80 years

To commemorate the 80 years since the original exodus of the Jews from Saint Martin Vésubie into Italy in 1943, over the last four months we have published thirty of their stories. Many of them managed to elude the Germans. Others were not so lucky and were captured and deported. Of these, but a tiny remnant survived to tell their story.

Thanks to all of you who have contributed stories!

We are stopping publishing these stories every week, but still welcome your stories. Depending on how many we receive and when, we will publish these at a later time. Please email your stories publications@ame43.org.

We welcome more submissions! If you would like to submit something, please email publications@ame43.org.

80th anniversary publishing team: Rosalie and Raphael, with Naftali (Hebrew translations) and David (website).

15 October 2023

This week, we have two submissions, both about Jews who survived Auschwitz from Borgo San Dalmazzo after fleeing from Saint Martin Vésubie. The first is about Berthold Linder by his son George. The second is about David Galant by his daughter Risa. In spite of unbelievable trauma, both survivors went on rebuild their lives and families. The stories of both survivors have been published: Berthold Linder wrote his memoirs, in both English and German and Risa Galant wrote her father David’s story.

These stories have particular poignancy after the deadly attack on Israel by Hamas terrorists, in which over 1200 Israelis – mainly civilians and largely Jews – were killed, the largest number since the Shoah (Holocaust).

[] My father never talked about is his war stories even when I asked, he simply said, “you don’t want to know”. I was shocked when I read his book to learn about his suffering and losses, although he did not write his book as a victim, but rather a victor who conquered and survived, barely. He wrote his book at 80 years old because his grandson asked him what the number on his arm was for and because of the deniers. […]

— George Linder

[] My father said that it wasn’t bad; there were lots of other Jews there. Many were people they knew from the Parisian Jewish community. They were free to come and go as long as they presented themselves to the carabinieri for the twice-daily check-ins. They felt so comfortable under the Italians’ jurisdiction that they encouraged Parisian friends who were still in hiding to join them. (Their friends declined.) The family even celebrated some wonderful events: the marriages of my father’s sisters and the birth of his sister Renee’s son, Daniel. […]

— Risa Galant

8 October 2023

With everything going on in Israel, we have decided not to post stories this week. Some Israeli descendants of Jews who were in St Martin Vésubie have been called up for emergency duty in the Israeli army. Our thoughts are with them and their families.

(We published no stories on 1 October).

24 September 2023

We have another three submissions. The first is a passage from Albert M. Sharon’s mémoir, Fall-Winter 1943-1944, sent to us by his daughter Patty Maimon. The second is from Raphael Tishkoff Ebrani, and on the emotions and experiences that he felt the various times that he did the Marche. The third is a text from Béatrice Jouanne describing her search for traces of her husband’s deported uncle Osias Schönberg and their joy at finding the first photo of him through these 80th anniversary stories.

[] We followed the Italian army up the serpentine road. The terrain was difficult. Children stumbled clinging to their parents who were carrying infants in their arms. The remarkable fortitude of the elderly and handicapped struggling to keep pace was amazing. […]

— Albert M Sharon

[] As part of my personal journey, I chose to follow in the footsteps of my grandfather and his family from Saint-Martin-Vésubie in France to Entracque in Italy, a total of 35 km. When I arrived at the mountain pass known as the Col de Fenestre, I was suddenly presented with the spectacular view of the Italian side. At that moment I was filled with a tremendous feeling of freedom and hope. Perhaps a little similar to what some of the Jews who passed there before me felt when Italy was revealed to them – the place where they hoped the war would be behind them… […]

Raphael Tishkoff Ebrani

[…] We thought we’d found all we could find, but this 80th birthday brought us what we’d dared not hope for: a photograph in which he would be identified. No photos of him had been passed down through the family.

On August 20, the publication of Linda Rosenblatt’s testimony changed everything. There’s a group photo, and one of the people in it is Osias Schönberg. You can imagine our emotion when we saw his face for the first time. […]

Béatrice Jouanne

17 September 2023

As this weekend is the Jewish New Year, we are not publishing stories this Sunday. The next three stories will be published a week later, on Sunday 24 September.

In the meantime, we wish our Jewish readers a Happy New Year.

10 September 2023

With all the activities of last weekend, we have been very busy. We’ll report on them and the Marche de la Memoire as soon as we can.

As usual, this week, we have three submissions. The first is the story of Claudine Hérody-Pierre’s discovery of the journey that the parents and grand-parents of her mother’s adopted cousin, Rosa Josefowicz, made across the Alps. The second text is by a member of the New North London Synagogue, Ziona Strelitz, on her experiences of the Marche in 2013. The third is an interpretive set of collages about Mario Levin’s life, created by Annette Stock.

