jews to affect his wife and children. He felt that the situation would get worse and end badly. Unfortunately, events proved him right. France gave in to Germany’s demands in 1940. Everything changed at that point. From October onwards, anti-Semitic decrees such as the law on the status of the Jews began to be enacted almost everywhere. Émile frequently gave up hope of moving to France for his business, but each time he pulled himself together and told himself that anything was possible. Lucie, however, was not happy that her husband wanted to go to France at such a turbulent time. But Émile, despite his wife’s reluctance, continued to ask for permission to go to Lyon for business and professional reasons.
One day, on July 11, 1942, a letter arrived. It contained great news for Émile! He would finally be able to go to France as a client of the Maison Jacquemetton in Lyon, despite his Jewish background. His wife saw things very differently, but Émile did not want to let the opportunity pass him by, so he went to Lyon to buy silk from Sommer, a company with which he had long-standing business ties. He had been identified by the Vichy government as a “Tunisian Jewish national”. And, in spite of the restrictions in place at the time, the trip went well. He soon returned to his family in Tunis, to the great relief of his wife and his six adorable children. He was able to hold little Mireille, who was only six months old, in his arms again. When he met his family again, he hugged each of the children for several minutes, aware of how lucky he was not to have been arrested.
At the time, the situation was getting worse all over the world, including in Tunisia. In November 1942, the Germans landed in Tunisia and took control of the country in order to frustrate the Allies. SS officers were now in charge. The Jews in Tunisia suffered greatly. Émile saw lifelong friends arrested, beaten and humiliated. There were so many of them, like his good friend Jeremiah Ellman, such a nice man. For several years, he and Émile had been going to synagogue and coffee shops together. Jeremiah had a wife, Freda, and two adorable children of five and eight years of age. He owned a well-known pastry shop called Les Délices de Tunis. Simone, Sion and Victor all loved the delicious bamboulas that Jeremiah made with such love. And this poor man, who was so dear to the Smadja family, had been beaten and arrested by the SS soldiers. They had burst into the little bakery, shouting words in German that everyone imagined to be derogatory. They violently overturned the cakes, throwing everything on the floor. They pushed Jeremiah to the ground, sneering arrogantly, perfectly aware of their superiority in this situation, and they began to hit him with metal bars, and then they mauled his poor wife, who until then had been holding her terrorized children firmly in her arms. No one knew why they went after him that day, but one thing is certain: no one saw Jeremiah after that. The news of this brutal arrest swept quickly through the neighborhood, causing a wave of fear and alarm. A dear friend of Émile’s had disappeared, leaving him terrified of what would happen next and in immense sorrow. For six months, the entire family lived in fear. They had also noticed the growing hostility of the Arabs toward Tunisian Jews. Was it because they thought the Jews were responsible for the Germans being there, or was it just plain malice? We will never know for sure.
During this period, Émile often had to close his store in a hurry at the sight of SS soldiers. He forbade his children to go out to play. The streets that had been so lively were now deserted. There was no more joyful screaming of children in the street when the ice cream man came by, no more children playing marbles on the sidewalk. Teenagers no longer rode their bikes around the neighborhood, they no longer visited the older people, men no longer met in cafés to talk for hours and women no longer met in markets to chat as they bought fresh vegetables. Even the birds seemed to have gone into hiding; they could no longer be heard singing in the morning and waking people up with their shrill calls. In the evenings, Émile looked out of his bedroom window and saw with despair that the streets were empty and silent; the only sounds were those of dead leaves rustling on the sidewalk or old newspapers blowing in the warm Tunis wind. The neighborhood, once so bright and full of life, where people smiled everywhere, was now deserted, making it seem gloomy and melancholy. The Jews had always shown pride in their religion, their faith, their places of worship and their traditions. Now they had to hide; they felt uneasy, that they were weak and that they could no longer express who they were. But what could they do? The children grew up in fear and uncertainty; they couldn’t understand why this was happening. What had they done wrong? That’s what Liliane asked her father every night. What could he say? What could he say to his daughter? Yet in the midst of every misfortune, every dark ordeal, there is a way out, a light at the end of the tunnel.
