Biography of Salomon PASSY, written by Vanina Leroux, a 12th-grade student in Letters at the Galilée High School in Guérande, under the direction of its librarian, Monsieur Olivier Guivarc’h.
On a certain day in February 1944 an old man was arrested in Paris. Taken to the camp at Drancy, he was interned there. He was not to stay there long; on July 31, 1944 he was piled with over 1300 other people, of all ages and origins, into cattle wagons. The train rolled slowly, and at the end of three interminable days it arrived at its destination. On August 3, 1944 at the Birkenau concentration camp it was time to be sorted. For some it was forced labor; for most, the gas chamber. We will never know what happened to the old man from the time he entered the camp, but it is a safe guess, given his advanced age, that he was murdered upon arrival.
From 1879 to 1939: Life in France before the War
Though born in Turkey on October 28, 1879, he had lived on French soil since 1898. Thus, he had left his native country for France at the age of 19, no doubt looking for a more stable economic and political situation. Indeed, at the end of the 19th century France was considered by many foreign peoples as “a haven for the oppressed”. It was constantly associated with human rights.
In 1908 he married Sarah MOUCHABAC, who, like him, was born in Constantinople. They then lived in the French capital at n° 16 rue Popincourt in the 11th district. A year later a little girl was born to them at home and named Jeanne, who was to be declared French on her 16th birthday. The man supported his family mainly with the income from the restaurant he ran for nearly 18 years. From 1931 on he managed a hosiery shop, but in 1934 he went bankrupt and left Paris with his wife and probably his daughter’s family for Saint-Nazaire. In difficult financial straits the couple moved first to n° 13 rue Villès-Martin in Saint-Nazaire. Some time afterward they decided to go and live with their daughter at n° 24 rue Alcide Benoit in the same town. Jeanne had two children, Albert and Victor, with Robert Perahia. It was Victor who years later would, through his own story, recount the tragic destiny of his grandfather:
“Before the war my parents, who were outdoor market stallholders, my older brother Albert, and I lived in Saint-Nazaire near Nantes. My maternal grandparents […] also lived with us. We were a very close-knit family, and as far back as I can remember we all got along with each other very well.“
The whole family then lived not far from the Place Marceau, the economic hub of Saint-Nazaire, where the open market was held. With his son-in-law, the man became a stallholder in 1936. The younger man sold women’s hosiery and he himself sold aprons.
From 1940 to 1944: War, persecution, and deportation
The beginning of the war in 1939 completely upset this family’s balance, as Jeanne’s son reports:
“Saint-Nazaire was occupied by the Germans. The atmosphere at home changed radically. The first anti-Jewish laws were promulgated. […] Like many other Jews my parents were especially eager to integrate and thus respected the laws of the Republic.“
Following the dictates of the first German edict in Occupied France on September 27, 1940, the man went to the sub-prefecture at Saint-Nazaire to declare his wife, daughter and son-in-law, as well as his grandchildren. His and Robert’s businesses were also listed by the administration after the second German edict on October 20, 1940. At the beginning of December 1940 both businesses were aryanized, and their storage space, located in their apartment, was placed under seal between the 3rd and 5th of December 1940. The family was thenceforth deprived of any income.
Le danger grandissant avec les bombardements et surtout les persécutions de plus en plus virulentes, il décide de quitter Saint-Nazaire.
« Pour se protéger, mes grands-parents ont décidé d’aller s’installer à Paris et d’emmener avec eux leurs petits enfants. J’aurais dû partir avec mon frère mais je ne voulais pas quitter mes parents »
Le couple, accompagné d’un de leurs petits enfants, Albert, retourne sur la ville de Paris au mois de février 1941 au 5 rue Belfort dans le 11ème arrondissement. Au cours du mois de février 1944, le vieil homme est arrêté dans une des rues de Paris. Les circonstances réelles de son arrestation restent inconnues. Arrestation rendue d’autant plus singulière, par le fait que ni Sarah Passy, ni Albert ne seront arrêtés.
Arrêté puis interné à Drancy, le vieil homme est déporté le 31 juillet 1944 par le convoi numéro 77.
The man, who was a husband, father, and grandfather, was 65 years old. His name was Salomon PASSY.
The Perahia family was arrested at its home on July 15, 1942 and sent first to the Sautron quarter in Saint-Nazaire, then to Nantes, and finally to the Grand Séminaire d’Angers. As the children were not yet deportable at that time, Victor was struck off the lists of convoy n° 8 and sent with his mother Jeanne to the camp of La Lande at Monts, near Tours in the Indre-et-Loire department. At the end of August 1942 they were sent to Drancy and deported in convoy n° 80, which left for Bergen-Belsen in August 1944. They were to survive to be liberated in 1945.
As for Robert Perahia, he was included in convoy n° 8, which left on July 20, 1942 for Birkenau, from where he was never to return.
For the last ten years or so Victor Perahia has given witness in the schools. His testimony has been published along with others in “Traces of Hell”, published by Larousse in 2015.The quotations that appear in his grandfather’s biography have been taken from this work.
- Typed list of the Jews inventoried in the Saint-Nazaire district, transmitted to the Préfecture in Nantes on November 8, 1940. Departmental Archives of the Loire-Atlantique department, 1694W25
- List of the aryanized enterprises in the district of Saint-Nazaire in December 1940. Departmental Archives of the Loire-Atlantique department, 1694W25
- Change of residence by Jews from January 26, 1941 to February 25, 1941. Departmental Archives of the Loire-Atlantique department, 1694W25
- Aliens file 1935-1939 Departmental Archives of the Loire-Atlantique department, 4M936
- Mail of Saint-Nazaire and its Region on October 2, 1941 [On-line press Departmental Archives of the Loire-Atlantique department]
- Search Records from Drancy 1944 Contemporary Jewish Documentation Center [on line, Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris]
- Personal files of the Security Police 1936 National Archives, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, 199404690090
- Drancy file card National Archives Pierrefitte-sur-Seine [consulted by computer]
- Aryanization files of the General Commissary for Jewish Questions 1941 Microfilm National Archives Pierrefitte-sur-Seine AJ38 4598 dossier n°2540
- Police monitoring of foreigners Railway Mobile Brigade April 25, 1940 National Archives 19940500164 dossier 1068x
- Traces of Hell, Larousse, 2015
Contributor : Vanina LEROUX 12th-grade letters student at the Galilée High School in Guérande under the supervision of the school librarian Olivier GUIVARC’H