Frederick Gerson describes how his Holocaust experience has impacted his son.
Frederick Gerson was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1930 but spent the majority of his childhood in France until the age of 17. His mother’s name was Frieda Gerson (nee Maliniak). His father’s name was Sigmund Gerson. There was Jewish awareness on both sides of his family and they were fairly assimilated in German culture.
Growing up in France, Frederick experienced antisemitism and general hostility towards Jews but was not aware of what was happening to Jews in Germany in 1940. In school, he had a constant awareness of being different than his classmates. Jewish children were often picked on and sometimes beaten up by their French classmates.
Living under the Vichy government was difficult even though the racial laws were not enacted right away. Nevertheless, his father decided to obtain some false papers through his connections. The papers would prove to be very useful while the family was in hiding later in the war.
After the war broke out, Frederick’s parents began to discuss ways to get him out of France. He was placed on a list of children who would be transported to the United States but was unable to go when, in 1942, the Germans occupied all of France.
When he was twelve years old, Frederick began living under his false identity. His family rented a small attic room from an Italian man and Fredrick began living as a typical French boy. In 1942, the situation had become more dangerous and the family decided to disperse.
Frederick was liberated by the eighth army. In 1944-45 Fredrick realized that his father was not coming back with the other prisoners. Many years after the war he discovered that his father had died on a transport train while being deported from Drancy.
Following liberation his mother made plans to immigrate to Cleveland, Ohio. He arrived in Canada in 1963. Fredrick passed away in May 1998 at 68 years old.
It was a situation where people just disappear and you keep pretending everything is okay. So long you make it, you are okay.
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