[] The trek across the Alps is almost the end of their journey: they had left Poland in the very early thirties, for Antwerp, where their existence was fairly peaceful; the family group of six siblings, all related, lived close to each other, almost all working as tailors. […]

— Claudine Hérody-Pierre

[…] The experience at the mountain top was deeply moving. Many people had walked up from the Italian side, and there was a considerable crowd, but the singular faces were in the named portraits of lost children, placed on rock ledges where we’d assembled. Soon the ceremony commenced, starting with speeches in Italian and French, a roll call of the young lives lost, and an anthology of survivors’ testimonies read by students from a Jewish school in Nice. […]

— Ziona Strelitz

[…] I began working in documenting the Marche de la Mémoire and the memorial events in 2015. When I met Mario Levin in 2019, we started a long-term project together, researching his and his family’s history. Mario himself has only experienced the flight of the Jews of Saint-Martin-Vésubie inside his mother’s womb. []

— Annette Stock

3 September 2023

Today, we have our usual three submissions. In our first text, Rosalie Bernheim recounts her experiences of attending the Marche for the last twenty years. For our second text, the deputy mayor of Saint Martin Vésubie, Isabelle Monnin, writes about her discovery of the Marche. The third submission is a painting and short text by survivor Avraham Schonbrunn.

I first joined the Marche de la Mémoire in 2003, when I was four years old. I’ve been doing it ever since – with the odd exception. Not only has the Marche allowed me to understand the history of my village, and the history of my people, but it has provided me with a community from across the globe, across nationalities, and religions. I have met people that I would never have met otherwise, and they have become like family to me. […]

— Rosalie (Rosie) Bernheim

Some encounters can be eye-opening. In 2015 I met Hermann Harder, a guest of my bed and breakfast (now swept away by Storm Alex) who comes to the Walk every year. It was he who told me about the tragic flight of a thousand Jews from St-Martin-Vésubie in September 1943. […]

— Isabelle Monnin

This is a painting that I did representing one of the difficult crossings into Italy on our escape from Saint Martin Vésubie over the mountains. That tree was the only means of crossing a raging river. I thought it would be appropriate to memorialise the event of the 8th of September 1943. []

— Avraham Schonbrunn

27 August 2023

Today, we have our usual three submissions! Our first two are about the Krauthamer story, one from Moti and one from Daniella Krauthamer, both showing a different focus of their ancestors’ story. The third is an excerpt from Myriam Butler’s memoirs, sent by her son, Michel Kern.

In September of 1943, as the Italian soldiers and administrators pulled out of the area and returned to Italy, they warned the Jews that the Germans would be arriving soon and it would be extremely dangerous to stay. […]

— Moti Krauthamer

It is very emotional for me to be here today in Saint Martin Vésubie, to see for myself the village that my father for so many years talked about. It was here that as a little boy of 11 years, he remembers fondly the warm hospitality of the inhabitants of this village during the Holocaust when most of European Jewry did not survive. His and his family story is nothing short of a miracle as luck played a major part in his family’s survival and part of their miracle took place in this village. My father wanted to return to Saint Martin Vésubie for many years, to say ‘thank you’ himself to the inhabitants but in 2000, he passed away at the age of 67. […]

— Daniella Krauthamer

[…] The Italians had to leave the south of France, as the Germans invaded all the south in their place.
The Italian soldiers told us we’d better follow them into the mountains rather than wait for the Germans. As a result, most of the 1,000 or so people living in St Martin went off into the mountains in a veritable exodus. Dad had managed to hire two muleteers and their mules, so we were able to put the bags on the animals and I stood astride a mule. But most people went on foot. […]

— Myriam Butler

20 August 2023

Here are three more stories. The first is a speech given by Linda Rosenblatt at the Col de Fenestre for the 2017 Marche de la Mémoire. The second and third are both poems, respectively by Avraham Lancry and Lucie Bernheim, both of which commemorate the importance of this annual walk.

[…] Sadly like so many of the survivors my mother is no longer alive to give testimony. We have moved from living memory to historical memory. It is therefore incumbent on us, the second and third generations, to continue to tell their stories so that future generations will understand and remember what happened and that the Shoah does not become a mere footnote in history. […]

— Linda Rosenblatt

A powerful and exciting walk
In the
beautiful landscape to remember and commemorate the heroism of people who fought for life
and won.
To be part of the testimony of the victory of good over evil, softness over violence and life over death. […]

— Avraham Lancry

How important to remember and
Honour the brave people of
Saint Martin Vésubie who defended against
The Nazis and saved lives. […]

— Lucie Bernheim

13 August 2023

We have another three stories this week. The first is an extract from an article Joelle Hansel’s (née Epelbaum) published in French article about her Epelbaum family. The second, sent to us by Hermann Harder with the support of Ludwig’s daughter Cornelia, is a German text written by Ludwig Greve, who describes his experiences in the war. The third submission, sent by Gregory Breuer and family, comprises two excerpts of his parents’ journals, Manya (née Hartmayer) and Ernst Breuer, with their descriptions of the hike up into Italy.

