Marie BENAZRA

1927 | Naissance: | Arrestation: | Résidence: ,

A letter to Marie Benazra

 

Marie Benazra, we write to you today

in the hope of making your voice heard

among all those buried in the terrible convoys.

We have chosen to retrace your story.

 

Your mother, born in 1910 in Smyrna, Turkey

was single and a mechanic when she left the country.

It was during a wave of migration

that she moved to the booming city of Marseille.

 

On November 17, 1927, she gave birth to you.

You lived at 3 rue Victor Hugo, where the sun shone brightly,

Only to move again, 3 years later to 22 rue Popincourt in Paris,

which was where you began your horrific journey.

 

You soon had two younger sisters,

First Rose, who was born April 24, 1930 and a year later came Judith, on August 19, 1931.

All three of you were French citizens,

But what was your childhood really like? We can only speculate.

 

First of all, like all children at that age, you went to school,

at the elementary school at 13 rue Breguet,

which was closed in 2000 and then became the French National Education Inspectorate.

There, you were just a normal little girl:

A conscientious student, as shown by your school reports,

a cheerful pupil despite it being wartime.

You moved a few times, always within the Jewish quarter in the 11th district of Paris,

from 22 to 10, and then to number 40 on the same street, as did so many other fugitives.

 

And then, on May 13, 1944, your mother and sisters were interned in Drancy

and sent to Auschwitz on Convoy 74, where they all lost their lives.

After having spent a few weeks in a room on staircase18, on the 3rd floor.

You were left an orphan, with no family around you.

 

Next, you found yourself in a UGIF home on rue Vauquelin,

a home for Jewish orphans, with the girls who would be with you all along your awful journey:

Ida Azembert and Régine Skorka,

who, just like you, were soon to be deported.

 

On the night of July 21-22, 1944, the French police came to arrest you,

along with four hundred other children from Paris, leaving behind only shadows.

Just as the Nazi defeat was imminent,

the UGIF collaborated or at least played a part in the roundup

organized by the man in charge of Drancy, Aloïs Brunner,

who wanted “fill the last convoy out of the camp while there was still time”!

 

And there you were in Drancy, in a room on the third floor on staircase seven.

The living conditions were extremely unhygienic,

in this U-shaped building flanked by watchtowers watched over by the soldiers,

surrounded by barbed wire on all sides.

What could only be described as the antechamber of death.

Nine long days you waited.

You probably knew that you were about to leave for a place called Pitchipoï,

an unknown and ominous destination.

 

Then it was time for you to leave, on July 31, 1944, in a cattle car,

in which you endured the lurking dread, the lack of air and the shortage of water.

You got off the death train at just seventeen years old,

and at that very moment, descended into hell on earth.

1309 people, including 324 babies and children were on board Convoy 77.

726 of them were gassed on arrival in this accelerated dehumanization process.

 

As a prisoner at Auschwitz, you became a number: A16 666,

What did that terrible scar mean to you?

You survived the killing and concentration camp for three long months.

and miraculously escaped selection twice

due to the arrival of more convoys full of people from the East

And thanks also to the sonderkommandos‘ rebellion.

They stopped the crematoria from operating by blowing them up.

 

That is what led to you being sent, in the autumn, to the Kratzau labor camp in Czechoslovakia,

where you had to walk five or six miles a day to work twelve-hour shifts in an arms factory,

and paint shells green and grenades yellow, over and over.

 

You shared a bunk with Suzanne Barman,

who still reminisces about your friendship and the memories it brings back,

of making deals and swapping soup and warming each other’s backs

and the immense feeling of solidarity.

 

On May 27 1945, the camp was finally liberated.

You returned to France, where you had no one to turn to.

Do you go straight back to 78 rue de la Roquette?

Maybe, at least that’s where you were living in 1959, when your political deportee card was issued.

The first recognition of your ordeal,

the first step towards taking part in public life in the city.

 

Women won the right to vote in 1944,

and you used this newfound right to speak out and debate.

We found you on the electoral roll in 1960,

and your voice counted as much as that of any other ordinary citizen.

 

Again in 1966, you were listed on the electoral roll of our republican system,

showing that from one address to the next you ended up at 167 avenue Ledru-Rollin,

where you still live today, more than 60 years later,

still in Paris, still in the 11th district.

 

We guess this was when you went from being a political deportee to a Jewish deportee,

in a bid for greater recognition of war victims, which the authorities are finally embracing.

It was through to the compensation you received from the interregional veterans’ office in 1983

that we found one last trace of you in the archives.

 

Although we were privileged to hear your voice twice on the phone, in 2023,

it’s your silence that resounds today.

And now, despite the silence, your unwillingness to talk about this terrible event,

we hope at least to have been able to tell a little of the truth,

so that we never forget, and will never forget you.

 

Goodbye Ms. Benazra. We are merely high school students

but we are very proud to have crossed paths with you.

Contributeur(s)

The 12th grade Humanities, Literature and Philosophy and History-Geography, Geopolitics and Political science students at the Institution Saint Marie high school in La Seyne-sur-Mer in the Var department of France, with the guidance of their teachers Laureen Parmentier and Muriel Aubert., The 12th grade Humanities, Literature and Philosophy and History-Geography, Geopolitics and Political science students at the Institution Saint Marie high school in La Seyne-sur-Mer in the Var department of France, with the guidance of their teachers Laureen Parmentier and Muriel Aubert.
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