Arlette Waldmann

Arlette Waldmann

Born: June 15, 1937

Broncourt, France

Arlette's Russian-Jewish mother and Romanian-Jewish father had studied medicine together in Paris. After finishing medical school, they married and decided to set up practice in Broncourt, a farming village of 300 inhabitants in northern France.

1933-39: My father was an old-fashioned doctor who made housecalls, by bicycle at first, then on a motorcycle, and finally, in a car. His patients looked forward to seeing him and held him in high esteem, always offering him coffee and schnapps. Even after I was born in 1937 my mother continued attending to patients in the home office that she and my father had set up. By then, my maternal grandparents were living with us and they helped take care of me.

1940-44: I was almost 3 when the Germans occupied our village. German soldiers took over the brick house adjoining ours. We shared a backyard and sometimes I played with the soldiers. On Sundays, I went to church so they wouldn't suspect that we were Jewish. I liked being Catholic--I felt safe knowing that Jesus loved little children and took care of them. One day, though, I crossed myself at home in front of my mother. She was upset, but I didn't understand why. It was very confusing.

After the war, the Waldmanns moved to Paris. For 10-year-old Arlette it was hard when her family resumed practicing their faith. It took years for her to accept her identity as a Jew.