The light in this case was the Allies, who landed in Tunisia in May 1943. They liberated the country from the German occupation, bringing peace to a country that had been living in fear for six months. The streets began to fill up once again with children, women and men who seemed to have rediscovered a taste for life. Émile once again saw those warm smiles on the street that he had missed so much. Life returned to normal and everything seemed to be going well. Émile even received a letter granting him permission to return to Lyon for his business. Granted, Lyon was still under German occupation, but there were rumors that Nazi Germany was faltering. He therefore left confidently for Lyon in order to buy some new silk fabrics and to sell some of his own. He hugged his wife goodbye and kissed her tenderly, reassuring her and whispering how much he loved her. He made sure to hug each of his children and then he set off.
He went to La Goulette, the main port in Tunis, where he boarded a large ship bound for Marseille. The sea journey went wonderfully well; he felt relaxed and enjoyed the sea breeze that whipped against his skin. He loved the fresh and invigorating smell that reminded him of his trips to the beach with his friends and family. When he arrived in Marseille, he went straight to the railroad station and took a train to Lyon, where he stayed at the Hotel des Quatre Nations at 9, rue Sainte Catherine. It was a small and friendly place where the staff were kind and welcoming. This was the first time he had stayed in a hotel; the previous time he had stayed with a Jewish friend of his cousin. The friend had been infinitely kind and had introduced him to other Jews, but in that dark period of July 1944, few Jews had escaped the ruthless “butcher of Lyon”, Klaus Barbie. Oh, my God! Émile shuddered whenever he heard the man’s name, which aroused in him a feeling of unspeakable revulsion; he was horrified that such a cruel man could even exist. Not wanting to linger too long in Lyon, the following day Émile went to buy his pieces of silk. On the way back, he bought a souvenir for his wife; it was a small, intricately decorated wooden box with gold edges. He then returned to the hotel and got everything ready to leave the next day.
During the night of July 4, 1944, he was awakened by screams and cries for help, so he quickly got up and rushed to his bedroom window. He felt nervous and stressed when he saw Vichy soldiers going in and out of buildings pushing men and women in front of them. There were children crying and clinging to their mothers’ skirts, and women being dragged on the ground by their hair by soldiers who showed no feeling or even an ounce of mercy. He quickly understood what this meant: a roundup was happening. The Tunisian businessman hurriedly got dressed and tried to escape, but he soon realized that it was impossible. Then, suddenly, the door to his room burst open. Of course, the government knew who he was, having already identified him in 1942 as a Jewish Tunisian national. They pushed him violently against a wall and turned the hotel room upside down. Everything happened so fast. He was then handcuffed and taken outside. They put him with a group of other Jews. The women were crying, devastated at having to leave their children behind, while the men were trying to put on a brave face to show that everything was going to be all right, but the gleam of fear in their eyes was clearly visible. Émile, on the other hand, seemed perfectly calm on the outside, but in reality, he was thinking of his children, of their smiles that he would never see again, and of the moments of their lives that he was going to miss; he would never see them grow up, he would not be there for them the first time their hearts were broken, or for their first communion, or for their wedding, or for his wife, oh, for his brave wife, who would be left with six children to provide for. He loved her so much. He thought of the wooden box she would never receive, of her scent he would never smell again, and her beautiful eyes he would never see again. He was under no illusion; he knew very well what this arrest meant. If only he hadn’t left Tunisia!
Once all the prisoners were grouped together, they were put on large trucks and driven to a prison in Lyon. It was called Montluc, and was well-known as a transit center for prisoners. Many famous people had been imprisoned there, such as in Jean Moulin, the great Resistance fighter that Emile had heard so much about, in 1943. Émile did not stay there very long. After a few days, the guards gathered together a number of prisoners and put them on trucks. That day, Emile and many other prisoners, including women and children, were transferred to Drancy, a transit camp north of Paris.
There were already a large number of Jews from all over France at Drancy. They were assembled there, ready to be deported elsewhere. When he arrived, Émile quickly realized that this was the beginning of his descent into hell and that he was about to suffer. The facilities were very basic. There was not much food and the buildings were dirty and dilapidated. Emile waited for a week, spending his days watching the courtyard outside where the women washed dishes in rudimentary facilities and the children played, carefree. He thought about his own children. At least they were safe, that was the most important thing. Émile saw Alois Brunner, a cruel, cold and heartless man, two or three times.
