Portrait photo of Gaston Leibovice (Source: Defense historical service, 21 P 475 329, Dossier n° 24 056 on Gaston Leibovice).
Gaston Leibovice’s family
Gaston Leibovice was born on August 28, 1931 in Lille, in the north of France. He lived with his family at 5 cité Lesage Bullourde in the 11th district of Paris. His father was Haimu (or Heimu) Leibovice (or Leibovici), who was born in Isaccia, Romania, on May 10, 1888, and his mother was Freida Herscoviciu. He had three siblings: Samuel, born on July 13, 1924; Marcel born on August 11, 1930 and Berthe (birth date unknown).
The beginning of the Second World War
During the Second World War, the family, originally from Romania, were living in France. While they did not witness the Axis forces invasion of Romania, they were in northern France when the Germans arrived and took over. Haimu and Freida may have kept in touch with friends and family in Romania, and thus followed political and military developments there.
The war affected the Leibovice family in stages: his older brother Samuel was deported from Drancy to Sobibor on March 25, 1943 on Convoy 53. Next, on July 20, 1944, Gaston and his brother Marcel were arrested in a UGIF (Union Générale des Israelites de France, or Union of French Jews) children’s home on rue Secrétan, which served as a reception center for Jews. They were supposedly “schoolchildren on summer vacation”. Gaston, who was nearly 13 years old, was arrested because he was a Jew. The Nazis believed that people such as Jews, gypsies and homosexuals did not deserve to live. Nazi Germany occupied France, and Marshal Philippe Pétain (the then head of the French state) handed over most of the Jewish population to the Nazis. The Nazis arrested, interned and deported French Jews to concentration camps and killing centers. According to the Nazis, as Gaston was Jewish, he had to be arrested on grounds of “race”. In France, since 1942, Jews had already suffered the effects of anti-Semitism by being obliged to wear a yellow star.
1944: Gaston arrested, deported and killed
After he was arrested, Gaston was interned in Drancy camp, north of Paris, on July 22, 1944. He was not allowed to take many of his personal belongings with him. There, he met up with his father, who had been interned there since July 19, having been arrested at their family home at 5 cité Lesage Bullourde. The Nazis set up the camp at Drancy in August 1941 in order to detain the 42,000 Jews living in and around Paris. In 1942, Drancy became the main transit camp for Jews who were to be deported from France. The following photo, which was taken in December 1942, shows some of the people interned in Drancy.
On July 31, 1944, Gaston, his father Haimu and his brother Marcel were deported from Drancy to the Auschwitz concentration camp and killing center on Convoy 77, the last of the large transports to Auschwitz. There were 1306 people of 20 different nationalities aboard. Gaston was not actually sent to Germany: in fact, he was sent further afield, to Auschwitz, in Nazi-occupied Poland. People deported to Auschwitz had to work there, if they were fit enough, but seniors and children were murdered in the gas chambers as soon as they arrived. This was the largest of the Nazi killing centers. It was used to detain gypsies, prostitutes, homosexuals, disabled people, Jews and captured resistance fighters. Many of the prisoners, if they were not killed on arrival, died of hunger, cold and diseases. They were also abused and hygiene conditions were appalling. Since he was still a child, Gaston was almost certainly murdered on the same day he arrived at Auschwitz. His official date of death is August 5, 1944, as stated on his death certificate which was issued on January 18, 1947.
After the war: Freida and Berthe’s research into what happened to Gaston
The only family members to survive the war were Freida and Berthe, who were not deported. On July 16, 1946, Freida applied to the Paris City Hall for information about what had happened to her son Gaston. She also requested that he be officially recognized as a deported person. In his file there is a letter that Mr. Cauziales, the concierge, wrote from Paris, confirming that Gaston had indeed lived in Paris, on the housing estate called cite Lesage Bullourde, building 5, rental no. 16, from July 1942 to July 1944. In 1953, Berthe applied for Gaston to be recognized as a “political deportee, meaning that he was deported for political reasons. At that time she was living at 94 rue de Charonne, still in the 11th district of Paris. Berthe describes the circumstances of his arrest as follows: “After his father was arrested, [Gaston was] taken in, on the advice of the UGIF, on avenue Secrétan, where he was deported and arrested with other children and his brother the following day”. Gaston therefore spent a very short time in the home on rue Secrétan, between July 19 and 20, 1944, and the fact that he was there meant that he was arrested.
On January 30, 1956, the French authorities officially declared Gaston Leibovice a political deportee. His sister Berthe was notified personally. His card number is 1.1.75.08652. Being a “political deportee” entitles the individual or their family to a civilian war victim’s pension: the State pays an allowance and also compensation for lost property, as well as awarding a “deportation and internment medal”.
- SHD, 21 P 475 329, Dossier n° 24 056 de Gaston Leibovice.
List of deportees whose biographies have been written by students from the Fernand-Léger junior high school in Vierzon, in the Cher department of France, under the guidance of their history and geography teacher, Ms. Mahieu:
- Marie BACRY
- Joseph CHERESS
- Noma CZARKA
- Paul GEVERTZ
- Henri HOCHBERG
- Myriam SONNENBLICK
- Daniel STEPANSKI