Le silence a régné dans la cour du château en 2020 en raison des contraintes sanitaires.
Espérons que la fête de Mézerville aura lieu en 2021 et que l’Association NAMUKA pourra nous proposer un spectacle !

Mobilier d'Irma Jacoby

Irma Jacoby’s furniture

In the big lounge on the first floor, some German furniture typical of the 30’s has been displayed: two armchairs, a sofa, a table and a glass case. Béatrice’s family inherited this furniture in 1944 in dramatic conditions. It belonged to the Doctor Irma Jacoby, a German paediatrician, in hiding in France with her mother because of the antisemitic persecutions organised by Hitler’s regime.. Irma Jacoby, Carola Margulis and her husband, linked to the Steiner family, were arrested by the French police during the Vel d’Hiv raid in July 1942. They were transferred to the Pithiviers Camp, then to Auschwitz. Irma’s mother, too old to be deported, stayed with Mrs Steiner until her death in 1944, leaving her furniture to Béatrice’s family. We can read in the annex about the arrest of Irma, Carola and her husband, and about their transfer to Pithiviers: documents, letters, the moving appeal made by Monseigneur Saliège, Archbishop of Toulouse, who denounced the conditions of the Jewish families’ arrest and detention, and a short biography of René Bousquet who organised the Vel d’Hiv raid.


Irma JacobySuzanne Steiner who lived through those tragic events of the occupation, in particular the “Vel d’Hiv raid”, almost never spoke about it. Her daughter, Béatrice, knows very little about the story of Irma Jacoby, Carola and Leo Margulis, deported in July 1942 to the Pithiviers camp and then to Auschwitz. Their names are engraved on the Wall of Names at the Shoah Memorial in Paris.

When we discovered, in Mrs Steiner’s records, Irma and Carola’s letters written in the Pithiviers camp, we decided to write the following. We want to make sure that our children, grand children, friends and visitors know about this tragic story when seeing Irma Jacoby’s furniture in Mézerville.

In July 1942, Mrs Steiner and her daughter Béatrice lived in Paris, in the rue Brancion in the 15th arrondissement. Mr Steiner, was enlisted but was specially repatriated to work in the aeronautical industryat Figeac in the non-occupied zone (in the Ratier factory). They had immigrated to France after the First World War, Nicolas Steiner was a goldsmith worker from Budapest (Hungary). Suzanne Steiner was a seamstress, and came from Tchernowitz (Bukovine in present-day Moldavia in the Ukraine). They had French nationality.

Mrs Steiner took into her home Carola and Leo Margulis who left Vienna (Austria) after the Anschluss. Mrs Jacoby and her daughter Irma, a paediatrician, lived in the same arrondissement, in the rue Dombasle. They had fled from the racial persecution in Nazi Germany in 1937-1938.

Both the anti-Jewish French laws in 1940 and the mandatory wearing of the yellow star in 1941, formed a very strong relationship between these two families based on solidarity and friendship. We want to remind you of some of the forms of discrimination that came into effect against Jewish people in 1942: prohibition of going to public places, cafés, movies, theatres, historical monuments…etc., obligation to shop between 3 and 4 pm, obligation to use the last carriage on the Metro…, measures which were a prelude to their arrest and then their deportation.

In October 1940, in the occupied zone, the German authorities carried out a general Jewish census, organised by the Headquarters of the Police in which Jewish families participated to keep into the law. Here are the declared figures: 149 734 Jewish persons, including 64 070 foreign Jews.

After the USSR invasion in 1941, the Germans went from deportation to an anti-semitic extermination or “final solution”. The Wansee conference in January 1942, presided over by Heydrich authority, defined the technicalities. Eichman, a main player, was in charge of the census, the arrest and the transportation of the Jewish people from occupied Europe to the extermination camps. On the 5th of May 1942, Heydrich came to Paris to establish Oberg as the SS Chief of the Police. He organised a meeting in the Ritz Hotel with René Bousquet, General Secretary of the Police, Hilaire, General Secretary of the government and Darquier, representative of Jewish Problems. The mass deportation of the Jewish people of France for the final solution was evoked.

