The Story of Paulette Szklarz 1938 - 2010
Paulette Szklarz and her twin sister Annette were born in Metz, France in 1938, the youngest of five. Their parents Traitel and Cecile were from Poland. When war broke out the family was relocated to a small village near Poitiers where they lived contently until the first deportations in July 1942. First Traitel was arrested. Soon after, Cecile was arrested along with the twins, aged four. The three sons – Jacques (17), Jean (13) and Nathan (10) – were not arrested because of their French nationality. Jacques managed to secure the release of his young sisters the next day but their mother was not allowed to leave and was deported to Auschwitz.
The five siblings were left alone. They managed with the help of kind Catholic neighbours until June 1943 when Jean, Nathan, Paulette and Annette were ordered to report to a children’s home in Paris “where they would be safe.” Jean (14) was soon sent off to a trade school. The other three were sent to an orphanage outside Paris with an older girl, Denise, acting as monitor to the youngest children.
Just weeks before the liberation of Paris, all the Jewish children’s homes were raided and the children sent to Auschwitz and directly to the gas chambers. Nathan and Annette were among the children sent, as was Denise who was selected to work as she was older. Paulette, however, was in hospital with measles when the homes were raided and hidden in a convent for one year until her brothers Jacques and Jean located her. Jacques had been hiding on a farm and then joined the resistance. Jean had hidden in a Catholic boarding school. Traitel, Cecile, Nathan and Annette were all murdered at Auschwitz.
The story of the destruction of the Szklarz family is told by Paulette’s daughter, Debra Barnes.
Presented by Debra Barnes
Debra Barnes is Next Generations Manager for The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR), representing the growing membership of children and grandchildren of refugees who fled Nazi persecution and Holocaust survivors. Debra organised the AJR’s international forum ‘Connecting Next Generations’ in 2021 with speakers including Elie Wiesel, Michael Rosen and Anne Karpf. She manages the AJR’s My Story testimony project, producing 50 life story books for first generation members.
Debra’s published novel, The Young Survivors, was inspired by her mother, Paulette Szklarz, and she also blogs about her family research. Debra has been the subject of features in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine and the Metro newspaper, and has spoken on BBC 3 Counties Radio, BBC Radio4, LBC and BBC Radio Somerset about being the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.
Debra tells her mother’s story to honour her memory and that of other family members murdered in the Holocaust.