There is the story of Alice, Liliane and Simon Wajnberg, three French-Jewish children. When Nazi authorities arrested their parents, the siblings were moved from Paris to a farming community in Brittany. Farmers there hid 19 Jewish children during the war.
After the war, the Wajnberg children lived in French orphanages. In the 1950s, Simon and Liliane left for the U.S. eventually losing touch with Alice, who moved to Israel where she married. Alice died at the age of 68.
Through Remember Me? Simon and Liliane reconnected with their brother-in-law, learned about Alice’s life and about their childhood growing up as hidden children in Brittany.
“There was some closure for them,” said Richter. “This was all very powerful and very moving for Simon and Liliane.”
And there’s the story of the Zarfatis.
“All of my memories came back,” said 78-year-old Renato Zarfati, describing his reaction when he saw the photograph of himself as a boy.
For the past seven decades, he had tried to forget that episode of his life. While the photograph brought back images of horror and hardships, he prefers to leave most of the storytelling to his sister Elvira Zarfati.
“I forget everything. Thank God. I don’t want to remember,” he said.
It was on Oct. 16, 1943 when the Nazi authorities stormed into their Jewish neighborhood in Rome, rounding up civilians and boarding them on trains headed to the concentration camps. The Zarfati family – made up of father Marco, mother Fortunata, and their four children Rosa, Elvira, Renato and Ciccio – escaped and went into hiding in different parts of Rome, said Elvira Zarfati.
Always moving. Always hiding. Always looking for new places where they could avoid Nazi authorities.
Some days they would take the tram that circulated throughout Rome. No one would check their papers there, said Elvira Zarfati. When its route was finished, they would get off, and then get on again, until the day wore out.
Once, a farmer who hid the family in his stable, showed the children a sheep named Gigeto. It was a happy moment in their lives. Rather than worrying about the Nazis, they played with the sheep. After that, every couple of days when the family would have to go find another hiding spot, Marco Zarfati would tell his children they were going to look for another Gigeto.
“It was almost like a comfort, saying let’s go find other animals to be friends with,” said Elvira Zarfati, speaking in Italian translated by her nephew Marco Zarfati, his grandfather’s namesake.
. Fortunata Zarfati sold sewing needles, lace and eggs so the family could earn money for food. One day Elvira Zarfati had gone with her mother to sell the goods, when a woman passed them, saying, “Poor guys, poor guys. The Nazis came, pointed a gun at them and took them.”
The woman was talking about Elvira Zarfati’s father who had gone to have coffee with relatives at a nearby shop. He thought it was safe but Nazi authorities came and took him to jail.
Marco Zarfati never returned.
According to eyewitness accounts the Zarfatis heard after the war, he was transported to Auschwitz. Because of a chronic problem in his leg that hindered his walking, he could not work and was sent to the gas chambers soon after his arrival to the concentration camp.