Factories of Death
Child survivors of the holocaust (BBC)
Understanding Auschwitz Today:
How the world failed children during the Holocaust
March 1942 to March 1943
Mother of Annette & Michel Muller
“They arrested people simply because they were born Jewish—That French people should do that is still beyond me, even 60 years later.”
Jews from France who were non-French citizens were the first Jews to arrive at Auschwitz from Western Europe. Relatively few German soldiers were in France, and those who were there had an easier time than the soldiers fighting against the Russians in the East. France had been divided into two zones—only one of which was occupied by Germany, but the French largely administered both zones.
The only way Nazis could get Jews out of France was with the help of French authorities.
Although the Nazis wanted the French to turn over all Jews, the French agreed at first to round up only Jews with foreign citizenship, many of whom were in France because they had fled the Nazis in other countries.
The first roundup took place in July 1942. In an early morning visit, in the 20th Arrondissement of Paris, French Police knocked on the door of the Mullers—Jews originally from Poland.
Annette and Michel Muller, children at the time, describe what happened:
Survivor of French deportations
In the morning we were very violently woken by knocks on the door and I saw my mother on her knees on the ground, with her arms around the legs of two policemen. She was screaming and crying, and I saw the policemen, well the Inspectors, who were pushing her back with their feet saying, ‘Hurry up. Hurry up. Don’t make us waste our time.
I remember we were a bit frightened because it was so early in the morning. They told us to take three days worth of food. I seem to remember they said for three days. But that didn’t worry me. It wasn’t so much that I trusted my country’s police but rather that I completely trusted my mother.
Michel Muller, Survivor of French deportations from Paris
Since the Nazis’ greatest need was for Jewish adults who could work, Michel and Annette Muller were separated from their mother. Along with 4,000 other children, they were sent to a makeshift camp in the suburbs of Paris. It was called Drancy.
My mother was in the first row of the women and she signalled to us with her eyes. Michel was crying. That’s the last image I have of my mother because then they took the women away and we children were left alone.
Annette Muller, survivor
Within a short time, all the children at Drancy were packed into freight trains and sent east. Michel and Annette Muller, however, were spared the journey because their father bribed French officials for their release.
The journey for the parentless children lasted two days and nights before it ended at Auschwitz. They were then taken from the train ramp to the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were murdered with the poisonous insecticide Zyklon B. None of the children sent from Drancy survived.
More than 4,000 children were sent from France to Auschwitz, and every one of them was murdered.
During 1942 about 200,000 Jews were sent to Auschwitz from all over Europe— France, Holland, Belgium, Norway, Yugoslavia, Poland, the Czech lands, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany. About 70 percent of them were murdered immediately upon arrival.