Prove that you are alive

Posted: April 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: this is personal | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tuesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, and my sister visited the Yad Vashem site to go through the names of our relatives who died during the war. Yad Vashem’s database of the Holocaust’s victims has over 3 million names in it – about half the total number of Jews murdered by the Nazis.

Surprisingly enough, when she typed the name of my grandfather, Henry Fogelman, he was listed among the French Jews who were murdered in Auschwitz. The full entry goes:

Henri Fogelman was born in Radom in 1923. During the war he was deported with Transport 48 from Drancy to Auschwitz on 13/02/1943. Henri perished in the Shoah. This information is based on a list of deportations from France found in the Le Memorial de la deportation des juifs de France, Beate et Serge Klarsfeld, Paris 1978.

Reading this still gives me the chills.

All the details in the Yad Vashem database are accurate, except one: my grandfather didn’t make it to the death camp – he jumped from the train somewhere along the way. In fact, he was deported again to Auschwitz, and again he managed to escape. Later on, he came to Israel to fight in the 48′ war, where he met my grandmother. The marriage didn’t work out, and after a few years Henry went back to live in Argenteuil, a northwestern suburb of Paris. He died in 2000. Here is a picture of him with my grandmother in one of his visits to Israel.


As it turned out, my mother contacted Yad Vashem sometime ago and pointed out the mistake. She was asked to present proof that her father did in fact escape from transport 48.

“I am the proof,” said my mother.

Apparently, that wasn’t enough, and she gave up on the whole thing.

I don’t know what my grandfather would have thought about his name appearing among the other family members who were murdered in Auschwitz. As for me, I kind of prefer the entry to stay as it is. The Holocaust had some sort of a “happy ending” for us: my grandfather survived, and so did his older brother Albert, who passed away in 2003. But the truth is, the Holocaust had no happy endings, and I wonder what is left for a person who lost so many members of his family, jumped from two trains heading to Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding in the snow and in the woods. What did he leave behind him when he returned from Poland to France? and to what extent did he really survive?


A screenshot of Henry Fogelman's Yad Vashem entry (click to see in full size)

One Comment on “Prove that you are alive”

  1. 1 haya said at 5:57 am on April 25th, 2009:

    When he was caught he was 20 years old, tall, blue eyes, handsome and charming. He passed the war with the help of many girls and women who fell in love with him. He changed identities and passed through several countries occupied by the germans. The end of the war found him in the soviet part of Vienna where he decided to destroy his papers and pass to the American quarter. He was caught and suspected to be a spy. They transfered him to the Swiss police who sent him to jail to wait for identification. Finally after a few months, his brother arrived from France and testified that he was his family. Released, he joined the Foreign Legion or the French army (this part is a bit obscure). A short while afterwards he deserted and got under cover to Israel in an illigal ammunition boat, just to find out that he detested life in Israel. Comming back to France he was put in prison for the last desertion. When he was released again he started to work as a heavy trucks driver and spent many evenings in cafes and bars getting drunk. A marriage with a nun saved him and helped him to settle down. I think all the rest of his life was affected by those 10 years of lost identity.