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Helene Messing

Tennessee Holocaust Commission -

Knoxville, Tennessee
Born: 1934 Paris, France
Hidden Child : France

“We stayed at that farm until 1942,“ Helene Messing recalls. “Most of us were together. The younger siblings were at a home for infants and my older brother was at a teen shelter. We could visit twice a year, which was nice. “They never talked about the fact that they were Jewish.“ No one could know.“

Helene was five years old when she and her five brothers and sisters boarded a train to a secret destination. Their parents stayed in Paris, hoping the French government's relocation plan would keep their children safe. When Helene was eight, her parents, who missed the children desperately, sent for them to return to Paris. Soon after, on his way home from work, her father was arrested for being out past curfew. He died at Auschwitz concentration camp. Helene recalls, “After losing the children for so long, then learning my father had been killed, my mother had a nervous breakdown. She was taken to a psychiatric hospital. Our mother didn't recognize us anymore, she couldn't care for us; really, we were on our own. The younger ones don't even remember her.“

The children returned to the French countryside and remained hidden until 1946. To avoid suspicion, they attended church every Sunday. Helene wrote to relatives asking for money to buy a Catholic rosary and communion book. She says, “My uncle read that and right away contacted a Jewish agency. They arranged for us to move to a shelter run by Orthodox Jews.“ Helene met her future husband at a Jewish home for teens; “He spoke a little German, I spoke a little Yiddish, and we made it work.“