1925- | Naissance: | Arrestation: | Résidence: , ,

Maurice (Moszek) MINKOWSKI

Maurice/Moszek Minkowski was born on January 8, 1925 in Przytyk, Poland. The family emigrated to France in 1927, via Germany and Austria. Maurice was the fifth of six children [1].
In the photo on the left, Maurice Minkowski is on the right, Jérôme Skorka (Scorin) is in the center and Maurice Benadon is on the left (the picture was without doubt taken in the garden at the home of Régine Skorka, married name Jacubert, in 1993, see photo below). (Note by Serge Jacubert)

After the Germans invaded France, the family left Paris for St Maxime, but later returned to Paris. All Jewish men were summoned and threatened that if they committed an “offence”, their families would be sent to jail. Maurice Minkowski had to go to work in a labor camp with his father; they spent the week in the camp and went home on Sundays. At the end of 1941, his father was arrested and all the young men were taken away.

They were all sent to the Drancy internment camp in 1941. After three awful months, Maurice Minkowski and one of his sisters escaped and fled to Toulouse, via Marseille, and spent a year there in Couiza, a little village nearby. They managed to procure false identity documents and lived like nomads. He heard from his mother, who had watched from the window of their apartment in Paris as women and children were being arrested and then deported. She therefore hid her children in the cellar and then she and the children moved to Lyon. In 1944, Maurice Minkowski also moved to Lyon, where he joined a group of young people from the Jeunesses communistes juives, or Jewish Communist Youth of the FTP-MOI (editor’s note: Francs-tireurs et partisans et main-d’œuvre immigrée) and took part in Resistance operations.

A woman reported the group and they were arrested by the German police on June 15, 1944 and taken to the Gestapo Kommandantur, or headquarters, on Place Bellecour in Lyon. Under interrogation by Klaus Barbie, Maurice Minkowski tried to shield his mother by making untrue statements. He was then taken to the Fort de Montluc prison and detained in an exterior barrack hut that was only for Jewish men. When Montluc was “cleared of Jews”, he was sent to Drancy again, on July 15, 1944, along with one of his sisters and his Resistance group. Having heard the news of the Allied landings on the Normandy coast, the group was once again full of hope and sang revolutionary songs. Maurice Minkowski spent almost a month in Drancy. He was then taken by bus to the Bobigny railroad station. His younger sister was not deported, thanks to the forged identity documents that she had on her. However, his older sister (Clara Yvette?) was also deported on Convoy 77. Fortunately, Maurice Minkowski did not follow his sister’s advice and join a group of North Africans, but chose to stay with his friends, including a man named Dave, little Charles, Edi and Henri[2]. Their “Chef”, or “Leader”, “le Grand Robert“[3], a former Spanish war veteran and well known member of the Resistance in Toulouse, had made a plan to escape from the train. They split into groups of three and made ready their freight car. Using a saw that they had hidden in a piece of bread, they sawed a hole in the roof. The train suddenly came to a halt. The group of North Africans tried to escape, but they were spotted. Their car was identified and they were forced to strip naked. During the selection when they arrived at Auschwitz, all of them were sent to the left[4]. The Germans then searched the entire train. Fearing that they would be found out, the group, who called themselves Robert, patched up the hole they had sawed in the roof with some bread. Their escape attempt had failed. After a four-day journey, they arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau. “L’arrivée, c’était l’enfer”, it was said, “the arrival was hell”: the selection, a shower, having his number tattooed (B 3870). He was sent to Block 2, which was for stonecutters and road construction workers. He asked after his father and was simply told that he was “gone”[5].

On October 16, 1944, Maurice was transferred from Auschwitz to Stutthof (registration number 99,792) and then in November 1944 to Hailfingen (registration number 40,759). He worked on the construction of an airstrip and taxiways. They did not stop all day long, pouring the cement by hand, which was not supposed to be allowed to freeze. They were attacked by Allied fighter-bombers. Towards the end of the year, he lost his friend Henri[6], who was suffering from dysentery, and Maurice had tried to cure him by giving him charcoal. “This was the only time I cried” he said later. He refused to work and was beaten by the Kapo. From that moment on he became sick, felt like the living dead, stopped fighting and asked to be sent to the sick bay in the Vaihingen/Enz camp, knowing full well that this could have led to his death. The convoy arrived in Vaihingen on February 14, 1945.

In Vaihingen, he caught typhoid fever. He swapped his bread for aspirin, which saved his life, and began to get better. On April 6, 1945, he was transferred from Vaihingen to Dachau and put in block 19. On April 29, 1945, when the camp was liberated, he only weighed 64 pounds (29 kg). He had spent almost a month in the barracks at Dachau.

On May 29, 1945, Maurice Minkowski returned to France. He arrived in Lyon during the night and went straight from the station to his mother’s apartment. She did not open the door, however, and he was afraid she no longer lived there. She had waited for him every day at the station and yet, when he finally came back, she was sound asleep.

