A Presentation sponsored by
the Friends Meeting of
I appreciate your coming tonight. I am here because Denny Hartzell, a member of this Meeting, and I were talking one day about the impact that wars have on individuals and their families. He thought that it might be very appropriate to talk about how my family, the Juliard family, survived the most terrible war of our times. The story is an uplifting one because of the generosity of people who saved the lives of total strangers without expecting any rewards except the satisfaction of being charitable Christians and caring human beings. This can help us to renew our faith in human kind.
We were well-to-do Belgians who escaped to the
I will expand on each one of these themes as I go along my story. I promise you, I will not keep you here all night long but I certainly have enough material to do so.
I guess I will start the story of the Juliard family like any good novel, and the way our 4 year old granddaughter, Katie, started her book about the dream of a princess.
Once upon a time, two Juliard brothers, Andre and Alex,
married two Freedman sisters, Denise and Andre, in a double ceremony, in the
main synagogue and
At about the same time, in 1933
Most Jews in
My first memory of the war took place that first
night. We started off for
We stopped south of
We ended up in a little town in the western part of the Lozere for the summer. We started to grow a garden, and became quickly involved in the local community. My father, being a chemist, was able to assist the village with some of their agriculture problems and even received a certificate of appreciation from the Mayor for having helped the community to turn their plums into prunes. My mother became a celebrity in the area because of what happened during a terrible storm. The bus that she and others were traveling on broke down on a bridge. She was a very wise woman and she knew the dangers of rushing waters. She urged everyone to leave the bus as quickly as possible. Two minutes later, it was washed away but everyone one was safe.
My second memory of the war, and I was only 6, is having to work in that garden and enjoying the fruits and vegetables we raised. Meanwhile, my parents were searching for an even more remote place to settle. They found an abandoned farm, perched on a mountain, 20 minutes by foot, away from a secondary road that linked the two major towns, Bedouez where we were spending the summer and Vialas, the town where a Hugenot temple stood. After a while we trekked the 5 miles from the farm to Vialas to attend the Sunday school and the special festivities like Christmas. On that main road, at the bottom, of our mountain was a little village, Soleyrol, with about 10 or 12 families. It consisted of a school, a café, and a butcher shop.
My cousin and I attended the school in Soleyrol. It was in a one-room house with one teacher who taught over 20 kids in 12 different grades. This was my first experience of having to fit into a new culture. I was a city child living in a farm community. My only memory of that school is the fact that a very nice man came regularly to teach us songs with his guitar.
Our farm, which was called Lafont, was very primitive but was a wonderful haven for all of us. It had four rooms, a storage room at one end, two bedrooms, and a common room at the other end. That room served as the kitchen, dining room, living room and playroom. The central heating system consisted of a fireplace in the common room and animals, the pigs, the rabbits, the goats, and the chicken underneath us. In the back of the kitchen, there was a faucet with running water from a spring above the farm but there were no toilets.
The villagers very kindly advised our parents on what animals to purchase and how to take care of them. They came up to the farm on numerous occasions to give them advice on how to run a farm. But the whole village came up when it was time to kill the pigs, Goebel and Gering, two hated Nazis, whose main food was our garbage. Killing a pig is usually a cooperative enterprise, as so much has to be done after the pig has been killed. It was a big job that consisted of cleaning the intestines to make blood sausages to preparing pickle feet. We had electricity but no refrigerators or freezers, so the meat had to be smoked and stored in the storage room. Reciprocally, my father, the chemist, was able to show the local farmers how to make soap from grease and other things that facilitated their lives when fewer and fewer supplies were arriving from the outside.
Another poignant memory was to come back from the school and seeing only big pots of laundry on the stove. For a child who was very hungry, this was disappointing. Food was not plentiful as sugar, flour, oil, coffee and cigarettes were rationed. We mainly had relied on those rations and whatever we were growing or raising. Chestnuts appeared on the table at all meals. Picking them up in the fall was a full time occupation for the whole family. It was not easy to do that as the chestnuts, which were the main crop of the farm, have prickles that hurt your fingers badly. To preserve the chestnuts for all year around food, they had to dry in a special two-story house where a low fire was kept for a whole month. Before they could be eaten, they had to be boiled for over 2 hours.
My liking for dry fruit dates came from that time because we
had an uncle who had immigrated to the
By the end of 1940,
My father and uncle participated in the movement and took part in a couple acts of sabotage. One day for example, 500 sheep disappeared over night on their way to be slaughtered for Germans. At a later time, my mother often mended clothes for the young maquisars, and we children had to go occasionally to the camps to deliver messages. Our parents were grateful for the help they were receiving and wanted to participate in this movement against the Nazis.