We can read in one of Eichman’s reports addressed to Hitler, on the 1st of July 1942: “Under the SS Reichführer’s order of the 23rd of June 1942, all the Jewish people living in France must be deported as soon as possible. So, in order to carry out our plans, we should put pressure on the French government…”. The Germans required at first the deportation of 20 000 Jewish people from the occupied zone whatever their nationality may have been. Pétain’s government was unwilling to act against the French Jews. A sordid agreement was finally concluded between Oberg and Bousquet to arrest only foreign Jewish people, but in unlimited numbers, under the sole responsibility of the Paris Police Headquarters.

For "humanitarian" reasons President Laval proposed that even children would be deported in order to be with their parents, this was not initially a German requirement!

The mass deportation of Jews in 1942, known as “the Vel d’Hiv raid”, started at 4 am on the 16th of July, meticulously prepared by the Chief Commissioner Leguay under the authority of Bousquet. 9 000 policemen were mobilized and the buses of Paris requisitioned. The document that was used for the arrests was the Jewish file of 1940!

That very morning, some policemen came to warn Carola and Leo that they would come back to arrest them. Both refused to run away fearing that Mrs Steiner and her daughter could be taken away instead of them. Most of the families were driven to the Vel d’Hiv, the others to Drancy. Leo was separated from Carola and directly driven to Drancy.
We can easily imagine the confusion of these families awoken in the middle of the night and taken away to Vel d’Hiv, without any explanation, and with only two days’ rations and a few clothes. Mrs Jacoby’s mother was too old to be arrested with her daughter. She found shelter at Mrs Steiner’s.

Even though the arrests of the 16th and 17th July were very meticulously organised, nothing was planned to receive 7 000 women and children who found themselves crowded together in horrible conditions at the Vel d’Hiv: no public conveniences , toilets blocked, one single water tap, suffocating heat… no food. Nothing was planned for the sick people, the babies, the pregnant women… A survivor, Hélène Zytnicki, wrote:

Alors que les arrestations des 16 et 17 juillet ont été organisées minutieusement dans tous les détails, rien n’a été prévu pour recevoir 7 000 femmes et enfants qui se retrouvent entassés dans des conditions abominables au Vel d’Hiv: pas d’installations sanitaires, WC bouchés, un seul point d’eau, chaleur étouffante…pas de nourriture. Rien n’a été prévu pour les malades, les bébés, les femmes enceintes… Témoignage d’une survivante, Hélène Zytnicki :

« I will never forget this crowd, these screams, these tears. I will never forget either the stink, the heat…It was madness everywhere. Nothing was provided for sleeping, washing, or for anything else either. Add to this the thirst, the hunger, the screams, the impossibility of moving or sleeping, and you will get a picture of the situation we were in... »

There were 108 suicides and 54 natural deaths. Carola and Irma underwent this hell during five days, until Tuesday 21st of July when, in accordance with a police report, this morning on the 21st of July a convoy of Jews composed of 26 wagons containing 1 143 people including 542 children, left Austerlitz station for the Pithiviers camp, escorted by 24 police constables, commanded by a warrant officer. On the departures platform, the National Aid Service under the direction of Mr Guinot, General Secretary, served half a litre of milk per person. No incident to report.”

In the Pithiviers camp the police constables commanded by Superintendent François, looked after 200 people crowded together in each hut, on flea and lice-ridden straw in awful conditions of hygiene. The food was of bad quality; 200 grams of bread per day was given, black coffee in the morning and beans twice a day. The disastrous living conditions in this camp caused the outbreak of diphtheria and other infectious diseases. An infirmary was set up. Irma Jacoby came forward as a doctor but there was almost no medicine!

The first convoy to Aushwitz left on the 31st of July with Irma and Carola. Carola died during the journey. Leo left for Drancy on the 28th of August 1942, he also died during the journey.

