Feldman, Giselle

Feldman, Giselle

Hidden Child
Paris (France), Paulhaguet

Feldman was born in Paris, France, to non-observant Jewish parents. Her father was a barber, her mother a dressmaker. She lived in Paris with her parents and her brother when, in 1939, the German army started the attack on France. Because Paris became the main target of German air raids and bombings, the French government decided to evacuate all children from the city and sent them to refuge in the countryside. Feldman remembers that she was extremely frightened to be without her family for the first time in her life. She was sent to a summer camp in the eastern part of France, close to the German border, whereas her brother was evacuated to a village in Normandy.

Some time later the French army surrendered to Nazi Germany and the country was divided into two parts – the north which was occupied by Germany; and the free south, called “Vichy France,” which was led by a puppet government controlled by Germany. At this time Feldman’s father was recuperating from a disease in a little village in central France which was located in the free part of the country. This village was called Paulhaguet. Immediately after the German takeover of Paris, Feldman’s mother gathered her children and escaped with them to Paulhaguet. Feldman states that they had heard rumors about Jews being arrested and sent to concentration camps. In Paulhaguet the Feldmans were able to stay for over one year with the help of the village’s physician, Dr. Boulagnon. After the war Feldman learned that Dr. Boulagnon also helped many wounded French underground fighters. Some top French politicians found refuge in Paulhaguet. Feldman states that all the people of this particular town helped her family to hide from the Nazis. She tells of an incident when the Feldmans had to turn in their passports to receive a new one marked with a “J” for “Jew.” The lady who worked at this office returned also their old passports so that the Feldmans would be able to identify themselves without the Jewish designation.

One day Dr. Boulagnon and the chief of the police of the village informed the Feldmans that the Nazis were about to look for Jews in this area. Feldman’s parents decided to hide in the woods. Dr. Boulagnon arranged for Feldman and her brother to stay in a childrens’ hospital in the nearby mountains. This hospital was located in an old castle by the name of “Lafayette.” Since Feldman had problems breathing, none of the employees in the hospital were suspicious. She was separated from her brother who stayed in the boys hospital camp a few miles away from the castle. Feldman had to pretend to be Christian, went to church, sang in the choir and lived like a typical Catholic girl. She told nobody that she was Jewish. There was barely enough food for the children in this hospital because of the war. In the meantime Feldman’s parents hid in small villages in the mountains and worked for local farmers in return for food. With the help of the local population they were able to escape the Nazis.

In 1944 France was liberated by the Allies and Feldman was reunited with her brother and her parents. The family started to look for their relatives only to find out that seven of them had disappeared during the Holocaust. In 1948 the Feldmans immigrated to the United States.

Interview Information:

Date: August 28, 2002
Interviewer: Judy Michaels
Format: Video recording