Gift of Denise Feiler Bensaid
Id no. 366.92, Photograph, French
Denise, born in Paris as Dora, was the daughter of Beirel Feiler and Roche Leja (nee Gimelstein) Feiler, Jews who came to France from Russia and Lithuania, respectively. They fled persecution and pogroms (violent mob attacks) in their home countries. Dora had an older sister, Paulette, and a younger brother, Michael. Beirel Feiler was arrested in early 1941 with one hundred other Jewish refugees. He was taken to a transit camp in Drancy, and was then shot dead on December 15 in Mont Valerien, a fort outside Paris used as Gestapo headquarters. In an effort to protect the children, Roche Leja set out to find hiding places for them. Dora and Paulette were sent to live in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Branchereau, a Catholic couple living in a quiet French village. After learning that Roche Leja was killed at the Majdanek death camp in 1943, the Catholic family decided to baptize Dora and her sister. Dora was baptized as Denise and took her First Communion in May, 1944. Paulette also had her First Communion, and the girls both survived through the end of the war. Their brother, Michael, had also survived. In 1949, Denise and Paulette immigrated to the United States.
Discover more about this artifact and other stories from the Museum’s collection in, “To Life: 36 Stories of Memory and Hope” http://www.pickmanmuseumshop.com/tolif36storo.html