Morgan, Joseph

Morgan, Joseph

Paris (France)

Mr. Joseph Morgan lived in Paris, France with his mother and father when the war broke out.  His parents emigrated from Poland two years earlier in 1936.  After his father got out of the French army the family lived in an apartment in Paris.

Mr. Morgan’s father had heard from some people that the Jews were going to be rounded up on a particular night.  To be safe he asked Monsieur Cloisier, his employer, if the family could stay in his store.  When they got there, the store was closed and they ended up staying overnight in Monsieur Cloisier’s family apartment. The next day his father went back home and found a broken door with a note saying, “anyone knowing the whereabouts, please report.”   The family stayed at Monsieur Cloisier’s for a few months, living in their attic which smelled of cats.  Mr. Morgan didn’t see his home again for four years.

Janine, the nineteen year old daughter of Monsieur Cloisier, was the person that insured that the Morgans were not taken advantage of.  All through the war Janine brought Mr. Morgan’s father cloth fabric so that he could continue working making suits for Monsieur Cloisier.  She made sure he was paid for his labor.

After a few months, they had to move out; Mr. Morgan’s father always taking his sewing machine.  Mr. Morgan was taken to stay with a family friend, Victor, in a place where there were also seven or eight other children in the apartment.  He contracted either measles or chicken pox while there.  His parents put him in a crib, surrounded by chairs so that the children would not go near him for about ten days.

His parents came to get Mr. Morgan and located to a new hiding place in another attic in a little town outside of Paris.  There was a tall fence and tall bushes that surrounded the yard so no one could see in or out to the street.  His mother left often to “buy cabbage” but she was really going to Paris to try to acquire false papers.  One day, Mr. Morgan while in the yard, barely saw a woman through the fence walking on the street and thinking it was his mother, ran out to her.  The woman immediately took him to the police station as a lost child.  He was then four years old.  His mother came and managed to get him released; difficult because they only spoke Yiddish and very little French.

After this incident, his parents decided it was not safe for the three of them to remain together. They took Mr. Morgan to stay with Madame Laroux, a consierge of a posh building in Paris that housed high ranking Germans.  Mr. Morgan became Joseph Laroux, her supposed nephew from the country.  There was also a thirteen year old boy, by the name of George, living there, who was a member of the underground.  On occasion, George would take Mr. Morgan for a ride on his bike and sometimes Madame Laroux took him to a movie.  He stayed for a few months.  Later he found out that while his parents were in hiding, Madam Laroux had arranged times to take him for walks so that they could secretly watch him from afar.

Eventually Mr. Morgan’s parents came to get him and they moved into a secluded house in a Paris suburb, living with an old woman, the “town witch,” Madame Lahaire.  Madam Lahaire taught him how to read and rewarded him by playing dominoes.  In the front of the house was a field of strawberries which they picked.  From an upstairs small window, the family watched as the Allied bombing began around Paris.  When the Americans landed in Normandy, German officers arrived  to the house one day to take the family away. His father had five hundred francs that he offered the men; they took the money and went away.

The war ended, the American troops came through and there was a big celebration.  With his mother and father they walked back to their Paris apartment.  His father carried the sewing machine and his mother carried one suitcase.  Yet the war doesn’t really end just because politicians say it’s over; it’s hard to stop hiding.

Remnants of his Polish family showed up in Paris.  All of his grandparents, aunts and uncles had died in Treblinka.  One of his mother’s brothers and one of her sisters were left, as well as one cousin who eventually died of tuberculosis 15 years later.

Lots of people helped, a lot of people did not help.  At the age of three, Mr. Morgan was told not to be seen, not to draw attention, to be quiet and not to express himself.  His childhood was taken from him. “Children should be allowed to express themselves.  Parents have to be the rock to depend on.”

When Mr. Morgan came to the United States, he would see other people going to places like picnics and baseball games with their families on Sundays.  For him it was lonely.  For his family it was always a small family holiday meals, no family heirlooms.  He did not understand.  Mr. Morgan cherishes his prized possession of the wooden bowl that his mother used to make gefilte fish in.

Interview information:
Date: October 17, 1998
Interviewer: Rene Lichtman
Length: unidentified
Format: DVD