After a week in the camp, Émile was taken to a railroad station and forced to get on a train. The soldiers pushed everyone violently into cattle cars, separating the women and children. They were all crowded together and had almost no room to move. For three days, the train rolled non-stop. Émile had managed to find a corner to sit down. He continued to watch everything that was happening around him; he saw old people dying of fatigue, children dying of hunger, and only the strongest ones holding out. Everyone was soaked in their own excrement, which caused unbearable distress.
When they arrived in Auschwitz, everyone was sorted into lines, all 1309 of them, including 324 children and infants. It was Convoy No. 77, his convoy, his death… he was 42 years old. He knew that after the age of 30 or 35, he was considered too old to work. He turned his head and watched as a man in a Nazi uniform sorted the children, men, women, and old folks into two groups. Then he turned his head towards the German soldiers and heard one of them say, “Auschwitz”. At that precise moment, the marble-like mask that Emile had worn until then cracked and gave way to a flood of tears that rolled down his cheeks, which were dirty and hollowed out by hunger. He became aware of the death he was about to endure and truly understood that he would never return home again. He had heard so much about Auschwitz, the death camp where millions of Jews were massacred. He knew that Rudolph Hoess was in charge of this horrific camp. Was this the man who was sorting the prisoners with a blank expression on his face? He didn’t know. The man looked down on him, an arrogant smile on his face, as if he were satisfied to see the despair that had taken hold of Émile. He said one word in German and Émile was put in one of two groups, the group with children, old folk, men of his age, and women in their fifties. They were then told to follow an officer, while other Nazis pushed them along with their rifle butts.
They were taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau (Auschwitz II). There they were stripped of all their valuables; watches, necklaces, bracelets, pendants etc., and then they were taken to the barber. Emile stared ahead blankly as a barber shaved his head. There were hundreds of them, one behind the other, all submitting to the same degrading ritual. The father of a family was then sent to a huge gas chamber in which there were already many men, women, children and babies crying. There were also some men sitting with their eyes closed, probably thinking about their imminent death.
Once the gas chamber was packed full, the soldiers closed the door. Émile wondered what had happened to the other group of people, knowing that they had gone in a completely different direction. Suddenly, gas flooded out of huge tubes at all four corners of the room. Men and women began coughing, struggling to breathe, children were crying and men were banging on doors in the hope of getting out. The women were fidgeting as if looking for a breath of air, their expressions horrific. People could no longer speak. Émile could no longer feel the air flowing into his lungs. He saw his life flash before him. So many memories, his outings to Belvedere Park with his friends, the candy apples from the vendor across the street, his first day of school, his bike rides, his first communion, how he met Lucie, his marriage, his wonderful children. His life had been filled with blessings and happy times despite the difficulties. He was suffering today for one reason and one reason only, because he was a Jew, because he read the Torah, because he followed the Mosaic Law, because he believed in the Ten Commandments, because he wanted to follow the example of Abraham and be God’s friend, because he was still waiting for the Messiah. This was unfair! He closed his eyes, waiting for death to take him away. His expression became tense and he gasped for air. He shuddered and then opened his eyes one last time and saw the gray ceiling of that dark room as he passed away.
It was July 31, 1944. It was the very last transport to Auschwitz.
Meanwhile, his wife Lucie, who had stayed in Tunis, was patiently waiting for him. She had understood that something must have happened when, the day after he was supposed to return, no one had come through the door of the apartment. Deep inside her, a voice kept telling her that it was all over, that the worst had happened, but she refused to believe it. She did not want to believe it. She convinced herself that Émile must have had travel difficulties, or that his work had simply forced him to stay longer. It was possible! It was possible, wasn’t it? When her children asked her when their father would be home, she told them over and over again that he would be home soon. Very soon. It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it? A week passed, two weeks, a month… When she went out, she saw in people’s eyes a look of pity that she didn’t want to see. Her friends had come to see her, as well as family friends, cousins, uncles and aunts. They all told her the same thing. Émile wasn’t coming back. He had left this life for a better world, they kept telling her. But she didn’t care about other worlds, she wanted him by her side and was convinced that somewhere, on the other side of the Mediterranean, he was thinking of her. He could not just disappear; he could not abandon her. Whose arms would she curl up in when she was in trouble? Who was going to make her feel alive again, and make her happy? Who was going to help raise her children? She couldn’t do it alone. He was the only one who could make her laugh when she was down, the only one who could get her to dance in the living room even when she was tired from her long day. She didn’t want to lose hope. That night, she collapsed on the floor in tears, refusing to admit that he could be dead. Her heart was torn, she could not bear it. She wanted to believe in him.
