Although Albert, 89, and Esther, 80, resided in different areas of France during WWII, it proved to be a pivotal era in both of their lives. Being of Jewish decent, they were forced to flee their homes in order to survive. Since Albert is nearly ten years older than Esther, his memories of the war are much more vivid. Although Esther’s memories are not as lucid as her husband’s, she still recounts major events and was given letters that her biological mother sent her father during the war. Albert and Esther had never visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and decided that this was the one thing they would like to experience together before they were no longer able to travel.
July 16, 1942 is a day that Albert will never forget, as it was the last day he would see his mother. The Nazi regime stormed his village, taking the women and children to concentration camps. Albert was sent to check on the rest of the family, and when he returned later that afternoon he learned that his mother had been taken by the Nazis. He was devastated, and to this day blames himself for her capture. Albert’s father was in America during the entire war after he left for the World Fair and wasn’t allowed to return home after it ended. After the capture of his mother, Albert bounced around in “Free France” for some time, and then moved to America to be with his father in 1946. Albert joined the US Army in 1952 during the Korean War. He served for two years at Fort Dix in New Jersey as a company.
Esther and her siblings were hidden in Normandy during the height of the Nazi invasion with volunteers who were helping Jewish families escape. Her mother worked in Paris and must have been reported by someone, because she was captured and sent to Auschwitz. Esther never saw her mother again, and through the letters that her step-mother kept she learned that her mother never left Auschwitz alive.
Albert and Esther were first introduced to one another in the early 1960s by a cousin while attending a bat mitzvah in Paris. Albert had already moved to the US and, therefore, they only spent two weeks with each other before he returned home. Esther came to visit a few months later and never returned to Paris. The two recently celebrated their 53rd wedding anniversary and still are just enamored with one another as the day they met.
Wish of a Lifetime sent Albert, Esther, their daughter (Anne) and their son-in-law (David) to the Holocaust Museum Washington DC. They were also accompanied by their granddaughter Jessica, who has heard a lot of their history over the years. Albert and Esther felt that it was a difficult experience to be reminded of all the tragedy that occurred, but that it was an important experience for them to have. When asked if they felt like the trip was a healing experience for the both of them, Esther stated, “Somewhat yes, but we also want to remember the memories—they are always going to be there.”
Special thanks to the Holocaust Museum for putting together a very intimate tour for the family.
Photography Credits: Jimell Greene