Guy Francès. Interview

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In this interview Guy Elie Francès talks about: the migration of the Frances family from Greece to Belgium via the Netherlands ; his childhood in Brussels ; daily life at the family home in the Jewish neighbourhood of Saint-Gilles, Brussels ; his family’s escape during the anti-Jewish raid on Brussels in the night of 3 on 4 September 1942 ; hiding in Liège ; family life after the Liberation.
2019
Mechelen
Elie Francès. Interview
Guy alias Elie Francès, interviewed by Dorien Styven (archivist at Kazerne Dossin)
French
Digitally stored at Kazerne Dossin
KD_00549
Collection
1 interview (2 parts - 1 hour 22 minutes) and 1 digitised image (1 photo)
Elie Francès was born on 13 November 1928 in Thessaloniki, Greece, as the son of Moïse alias Maurice Francès (born on 17 November 1903 in Thessaloniki, Greece) and Buena Francès (born in 1902 in Thessaloniki, Greece). Shortly after his birth, Elie, his parents and their complete family including Elie’s paternal grandparents, his uncles and aunt migrated from Greece to Amsterdam in the Netherlands where Elie’s grandfather, a renowned rabbi specialized in Sephardic rituals, had been offered a position. Since Elie’s father Moïse spoke better French than Dutch and since he wanted to establish his own business working as a salesman, the Francès-Francès family moved from the Netherlands to Belgium in 1930. Elie’s sister Liavre alias Mathilde was born in Etterbeek, Brussels, on 25 May 1932.
Elie had a happy childhood. He went to a community school where he befriended his two Jewish classmates Gaston and Max. Together they experienced anti-Semitism at several occasions. While mother Buena took care of the children, father Moïse Francès travelled a lot by train as a salesman. Because of his profession, he found a home for his family close to the Brussels South train station at 41 Rue d’Angleterre in Saint-Gilles. The family thus lived in the middle of the Jewish neighbourhood and had a lot of Jewish acquaintances. However, Elie’s parents were not very religious although Moïse was the son of a rabbi. Elie and his father visited the Sephardic synagogue in the Rue Joseph Dupont in Brussels at a weekly basis.
The Francès-Francès family still lived in Saint-Gilles when Nazi-Germany invaded Belgium on 10 May 1940. Being of Greek descent, Elie, his parents and sister were left alone during the raid organised in the Jewish neighbourhood of Brussels in the night of 3 on 4 September 1942. Afterwards, Moïse and Buena started looking for a hiding place. When travelling by train, Moïse by chance met mister Schnitzler from Liège. He arranged a hiding place for Elie and Moïse in his own home at Rue de Serbie in Liège, while Buena and Liavre were housed by mister Schnitzler’s mother at Place Sainte-Véronique in Liège. Elie was able to go outside, run errands and go to school thanks to the headmaster who was an acquaintance of mister Schnitzer. Thus, Elie’s life remained quite normal in 1942-1944 although mister Schnitzler changed his name to Guy since Elie sounded too Jewish.
After the liberation in 1944 the Francès family returned to Brussels, before the outbreak of the Battle of the Bulge. Elie, his parents and sister lived for some time in a hotel, while looking for a new house since their apartment had been ransacked and confiscated by the Nazis. Elie, who was post-war known as Guy to everyone, built a career for himself. In 1952 he started to work as an accountant for Sabena, Société Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne, the national Belgian airline, in Leopoldville, then the Belgian Congo. In 1953 he married Rachel Grunbaum, who had lost her father and siblings during the war. The couple returned to Belgium in 1957. Rachel Grunbaum passed away on 20 November 2000.
On 27 March 2019 Guy alias Elie Francès kindly permitted the staff of Kazerne Dossin to interview him.
Guy Elie Francès, 2019

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