Jacques and Gilberte Gattegno Identified
April 19, 2012
Jacques Gattegno was born in Marseille in 1932. His parents were originally from Thessaloniki, Greece, where there was a strong Jewish community. Jacques’s parents lived in Marseille and were vendors in open-air markets. Jacques has a sister, Gilberte, who is five years younger.
In January-February 1943, two major roundups took place in Marseille, one in the old, poor neighborhood in the western part of the Old Harbor (the Vieux port) and the other near the Opera House. At that time the Gattegno family was living with an uncle and aunt. Jacques’s father, uncle, and aunt were arrested, deported, and murdered in the death camps. His mother was left alone with her two children, and she went to live for a few days in the apartment of another aunt, Mrs. Modiano, who was Italian and had fled back to Italy.
Jacques later went with his mother and sister to the countryside, where they finally settled in a small apartment among peasants. Jacques went to school and helped his mother make a living by assisting French farmers with their daily chores. In August 1944, Marseille and the south of France were liberated, and in October, the Gattegnos returned home. Jacques’s mother resumed her work as a vendor in open-air markets and Jacques went back to school.
After the war, Jacques attended vocational school to become an electrician and radio-telegraph operator. For a few years he also attended weekly meetings at the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE), a Jewish organization that took care of orphaned children. (He assumes that his picture as a teenager was taken there.) Jacques worked all his life as an electrician. He did not want to be a radio-telegraph operator because it meant being permanently on a boat and overseas.
Jacques and his wife retired near the small town of Manosque in the hills of Provence. After his wife’s death two years ago, he moved into Manosque, where he lives with his daughter and four grandchildren. Jacques is a member of the local club and takes Spanish classes. There is no Jewish community in Manosque, so Jacques spends Yom Kippur at home in memory of his wife and parents, and he celebrates Passover with relatives in Marseille.