Two classes, a 10th grade class of German-speaking students and the 11th grade class specializing in History-Geography-Geopolitics-Political Sciences (HGGSP), both from the Marcel Pagnol High School in Marseille, worked together on this project to address the following question: What was it like to be a woman or a child during the extermination campaign in Europe?
The students carried out their investigation using the archived records about six deportees: three women, Margarete ALT, Anna TUGENDHAT, Henriette COVO, two children, Marcelle KORSSIA and Suzanne KOSLEWICZ and a teenager, Marcel KRAJZELMAN. Each of the classes contributed its own skills: the 10th grade class, with the German-speaking students, translated the archives, carried out part of the historical research and put it into context, while the 11th grade class of HGGSP students acted as their tutors during the investigation and helped them develop a critical approach to the sources and the historical silences in each deportee’s life story.
They split into groups according to the investigations to be carried out and then pooled their work. All the projects are related to each other and are organized in similar format. For example, for Henriette Covo:
- Investigation: Who was Henriette Covo ?
- The historical silences in Henriette’s story.
- The exhibition in the CDI (Documentation and Information Center, similar to a school library): pooling and presentation of the students’ work on all six projects, school outings, testimonies, visual aids, and sources vs the gaps in the story.
- Students’ observations: Why is it important to work on the history of women, children and teenagers? How does your work help to combat prejudice ?
I) Investigation: Who was Henriette Covo ?
1) At the beginning, how many records about Henriette did you have? What did you learn about your deportee from these records ? What hypotheses did you put forward ?
At the start, we had only 8 records about Henriette in the Veterans and Victims of War dossier provided by the Convoy 77 non-profit organization, www.convoi77.org to help us write her biography. From these records we discovered that her name was Henriette Covo. Her maiden name was Henriette Hasson. She was born on December 17, 1882 in Salonika, Greece. Her father was Abraham Hasson and her mother was Reine Ariditi1.
Henriette married Isaac Covo2 on October 8, 1927 in Aix-les-Bains, France. Isaac was born on July 22, 1886. His father’s name was Salomon Covo. He was married to Léa Carasso, who was deceased when Isaac got married.
From the records, we also found out where she lived:
- 27 avenue Carnet, in Menton, in the Alpes Maritimes department of France. When Menton was evacuated, she took shelter in Cannes3.
- 24 avenue Saint Jean, in Cannes, also in the Alpes Maritimes department.
- 56 rue Molitor or Moliton in Paris, in the Seine department.
We put forward the hypothesis that she may have had a brother, still alive after the war, named Salvador Hasson4 We put forward the hypothesis that she may have had a brother, still alive after the war, named Salvador Hasson, because in 1949 he asked the Ministry of Veterans and Victims of War for information about “one of his parents who failed to return”. Also she may have left Greece due to persecution.
2) What did you learn by contacting the archives services and/or other people ?
Henriette’s husband, Isaac Covo, also known as Kino, had a wholesale lingerie manufacturing business in Nice or Villefranche-sur-Mer, according to his trade register card dating from 19185. Isaac Hasson is also listed in the alphabetical index of registered traders and companies between 1920 and 19376.
We requested special permission to access some records about Henriette and Isaac, since not all archives will be freely available until 20369. Some extracts are can only be viewed in person, on the premises, including documents dating from 1936 and 1942. We were given some additional material including lists of offenders’ and victims’ reports (drawn up by the Auvare barracks), bearing the name of Henriette Hasson, married name Covo10, and a file of the same type in the name of Isac Covo11 ; this too can be viewed only by special request.
In the online archives, we found Henriette’s first and last name on the list of people deported from Drancy to Auschwitz on Convoy 77 on July 31, 194412.
In the Shoah Memorial archives, Henriette’s husband Isaac is listed as Jean Covo. His alternative first name, Isaac, is shown as “rejected”. His home address was the same as that of Henriette, in Cannes13. He was arrested on July 12, 1944. He appears in the Drancy camp search logbook n° 155, with receipt n° 6327, where it says that he had a gold, sapphire and ruby bracelet. He too was deported on Convoy 77 on July 31, 1944.
3) Were there any lulls during the research ? Why ? Did you anticipate that you would be able to write such a detailed biography when you began your research ?
There was a lull during the research when we were no longer receiving any replies. We did not expect to make so much progress, nor find such interesting material.
4) In what way does your work contribute to the remembrance of Henriette ?
This biography tells the life story of a deportee who was sent to Auschwitz. At the same time, we were able to learn more about this period in history. This might be of interest to the descendants of Henriette Covo, née Hasson.
During the project, we spoke with the 24th French High School in Thessaloniki, Greece. We had a videoconference to exchange information about Henriette on Monday March 28, 2022 :
We found out that Henrietta’s family migrated from Spain to Greece when the Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain in the 15th century. They moved to the city of Thessaloniki16.
