Wurzburg (Germany), Kleinlangheim, Frankfurt, Berlin, Marneffe (Belgium), Le Vigeant (France), St. Cyprien, Gurs, Le Chambon sur Lignon, Le Puy, Switzerland
Jack Lewin was born in 1925 in Wurzburg, Germany. Lewin, along with his parents and brother, lived in a town called Kleinlangheim. Out of the thousands of inhabitants there were only ten Jewish families. Lewin recalls that anti-Semitism was very common. For instance, Lewin remembers in April 1933, his grandfather was arrested solely because he was Jewish. Lewin even experienced anti-Semitism first hand while in school. He remembers getting beaten up daily and being called “dirty Jew” and “Jew swine.” After years of recieving mental and physical abuse at school, Lewin went to Yeshiva in Frankfurt. He stayed there for two years. Unfortunately, when Lewin’s money ran out he had to come home.
In 1938, during the infamous Kristallnacht, Lewin and the rest of his family were arrested. They were taken to the town hall where they stayed for the whole day. After that, Lewin’s brother went to Berlin to stay with an aunt because he was getting beaten up in school and couldn’t handle the abuse, much like Lewin. Lewin followed his brother and stayed in Berlin for half a year. After some time, Lewin’s parents were kicked out of their house because the authorities had found weapons inside and had given them twenty four hours to leave Germany. Lewin’s parents couldn’t come to Berlin so they went to Belgium. Lewin and his brother followed. Lewin and his family stayed in a camp named Marneffe, which was located in an old chateau and consisted of about one hundred and fifty families.
On May 10, 1940 the war broke out in Belgium. In response, Lewin and his family packed whatever they could and marched towards France. Sometime on their march, Lewin and his family were arrested by the Belgian and French army. They were put onto cattle wagons and sent to the Le Vigeant camp, near Vienne, France. The family stayed in the camp for approximately a week or two. From Le Vigeant, Lewin, his father, and his brother were sent to St. Cyprien while his mother was sent to Gurs. Lewin stayed in St. Cyprien for six to eight months. Lewin eventually joined his mother in Gurs, along with his father and brother. The family stayed in Gurs for ten to eleven months. One day, Lewin’s parents were approached and asked if they wanted to send their sons to the village Le Chambon sur Lignon. His parents agreed and Lewin was then taken to the village, where he was placed in a home by the Swiss Red Cross. In August 1942, the French Carlingue tried to arrest Lewin and his brother. They escaped into the woods and were given work at a wood workshop that was handled by the Swiss Red Cross. In 1943, Lewin and his brother were arrested and sent to Le Puy, the capital of the Haute-Loire department. Lewin was eventually let go because he was underage but his brother was sent back to Gurs, where he eventually escaped and fled to Switzerland.
When Lewin arrived back in Le Chambon sur Lignon, he tried to live in the open. But when word came that Germans were going to have another selection, Lewin was sent to live on a farm with the Salvation Army. After a month or two, Lewin couldn’t stand hiding anymore so he went to a lady in the village he knew well. He said that he wanted to leave Le Chambon sur Lignon and join the French forces fighting in Africa. She refused and told him he would instead go to Switzerland. False papers were drawn up for Lewin and in April 1943, Lewin crossed the Swiss border and hid in a monastery until the end of the war. At first, Swiss authorities wanted to send Lewin and his brother back, right into harm’s way, but luckily Lewin was given the proper names to mention and he stayed. On December 7, 1946 Lewin came to the United States. He served the United States Army for two years in the sixth armored cavalry regiment, where he was stationed near Munich. After service, he became a United States citizen in 1953. He lives in New York with his wife and has three daughters.
Date: November 1, 1986
Interviewer: Rabbi Charles H. Rosenzveig
Length: 33 minutes
Format: Video Recording