Maurice Minkowski married Marcelle Kiselman, born on March 21, 1926. In 1942, she had been sentenced in Paris for having carried out operations on behalf of the “Third Communist International” In 1996, the couple was living in Fontenay-sous-Bois in the Val de Marne department of France.
The USC Shoah Foundation’s video of Maurice Minkowski in Fontenay-sous-Bois was filmed on November 3, 1996.

“Le Grand Robert” 

In his interview with the USC Shoah Foundation, Maurice Minkowski gave the names of his friends: Dave, Charles, Edi and Henri, along with that of their “Chef“, or “Leader”, “le Grand Robert”. In May 2008, Nancy Lefenfeld searched the list people who were deported on Convoy 77: “I tried to find out who this famous Chief Robert could have been, but to no avail. There were 16 people named Robert on Convoy 77 from Drancy to Auschwitz.”

In response to questions asked in a magazine published by the UJRE [editor’s note: Union des Juifs pour la Résistance et l’Entraide, or Union of Jews for Resistance and Mutual Aid], Alain Fort said: “”The grand Robert” was Joseph Wachspresse, also known as Robert. He was a very tall man. He was arrested by the Gestapo, in Agen, in the Lot et Garonne department. He was tortured and deported. (…) he returned to France in 1945. He lived in Montreuil, where he died in 2002.”

The “third” man was Jérôme Scorin (see biography of Jérôme Skorka). He was a deported Resistance fighter, a member of the UJJ (Union of Jewish Youth) Southern Zone, and a knight of the Legion of Honor. In July 1944, Jérôme Scorin and his sister, (Régine Skorka) were arrested in Lyon, not as Jews, but as Resistance fighters, after having been reported… When the Germans discovered that they were Jews, they sent Régine and Jérôme to Auschwitz on the same transport, Convoy 77.
Jérôme Scorin: “In Lyon, I was primarily anxious about Maurice Minkowski (whom I met in jail in Montluc)). I located him and his entire family: his mother, his five sisters and a brother. (…) Yvette had been released from Drancy. The father, who was deported in 1942, never came back… Around July 10, taken in charge by the Ministry of Veterans and Victims of War, and went to a convalescent home in La Chaux-des-Crotenay, near Champagnole, in the Jura. I stayed there for two months. … Maurice Minkowski came with me to this convalescent home.” [7]

Note: Sadly, Maurice Minowski has died since this biography was written. To quote the historian Laurence Klejman, in her comment below: “It was with sadness that we heard news of the death of Maurice Minkowski, aged 95, on December 13, 2020. Maurice Minkowski was a Resistance fighter in the Francs Tireurs et Partisans (FTP). He was deported to Auschwitz in the last convoy that left Drancy on July 31, 1944.” CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France, or Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France) CRIF tribute to Maurice Minkowski (in French)


  • Register
    Not included in the list of deportees by convoy
    Vaihingen/Enz Memorial Archives, ref. 1867
    Admission list from Vaihingen-Dachau/Allach (cf. ITS International Tracing Service)
  • USC Shoah Foundation in memory of the victims of the Shoah, interview of November 3, 996, Code 22 223, photo taken from the video.
  • Düsseldorf District Administration: compensation files for survivors of the Hailfingen annex camp, Düsseldorf Archives 613071 and 654007: Moszek Minkowski
    Maurice Minkowsk, born on 08/01/1928 in Przytyk. Déported to Auschwitz on Convoy 77, which left Drancy on 31/07/1944. Lived at 25, rue Paul Bert in the 3rd district of Lyon, France. His name is inscribed on the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris.[1] Henri Minkowski, born on 12/12/1921 in Przytyk, deported to Auschwits on 02/03/1943 on convoy 49, was his brother (MCDC).
    [2] Henri, Charles and Dave died in Auschwitz (interview with the USC Shoah Foundation).
    [3] « C’était Joseph Wachspresse, alias Robert. Il était de taille très élevée. Il a été arrêté par la Gestapo, à Agen, dans le département du Lot et Garonne. Torturé puis déporté. Pas réussi à savoir par quel convoi. Hypothèse: il n’a pas nécessairement donné sa véritable identité et peut donc avoir été déporté sous un faux nom. En tout état de cause, il est rentré en France en 1945. Il habitait Montreuil où il est mort en 2002 » (Alain Fort, 15/08/09) [quoted in French in the text]
    [4] Cf. Georges Harden, cited by Serge Klarsfeld, p.585 [quoted in French in the text]
    [5] Abram/Avraham Minkowski, born in 1892; déported to Auschwitz on 29/07/1942 on convoy 12. Lived at 30, passage Charles Dallery in the 11th district of Paris, France (source: CJDC)
    [6] This was most likely Henri Manowicz (see above), who died at Hailfingen on December 29, 1944
    [7] Jérôme Scorin: L’itinéraire d’un adolescent juif de 1939 à 1945, Nancy 1994, pp. 177



Volker Mall, German historian, Volker Mall, German historian

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