Oral History Interview with Sonja Samson

Sonja Samson, born in Aurich, Germany in 1931, into an assimilated but observant Jewish family; living with her grandparents for a year in Luxembourg circa 1936 until she joined her parents, who had moved to France; her family history and her childhood; her speculations on why her parents stayed in France instead of immigrating to the United States; her father volunteering for the French Army and his internment in 1939; staying briefly with her parents in the commune of Gurs then living in Garlin until August 26, 1942 when they were rounded up by French police and sent to Gurs; being transported to Rivesaltes in September 1942; her parents’ deportation and her mother managing to keep Sonja from going on the transport with the help of Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE); never seeing her parents again and still profoundly resenting this separation; conditions in the two camps and her life and schooling in the villages of Garlin and Gurs; staying in a convent and then an orphanage at Palavas-les-Flots with other Jewish children, under the auspices of the Union Générale des Israélites de France (UGIF) and the OSE; staying with distant relatives who were in hiding; staying in a boarding school in Chambéry, constantly on guard; a failed attempt to cross the border into Switzerland; working as a maid at an inn that was a substation of the Armeé Secréte (the French underground); inventing a new identity for herself as a non-Jewish war orphan and participating in Catholic rites to avoid discovery; becoming a messenger for the underground; how her presence of mind foiled a plot by the so-called "Butcher of Grenoble" to blow up the underground’s headquarters just after liberation in August 1944; her post-war life at the Chambéry boarding school, with her cousins; her search for her parents and being an active member of Hashomer Hatzair in Paris; how she learned what she needed in order to survive; how the loss of her parents affects her to this day; the changes to her outlook on religion, Jewishness, and Zionism as she matured; going to the United States from Sweden on the Gripsholm as a war-orphan in 1947; the difficult adjustment to life in the US; how she managed to get the higher education she wanted; and her post-war trips to Israel.

Date: 06/03/1985
Interviewer: Nora Levin
Interviewee: Sonja Samson
Language: English
Subject: Antisemitism--Germany.
Boarding schools--France--Chambéry.
Hidden children (Holocaust)--France.
Hiding places--France.
Holocaust survivors.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Germany--Personal narratives.
Jewish children in the Holocaust.
Jews, German--France.
Passing (Identity)
World War, 1939-1945--Jews--Rescue--France.
World War, 1939-1945--Underground movements--France.
Women--Personal narratives.
Aurich (Lower Saxony, Germany)
Chambéry (France)
Garlin (France)
Gurs (France)
Palavas-les-Flots (France)
Paris (France)
United States--Emigration and immigration.
Samson, Sonja, 1931-
Gripsholm (Ocean liner)
Gurs (Concentration camp)
OEuvre de secours aux enfants (France)
Rivesaltes (Concentration camp)
Union générale des israélites de France.
World Hashomer Hatzair.
Location: Aurich, Germany
Ettelbruck, Luxembourg
Rocquigny, France
Gurs concentration camp
Rivesaltes concentration camp
Montpellier, France
Chambéry, France
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