The history of the Epelbaum family

The complete version of this text by Joëlle Hansel appeared in French under the title “Una targa per ricordare otto vittime del nazifascismo” (“A plaque to commemorate eight victims of Nazi-fascism”) in Rendiconti Cuneo 2019, edited by S. Chiavero, D. Damiano, R. Martelli, Cuneo, Editions Nerosubianco, 2019, pp. 198 to 201.

On April 26, 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. Thus came to a tragic end the journey that had begun in 1940, when they and their families fled German-occupied Paris.

Léa, our grandmother, and Lucien, our father, had told us about the stages of this journey. First they had left Paris for Nice, where they lived in relative peace until the Germans took over the town. They then crossed the Alps to take refuge in a village in northern Italy. Their hiding place had been discovered because of a young Italian women whom Marcel had befriended and who had denounced them to the Germans. When our grandfather was arrested, our father was saved, in extremis, because he was only 14. While they spared the women, the murderers put all men over 16 to the sword.

Our grandmother’s and father’s stories left many grey areas. When did they leave Nice for Saint-Martin Vésubie? Why had they never mentioned their stay in this village, where the Jews had enjoyed a few months of tranquillity, and where children and teenagers of our father’s age had had such a good time? So where had they crossed the Alps?

After our grandmother died in 1984, we found in her papers our grandfather’s death certificate, issued by the Cuneo town hall after his execution. His address in Saint-Martin Vésubie was included. In 2016, Danielle Baudot Laksine, who did such important work on the Righteous of Saint-Martin Vésubie, sent us the list of customers of the village grocer on which appear the names of Bernard, Sonia and Marcel Futtermann.

So our family did live in Saint-Martin Vésubie. It had followed the same route as the hundreds of Jews who fled Saint-Martin on September 9, 1943, as the Italian army retreated before the Germans.

In September 2019, my siblings and I travelled to Saint-Martin Vésubie where we met David Bernheim. On the other side of the Alps, our Italian friends led us in our family’s footsteps: the pass over which they crossed to the Italian side and were welcomed by Italian partisans; the hamlet of Cornaletto where they hid; the village of Demonte where Marcel was denounced; the Cuneo prison where Marcel, his father and our grandfather were locked up after their arrest on April 12, 1945. Finally, the Valdieri viaduct, where they were murdered along with three other Jews – Hugo Korbel, Siegfried Schwartz and Georges Joseph – and two Italian partisans.

Our journey ended with the unveiling of the plaque bearing their names in Cuneo on September 19, 2019, at a ceremony attended by the town’s civil and military authorities. Speakers included Francesco Revelli di Peveragno, former vice-president of the province of Cuneo.

Thanks to Léa, our grandmother, and Lucien, our father, now deceased, and thanks to Julie, our mother, the memory of our grandfather will remain forever engraved in our hearts.

We, the five siblings, now live in Israel with our mother. We participate in the life of the Jewish state that our grandfather, the five Jews who died with him, and the millions of Jews exterminated by the Nazis never had the chance to create.

Our parents had 5 children: Daniel Moshe Herz, who bears our grandfather’s Hebrew name, Muriel, Liliane, Alain and myself.

They have 17 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. We will pass on the memory of our grandfather to them, and they in turn will pass it on to future generations, so that he will never be forgotten.

לזכר סבנו משה הרץ אפלבאום
Bernard and Marcel Futermann
Georges Joseph, Hugo Korbel, Siegfried Schwartz
תהא נשמתם צרורה בצרור החיים.

Joelle Hansel