A Belgian hidden child describes the Gestapo's search for her
Rachel G. was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1934, and enjoyed a happy childhood prior to the German invasion. Forced to wear the yellow star, she rebelled against it when other children would not play with her, despite her mother's warnings that it was the law. An official notification that she could no longer attend school prompted her parents to seek a hiding place for her. Their landlady's nephew was a priest who assisted in placing Rachel in a convent. Rachel endured a painful parting from her parents to go "with strangers." The last time she saw her father was when he visited the convent on her birthday, bringing her gifts she vividly describes.
Often traveling at night, Rachel moved frequently from convent to convent, changing her name each time, always accompanied by clergy. Kind priests and nuns gave her religious instruction, so she would not be discovered. One incident occurred when she was living with six nuns at a seminary in Louvain.
"One day the Gestapo came in and the Carmelite - they were Carmelite nuns, and as you know the men cannot go there. It's one of their rules; they cannot see men. They knocked on the door and we want her - with the guns and all - we want that Jewish child. We know you have a Jewish child there. And the nuns said absolutely not. We don't have anybody. And they broke the door. And what I will never forget is that the six nuns, they had a big basket of laundry that they carried three on the side, because there was a lot of laundry for all of these priests. And they pushed me in that laundry to hide me and they put all the linen on top. That happened like in one second. And that's how I was saved."
Eventually Rachel was placed with a foster family in Virton, where she felt cherished and loved. She insisted on rising early to attend Mass, since the church ritual gave her a sense of belonging and safety. Ten months after the war ended, her mother returned from Auschwitz in such emaciated condition that Rachel did not recognize her. Rachel harbored resentment that her parents had abandoned her to strangers, a feeling she reconciled when she later understood that had they not hidden her, she would have doomed herself and her mother to death in the gas chambers.
After a difficult recuperation, her mother married a survivor. Rachel notes the miracle of her brother's birth a few years later, "because the two of them with the number and coming from hell and they had this beautiful boy. It's, after that I think I believe in God when I think about my brother."
Rachel reflects upon humanity - the wonderful people who sheltered her and those that tried to kill her - both being the same species. She discusses her continuing relationship with her foster family and others who helped her. She hopes to live her life as a good human being, helping others, regardless of their ethnic, racial, or religious background.
Rachel G. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-139). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.The length of the complete testimony is 42 minutes. A catalog record is available for this testimony in Orbis, the Yale University Library online public access catalog.Please see the Catalog and research guide section of this site for more information.