In Hiding - Belgium

It must have been very hard because she had no food. I don’t think she had much money & no food & no place to hide so apparently sometimes we slept in ditches or hid in ditches, sometimes under or behind hedges. We slept sometimes in shops if somebody would give us a space under a counter or something. Apparently I was put to sleep in drawers in boxes. Apparently I was a very nice baby & smiled a lot so when she went & begged, which was what she had to do for food & shelter, they saw a smiley baby & agreed luckily. She said in the account that I was very, very frightened & that she used to put her hands over my eyes & over my ears, so that I was less aware of the bombing, which probably explains why I cannot go to a film with war in. I cannot read any books about war. I cannot have anything to do with anything about war because I am still obviously traumatised by it.

So, full of pus where the fleas have bitten, full of lice here [SM points at her head,], lice here [SM points at her eye], and if they had anywhere else, lice there [SM points at her armpits] and we tried to entellus them. And we were three people for eighteen children. We washed the floor, we washed the bed linen – they were bed wetting – we had to make them up during the night so they don’t bed wet, but still, we washed the linen. And the food was brought out from the orphanage in big containers and I went to fetch it. That must have weighed twenty kilos. And then I served the food to the children. I never in my life worked as hard as that, 18 hours and during the night. And then a new lot of children comes and starts again, and a new. We were hundred when the home in Linkebeek was opened. That was Ressebeek, and then we went to Linkebeek. And I stayed in Linkebeek from ’42 till ’44.

A mad day. I went hysteric, we were all in the street, you can imagine. The first soldier I saw, I ran to kiss him & he had a metal helmet – and it cut me here, I bled like a lunatic. I said “We are free”, I told my son “We are free”, we are going to live normal again & all that. It was fantastic – and then of course my husband was called, where he was working with the underground, they gave him a medal, and he got – I’ll show you the book there. Then I went to see the house, where everything was stolen. They took everything, everything, everything, the only thing I found through a neighbour is a painting. We had just got married, we had furniture, jewellery, everything. It was very sad.

"Every night, the dogs, with the lights, with the Germans used to come through, to see. I used to cover, with all the grass, & underneath I had the baby with me. It was absolutely terrible. For 5 years I was staying in the woods, I used to live with milk & in fact that very much affected my son’s health. That I can tell you, that it was terrible. So one night, I don’t know how this happened, they came with the dogs, and the lights, and they saw me. I was with the baby. I had to think very quick. I was so scared I can’t tell you. I can’t explain to you. And just for a moment I said – I had to think fast what to do, because they’re going to take me away – I spoke in Italian with them. I didn’t speak French. I was very dark, I was the Italian type although I was Jewish. They told me, “What are you doing?” Well, I said, I lost something in the morning, I lost my ring, & I came at night – when there is nobody – I had to try to find something to tell them. They said ‘Is that your child?’ I said, “Yes.” They said, “You’re married?” “No”, I said, “I’m only looking after that baby because the family is gone, I don’t know where they are.” It was OK. I managed, I managed to get out. Sometimes people used to bring me something, like bread & cheese, I didn't really have any food, as long as my son was alright, I only was caring about him. I used to give him as much affection as I could. We’re very close I suppose with everything we went through. I carried on until the last day of the war, to be in those woods. I don’t know if you can imagine what it is, to live in the woods."

Then they started the question of Jews. One day they came to my house & asked my husband to undress to see if he was Jewish. He was in the underground, his colleagues knew what was going to happen. They said: 'You’d better disappear, leave everything.' We left, everything.