Months passed, and he still hadn’t come home. In the neighborhood, everyone said he was dead, and Emile and Lucie’s children cried every night, not understanding why their father was not there. Lucie had given up, she had lost her taste for life, everything seemed to have lost its color. The beautiful azure sky seemed to her dark gray and dull. The lively neighborhood market seemed uninteresting to her now. One day, Emile’s brother-in-law came to see her and begged her to pull herself together, for her children’s sake. She couldn’t go on like this, she had to fight for Émile and for his children, who had lost their father. This was what he would have wanted. He asked her for permission to make an inquiry to try to find out what had happened to him. Lucie had never thought of that before, and now she felt stupid for not having thought of it earlier. She encouraged him to do it right away. Thus, on July 26, 1945, a request for an investigation into what had happened to Émile Smadja was sent to the police by his brother-in-law, Alexandre Cacoub. They soon had some answers. Émile had been arrested in a roundup in Lyon, transferred to Drancy and then deported to Auschwitz. This news destroyed what little hope Lucie still had left. She knew it deep down, but to have it confirmed was more horrible for her than anything. It was as if someone had stabbed her in the heart. Her worst nightmare had come true.
The years went by, and while the pain was still there, it had subsided somewhat. Lucie was now battling for her children and trying to give them the best life possible. It had not been easy. One day she was told that someone had seen her husband in a camp other than Auschwitz. They said that he had been seen in the sick bay at the Stutthof camp in November 1944. Even though she wanted to believe it, and wanted to believe that he could have survived, she was resigned to his loss. The probability that Émile had not been gassed in Auschwitz was very slim, and even if he had managed to escape that atrocious death, could he really have survived the harshness of life in the camps?.
Could he have survived the malnutrition, the lack of hygiene and the various diseases?
Could he have endured the long, hard days of work under the relentless orders of SS soldiers?
Could he have endured being beaten and kicked?
Could he have managed to get enough water, which was so scarce?
She didn’t know, and in all honesty, she preferred to think that he had died without suffering too much than to think that he had lived through all these horrors. She refused to imagine what the people in the camps had gone through.
On August 6, 1947, Lucie received a certificate stating that her husband had disappeared, which officially confirmed his death. On September 24, 1952, she asked for an investigation into the reasons for her husband’s arrest. She asked for compensation for her children and the title of “Died for France” for her husband, which was granted in 1954. But the reason for his death was already clear: it was simply because he was Jewish.
Liliane, one of his daughters, years later, sought more answers, but she found out nothing more. He had disappeared for one reason and one reason only: because he was a Jew, like millions of others. Her father had been taken away from her because his religion was not the same as that of the Nazis, because he was not of the Aryan race and because he spoke Hebrew. She had wondered so many times how humanity could be so cruel. But that was just how it was, such was mankind, profoundly cruel. And as a result of such cruelty, her father was never able to see her grow up. To think that her father, this man with such a pure heart, had been torn from her life before his time, made her sick. She would have loved to tell him that she loved him and that she remembered him. She would have liked to tell him that he was an extraordinary man, kind and brave, to tell him that her mother loved him too, and to tell him that even though she had only known him for a short time, he was the best father she could have had.
By the end of the war, only 251 people who were deported on the convoy with Émile were still alive. 847 were exterminated in the gas chambers as soon as they arrived in Auschwitz. Might one of the survivors remember this man, sitting on the floor of the train, staring into space? He was on the very last transport to Auschwitz, Convoy 77…


Lucile Etienne, a student at the Pierre Mendes-France French high school in Tunis, with the guidance of her history teacher, Denis Baud.

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