The Cheress family in the 1930s. Front row, left to right: Joseph and Isaac, the children. Second row, left to right: Back row, left to right: Nissim and Luna, their parents.
Source: The Shoah Memorial in Paris.
The family and Joseph’s childhood
Joseph Jean Cheress was born on February 14, 1932, in the 11th district of Paris. He lived at 106 rue de la Roquette in Paris, with his father Nessim, a trader who was born in Constantinople, Turkey, on February 12, 1899; his mother Louna Béhar, who was also born in Constantinople in 1900; his older brother Isaac, born in 1930 and his younger sister Jeanine, born in 1939.
In the photo above, taken in the 1930s, is the Cheress family: Joseph is the child dressed in black, and with him is his older brother, Isaac, and his parents, Nissim and Luna. Jeanine is not in the picture because she was only born in 1939, by which time Joseph was seven. The family was Jewish.
1942 – 1944: Deportation of the Cheress family
Nissim was deported to Auschwitz on Convoy 12 to Auschwitz on July 29, 1942. It is not known why he was deported before the rest of his family, nor how his family got by without him.
At the end of July 1944, the Allies, who had landed on June 6, 1944, were advancing towards Paris. On July 20, 1944, an assassination attempt on Hitler failed. Aloïs Brunner, the commandant of the Drancy camp, took advantage of the volatile situation to pursue his anti-Semitic policy and to deport as many Jews as possible. He sent his troops to the UGIF (Union générale des Israélites de France, or General Union of French Jews) homes in and around Paris to round up the Jewish children who were registered as staying in them. They succeeded in rounding up hundreds of children, including eighteen babies. The UGIF was founded by the Vichy government on November 29, 1941, in response to a request made by the Germans during the Occupation. Its headquarters and administrative offices were based at 19 rue de Téhéran in Paris. It was against this backdrop that Joseph, Isaac, Jeanine and their mother Luna were deported to Auschwitz on Convoy No. 77, which left Drancy on July 31, 1944. It is not known whether the French and German police searched for the Cheress children at home, or whether they were staying in a UGIF home.
The authors’ individual and fictionalized account of the deportation: “The time came for the train to depart, and Joseph’s family and friends were perhaps split up and put in different cattle cars. On the first day of the journey, Joseph realized that it was going to be an arduous journey, as they had nothing to eat or drink that day. On the second day, the hunger and thirst grew worse, as did the tiredness. People began to pass out. By the end of the third day, people were going crazy as a result of the lack of food and water and of being crammed into the cars”.
On July 31, 1944, the last large transport of deportees left Drancy for Auschwitz, with 986 men and women and 324 children aboard, among them Joseph Cheress. Because he was so young, he, and probably his brother and sister, were soon after they arrived at the Auschwitz killing center. His official date of death is August 5, 1944.
In what ways was Joseph’s death officially recognized?
Joseph Jean Cheress’ death certificate was published in the French Official Gazette on October 31, 1945. In 2011, the National War Veterans and Victims of War Office asked for a copy of his death certificate, as part of the process of awarding him the official title “Died during deportation”.
- Source : SHD, AC 21 P 482 624, Dossier individuel de Joseph, Jean Cheress.
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
- Gaston LEIBOVICE
- Myriam SONNENBLICK
- Daniel STEPANSKI