J'ai très bien connu Madame Reine Sloma qui a vécu à Bruxelles avant son départ pour le Canada en 1984 et qui était une amie chère à feue ma Maman. C'est la première fois que je prend connaissance de ce précieux témoignage pour la mémoire de ce que fut la plus grande barbarie humaine du 20ème Siècle.
Posted in News on March 2, 2015
My name is Reine Sloma, and I am a Holocaust survivor. Every Jew who survived the Holocaust has a different story that needs to be heard but my story is quite different. Before I get into the details about my life during the war and where I was, I would like to give you an insight into my life before the war. I was born on March 4th, 1929, in Brussels, which is located in Belgium. I am named after my father’s grandmother who passed away only a few months before I was born. Her name was Malka, but in Belgium, you were not allowed to be named unless it was a name that was in the approved catalogue, so my father translated Malka, which means Queen, into Reine. I had a very small family; it was my sister, my mother, my father, and I. There was only a two-year age difference between my sister and I. Aside from the four of us, we had no relatives who lived in Belgium, they were all in Poland. Growing up in Belgium, the Jews were never faced with any discrimination. As a child, I attended a public school and I remember there not being more than one or two other Jews in my class. Although I had many non-Jewish friends from school, I lived in a very large Jewish community so I had many Jewish friends who were my neighbours or children of my parent’s friends. Now, when the war broke out in 1940, I was 11 years old. At first, the Jews in Belgium were not aware of the extent of the war in Poland because we were not affected until the following year. When the war started to break out in Belgium, my family decided to leave. We were wandering through France trying to escape from the Germans but the Germans were always one step ahead of us and were waiting at the border. My father decided that it would be best for us to go back to Brussels. I remember trying to get back to Brussels and it being very difficult to walk because there were many casualties on the road. I also remember very vividly the beach being full of dead bodies. This was the first time that I realized what was going on, but I also realized that if this was what we were dealing with, I couldn’t imagine what the Jews in Poland were going through. By 1941, there was a lot of propaganda. Many Jews would receive letters saying that if they come to work for the Germans they will watch their families, which in fact wasn’t the truth. Many of the people who received the letters went to work for the Germans, and in most cases their families were all murdered. In 1942, we were given a curfew. We couldn’t leave our homes between 8:00pm and 8:00am. The Jews were also forced to wear the Star of David, we could no longer attend school, and all Jews had to surrender their radios and anything else that could be used to contact or be in contact with the outside world. I remember a time in 1942 when a family that was working for the Germans denounced my family. They were declaring that my family had foreign currencies. One Saturday, my family was at home when the doorbell rang. At the door were four Gestapo officers, who began tearing apart my house looking for foreign currencies. All that they found was my mother’s jewelry and of course, they took it. My mother’s sister started to fold all the clothes that the Germans made a mess of, and the German officers saw her folding the clothes and said that she would be a good worker in a labour camp. My Aunt was able to escape while the Germans were hitting my father. When my Aunt ran to the street she saw two policemen and told them was what happening at my house and the policemen asked her if the officers were German. After my Aunt replied yes, the policemen said that there was nothing that they could do. After this incident, I finally realized the true potential of the Germans and that they wanted to destroy us. By now, all the Jews realized that there was no way of escaping so everyone was trying to hide. My father had a friend who had married a non-Jewish woman. My father was the godfather of their son. The non-Jewish woman’s Uncle was the headmaster of a school in a small village in the south of Belgium. My father’s friend was a jeweler who got arrested and was sent to a labour camp, but his wife was allowed to visit him because they didn’t know he was Jewish. Once the Germans found out that he was Jewish he was sent to Germany, but before he was sent away he told his wife to do whatever she could to save the Sloma family, my family. The mother of the non-Jewish women, went to the village in the south of Belgium and asked if it was possible for them to hide my family there. The headmaster talked to the Mayor because he knew that the mayor was involved with the resistance. The Mayor immediately said yes. The Mayor’s daughter in law had a house that my family rented. By now, it was around August, in 1942. My family left Brussels at 6:00am and we took whatever we could carry in one suitcase. At the time that we were leaving to go to the village my father didn’t come with because it was the yarzheit of my grandmother. My father came the following week. The day after he left, the Gestapo came to get him but when they got to his house he was already gone. My family hid in the village, which was by the French border, for about two years. Nobody in the village knew we were Jewish except the Mayor, his son, and his daughter-in-law. The Mayor gave my family false identity cards and papers. We told everyone that we were Flemish because my parents had accents. We were given a piece of land so that we could grow our own food, which helped us blend in more with the other people living in the village. 33 kilometers away from the village was the headquarters, of the German army. When the Germans would leave their headquarters my family would be warned and we would go hide in the forest until they left. In 1943, another Jewish family came to live in the village. We only saw their family once a month, when there was no moon. After spending two years in the village, my family, and the other Jewish family were liberated. Up until this point, my family was able to keep our identities a secret. When we were leaving the village to go back to Brussels we saw a group of soldiers coming out of the forest. At first we were scared because we thought they were German soldiers but we quickly realized that they were American soldiers, who had been lost. They told us that they had been walking in the forest for three days with no food or water. After hearing this, all the people in the village, even the non-Jews collected all the water and food that we had and gave it to them. After being liberated from the village, my father kept in touch with many of the people who helped save our lives. He would go back every year to thank them and to visit them. After the war, I stayed in Brussels for many years and finally came to Canada in 1984. I find it very hard to wrap my head around the concept of one person wanting to destroy an entire religion, but one thing that always sticks in my mind is that amongst all of the people who survived, my family and I were a small portion of the lucky ones.