Przemysl to Paris: The fate of Perla, Salomon, Muni, Chaya, and Florine
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How Florine Getter survived the Shoah

While in Paris during summer 2022 I visited the archives of the Mémorial de la Shoah looking for details of how my cousin Florine survived the war. All 3 adults in the first photo had moved from Przemysl Poland to Paris in the '20s - L to R: my great aunt Chaya Silberman Getter, daughter Blima Florine Getter (born 1927 in Thonon-les-Bains), Chaya’s husband Muni Getter, and Muni’s sister-in-law Esther Getter. - All three adults plus Esther's husband (Muni's brother) Aron were rounded up in Paris and shipped in boxcars to Auschwitz in July of 1942. The women were murdered on arrival, Aron a few weeks later. Only Muni would survive the war after being transferred to a forced labor camp in Austria.

Documents at the memorial showed that Florine, who was 15 at the time, was hidden as a student in a Christian high school in the southern French city of Mende (a beautiful small town we had visited in 2010 to watch a finish of a Tour de France stage). She was assisted by the Jewish resistance group La Sixieme. An offshoot the Jewish scouting movement, Eclaireurs Israelites de France (EIF), La Sixieme provided documentation and hiding places for Jewish children and smuggled many of them over the border into Spain and Switzerland.

After Mende was liberated, likely during September of ’44, she made her way to the city of Moissac near Toulouse then ‘left for Paris with friends,’ presumably to look for her family. Muni was liberated from the Mauthausen concentration camp on May 5, 1945, by the American 11th Armored Division. Sometime thereafter, Florine and Muni were reunited in Paris. Either her uncle Emil Silberman (my grandfather) or her uncle Joseph Getter sent Florine a plane ticket and she flew from Paris to New York on July 31, 1946. 2nd photo L to R: Florine, my mom Dorothy Silberman, and my grandma Fannie Metzger Silberman c.1946-8

Florine married fellow survivor Martin Sporn in 1963; they did not have children. Muni married fellow survivor Perla Rosiner in 1949 and the couple immigrated to New York in 1950. Muni passed away in 1973, Perla in 1989, and Florine died on May 7, 2004.

France has a complicated relationship with the holocaust. Be it personal vendetta or plain old antisemitism, many Frenchmen were all too happy to aid and abet the Nazis in their genocidal efforts. And of course, there is the collaborationist Vichy government of Marshal Petain - an active participant in the round up and murder of Jews, French and otherwise.

On the other hand, there are countless stories of individual and group righteousness and valor by the French. The entire town of Moissac conspired to shelter and save over 500 Jewish children from certain death. Tens of thousands of resistance fighters gave their lives fighting the Nazis, and a Christian school in Mende hid a teenage Jew in plain sight, its faculty risking their lives to save my cousin’s life.

One thing France has done admirably is to acknowledge not only the righteous, but to own up to their own responsibility for the Shoah. There are plaques like the one in photo 3 everywhere in Paris memorializing the murder of Jews and the complicity of the French (Vichy) government.

Every sane person is ‘against’ genocide, but until faced with the choice of accepting it or risking your own life to fight it, that position is meaningless. I hate the French for helping the Nazis murder my aunt but I also I love the French for protecting my cousin. That ambiguity suites me because if I’m being honest, faced with doing nothing or putting my life in danger to help a total stranger, I cannot say for sure which way I’d go. And I doubt anyone can.