Survivor/Hidden, False Papers
Zeff was born in Suwalki, Poland. Originally from Poland, his family lived in Paris until 1936, when they moved to Issoudun, a small town in central France. The town of about 14,000 inhabitants had five Jewish families. There Zeff’s father was employed as a leather bootmaker in a leather goods manufacturing company. One sister was born in 1941, another shortly after D-Day in July 1944. Zeff recalls that he and his family experienced virtually no anti-Semitism in their predominantly Catholic town.
Following Germany’s occupation of France, the Zeffs were warned by neighbors of the impending roundup of Jews. The entire family went into hiding in separate locations. Zeff was hidden by several people and was not told where the rest of his family was in order to avoid betrayal under duress. Upon receiving false documents from the French underground, the Zeffs reunited for a period of time. On occasion Zeff was forced to hide in a well to avoid detection by the Germans. Zeff explains that this and other experiences while he was still a preteen left impressions on him that persist today.
Following the liberation of France, the family returned to Issoudun and Zeff’s father resumed his work. The family immigrated to the United States in 1953. Zeff served in the U.S. Army, finished his education, and built a life. He notes that all of his relatives who had remained in Poland, i.e., grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins on both sides of his family, died during the Holocaust. There are no survivors.
Zeff mentions that he has returned to France several times to visit the people, or their descendants, who helped his family. He believes that they were motivated to help, despite the inherent dangers, because they felt it was the right thing to do. No monetary rewards were involved.
Date: April 8, 1997
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Length: 1 hour, 34 minutes
Format: Video recording