Micheline and Victor Suhami Identified
November 13, 2012
Micheline Suhami remembers the photo from the Remember Me? website being taken at the end of the war, when she was about nine years old. She thinks that it must have been taken on rue de la Roquette; she and her family lived on rue Popincourt.
Micheline’s father was called Moritz or Moïse, and her mother’s name was Shalom. They came from Smyrna, now the Turkish city Izmir. Shalom was orphaned at an early age and went to work as a maid when she was 14. The lady of the house where she worked took her to France. There, the immigration officers miswrote her name as Charlon, and she continued to be known by that name.
Micheline and her twin brother, Victor, were born on June 29, 1936. She also had a brother, Jacques, who was ten years older, and a sister, Bella-Blanche, who was five years older. While Micheline remembers being sad and afraid as a child, she says the presence of her older siblings was a comfort to her.
After the German invasion, the French militia came to get her and her family early one morning.The children were hiding behind doors. They were very scared. Their mother said that they were at school. The militiamen thought that was strange, so early in the morning, but the children remained safe.
Micheline remembers that her mother sewed the yellow star on each item of their clothing: vests, coats, dresses. She was a very good seamstress. The children had to be very careful with curfew and about when they wore their Jewish stars. Her family went to hide in the cellar across the street whenever there was danger. They wore gas masks. Micheline also remembers going to visit her mother in the hospital at one point during the war and having to hide under her hospital bed.
Micheline recalls that, one day in 1942, her father, who worked as a salesman, did not come to get her after school like he usually did. She went home and found her mother crying. Her father had been rounded up and the French police then came to get the rest of the family. In the scuffle that ensued, her mother started to bleed so badly that she was spitting blood, which scared away the police.
Sometime around that same year, Charlon was pregnant. When she was about to give birth, the Germans came to the hospital to round up Jews. The nurses fled or hid, and Charlon gave birth all alone. The child was stillborn due to a lack of oxygen.
After her father disappeared, Micheline was placed in an orphanage (Assistance Publique), because their mother had no money. She was separated from her twin brother because the facility was divided by sex. The twins cried because they did not want to be separated. Later, when they were in danger, the twins were placed together on farms. Micheline remembers singing with her brother so as not to be scared.
At the end of the war, Micheline’s mother placed her in a home with other Jewish children in Le Vésinet (west of Paris, near St Germain-en-Laye). She had enough to eat and recalls receiving a good, Jewish education. Later Micheline lived at home before leaving school at the age of 14 to work with her mother.
Charlon worked at home doing piecework on her sewing machine. Micheline and her siblings were always perfectly dressed. “We were poor, we had no money,” she says, but her mother wanted them to hold their heads high. They bowed their heads when saying hello to their elders and were always very polite.
Micheline’s mother died in 1992. Her elder brother, who became a painter, died in 2002. Micheline has two children who live near her in Paris. She also has five grandchildren, one of whom, Sonia, lives in Israel with her husband. Micheline and her twin brother are still very close and see each other every day. Micheline is still friends with other survivors who she went to school with after the war. She has donated an artifact, a doily with her father’s name embroidered on it, to the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris.