born March 6, 1901
My father was named
Abraham Cherchevsky. His family was originally from Lithuania. His grandmother
was born in Grodno and his grandfather in Rujany (today in Byelorussia).
They lived in the Vilnius area. In the mid-19th century, like a lot of
Jewish families of that country, his maternal grandparents—like his paternal
grandparents—had left the country and emigrated to Palestine to escape
the orders of the czar, which took away young people to make them do 25
years of military service.
My great-grandparents, having several sons, preferred to leave the country. My grandparents married in a little synagogue in the ghetto of Hebron (Palestine) around 1880. My grandmother, Haya Hava Pecha Lazinsky, was only sixteen. My grandfather, Shmuel (Samuel) Cherchevsky, was eighteen. They had several children, of whom only six survived, the first one born in 1881..
My father, the sixth and last child of the family, was born in Hebron on March 6, 1901, and lived his early childhood in Jerusalem. He arrived in Paris around 1910, as did his parents and brothers and sisters. He did not speak French, and learned our language during his education at the Lucien de Hirsch School in Paris..
Abraham Cherchevsky applied for and obtained French citizenship in 1924. Several years later, he met the woman who would become his wife, Germaine Bernard. She was one of the nieces of Bernard Lazare, which allowed my father access to the archives by B.L. about the Dreyfus affaire. They married in Paris in 1931. According to family tradition, they had a religious ceremony, and the rabbi Henri Schilli married them December 9, 1930, in the synagogue on Rue Chasseloup-Labat in Paris. They had three daughters, in 1932, 1935, and 1938, of whom I am the eldest.
These are my father's parents, about 1898, three years before his own birth. The photo was taken in Jerusalem. The eldest child is away. The youngest (my father) was not yet born.
My father was a journalist. In 1938, he had created a little bimonthly Jewish newspaper which, unfortunately, published only five issues, the first dated November 15, 1938, and the last March 30, 1939…. In these five publications, one could already feel his uneasiness, facing the rise of Naziism. This newspaper was titled Grégoire (especially not to be confused with the infamous anti-Semite Gringoire). Why this paper and why Grégoire? Here is what my father wrote in Issue 1 of his newspaper, in November 1938:
These are the five only issues of my father's small
Jewish newspaper, from 15 November 1938 to 30 March 1939 (my seventh birthday...)
My mother was an English and German translator. When my parents had to leave their positions, due to German orders in 1941 forbidding Jews most work, they worked in the administration of Jewish children’s homes of the UGIF.
Between 1940 and 1941, fleeing the German invasion, like many families, we left the Paris area (we lived in Issy-les-Moulineaux), and stayed in different cities, notably in Eure-en-Loir, then in Royan. I don’t have a good memory of our journey.
At the beginning of July 1943, my parents sent me off to the countryside, near Châteauroux (Indre) with my younger sister, for summer vacation. We stayed with a former household employee of my maternal grandmother, who was living a well deserved retirement with her husband. She had seen me born, took care of me during my early years, and we were equally happy to see each other again. Our mother had removed the yellow stars from our coats, and my sister and I had changed our name. We took the name “Bernard”, our mother’s maiden name. My other sister had stayed in Paris, because she was thought too young to leave her parents
My mother was arrested July 31, 1943, in a round-up in the UGIF offices. She stayed a few weeks in Drancy, and was deported to Auschwitz by Convoy No. 59 on September 2, 1943. According to one person arrested at the same time as she, and who survived, she was gassed on her arrival.
After the arrest of my mother, my father had to hide the youngest of my sisters with a family in the countryside. The couple that was lodging my other sister and me gladly accepted keeping us with them until further instructions. At the beginning of the new school year, in October 1943, they enrolled us in the village’s school.
My father, who had remained in Paris, hid at a friend’s, in an apartment. He was sure that he should never have to go out. But this voluntary confinement weighed heavily on him, and Tuesday, April 11, 1944, he went out into the street. From later years, a document about his arrest came to us: toward noon, a French collaborator, André H., age 35, saw him on a sidewalk. My father’s face appeared suspect to this man, who gave the order to arrest him immediately. The identification check which likely followed proved fatal to him. He was taken to Drancy, where he remained until May 15, 1944, when he left by Convoy No. 73.
The police report on the French collaborator who had arrested my father, brought to light only in his cross-examination, cited my father’s name and described the circumstances of his arrest. This man, condemned twice in his absence to the death penalty (in 1944 and 1949) for treason or conspiring with the enemy, had escaped to Germany in August 1944, and presented himself, a free man, February 16, 1955, before the Permanent Tribunal of the Armed Forces of Paris.
The person who passed this police report on to us added at the time, “He was acquitted in 1957, and walks free, maybe cultivates flowers ….”.
