A Return Home

Bagnolet, France

Leo's mother brought back both her sons, who were hiding in farms outside of Normandy, France.

The war started to go south for Hitler and one major battle that was lost was code named Operation Overlord on June 6, 1944. Bergen states, “…the western Allies landed in Normandy in northwestern France. D-Day, as it became known was the greatest amphibious assault ever.” (Bergen 278) France was starting to gain its independence back from Germany as the allied powers were starting to win major battles against the Nazis. In Bergen’s publication historian Yaron Pasher states why the Germans lost the battle of Normandy by saying, “…links this failure directly to the Holocaust. In the month before D-Day, the Germans transported about three hundred thousand Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. Those same trains, Pahser shows, could have been used instead to bring almost an entire army—more than one hundred thousand soldiers—to fight the allies in Normandy.” (Bergen, 279) If there had not been such a concern for annihilating the Jews then Hitler might have actually been able to win the battle and remain in control of France.

Leo talks about how the family he was staying with decided to throw a party to celebrate the invasion of Normandy by the allied powers, “At the farm, we began planning a little ceremony to celebrate the coming victory of the Allies. The event the Americans or the British troops were to come our way, we prepared several bottles of the finest cider and apple brandy for them.” (Abrami, 139) There was hope not only for the Jews, but for all French citizens that the German control over France might be lifted with the Allied invasion.

With the invasion of Normandy and Evron being only a hundred miles away, Leo’s mother felt it might be best to bring her sons back to Bagnolet, in the later part of the summer of 1944. After returning to Bagnolet, there was an announcement by the Commissary on Jewish Affairs that all Jews could remove the yellow stars that they originally had to wear at all times and they no longer needed permission to travel. (Abrami, 142) Leo describes a moment when the first allied tanks entered Paris and he and one of the soldiers connected, “His mouth opened wide with joy and he quickly lifted me into the air and put me on the tank! We chatted in Yiddish for a long time two Jews from different parts of the world…” (Abrami, 145) With Paris now liberated the Allied powers continued their push of the German army until the surrender and the official end of World War II in Europe on September 2, 1945. It was now time for the people of Europe to start to rebuild the relationships, infrastructure, and humanity.

After the liberation of Paris, Leo was able to return to his studies at the College of Turgot. (Abrami, 147) At age fifteen, Leo was able to celebrate his bar mitzvah and enrolled in a teachers’ program at the Séminaire Israélite de France, which was located in Paris. Five years later, Leo graduated from the school as a cantor and a teacher of religion. (Abrami, 147) With his education complete, it was now time for Leo to start a new life by moving to Geneva, Switzerland.