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Leaving Home

Jeannette Bornstein interview by Ellen Klein

JB: In 1940, rumors started that the Germans were close enough, but nobody paid too much attention because people thought that it would never happen; the Germans would never get there during their lifetime. However, the anti-Semitic rumors started to go around, and indeed the Germans did get to Belgium in—I think it was 1940. We were among thousands, and my parents knew that it was too dangerous for us to stay. They packed up whatever they could and, like thousands of others, we ran to catch a train to France, where the Germans had not yet invaded. We were fortunate to get on that train. The train was packed like cattle, and I remember—as little as I was, I remember hearing the continuous noise of bombs. I didn't know they were bombs, but I later found out that that's what they were.

EK: How old were you then?

JB: I was five. I was crying and I asked my father, “Where are we going?” And he said to me, “Jeannette, we can't stay in our house anymore.” When I asked him why not, he said, “Because we are Jewish.”