Sauveur Eskenazi. Interview

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In this interview Sauveur Eskenazi talks about: his youth in Marseille, France ; his family's arrest and their internment in the camps Royallieu near Compiègne and Drancy near Paris ; their deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau ; his life as a forced labourer in Auschwitz, Warsaw and Dachau ; his liberation in Plzeň (Pilsen) by the Soviet army and his repatriation to France ; his post-war family life in Belgium.
2018
Sauveur Eskenazi, interviewed by Dorien Styven (researcher at Kazerne Dossin)
French
Digitally stored at Kazerne Dossin
KD_00528
Collection
1 interview (1 part - 1h27)
Sauveur Eskenazi was born on 1st August 1925 in Marseille, France, as the son of Samson Eskenazi (born on 30 November 1901 in Istanbul, Ottoman Empire, today Turkey) and Esther Veissid (born on 30 December 1902 in Istanbul). Sauveur had a younger sister named Angele alias Esther (born on 11 May 1928 in Marseille) and a younger brother named Roger (born on 30 December 1929 in Marseille). The Eskenazi family was rather liberal, only celebrating important holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, and lived at Rue Nationale 1 in the city centre. Father Samson was a department manager in a large linen store in the commercial district, while mother Esther took care of the children. Sauveur himself went to communal school, excelled in math and loved to play soccer.
After the invasion of Nazi-Germany on 10 May 1940 and the German-French Armistice of 22 June 1940, Marseille became part of the non-occupied French zone under the control of the Vichy regime. Although the Eskenazi family initially continued as before the war, their lives became more and more restrained after the Germans occupied the city in November 1942. The Eskenazis had to register as Jewish and the family wore the yellow star. Samson insisted that his family should obey these decrees although Sauveur and his mother tried to change his mind. When Esther Veissid then insisted that Samson should try to obtain visa to flee to Palestine he declined her request.
At the end of 1942, all Jewish families living in the houses with pare numbers at Rue Nationale were arrested. Although they themselves were spared that night, living in a house with an odd number, the Eskenazi family was arrested during the large raid organized in the old city centre from 22 to 24 January 1943. On the evening of 22 January, Sauveur noticed large groups of French policemen in the neighbourhood. At midnight, while listening to radio London, the police knocked on the door and arrested the whole family. They were detained for one night in a cell at the local prison and were sent by train to the Royallieu camp near Compiègne the next morning. There, the men were separated from the women. Sauveur, his brother and father were only able to communicate with his mother and sister from a distance, separated by a fence. Although Sauveur had the chance to escape from Royallieu he decided not to do it since he would be all alone and he didn’t want to leave his family. After six months, the family was taken to Drancy where they only stayed for a few days. The Eskenazi family was placed in Transport 59 and then deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on 2 September 1943.
Upon arrival, Sauveur was the only family member selected for forced labour. His parents and siblings were sent to the gas chamber immediately, Samson Eskenazi limping due to an old work injury. The number 545856 was tattooed on Sauveur’s arm and he was completely shaven. He passed through quarantine and was then put to work. Sauveur suffered from malnutrition and entered the prisoner infirmary. One of the doctors who was also French ordered him out of the sick barrack before a selection which saved Sauveur’s life. From Auschwitz he was sent to Warsaw where he had to recuperate bricks from destroyed buildings which were sent to Germany to rebuild houses there. From Warsaw, Sauveur was sent to other work camps including Dachau. He was there from 6 August 1944 until 7 January 1945 when he was sent to Flossenburg. Sauveur Eskenazi was liberated at Plzeň (Pilsen) on 6 May 1945 by the Soviet army and was repatriated to Lyon. L’Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants took care of him for a year after which he found a job and married. He and his wife then migrated to Belgium and had a daughter. Sauveur has grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
On 19 December 2018 Sauveur Eskenazi allowed the staff of Kazerne Dossin to interview him. It was the first time he ever told his story to non-family members.
Sauveur Eskenazi, 2018

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