II) The historical silences in Henriette’s story :
1) What are “historical silences” ? And were there any such silences in Henriette’s story ?
There was the silence caused by society, which tried to prevent the victims from testifying since their testimony could be incriminating or because the victims were women. There is also silence in the historical narrative due to the scarcity of witnesses’ accounts.
Henriette Covo is involved in the silence of the historical narrative because she died during deportation. As a result, we have very few records and no witnesses.
In addition, Henriette’s husband changed his first name from Isaac to Jean Covo, which made the search more difficult. Similarly, Henriette was born Hasson and then married and took the name Covo. Henriette’s family came from Thessaloniki, in Greece, which also makes finding records more difficult.
2) What does it mean to be a woman ?
According to Simone de Beauvoir, people are not born with a defined gender: gender is a societal construct. That’s why people are not born women, but become women. They therefore become women by reason of the society in which they live. To become a woman is to be an adult.
3) What particular types of violence did Margarete experience ? And women in general ?
Henriette had to live in hiding with a false name. She was arrested just like her husband. She was deported on Convoy 77 from Drancy to Auschwitz. As soon as she arrived, Henriette was murdered in the extermination camp because she was deemed to be too old or too weak to work.
Other types of violence suffered by women:
Women between the ages of 20 and 40 were murdered in greater numbers upon arrival. Killing women and children meant destroying their ability to reproduce and their future. Women were used in medical experiments, more so than men. It was the male prisoners who were in charge of dealing with the corpses and burning them in the crematoria. Hitler advocated the sterilization of Jewish women. So-called “undesirable” women were forced to undergo “eugenic” abortions up to the sixth month of pregnancy. In 1944 when the Allies landed in Normandy, the Nazi command reacted by becoming even more cruel to the civilian population and the number of rapes, which were used as a weapon of war, increased.
In terms of physical effects, as a result of the experiments on female sterilization, some women’s temperatures rose and their organs became inflamed. They would vomit, suffer excruciating abdominal pain and have intestinal disorders. They also suffered psychological trauma, due to:
- “Eugenic” abortion, because they lost their children.
- Sterilization of women, because they were conscious during the operation.
- Rape and sexual assault.
- Forced prostitution.
Menstruation could have been an occasion for bonding and solidarity between women as they dealt with it together. Those who had their periods were often spared surgery and/or rape. They had to use rags as sanitary pads, but they had very few of them and they were unable to keep them clean. Amenorrhea could also be a source of anxiety because it made women think about:
- Fertility and infertility.
- The impact on their lives beyond the camp.
- Having or being unable to have children in the future.
4) The roles of women involved in or opposed to the extermination process :
Nearly 500,000 German women were in the Wehrmacht and 3,500 were auxiliaries in the SS, mainly as camp guards (SS Aufseherin). A small number of women were attracted by the ideology or modernizing aspects of the regime. Only few women were in the “executioners” category. They were also « camp counsellors » and contributed to Nazi propaganda.
Within the Resistance movement, women were liaison officers, messengers and social and medical aides. They were also involved in the transport of weapons, but very few ever used guns themselves, or worked in any leadership capacity.
Like men, women were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, deported and murdered.
5) How does your work contribute to keeping the memory of the deportation alive? And that of Henriette ?
This biography helps to keep the memory of Henriette Covo alive. It serves as a reminder of what she experienced, sheds light on the history of the deportations and will enable any surviving members of her family to learn about what she went through.
6) Can you list some adjectives to describe Henriette’s life ?
ENCOURAGING, MOVING, HORRIFYING, DISTRESSING.
7) Which books in the library provide an insight into Henriette’s life ?
- Le Rose Blanche by Inge Scholl, since it illustrates Henriette’s life with the story of three students who were arrested shared Henriette’s experience.
- Auschwitz, the BD by Léon Poliakov, because it describes the deportations of which Henriette was a victim and life in the Auschwitz camp.
- L’Antisémitisme en France, a magazine that discusses anti-Semitism in France, past and present.
III) The exhibition in the library : pooling and presentation of students’ work on all 6 investigations, school outings, testimonies, visuals, sources compared to historical silences.
IV) Les témoignages élèves
BRAVO à Alisan, Nour, Orianne, Milco et Tijani sous la direction de leurs professeures Mme BOUILLON Laetitia professeure d’Allemand et Mme BOUTANT Morgane professeure d’Histoire-Géographie.
1 Acte de décès d’Henriette, cote 21 P 439 434 archives du ministères des anciens combattants et des victimes de guerre, obtenues grâce à l’association « Convoi 77».
2 Bulletin de mariage d’Henriette et d’Isaac COVO datant du 8 octobre 1927, cote 21 P 439 434 archives du ministères des anciens combattants et des victimes de guerre, obtenues grâce à l’association « Convoi 77 ».
