Esther remembers having to give her baby son Elie up for his safety. She remembers Mlle. Counard’s niece taking him and where he was taken.
Esther Honig was born in 1912 in Brzozów, Austria-Hungary (Brzozów is currently in Poland) to Sarah Gitel Honig and Yom Tov Lipta Honig. She was the fifth of seven children in the Orthodox family, having five sisters and one brother. Her parents owned a clothing store. Esther attended public school, where she learned Polish. In 1918, her family store was targeted by a pogrom from the celebrations for Polish independence.
In 1929 Esther went to Winnipeg to join two of her sisters who had settled there a few years earlier. She then moved to Montreal with one sister and started working in a factory. She stayed in Canada until 1935, when she returned to Europe to marry her cousin Pinchas Honig. They settled in Lens, a small town in Northern France and their first daughter Cécile was born in 1937. Pinchas enlisted in the French army and was moved to Southern France. Esther and Cécile moved to Dinard, a small town in Northwestern France where Esther had her second daughter Fanny in 1938.
Esther and Pinchas were forced to leave the towns they were in and were relocated to Château-Gontier, France (Currently Château-Gontier-sur-Mayenne). They were placed in a hotel for one year, then rented an apartment. Anti-Jewish laws were gradually introduced and Pinchas was taken during a roundup in 1942. Esther’s son Elie was born in November 1942, three months after Pinchas was taken.
In order to ensure her children’s safety, with the help of Mlle. Denise Counard, Esther sent Cécile and Fanny in a convent that was hiding Jewish children and sent Elie to a woman who had recently given birth. Esther lived with Monette Gardon under the surname Ermistine. She worked in a convent and received letters from the convent Cécile and Fanny were at concerning their wellbeing. During the 22 months they were at the convent, Esther only saw her daughters once.
After liberation Esther returned to Château-Gontier to meet her children. She would frequently go to Paris and check lists of survivors for Pinchas, who she later learned was killed the same month Elie was born. Esther and her children stayed in Château-Gontier for one year before returning to Dinard. She worked selling textiles until 1949 when she decided to return to Montreal. She did not remarry and worked as a single mother. Esther worked in a factory and took night classes in design. She also took classes in sculpting and made statues.
Esther Honig died in 2005, and her full testimony is part of the Canadian Collection of Holocaust survivor testimonies. It is preserved in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive and accessible through the Ekstein Library.
A girl… came over to me without saying a word. She took the baby.
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