Anargyros Cole Mantas, News Editor
On Oct. 24, the Institute for Learning in Retirement and the Center for Peace, Justice, and Reconciliation hosted Beverly Margolies, to speak and share her parents’ stories of survival and evasion of the Nazis during the occupation of France. On behalf of PJR’s Speaker’s Bureau, she also shared her mother’s story of escape from Germany.
Margolies’s speech Collaborators, Bystanders & Heroes recounted the stories she’d been told by her parents to a room full of interested and willing listeners.
Her presentation encompassed the escape route her mother’s family took from Germany into allied France. Her grandfather had been a wealthy factory owner until the Nazi Party in Germany began seizing control of Jewish businesses and arresting the Jewish owners.
Her mother, grandmother, and aunt escaped from Elberfeld, Germany after her father became a wanted man there. The family had to act quickly after some of her father’s employees had become informants for the police. Her father escaped and came back to make sure his family was also able to escape. During the escape, they destroyed any items they could not take with them, such as their water heater.
Her mother, aunt, and grandmother had hired smugglers to the border of Germany and Belgium, then snuck into Belgium through the woods late at night to avoid the Nazi patrols. The family then relied on a Belgian taxi driver who transported them to France and did not receive payment until after they arrived safely, as the family had previously used what money they had to escape Germany.
Margolies’ mother escaped to Paris, France before the Nazis had invaded, but her father had been raised in Paris with his family. Her father was a tailor in Paris but, as a boy, he had occasionally spent summers working on farms in Ceyroux, France.
She retold her father’s tales of having many close calls with being captured by the Nazis in Paris, during their occupation. Her father had to change his name and managed to survive and avoid capture with the aid of compassionate families from Ceyroux, France.
Her father’s name was originally Jacob Joseph but the mayor of Ceyroux gave him, as well as his family, a new set of identities that helped them to avoid being identified as Jewish and subsequently being captured.
During La Grande Rafle, the final solution “big roundup”,her father sensed the need to flea Paris.
“My father knew he had to flea Paris from the outrage and humiliation he felt after being forced to wear the yellow Jewish star in June 1942.”
He also encouraged Margolies mother, Marie, to vacate Paris and come hide with him in southern France. After narrowly escaping a conscription summons and a chance evasion of a checkpoint while exiting a train station, her father and his family were able to escape Paris. They were not able to escape together but eventually, they all made it to a safe haven in a remote village in Ceyroux, where they hid for 2 years until liberation from the war.
The families who offered a great deal of help to her father’s family were not Jewish, but they played a large part in the resistance that arose in France as a response to the Nazi occupation of their country. A single heroic railroad worker in Vierzon risked his life to smuggle each of my family members onto cargo trains headed South to the free zone. He was later captured and murdered by the Germans.
The Nazis had shown her father and mother how truly depraved and cruel people can be when blinded by Anti Semitic propaganda. Yet each time he was shown kindness or when another individual risked their life for his survival, his faith in humanity was restored.
Margolies ended the recounting of her parents’ survival stories with a question for her audience: do we stand by when we see people spreading hateful actions and gestures