Hiding in a French Convent

In this video, Helene Goldflus remembers a conversation she had with the Mother Superior at the convent where she was hiding as a child. The nun reminded Helene that, for her and everyone's safety, she had to keep her Jewish identity a secret from the other children and nuns. Source: Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, 1992



Video begins with inter-title in white text on black screen while instrumental music plays and fades into the next frame: In 1940, nine-year-old Helene Goldflus was hidden in a convent by the French Children's Aid Society. 



Cut to Holocaust survivor Helene Goldflus, sitting in front of a blue wall with a plant in the background, and looking to the right of the camera. The camera shows her face and shoulders as she speaks during an interview conducted in Toronto in 1992.

>> Helene Goldflus: So I spent about 6 months there, and prayers about 15 times a day. Which I refused…



The name “Helene Goldflus” and the location of the filmed interview, “Toronto”, appear in white text above Helene's left shoulder.

>> Because I knew, being Jewish, you don't kneel, and you don't pray that way anyways. So the sister that was in charge of the class I was in went to the Mother Superior to complain that I wasn't, that I refused to kneel. So I was called in to the Mother Superior. And she sat me down and was very nice to me. She said, “You know, I'm going to talk to you. You're a big girl, you're nine years old, you have to understand what's going on. It isn't very good times, we're having a lot of problems. There are people in our country that are trying to take away our freedom, and that are doing terrible things to your people. And if you want to survive and you want to live through whatever time it's going to take, you have to do whatever you're told to do.” She says, “I know you don't want to, it's not in your heart, just move your lips and kneel and pretend. And in your heart say your own prayers.”



Cut to black-and-white portrait photograph of a young girl smiling and sitting at a desk with an open book.  The photo caption appears in white text on the right-hand side of the frame, “Helene Goldflus, Paris, 1939”.

>> “I know who you are. I'm the only one in the school who knows. Nobody else knows you're Jewish. We have a lot of Jewish children hidden in the convent. Nobody knows who they are.”



Cut to Helene Goldflus in front of the camera.

>> She says, “You're very lucky because you don't have to change your name because it's a French name. So we don't have to pretend about that. Everybody will call you by your name. You do not ask questions of the other children. You do not say anything to the other children. You do not discuss whatever the nun tells you to do, whether it's to kneel or to pray or to stand or to sit, you do it. Because if you don't, you risk your life, and you risk the lives of the other children, and our lives too.” And she says, “I know how hard it must be for you. I understand it's very hard, but it's going to pass one day. So, do me a favour,” she says, “because a lot of the children that are in the convent that go to private Catholic school, their parents are very wealthy people and most of them are working with the Germans. They're collaborators.” So she says, “If you want to be safe, don't say anything. You can be whatever you want, just don't talk about anything that has to do with being a Jew.”



Music plays for the remainder of the video. Three credit pages appear in white text on black screen: Interview conducted by Sharon Weintraub, Holocaust Documentation Project, Toronto, 1992, Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre

Images: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Helene Cantkier Goldflus

Directing: Helgi Piccinin; Editing and Colorization: Michaël Gravel, Helgi Piccinin; Audio Mix and Original Music: Pierre-Luc Lecours. [Logo for Chaire de recherche du Canada en patrimoine ethnologique]

Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, copyright 2017.



End of transcript.

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