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Zalie Waldhorn

Paris, France

Zalie was the second of three children born to immigrant Jewish parents. Her Polish-born father was a former officer in the Austro-Hungarian army who had met and married her Hungarian-born mother during World War I. Shortly before Zalie was born, her parents settled in Paris. There, Zalie and herbrother and sister grew up in a religious household.

1933-39: Mother said it was better in Paris than in the poor village in which she grew up. My mother spoke broken French, but I grew up speaking French fluently. At elementary school we learned all about French history. I wasn't afraid of Hitler. Father said that the terrible things happening to Jews in Germany wouldn't happen to us in France.

1940-44: I was almost 13 when the Germans occupied Paris in 1940. In 1942 my father was deported with other Polish-born Jews. Then my mother was deported. After that, I left Paris with false papers that hid my Jewish identity. I became 16-year-old Zalie Guerin. With my light hair, blue eyes and fluent French, I passed as a non-Jewish French citizen. In the town of Alencon I worked as a secretary, but after a year, I was discovered to be a Jew and arrested. The Germans beat me up; they seemed ashamed I'd fooled them for so long.

Zalie, 17, was deported to Auschwitz in a children's convoy on July 31, 1944. She survived the concentration camps, and returned to live in Paris after the war.

 

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