My sister and I led a trouble-free and peaceful life, cared tenderly by our protectors. We had quickly forgotten the restrictions, the vile Jerusalem artichokes and the insipid rutabagas, for we lacked nothing: garden vegetables, grapes and fruits of the vine, chicken, rabbit, milk and fresh butter.… We had all we wanted and were happy, thanks to the complicity of the adults, family and friends who, at the request of our father and in the efforts to spare us, had not told us that our mother had been deported. We learned it one day, following a slip by our guardian. But at that time, they did not talk about deportation; they only told us that our mother had been “arrested”, and since we didn’t know exactly what that meant, we calmly awaited her return.
After the arrest of our father, a cousin arrived from Paris while we were at school. He was still there at noon, when we came home for lunch. He had come to tell us that our father too was just “arrested”, and that we had to leave our guardians for a few days, in case the Germans would be looking for us. We didn’t really understand the seriousness of the situation. All we knew about the little move they were preparing us for was that we would spend two or three weeks on a farm, a few kilometers from where we were, among animals and farm work, without going back to school, and that delighted us.
When the alarm passed, we went back to the village we had left, and stayed there until December 1944.
A little before Christmas 1944, our maternal grandfather and our aunt had us return to Paris. They did what was necessary to be able to welcome us in their home, all three of us together. The youngest of my sisters returned first to Paris. Hidden for a year with the family with whom my father had entrusted her, she had been unhappy, even mistreated, but at least she had been saved.
My other sister and I left with regret the old couple who had sheltered us for eighteen months, without doubt—as paradoxical as that might seem at first—the happiest period of my whole life. I had never realized, until these past few years, and even these past weeks, from learning the personal story of each of my “cousins” of “trips through memory” in Lithuania, how these brave people had saved our lives, my sister’s and mine
Later, in 1998, I requested that they be honored with the recognition as “Righteous Gentiles—Righteous among the Nations.” I had to look for witnesses from the time when I was hidden in Levroux, in friendly Berry, and I found, fifty years after losing contact with them, some classmates who were glad to give me their assistance. May I thank here Jeanne, Monique, and Jean-Paul, in the name of Françoise, like Alain, who will receive the award in the name of his great-aunt and great-uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Couagnon, my rescuers.
I love that photo, showing my father and I, in Summer 1936. My hair were short cutted because I just had whooping cough with much fever. My two sisters haven't any such a photo and are very jealous... I have now another photo, which shows one of my grandsons, Antoine, aged six, taken when he is about three. He looks exactly as myself at the same age !
Our aunt became our “guardian”. She was an admirable woman, who had entered the Resistance very early, where her actions earned her the Medal of the Resistance and the Cross of War 1939-1945. She raised us with much tenderness and devotion, without ever complaining about the sudden arrival of three little girls — of seven, ten, and thirteen years — completely changing her whole life. My sisters and I owe her a lot, indisputably, for all she did for us, in every area and on all occasions, well after she stopped serving as guardian. When we left her home, she continued to come to the aid of each of us three, in one way or another, each time it was necessary, likewise to our children when, as teens, they in their turn had difficulties, until age and illness prevented her. She left us in May 1997, at the age of 93.
I learned soon after from my aunt that my mother had died in Auschwitz. Looking back, she never spoke about our father to us, and we never asked questions. There was a tacit silence, which lasted fifty years. However, my aunt had contact with some of the survivors of Convoy No. 73, for I found in 1997, after her death, their names that she had noted on a card
In 1952, totally by chance I met André Blum, who would become my husband the following year. His father had been deported to Auschwitz in 1942 by Convoy No. 35, on September 21. He had been arrested September 2nd, on André’s birthday. This similarity in the destiny of our fathers helped me, without a doubt, endure more calmly and less painfully the consequences of the disappearance of my parents when I became aware of it, fifty years later, which was not the case for my two sisters.
In 1992, by chance during genealogical research that my husband and I had begun that year, I learned of the existence of the Mémorial de la Déportation des Juifs de France (Memorial of the Deportation of the Jews of France) by Serge Klarsfeld, and thus I learned what had happened to my father. Destiny had his life end about a hundred kilometers from the city where his grandmother was born, in that Lithuania from which his grandparents and parents had fled a century earlier ….
Descendants of my parents number today eleven grandchildren and nineteen great-grandchildren, of whom fifteen are the children of my children! The oldest, Eric, was born in 1979, and Sarah, the youngest, arrived in 1997, the first day of spring.
Eve Line Blum-Cherchevsky
Bernard Lazare (1865-1903) : my mother, Germaine Cherchevsky nee Bernard. You certainly heard of the Dreyfus Affair. In this affair, the first Jew who said that Alfred Dreyfus was not guilty was a Bernard Lazare. In reality his name was Lazare BERNARD, and he was my mother's uncle, her father's brother.