3Fiche de recherches associée à la fiche de renseignement au demandeur pour les personnes apparentées et non rentrées, datant du 15 février 1949, cote 21 P 439 434 archives du ministères des anciens combattants et des victimes de guerre, obtenues grâce à l’association « Convoi 77 ».
4Fiche de renseignement au demandeur pour les personnes apparentées et non rentrées, datant du 15 février 1949, cote 21 P 439 434 archives du ministères des anciens combattants et des victimes de guerre, obtenues grâce à l’association « Convoi 77 ».
5 Carte du registre du commerce datant de 1918, cote 06U 04/0297/0004, information obtenue en réponse à un mail envoyé par les élèves le 25 novembre 2021 aux Archives départementales des Alpes Maritimes d’après Yves KINOSSIAN.
6 Information obtenue en réponse à un mail envoyé par les élèves le 25 novembre 2021 aux Archives départementales des Alpes Maritimes d’après Yves KINOSSIAN.
8 Demande de naturalisation de Salvatore HASSON, cote 06M 0342 Informations obtenues en réponse à un mail envoyé aux éléves le 23 décembre aux Archives départementales des Alpes Maritimes, d’après Marie Laure FRIN.
9 Informations obtenues en réponse à un mail envoyé par élèves le 8 février 2022 aux Archives départementales des Alpes Maritimes d’après Yves KINOSSIAN, certains extraits sont disponibles mais ne pouvions nous déplacer. Aussi nous pouvons juste évoquer les cotes des sources et son bref contenu : Dossier aux noms de Jean Covo et Henriette Covo née Hasson (conservé dans la boîte cotée : 1468 W 414) Dossier au nom d’Isaac Covo (conservé dans la boîte cotée : 1660 W 50).
Ces deux dossiers sont uniquement composés de pièces librement communicables (en date de 1942 et 1936 respectivement), contrairement aux autres dossiers qui sont contenus dans les mêmes boîtes d’archives.
10 Dossier 1468W 041, information obtenue en réponse à un mail envoyé par les élèves le 23 décembre 2021 aux Archives départementales des Alpes Maritimes d’après Marie Laure FRIN : certains extraits sont disponibles mais ne pouvions nous déplacer. Aussi nous pouvons juste évoquer les cotes des sources et son bref contenu.
11 Dossier 1660W 0050, information obtenue en réponse à un mail envoyé par les élèves le 23 décembre 2021 aux Archives départementales des Alpes Maritimes d’après Marie Laure FRIN : certains extraits sont disponibles mais ne pouvions nous déplacer. Aussi nous pouvons juste évoquer les cotes des sources et son bref contenu.
14Document officiel d’inscription de la mention « mort en déportation » au B.O du 29 janvier 1988, cote 21 P 439 434 archives du ministères des anciens combattants et des victimes de guerre, obtenues grâce à l’association « Convoi 77 ».
15Document officiel d’inscription de la mention « mort en déportation » au B.O du 29 janvier 1988, cote 21 P 439 434 archives du ministères des anciens combattants et des victimes de guerre, obtenues grâce à l’association « Convoi 77 ».
16 Voyage scolaire de la classe du lycée de Thessalonique au Musée Juif de Thessalonique.
-Titiou LECOQ, Les grandes oubliées : Pourquoi l’Histoire a effacé les femmes, l’Iconoclaste, Paris, 2021. Chapitre 15 : Deuxième Guerre mondiale: le rôle des femmes minimisé.
-Michelle PERROT, Les femmes ou les silences de l’Histoire, Flammarion, Paris, 2020. Quatrième de couverture.
-Association Mnémosyne, Coordination Geneviève DERMENJIAN, Irène JAMI, Annie ROUQUIER, Françoise THEBAUD, La place des femmes dans l’histoire, une histoire mixte, Belin, Paris, 2010. Chapitre : Femmes et hommes dans les guerres, les démocraties et les totalitarismes (1914-1945).
-Simone de BEAUVOIR, Le deuxième sexe, Tome I, Gallimard, Paris, 1949. Quatrième de couverture.
-Jo-Ann OWUSU, Les menstruations et l’holocauste History Today, numéro 69, mis en ligne le 5 mai 2019. https://www.historytoday.com/archive/feature/menstruation-and-holocaust
-Isabelle ERNOT, Le genre en guerre. « Exécutrices, victimes, témoins », Genre & Histoire, numéro 15, mis en ligne le 30 septembre 2015. https://journals.openedition.org/genrehistoire/2218,
-Isabelle ERNOT, Le genre en guerre : « Women and/in the Holocaust » : à la croisée des Women’s-Gender et Holocaust Studies (Années 1980-2010) », Genre & Histoire, numéro 15, mis en ligne le 30 septembre 2015. http://journals.openedition.org/genrehistoire/2223