Berthe Cygelfarb is a Holocaust Survivor with a compelling story to tell, and she tells it beautifully. When Berthe visited Crestwood in December 2015, she spoke to Mme Doherty’s French class, and they were entranced by Berthe’s charm and humour, as were the students in the subsequent interview. Berthe recounted to both groups the horrors of the Holocaust in France, of the deportations and complicity of the Vichy regime. She brought with her a host of photos, which tell the story of her family and of Berthe’s own recovery.
We thank the Azrieli Foundation and March of the Living for their role in referring Berthe to us.
Oral History Project March 4th, 2016
Bernard’s family originally came from Poland, but Bernard grew up in France not far from the Luxembourg border. When his father became concerned about the state of affairs in Germany, the family moved to southern France, in what would become the Vichy zone. When the family learned that the Gestapo was looking for Bernard’s father, they separated and went into hiding. Taken into a Catholic school, a young Bernard took on the identity Jacques Cardinal and became a messenger for the Resistance, a job he maintained through his early teens and most of the war. When that Resistance cell was discovered, he went back into hiding and re-emerged as Jacques Maurin. At this time Bernard was recruited by the Maquis, the armed branch of the French Resistance. He participated in several missions as the Allies began the D-Day landings to the north. After France was liberated, Bernard was fortunate to be re-united with his family members, all of whom had survived the war and the Jewish deportations out of Vichy. They made their way to the United States in 1949.
I met Bernard Mussmand, through my father George Masters. I was able to interview him at his home in Portland, Maine in December 2008.
Eva Lang is a child survivor from Belgium. When the war began she and her family found themselves in southern France, soon arrested under the Vichy regime. While her parents succeeded in getting most of their children to safety through the OSE, her parents and many family members were deported to Auschwitz. Eva spent most of the war on the run and in hiding. After the war she made her way to Israel and Canada, where she divides her time. We were fortunate to hear her words of tolerance courtesy of Baycrest, where she spoke to Amanda Lee, Jenny Son, Benji Baker, and Noah Levin in May 2011.
In 1942, after the Vichy regime started arresting Jews, the Engels attempted to escape France by going to Switzerland. On the border, they were caught, and shipped to a temporary prison. They would then be shipped to the Rivesaltes interment camp. At this time, the Vichy government had a policy of releasing children. While Julien, 9, and George, 5, would be released, their parents would be shipped to Drancy and then to Auschwitz. Julien and George would never see their parents again. Both brothers eventually made their way to North America, after being rescued.