In the spring of 1942, the arrival of my brother created a new challenge to the family, as there were very little supplies for infants. It is hard for us to think of raising babies without disposal diapers, washing machines, colorful toys, monitors, pacifiers, etc. My mother, my sister and I had to go to a larger town, called Aubenas, located in yet another department, for the birth. On the big day, my sister and I were parked with a baby sitter who took us to a Catholic mass that lasted three hours. It was probably in Latin. At the ripe age of 8, I made a decision that the Catholic religion was definitely not for me.
The situation looked bleak enough for our parents to try to
immigrate to Dutch Guinea, since the two brothers were Dutch. There were
talks about sending all four of us kids to
During the long evenings, my father and my uncle, when they were not too exhausted from physical labor, remember that they both had white-collar jobs, taught themselves homeopathic medicine. They read books and stocked up with medication for major sicknesses. This proved to have saved my sister’s live and mine as I fell on a nail in the manure and I surely was not up with my tetanus shots, and my sister caught meningitis by falling down on a flight of stairs and opened her cranium box. Our parents had also notified the local practioner and who knows which of the treatments actually did the trick. Those two events and plus others that he had been able to observe, change my scientist father to a believer that there was something beyond what is considered our reality. One advantage that we had was that we were not exposed to too many other kids so we did not get catch too many diseases. I don’t actually recall visiting a doctor during those four years.
My father and his brother also became very interested in
psychology and started to design a system to distinguish preference in the use
of people’s values. I still remember the discussion on that topic which
bored me at that time but that I find fascinating as an adult. They
discussed this with an English teacher, Madame Maurel,
from Ales, a town in the next department, who came to Vialas
in the summer time. Madame Maurel had two
teenagers, a son, Max, who was 20, with whom I fell in love (don’t forget I was
only 8 by that time) because one day he took me on his motorcycle around
Ales. Fanchon, her 16-year-old daughter and I
became a very good friend. We still call each other sisters and we have
kept in touch for the past 60 years. We have often entertained members of
their family. Actually, Fanchon’s daughter and
granddaughter visited us this February and we always visit them when we go to
Through Max, the two fathers heard that the local police had
an order to arrest them. So one night in November 1942, they went into
hiding, being hosted by a farmer and his wife, who let them use their barn.
That family kept the two fathers, feeding them three times a day, without any
remuneration. The children were told that our fathers had gone to
So my mother, my aunt and my grandmother, with our help, had to keep the farm going. Then one day, in March of 1943, and I still remember that day, a the young lady from the village came running up the mountain, have you ever tried to do that, to tell us that the police was planning to arrest us in the morning. So in a period of three hours, we had to clear the farm, kill our faithful dog so that he would not follow us. This was another traumatic experience for all of us. This mutt dog, Toute, our faithful companion, used to accompany us to school in the morning, went back to the farm for the day, and returned to pick us up at 4. He and the cat had formed an alliance. The cat had two little kittens around the birth of my brother. Her duty was to keep the mouse population at bay so when she was ready to go hunting, she placed her kitten between the paws of the dog. Another favorite place was between my brother‘s head and the back of the drawer in which he was sleeping.
That night, the two mothers, the five kids now, and my grandmother who was 60 by then, had to move to different locations. The few possessions we had went down to the village for storage under a load of hay. My mother, who was carrying my baby brother, almost drowned that night as she slipped on a rock when she was crossing a stream. Max, our friend, grabbed her and saved their lives.
When I see my granddaughters being fussy about food, I can’t stop thinking of the first morning in our temporary quarters with a wonderful family who gave us their backroom and took care of us for over 3 months. A bowl of water with garlic and hard piece of bread was offered to us. I remembered my mother’s look when I told her that I did not like that. She ordered me to eat it, as there might not be anything more to eat for the rest of the day. The four of us stayed in a one room, not being able to leave the room except late at night. This is when I read the Bible from cover to cover several times. We had to keep very quiet at all times so that neighbors would not know that we were there. This family had two daughters whom we still visit when we go to Vialas. My mother, who was a wonderful lady, helped those two girls who were adolescent at that time and were going through a difficult period. All of the young men were either in the war or in the resistance so women had to do all of the work.