The families were brutally separated. At the beginning, only the adults and the children over 13 years old left. Tragic and shocking scenes happened in Pithiviers where mothers and their children were bludgeoned to force them to be separated, and then locked up in cattle trucks in foul-smelling air, to be taken to Auschwitz.
Before departure, the women were searched, undressed to check if they were not hiding things. Their money, jewels, wedding rings and even their blankets were stolen.

The tragic events of Pithiviers also happened in the region of Toulouse in the Noé and Récébédou camps, under the sole responsibility of the French authorities in the non-occupied zone. Monseigneur Saliège, archbishop of Toulouse, devastated, wrote a pastoral letter (on the 30th of August 1942), whose elevated words have become one of the finest condemnations of racism.

« To be read next Sunday, without further comment »

« My dearly beloved brothers,

There is a Christian morality. There is a human morality that enforces obligations and recognises rights. These obligations and rights come from human nature.

They come from God. They can be transgressed. No mortal has the power to abolish them. Children, women, fathers and mothers treated like a vile horde, members of the same family separated from each other and made to embark on a journey to an unknown destination. It has been given to us to be witnesses to this sad spectacle.
Why doesn’t the right to sanctuary of our churches exist anymore? Why are we a defeated people? Lord, have mercy on us. Our Lady, pray for France. In our diocese, scenes of terror are happening in the Noé and Récébédou camps. The Jewish men are men. The Jewish women are women. The foreigners are men. The foreigners are women. None of this should be allowed to happen to them, to these men, to these women, to these fathers and mothers. They are part of the human race. They are our brothers like many others. A Christian can not forget that.

France, beloved homeland, France you carry in the conscience of all your children the tradition of respect for the human being, France, chivalrous and generous, I have no doubt, you are not responsible for these atrocities.

Receive, my brothers, the assurance of my loving devotion »

It is devastating to imagine the reading of this letter on the 30th of August 1942, in the region’s churches, despite the Prefect's proscription and the seizure of the letter which the police constables were ordered to carry out on the 29th of August.

The negotiator and the organizer of these horrendous deportations was René Bousquet whose responsibility can not be hidden anymore.
He was born in Montauban, son of a notary, he studied law in Toulouse. Ambitious and competent, he was 20 years old when he became Chief Secretary in the Prefect's office in Tarn and Garonne. In 1935, he entered the Laval government and then became Prefect of the Marne. In April 1942, Laval promoted him as General Secretary of the Vichy Police. At that point he became SS General Oberg’s main interlocutor and friend. In 1943, he made the following speech to Oberg:

« General, almost a year ago we met for the first time. You were along with General Heydrich whom you and your colleagues loyally remember, I know, and to whose memory, both in my personal name and the name of the Police I want to pay special homage »

This man, was sentenced by the High Court in 1949, was then pardoned and became President of the Bank of Indochina. He became Knight of The Legion of Honour and President of the Dépêche du Midi (a newspaper). He was a good friend of Mitterrand and was often invited to Latché (where François Mitterand had a house).
He was charged again in 1991 for complicity in crimes against humanity thanks to the actions of Serge Klarsfeld. He was continuously supported by President François Mitterrand who did everything to prevent him from going to trial. He was finally assassinated by a deranged man in 1993.

In Irma and Carola’s letters dated the 29th of July, they asked Mrs Steiner to send them a parcel with shoes, eiderdowns, tin plates …etc. The parcel’s dispatch note that we found dated the 3rd of August, unfortunately far too late for them! Irma who probably did not know about their imminent departure asked her mother to intervene at the Israeli Union (U.G.I.F.).

