While there were some sympathetic French policemen who loathed their jobs, the survivors have said and written that most of the French police force at the Rothschild Hospital went about their tasks with earnest zeal. They also suggested that as the German defeat became inevitable, some of the French policemen began to act more kindly toward Jews, in an effort to compile a more favorable dossier for themselves in the event of an Allied victory. (Simon Schwartz interview.)
French police not directly assigned to Rothschild were often seen walking up and down the rue Santerre near the hospital’s main gate. This police presence was first noticed after the Vel d’Hiv roundup in July 1942. The German ordinance of May 29, 1942 made it an infraction punishable by arrest and deportation for a Jew over the age of six not to wear the yellow star in public. Jews leaving the hospital were routinely stopped outside and checked by French police to make sure the yellow star was affixed to their outer garments. Men who “appeared” Jewish, but who were without a yellow star, were checked to see if they were circumcised, resulting in some arrests. (Colette Brull-Ulmann interview.)
At times, French police arrested Rothschild Hospital personnel. Testimonies often include the story of the arrest of Fanny Jelikover and Marie Levy, the two Jewish concierges who were seized in March 1944 at their small office at the hospital’s main entrance on the rue Santerre, across from the police inspectors’ office. When Fanny or Marie saw members of the Gestapo or French police approaching the hospital, it was their practice to call ahead and warn doctors, staff, and patients. It is not clear if it was Henri Dupin, the Aryan Hospital Director, or René Magnien, the Aryan Assistant Hospital Director, both CGQJ appointments, who informed on them. Faralicq’s police inspectors held the women at the hospital until French police from the Prefecture took them to Drancy. Fanny was a diabetic and before she left, the hospital pharmacist gave her a few phials of insulin without which she may have died on the train. It was to no avail – both Fanny and Marie were murdered at Auschwitz.
Two plaques at the Rothschild Hospital today list the twenty-two Rothschild Foundation personnel who were arrested, deported, and murdered. One of them contains this false inscription:
…à la mémoire des membres du personnel médical et hospitalier de la Fondation de Rothschild arrachés par les allemands à leurs functions…
…to the memory of the members of the medical and hospital personnel of the Rothschild Foundation seized by the Germans at their posts…
These victims may very well have been arrested at the Rothschild Foundation, although some were not; but when these arrests occurred, it was French police, not Germans, who were the arresting officers.
Céline and Danielle Gradsztejn
The Picpus Digital Archives includes dozens of photographs, one of which was taken in the gardens of the Rothschild Hospital, probably early in 1943. It is a group photograph of Rothschild doctors and nurses. The camera is focused on Dr. Worms holding hands with three-year old Danielle Gradsztejn, a child with a startled and frightened look in her eyes. If the story of the deportation and murder of 11,000 Jewish children from France could be told in one photograph, this one may be the prototype. Danielle and her six-year old sister Céline Gradsztejn were being treated at Rothschild while their parents waited for them at Drancy. Part of the Nazi deception was the promise to resettle families intact. At the hospital, the standard wisdom was to keep children there indefinitely, because if the children were at Rothschild. the family would not be deported. The two sisters lived in pavilion 10 with several other sick (and perhaps not so sick) children. Céline and Danielle were affectionate and loving. They even became the favorites of several of the French policemen, who let them run about the grounds at will.
Dr. Henri Brocard had replaced Dr. Tisné as the Prefecture’s doctor at the Drancy infirmary. One day Dr. Brocard came to Rothschild and, seeing the two girls healthy and happy, ordered their return to Drancy. Nurses, doctors, hospital personnel and even some police were upset. Intern Colette Brull-Ulmann tried in vain to talk to Brocard, first by phone, then by going to his house after curfew. She was stopped at the threshold. Nothing could be done to dissuade him.
The girls were returned to Drancy, whereupon the entire Gradsztejn family was sent on Convoy 55, which departed June 23, 1943. The grandfather of Hedwige Plaut was also on that train, as was Paulette Szlifke Sarcey, whose story will be related in Chapter 3. Of this group, only Paulette survived.
Convoy 55 was first transport from Paris arranged by Aloïs Brunner; he is said to have sat at a table in Drancy’s courtyard and hand picked each of the 1,002 deportees. In 1945, there were 88 survivors from that convoy; all others perished.
Doctor historian Bruno Halioua related the story of Gradsztejn sisters in his interview for the Picpus Digital Archives. He chose the photograph of Dr. Worms and Danielle for the cover of his book, Blouses blanches, étoiles jaunes (White Jackets, Yellow Stars), the story of the exclusion of Jewish doctors in France.