Elie Dawang was born to Lithuanian-Jewish parents, Faiwish and Shaina, in 1934 in Paris. Elie was six years old when the Germans occupied France in 1940. The Dawangs fled to a small village near the Spanish border but returned to Paris in 1941 to liquidate the family business. The family had false papers but the Paris police found them and they were arrested. All three of them were taken to prison. Faiwish managed to get Elie out and put him into the custody of an acquaintance. Faiwish and Shaina, however, were deported on separate transports to Auschwitz, in occupied Poland. Elie’s father was in the first convoy of French Jews sent to the camp; he was among the very few who survived the terror of the Shoah, and he was liberated by the American army in Dachau on April 29, 1945. Elie’s mother was murdered in Auschwitz, at the age of 38. While his parents went to their fates, Elie spent the rest of the war in hiding with his parent’s Jewish acquaintance, Genia. They narrowly escaped being arrested during the Vel d’Hiv roundup of July 1942, and when hiding in a suburb of Paris became too dangerous, they went to a small village 200 kilometers away. They returned to Paris after liberation and Elie was reunited with his father. The two of them were the only survivors of their extended family. Faiwish married a fellow survivor that he had known in Vilnius before the war and the family immigrated to Montreal in 1951. Elie finished school and had a career in computers. He married and had two children and several grandchildren and became a volunteer speaker at the Montreal Holocaust Museum, where he has shared his story with thousands of visitors over the years. In March 2021 we were able to hear his story via zoom, and we thank the museum for facilitating this.
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