Rothschild: Escapes and Resistance
Anne Landau, Department of French and Italian, Northwestern University
 
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Simon Schwartz was a young Jewish pharmacy student born in Romania; he was barely 20 years old when Heymann offered him a room at Rothschild and a job as a pharmacy and laboratory assistant. Heymann deliberately kept Schwartz off the Rothschild Hospital payroll; he lived on the premises and she paid him a small stipend. Heymann also protected Schwartz’s family after the father was deported. She hid Schartz’s mother in a small room at Rothschild for three years, put Schwartz’s brother in a sanitorium (he had tuberculosis), and found Schwartz’s sister a place with Abbé Ménardais, as his dame de compagnie at Chalmaison in Seine-et-Marne.

Schwartz was a talented counterfeiter. From his laboratory at Rothschild he made different types of identity documents for Heymann and for several Jewish hospital employees. Schwartz “washed” documents. He was able to erase the red stamp Juif from identity cards. He also devised a way to transfer ink stamps from authentic documents to counterfeit ones. He cut a potato in half, as horizontally as possible, and pressed the flat, or most horizontal, section into an authentic stamp. This operation absorbed the ink and the marking into the potato. Then he quickly impressed the potato with the ink and marking onto a new document. It was unsophisticated but it worked. Later, Heymann gave Schwartz rubber stamps she stole from the police bureau at the Rothschild main entry.

It became more difficult to forge Rothschild Hospital identity cards after Mme Wiart became hospital director in 1944, because she insisted that photographs be sewn into each card. An example is the card for Nurse Damengout, which is in the Picpus Digital Archives. Schwartz also made sleep inducing drugs, and helped adult prisoners escape through the hospital tunnel system. Schwartz’s video testimony centers on the fabrication of false papers and resistance activities in which he participated from the hospital and during the liberation of Paris.

For security, Heymann never carried on her person documents, names or lists that could jeopardize people, hideouts or networks. A chain of accomplices outside Rothschild helped her every step of the way. In Paris, Dr. Charles Odic (author of “Stepchildren” of France) not only saw the Jewish children at the hospital, he visited them in the Paris apartments where they were hidden until they were transferred to passeurs.

Counterfeit documents were always a problem in that there were never enough. Office workers at the mairie (town hall) of the XIIth arrondissement provided food ration tickets; the Commissioner of the XIIth brought Heymann various kinds of documents. Heymann’s cousin, Jacques Dennery, leader of MUR (Mouvement uni de la résistance) provided identity cards.

Annette Monod, a Protestant and dear friend of Heymann, understood the immediacy of rescuing Jewish children. In her capacity as Red Cross social worker, Monod served at the Vélodrome d’Hiver, Drancy, Beaune-la-Rolande, and Pitiviers. As it was pointed out in Chapter 1, she supervised the liberation of Drancy. In her oral testimony in the Archives of the United States Holocaust Museum and Memorial (USHMM), Monod spoke of the moment she realized that the Jews were being murdered. This was at Pitiviers in August 1942, where she took care of Vel d’Hiv prisoners:

J’ai vu une déportation d’enfants seuls … Un petit Jacob que j’aimais bien, des wagons à bestiaux. ‘Non, je veux descendre pour faire pipi…’ j’ai compris que c’était la solution finale. C’était les Allemands. C’est le jour où j’ai compris.


I saw a deportation of children alone… Little Jacob, I liked him so much…cattle cars…‘No, I want to get off to make pipi’… I understood it was the final solution. It was the Germans. It was the day I understood.

Two Catholic priests, Abbé Ménardais and Abbé Janau, worked admirably and tirelessly with Heymann. Both were frequent visitors to Rothschild. There often was antagonism between Janau and the French police when he entered Rothschild, because he was told repeatedly that a priest had no business in a hospital for Jews.

Janau was from the XIIe arrondissement; and through him, Heymann was able to procure counterfeit baptismal certificates and placements for her children in private homes and convents in and around Paris. His aim was to save as many Jewish children as possible. Janau and Heymann developed a code. If Janau said, “Vous n’avez pas quelqu’un? J’aurais besoin d’une bonne” (Do you know anyone? I need a maid), this would mean “J’ai de quoi recevoir un enfant, à vous de jouer” (I’ve made arrangements for a child; it’s your turn). It was then that Colette Brull-Ulman was told that another child was ready to be smuggled out.

Abbé Ménardais, the curé of Chalmaison, near Provins, was a commanding figure in Heymann’s hidden children network; he was a thoroughly unconventional and extraordinary human being, whose works have become legendary. Ménardais protected downed Allied aviators, and participated in escapes of French soldiers held in France as prisoners-of-war. His was chaplain to the petits rats de l’Opéra, the ballet dancers of the Paris Opera, who during the Occupation were considered forced workers. They were given special identity cards, cartes de travail force (forced worker cards), which allowed them extra food rations. It was said that Ménardais would them at the Opéra with gas masks filled with food, and the dancers frequently sojourned to Chalmaison where they received nourishment and were able to relax.

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