Jacques, Salomon, and Robert Roumi Identified
February 1, 2012
Jacques Roumi was born on December 7, 1930, in Paris. His brother Salomon was born on May 1, 1934, in Paris and his youngest brother, Robert, was born in October 28, 1938, in Paris. Photographs of all three of them are on our website.
The boys’ father was born in 1906 in Turkey, and their mother was born in 1903 in Demotica. Both of them immigrated to France after World War I. Before going to France, their mother had lived for five years in Cuba. She had accompanied her older brother there in the late 1920s in the hopes of finding a husband. She spoke French, Spanish, Greek, and Ladino. Jacques’s grandfather was a professor of French language at the Alliance Israélite Universelle and a mohel. Jacques’s parents met in France and got married.
In the winter of 1941, Jacques’s parents were living in the 11tharrondissement of Paris on rue Saint Maur. They heard about an imminent roundup. His mother wanted to save her children. One of her neighbors, Mrs. Raspiengas, agreed to take Jacques and Salomon to the countryside in order to hide them. They took the train to Châteaudun in Eure-et-Loir and stopped at the neighbor’s country house. She later took them to friends of hers who were farmers.
Jacques said his younger brother Robert was very cute when he was a baby. The day before the roundup, Robert was staying with another neighbor who lived one block away and liked Robert a lot.
During the war, Jacques’s parents were stateless. His father worked in an industrial cleaning company run by Mr. Burgos, a Chilean. He was arrested on the street in 1943. Jacques’s mother was a seamstress and worked for Mr. Burgos, too. He was also involved in the black market for food products.
In 1943, Jacques’s mother was stopped by French policemen and arrested because her identity documents indicated that she was Jewish (they were marked “ JUIF”). She was sent to Drancy where she saw her husband.
Jacques’s parents were both interrogated by Alois Brunner at Drancy. The German commandant of the camp knew they had three children and threatened them with a pistol to learn where their children were hidden. Brunner wanted to deport the whole family, but Mr. and Mrs. Roumi never revealed anything and kept saying that they did not know where their children were. They remained for almost a year in Drancy before being deported in May 1944.
During this time, Jacques and Salomon stayed together. They went from one farm to another around Châteaudun. Before being arrested in 1943, their mother brought them back to Paris and then sent them to another farmer’s family near Nevers, in Thauvenay-en-sancerrois, where they stayed for a year and attended school. The farmers who were taking care of the boys were afraid that the Germans would look for Jewish children and wrote to Mr. and Mrs. Roumi. In August 1943, the boys went to Lyon to stay with one of their father’s brothers. Then, they went to Lissieu, near Lyon, where they once again stayed with farmers.
After the war, their aunt took care of Jacques and Salomon. They later moved to a children’s home in Aix-les-Bains led by Rabbi Soil. This rabbi took photographs of the children in order to send them to the United States to solicit help from Americans who were willing to be godfathers for Jewish orphans who had suffered from persecution. These are among the photographs that appear on the Remember Me? Web site.
Jacques’s parents both survived the camps but came back to Paris separately. His father was part of a death march from Auschwitz and was liberated by the Americans. His mother was liberated by the Red Army. Jacques was still in Aix-les-Bains when he learned of his parents’ return. Jacques’s parents chose to stay in a convalescent home in Aix-les-Bains to be closer to the two boys. They had lost their apartment. Jacques’s parents later stayed with his father’s cousin in Creteil, near Paris, while Jacques and Salomon remained in Aix-les-Bains because their parents couldn’t yet take care of them. Later on, Robert joined his two older brothers in Aix-les-Bains.
Eventually, Jacques’s parents got their apartment back, but it was empty. In 1948, Jacques immigrated to Israel and lived on a kibbutz for three years but then returned to Paris and worked in a clothing shop. In 1954, he got married and went into business with his parents-in-law. He has three children and five granddaughters.
Salomon died in the early 1990s. Jacques and Salomon were very close and shared everything during the war. They often had to sleep in the same bed and cried together. Salomon’s death was a terrible loss for Jacques.
Robert was too young to remember anything that happened during the war. He got married and had three children. He lives in Nice.