Survivor recalls Holocaust

November 07, 1997

Survivor recalls Holocaust


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - When Annette Berman walked to high school, she had to carry her books on her right arm because the Nazis insisted the yellow Star of David sewn on the left side of her clothing had to be visible at all times.

Berman, 73, a French Holocaust survivor thanks to the bravery of a non-Jewish French family that befriended and protected her own family, told her story Thursday night at a symposium on tolerance and the Holocaust at James Buchanan High School.

Also addressing the audience of more than 150 was Eric Epstein, assistant professor of humanities at Penn State University, Harrisburg, Pa., and author of numerous works on the Holocaust. Berman's works include "Dictionary of the Holocaust," published this year, "Springtime in Austria" and "Holocaust as a Tourist Industry in Poland."


Floyd Cochran, former member and chief propagandist for a white supremacist, neo-Nazi group, told the audience how he changed his life and is now dedicated to spreading the lessons of tolerance and respect for others. He spoke in May to students at Greencastle/Antrim High School.

Berman was 15 when the Germans invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. By the time she was 17, she was running dangerous missions for the French Underground while she, her mother, father and younger sister hid in an abandoned farmhouse in a secluded small village about 100 miles from Paris.

The family was living in Paris when the Germans marched in in May 1940.

For two years, her family suffered the indignities, loss of freedom and dangers of all Jews living in Paris. Jews were being sent from the city to the concentration camps.

A non-Jewish family helped them escape their apartment on the day the Nazis were to come and remove all Jews from their neighborhood, she said.

"That family, a father, mother and two girls put their lives in danger to save us," she said.

The family hid them in their four-room apartment for five weeks.

"We were left alone in the daytime. We didn't dare walk around or even use the toilet for fear of arousing the neighbors in the building. We just sat all day long," Berman said.

The husband in the family found the abandoned farmhouse. Berman's family boarded trains on their way to the village using the other family's identification papers, she said.

When she was 17, Berman was recruited into the resistance as a courier and an interpreter because she spoke some English.

Her unit rescued downed American pilots. One of her jobs was to bury their parachutes.

After the war, she returned to the scene of one of the rescues, dug up the chutes and made blouses out of them, some of which she wore when she came to the United States in 1946.

She showed one of the blouses and her yellow star to the audience.

Berman married a GI in France and came to the United States as a war bride. The couple has two children.

Berman taught French at a private preparatory school near her home in Harrisburg.

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