Three months later, the four of us were moved to Le Saleson, a two family village on the other side of the
mountain, probably a little more isolated, allowing the three of us to go
outside occasionally. A very warm and loving mother and a daughter took
us in. Mame had lost her husband during
the First World War. Her daughter, Tata whose
husband was a prisoner of war in
I was proclaimed to be a cousin from the city, adopted the name of France Milard, and started to go to school in a village located on the opposite mountain. That required walking down the mountain, crossing a river on rocks and climbing back to the other side. That trip took over an hour and I was only 9 by that time. I always had to stand on a rock half way down or up the mountain and scream to let them Tata know, as my mother was not supposed to leave the back room, that I had crossed the river safely. The only shoes available to us were wooden shoes. Have you ever tried to climb rocks with those?
A little later, my aunt and cousin came to live in our village. They had been hiding on the second floor in a schoolhouse right above the only classroom. That meant no walking whatsoever while the school was in session so to not raise any suspicion from the kids. My aunt’s younger son, who was 4 by that time, had be placed with a family not too far from the school house and my aunt saw him only at night while asleep for more than a year. My grandmother went to stay with Mme Maurel in Ales and became Aunt Marie.
Our lives became routine, although one day, again a person from the neighborhood village came running down to tell us that there were a large number of German trucks stopped on the main road. In this village the main road was a half hour walk in a narrow path that barely could take more than one person at the time. But everyone in the village left and slept in the woods on the other side of the mountain where it would have taken the Germans an hour to walk down. Everyone was afraid of retaliation for the many acts of sabotages that were taking place in the region. The German kept their floodlights on all night and were probably more scared then we were since they did not know the region.
Tata, my host, was a Quaker and used to take me to her Friends meeting. The meetings were held in people’s home and I remembered being very impressed by their simplicity and their silence, a great improvement from my earlier experience in the Catholic Church. I am sure that Tata was influenced by her faith in deciding to take on a family of 4 in an already poor household. At least 6 different families, who did not even know of our existence before, shared their meager food supply with us for over two years, endangering their lives as well.
In January of 1944, US and British
troops landed in
In November of that year, and with great sadness, the five
of us my father, mother, sister and brother took off for
I don’t know if any one of you has ever been covered by
honey. While I was sitting on the train, in the middle of the night, I
suddenly felt something sticky. One of the containers with honey had
opened above me, and proceeded to leak all over me. With little water on
the train, it took me a while to get cleaned and a long time to ever want to
touch honey again. One night, we had to sleep on tables in the
Going to school in
The worst of our time in
But there are some happy memories. The American troops
The calm reigned again but my parents knew very well that
the future of their children was not in
Our parents could speak English but my knowledge of the
language was very rudimentary. So I had to struggle not only to master
the language but also to adapt myself to a third culture. Sixteen years
old are usually not too open to newcomers so my year and a half in high school
was what I could describe miserable. On the other hand, members of Merion
Meeting made us feel very welcome. My cousin and I made the great
decision of choosing Swarthmore, fortunately Swarthmore
had chosen us, as we continue to learn more about Quakerism and it wonderful
approach to life. I had a hard time academically as my English was
not yet up to par, like having to rewrite my first English 101 essay three
times, but I succeeded in graduating. I sought to work for the American
Friends Service after graduation because I wanted to be of help to
others. I worked with them for three years, two of them here as the
assistant to the directors of Davis House, the
Fifty years later when we visited Vialas again, as we had done many times since 1944, we were struck by how people still remembered in great details how their community had mobilized significant patriotic acts of defiance to the invaders and how they had helped the innocents who had been impacted by the war.
On October 18 of this year, all members of my sister’s
family and all of our family, including three of our granddaughters, will be
going back to Vialas to dedicate a granite bench in
honor of our parents. We, together with the other 4 siblings of the original
two brothers and two sisters who got married in 1933, are donating this bench
to the city’s newest park as a gesture of thankfulness and gratitude to the
people of the region who literally saved our lives while endangering
theirs. There are probably not enough words to count our blessings for
having parents who had the wisdom and foresight. We can only admire their
tenacity and courage. It would not have been possible without the love
and generosity offered to us by the people of the
I will return to my first theme, I have gone through a war,
I know how horrible it is, but I also know that people can be wonderful.
Thank you for listening to what I called a beautiful story of faith and courage
demonstrated by dedicated human beings. I would be amiss if I did not
thank my husband, the best editor and supporter in town, our two sons Andre and
Charles for helping me to put this presentation together, and our