While walking around the fascinating exhibits in Mémorial de Caen I couldn’t help but be inspired by individuals such as Berthe Auroy who did not succumb to Nazi propaganda during the German occupation in France. In her diary she explains how she disliked the obligation for Jewish citizens to wear a yellow star. This retired primary school teacher kept a diary from 1940 until the end of the war for her American friend, Lois. She wrote in exercise books, noting down her impressions and daily observations. She even stuck in leaflets and notices printed in newspapers! She wrote things about the fate of the Jews and the gestures of support extended to them by some of the Parisian population.
This was even more remarkable in the East where the ghettos were constructed as part of the final solution. In total, the Nazis opened 356 ghettos in Poland, the Baltic States, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Hungary between 1939 and 1945. They were enclosed sites under surveillance. The smallest ghetto housed 3,000 Jews, while the largest were based in Lodz (160,000 Jews) and Warsaw (400,000 Jews). They were a transit zone. The first deportations began in July 1942 to the death camps, announced as “population transfers Eastwards”. The ghettos were “liquidated” in May 1943 and all their inhabitants were deported and exterminated.
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