A copy of Irma Jacoby’s letter addressed to her mother from the Pithiviers camp

My dear mummy, since Tuesday we have been here in Pithiviers. Fortunately we are still together, the three Guthmans, Carola, Mrs Wartenberg and her son and me and a Russian couple whose young 18 year old daughter stayed in Paris and will come to visit you one of these days. I worry about you my dear mummy, how are you going to bear all this and most of all what is going to happen. The worst thing is to be separated from you. I am glad to know that you are going to Suzanne and Titi and that you will eat together. I volunteered as a doctor and I hope that soon I will make myself useful. Would you please send me the small brown suitcase with my rubber boots, my red belt, the handkerchieves (12) that I have forgotten with some writing paper and envelopes. My 2 summer dresses, a tin plate which is in the kitchen dresser, some fruits etc. if it’s possible. The parcel cannot be heavier than 3 kg except the first one that can be heavier because we are lacking a lot of things. Do you still have the phone. How are all our friends? Is Mr Brauner still asking after me?
Contact Mr. Scheudel of the Israeli Union again to see if he has not forgotten about me, or go with someone to Mr. Ruminsky (also from the union). I had already offered my services and maybe they (…) need me. If I receive the same note as Scheudel I can get out of here. Once again please take care of this.
Regarding my health I feel better. I do not pay attention to the food and I’m eating all I can. For now it is fine, we will see later on.
How are you mummy? Are you taking care of yourself? Send a lot of love to all our friends. Have you written to Herti?
Big hugs to everyone.
A big hug to you.

Address: Irma Jacoby Pithiviers Camp (Loiret) (Bar. 23) Irma (crossed out) Infirmary
The 29th of July
I’m beginning to work today. I see that parcels have been accepted. So you can send it as fast as you can because we don’t know how long we are here for.

A copy of Carola’s letter to Suzanne Steiner and her daughter “Titi”, written in French by Irma Jacoby, with some words in German written by Carola

Dear Suzanne and Titi, fortunately we are still together and we are quite fine. We can get used to anything in this world!
I would be very happy if you could write to Leo and Gina to tell them that I am fine and that they should not worry about me.
Please, send me my eiderdown with a sheet, buy me wooden shoes which I badly need, size 38, a warm dress, washing and toilet soap, towels and dishcloths, 1 tin plate and a tube of toothpaste. You can sew a big bag of green linen and put all the things inside.
Add some food, marmalade etc. Send lots of love to my little Titi and tell her not to forget her auntie Carola. A lot of love to Mrs Jacoby and all the other friends and neighbours and Mrs Gilbert. I thank her again for her kindness.
Write to me if there is any news from Leo and my family.
How are Anna and her family?
Address: Carola Margulis
Bar. 23
Pithiviers Camp
Schicke auch etwas zum essen wenn möglich
Schicke für alle Fälle sofort die Sachen an mich ab. Packete kommen an. Schreiben ( ?) können wir nicht ( ?) . Alles nur uns M… ( ? ?) ist zum verzweifeln.
Grüsse Küsse an Alle Carola

Mr. Albert Tselnik, one of the few rare survivors who was in the convoy of the 31st of July tells of when he arrived at Auschwitz on the 2nd of August 1942: “When the train finally stopped, the doors opened, it was a release, especially because that day there were no SS to beat us…We got down on the platform not far from the camp where we could see the huts; we walked towards a group of officers who briefly interrogated us, asking about our age. The old people, the sick people, the pregnant women climbed up into trucks. I didn’t know yet that they were going to the gas chambers.”

Irma Jacoby as a German doctor, was probably sent to the camp’s infirmary, this would explain her survival until 1944. We have no testimony about her life in Auschwitz; Mrs Steiner who went to the Lutécia hotel to welcome the surviving prisoner heard that Irma had been killed just before the Russians set the camp free in January 1945.

Mrs Jacoby’s mother took refuge at Mrs Steiner's since July 1942 and she died in September 1944 probably consumed by sorrow.

We have to underline the fact that during the whole war Mrs Jacoby, Mrs Steiner and her daughter were helped and protected by the residents of the building in Brancion street.

Documentation at :
Shoah's Memorial. 17 rue Geoffroy-l’Asnier 75004 Paris. Phone  : 01 42 77 44 72 - www.memorialdelashoah.org

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