The Representative Council of Jews of France (Crif), an affiliate of the World Jewish Congress, partnered with the Shoah Memorial to organize a visit for students from Seine-Saint-Denis - a French department northeast of Paris - to the memorial late last month. The memorial is located at the Drancy internment camp, where it is estimated that 70,000 prisoners passed through between August 1941 and August 1944.
Over the course of their visit, students learned about the horrifying experiences of Jews during the Holocaust, and use publicly available documents, such as census records, to investigate what happened to different Jewish families.
The students heard during their visit a testimony from Holocaust survivor Victor Perahia, who was deported to Drancy when he was nine years old. In vivid detail, Perahia told the students about the last time he saw his father and his experience at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Perahia recounted that Nazi soldiers told other young prisoners they were going to take a shower and instead led them into a gas chamber, where the young prisoners were brutally murdered.
Perahia pleaded with the students to continue talking and learning about the Holocaust. He admitted that while he initially struggled to talk about his experience to even his family and children, he realized that he owed it to his family and other victims to speak about what he saw.
“I always talk about [the victims] with a lot of emotion, and I talk about them freely because it feels like when I talk about them again, it brings them back to life a little,” Perahia told the students.
Iness Boubaajat-Lebreton, who participated on the trip was appreciative of the opportunity to hear directly from a survivor, saying that Perahia’s testimony “will leave a mark, [and is] what I will tell my family, my children, if I have any. This will surely stay with me the rest of my life.”