On 26 April 1945, in Cuneo (Italy), under the fifth arch of the Valdieri viaduct, Herman Armand Moïse Herz Epelbaum, our grandfather, Bernard Futtermann, his brother-in-law, and Marcel Futtermann, his nephew, aged just seventeen, were murdered by the Nazis. This was the tragic end of a journey that began in 1940 when they and their families fled German-occupied Paris. […]

— Joelle Hansel

In this war there were victims who could be lamented, indeed whose wounds the respective party claimed for itself; and others, as is well known, who were by no means allowed to call for help, since the forces of order themselves would have immediately finished them off. […]

— Ludwig (Lutz) Greve

[…] The higher we got, the more we could look back on the beautiful panorama of the majestic Alps. A little lake we had passed some time ago, looked now like a gorgeous emerald glistening in the sun way below us. When I stopped to catch my breath for a moment, I wondered, ‘Was it really possible?’ […]

— Manya Hartmayer

6 August 2023

We share three stories this week. A poem by Naftali Gurwitz recounts the flight of his great grandfather, also named Naftali. Mike Ebrani tells us of the changing meanings of the Marche de la Mémoire. Elizabeth Bernheim writes about the mixed messages of the Marche: hope, despair, joy, horrors, and what we can make of the annual Marches de la Mémoire.

In a time of darkness, a hero did arise,
Naftali, my great grandfather, brave and wise.
Through the French Italian Alps, he made his flight,
Escaping the clutches of the Nazi blight.

— Naftali Gurwitz

… No, we can really never understand what they went through. We can only be grateful for those who survived. Indeed, we wouldn’t be here otherwise.
And remember those who we lost. Even if we never knew them. Even if the kids of 80 years ago barely knew them.
And grateful for the Marche of our times that allow us to go through the motions. Finding some emotion and comfort from it.

— Mike Ebrani

… Out of the horrors of war we have made new friends from Israel, America, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium … we have walked, and talked, and had long convivial meals. We have celebrated weddings and births, discussed history, books, films…

— Elizabeth Bernheim

30 July 2023

We share three stories: a letter from 1943, a family story and a poem. All three were sent to us in Hebrew, by three Israeli women, descendants of those who fled over the Alps eighty years ago.

Sarit Amitai shares a letter, originally written in French, by her grandfather Elie Birman in May 1943. With his son Yts’hak, he was living in Saint Martin Vésubie, after his wife Mathilde (Miriam), Yts’hak’s mother, had been deported to Auschwitz.

Rafeket Sherman Elisha tells the story of her grandfather, Menachem Marienberg. At the age of sixteen, Menachem’s determination and resourcefulness ensured that his family would quickly cross the formidable mountains, hoping to reach safety on the other side.

Sara Dahlia Weisman writes a poem following her participation in the 2022 Marche with her grandfather, Avraham Schonbrunn, and her three young children, of whom the youngest, Elia, was four years old, the same age as her grandfather when he crossed the mountains with his family in 1943.

23 July 2023

We have two French stories. One, from Sylvie Baran, shares a photo of her at the age of two months, taken as she escapes over the Col de Fenestre with her family. The second, is from Jacques Epelbaum, who tells the story of his father, Icek, and his family, as they avoid the Nazis, going from France into Italy.

Here is a photo of me as a baby with my mom. I’m in the arms of an Italian carabiniere who helped us on the march over the Col du Fenèstre. I was born on July 8, 1943 in Saint Martin Vésubie, in the villa Les Lucioles. We had to flee, like so many others, on September 8, 1943. We were escorted by the Italians and then hid for a year in a village in Italy, before finally arriving in Switzerland.
In this photo I must be two months old, and it was precisely during our flight that it was taken. I fled with my parents and my older sister, who was two at the time. […]

— Sylvie Baran

My father, Icek Epelbaum, his niece Annette Epelbaumas, his sister Ida Sidelski and her husband Paul, crossed the Col de la Cerise on foot through the snow-covered mountains, a three-day, three-night trek. Ida was carrying her 5-month-old daughter Claudine in her arms. The Nazis were waiting for them at Valdieri on the Italian side. Of the 340 Jews who surrendered to the Nazis in the village square, only 12 returned from the camps. […]

— Jacques Epelbaum

16 July 2023

Today, we have two stories. One, from Elaine McKee, recounts her mother’s experiences as she climbed the Col de Fenestre to escape from the Nazis. The second, is from Ivor Snoddy, who found himself involved in the Marche purely by accident, but who was so touched by the story that he has continued to come almost every year on this commemorative walk, and shares and honour the story as much as possible.

My mother, Margit Reich, remembers that they spent 3 days and 2 nights in those mountains [the Col de Fenestre]. They would spread blankets for the children to sleep on at night. Mom and Suri [Margit’s cousin] took it in turns to watch over the children so they wouldn’t be trampled by the cows. It grew chilly at night but there weren’t enough blankets for the adults. While one stood guard the other would warm herself at a fire built by a group of young people. They sang songs such as Arum dem Fayer. I can’t help but wonder how many of the young people around that fire survived the Shoah. […]

— Elaine McKee

[…] It is only by the Grace of God that my own family or I ever had to be involved in or had to witness such an atrocity in our lives so apart from the wonderful friends that I have made by coming here I aim to go on participating in this Marche every year as long as I can because it means so much to me to commemorate not only those poor souls who tried to gain freedom back in the 1940’s by climbing these mountainous passages but also everyone else past & present throughout our world trying to escape tyranny to this very day.

— Ivor Snoddy