Icek Epelbaum and his escapes from the Nazis

Icek Epelbaum and Leon in Nice 1943

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 walk. 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. By luck or/and intelligence, the members of the family didn’t turn up for roll call. According to my Aunt Ida, when the family arrived at the house they had been allocated, Paul saw that a window overlooking the mountain was protected by iron bars and hurried to unseal them. According to Annette’s account, it was another refugee, Mr Goldenberg, who came up with the idea. When the Germans arrived, the Epelbaum family fled through the window and the Goldenbergs through the front door. The Germans immediately fired on them. The husband was killed and his wife spared. A German is said to have told her, “Your husband’s death is enough”. After the Germans left, the Epelbaums were taken in by local residents.

In January 1944, a second round-up took place, but again they escaped the Germans. Then, thanks to the help of Father Marie-Benoît, a French Capuchin theology professor in Rome, they were able to reach the Italian capital. At the end of August 1968, on a stopover in Rome from Israel, my father took my mother and me to Palestro, where he lived with Annette and the Sidelskys until Rome was liberated. During that visit, my father told me a memory from Rome: his wallet had been stolen on a bus by a pickpocket. The next day, he put sheets of newspaper in a tobacco pouch in the inside pocket of his jacket and got on the same bus, determined to catch the thief. On arrival, the tobacco pouch was gone from his jacket and he hadn’t felt a thing!

Icek’s Italian certificate of identity

Members of my family and their tree

  • My father Icek Epelbaum (1895 or 1901-1988) fled with his niece, Annette/Hene Epelbaumas (1924-2009), her sister Chaja/Ida Epelbaumas (1907-2011) and her husband Pinhas/Paul Sidelski (1903-1969). Their daughter, my cousin Claudine, was born in May 1943 in Saint Martin Vésubie. After the march, the family returned to their lives.
  • The Sidelskis found their three other children hidden in Belâbre (Indre), Jacqueline (1930), René (1934) and Monique (1938-).
  • I was born in 1950 of my father’s second marriage to my mother Georgette Gelbvaks-Epelbaumas (1914-1983), widow of my father’s brother, Gersz/Henri Epelbaumas (1905-1943), who died in deportation.
  • My father’s first wife, Ita Wegsztejn (1911-1943) and their seven children, Jacqueline (1931-1943), Suzanne (1932-1943), Jacques (1934-1943), Renée and Andrée (1935-1943), Henri (1937-1943) and Arlette (1939-1943) were rounded up at the Vel d’Hiv and were deported.
  • My wife, Anne Boutervasser-Epelbaum (1948-) gave birth to our only son Stéphane (1979-) who has three sons of his own, Solal (2008-), Maël (2010-) and Camille (2012-).
  • Annette married Jeko German (1922-1962) and gave birth to Evelyne (1949-) and Alain (1951-), who in turn gave birth to Laurent (1970-) and Maya (1978-) respectively; who continue the family with Théa (2012-)and Simon (2014-) and Lia (2011-) and Ouriel (2014-).
  • Claudine married Pierre Hoenigsberg (1934-2018). They adopted Laura (1975-), who gave birth to India (2000-).

Jacques Epelbaum

Leave a Comment