Sephiha-Eskenazi family. Collection

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Testimony of Germaine Sephiha on the role played by the Turkish government and the Turkish consul regarding the persecution of the Jews in Belgium, and on the exchange of Turkish detainees at Ravensbrück for German prisoners of war ; two booklets containing wartime and postwar song lyrics and poems related to the Second World War and life in concentration camps ; two postwar Turkish passports of Esther Eskenazi ; the marriage booklet of Nessim David Sephiha and Esther Eskenazi, signed in Levallois-Perret in 1914 ; two postwar political prisoner IDs of Esther Eskenazi ; sheet music of the song "Allez-vous en !..." ; wartime letters sent by Georges Haim, friend of the Sephiha family to mister De Bodt at the Turkish consulate in Brussels, requesting an intervention at the Dossin barracks on behalf of the Sephiha family ; wartime and postwar administrative documents of the Sephiha family.
1914-1949
Sephiha-Eskenazi family
French, Turkish
Latin
Digitised photocopies stored at Kazerne Dossin
Sephiha-Eskenazi family, Private collection
KD_00038
collection
111 digitised images
Esther Eskenazi was born in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1891. In 1910, she migrated to Belgium, where she met Nessim David Sephiha, born in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1890, at the world’s fair housed in Brussels that same year. Nessim David Sephiha had migrated from Turkey to Brussels to avoid military service. The couple married in Levallois-Perret, France, in July 1914 and formed a Judeo-Spanish family of Turkish origins. Nessim David Sephiha and Esther Eskenazi had six children whom survived childhood : Adèle (1916), Elise (1918), Germaine (1919), Albert (1921), Haim Vidal (1923) and Isaac (1925). Nessim David Sephiha made a living as a carpet restorer and the family sold Oriental rugs. In 1941, the middle son, Haim Vidal Sephiha, was expelled from university for being Jewish. However, thanks to their Turkish nationality, the Sephiha family – except for son Haim Vidal who had gained Belgian nationality when turning 15 in 1938 – was exempted from anti-Jewish measures such as wearing the yellow star. Father Nessim David Sephiha remained active in the Sephardic community in Brussels and organized services in the family apartment at Rue Théodore Verhaegen, Saint-Gilles.
Walking home from class on 1 March 1943, Haim Vidal Sephiha, as a Jew of Belgian nationality, was arrested for not wearing the yellow star. He was brought to the Dossin barracks where his name was added to the list of Belgian deportees, but only after his case was studied as a “Sonderfall”, since he had been born as a Turkish national. Haim Vidal Sephiha was deported via transport XXII B in September 1943 and survived forced labor in the mines of Fürstengrube, a Kommando of Auschwitz. Haim Vidal was later “evacuated” to Dora and Bergen-Belsen, where he was liberated on 15 April 1945.
Their Turkish nationality protected the rest of the Sephiha family until October 1943, when Nessim David Sephiha, his wife Esther Eskenazi, their daughters Adèle and Germaine Sephiha, their son Isaac (Jacques) Sephiha and the sister of Nessim David Sephiha, Jeanne Sephiha, were arrested during a raid. All were taken to the Dossin barracks. Because of their Turkish nationality, on 13 December 1943, the men were sent to Buchenwald and the women to Ravensbrück via a special transport from the Dossin barracks. In Buchenwald, Isaac (Jacques) Sephiha became involved in the communist underground. In March 1945, he and his father were “evacuated” to Dachau, where they were diagnosed with typhus. David Nessim Sephiha passed away the day after the liberation of the camp. Isaac (Jacques) Sephiha was repatriated to Belgium.
Esther Eskenazi and her daughters Germaine and Adele also survived. The nazis had sent them to Istanbul in exchange for captured Germans. Thanks to the Red Cross, Esther, Germaine and Adèle were moved from Turkey to Brussels nine months after the end of the war. Esther Eskenazi passed away in Brussels in 1950. Isaac (Jacques) migrated to Israel, while Haim Vidal started a family and became professor Judeo-Espagnol at the Sorbonne University, Paris. He still lives in France, his sister Germaine Sephiha lives in Belgium.
Germaine Sephiha, 2014

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