The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

Paul-Henri Rips

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Born
October 23, 1929 Antwerp, Belgium

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1997 Toronto, Ontario

The son of an Antwerp diamond merchant, Paul-Henri Rips was ten when the Nazis invaded Belgium and ended his “golden childhood” forever. Guided by his father’s admonition to “Sei a mensch” (Be a decent person), Rips managed to hold onto his humanity in the face of unfathomable inhumanity.

About Paul-Henri

Paul-Henri Rips was born in 1929 in Antwerp. He left Antwerp in 1950 and moved to the Belgian Congo and then to South Africa, where he married his wife, Lily. In 1997, the couple immigrated to Toronto to join their children and grandchildren.

Photos and Artifacts

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    Paul-Henri, age two, and his sister, Sina, age five, with their aunts Pessia (far left) and Rachel (far right) at the Belgian seaside resort of Het Zoute. Summer, 1932.

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    Paul-Henri's mother, Faja, and his sister, Sina, circa 1932.

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    Paul-Henri's parents, Faja and Isidore Rips and his sister, Sina, at the family home in Antwerp, circa 1932.

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    Left to right: Bella, Paul-Henri's cousin; Raya, their friend; Sina, his sister, eight; and Paul-Henri, five. Het Zoute, summer 1935.

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    Paul-Henri and his family's last vacation, in Nice, France, 1938.

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    A crowd of people watch as the synagogue from Van den Nest Street burns during the Antwerp pogrom on April 14, 1941. Firefighters and fire trucks are present in front of the building but don't intervene.

    © Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance, Malines, Belgium - Fonds Van Oeteren.

  • Paul-Henri Rips larger image and caption

    A crowd of people watch as the synagogue from Van den Nest Street burns during the Antwerp pogrom on April 14, 1941. Firefighters and fire trucks are present in front of the building but don't intervene.

    © Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance, Malines, Belgium - Fonds Van Oeteren.

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    A photograph from the summer of 1942 showing Jews who have been caught in a roundup arriving in the central courtyard at the Kazerne Dossin transit camp in Malines, Belgium.

    © Jewish Museum of Deportation and Resistance, Malines, Belgium - Fonds Kummer.

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    Photograph of the camp in Pithiviers. Paul-Henri's father spent his days in infirmary barracks 1 or 2 that were separated from the rest of the camp by a gate and barbed wire. Pithiviers, 1941–42.

    © Cercil, Orléans, France.

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    The Citadel in Liège, Belgium, where Paul-Henri was held after being caught in the roundup at the school at the Château de Bassines in the fall of 1943. The boys from the school were temporarily housed on the second floor of the building called the pavillon des réfractaires, the building in the top centre of the photograph.

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    Paul-Henri, fifteen, Brussels, 1944.

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    Sina, Paul-Henri's sister, eighteen, on the balcony of 51 Montjoie Avenue after the liberation of Brussels, 1944.

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    Charles and Adèle Frantz; and Berthe Lemlyn, who hid Paul-Henri, his mother, Faja, and his sister, Sina, from the Nazis. Brussels, 1944.

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    Faja, Paul-Henri's mother; Sina, his sister; and Paul-Henri's grandmother at the Rips family home in Antwerp, 1945.

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    A modern photograph of the Hôpital Louis Pasteur in Dole, France, where Paul-Henri spent some time after his family was captured in September 1941.

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    Paul-Henri's drawing of his ward room in the Hôpital Louis Pasteur.

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    A letter written in French by the commandant of the Pithiviers internment camp and dated October 23, 1941, documents the capture of Paul-Henri and his family, along with the convoyeur Albert Boruchowitz in Dole while they were trying to cross the demarcation line on October 22 ,1941. (Image 1 of 2)

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    (Image 2 of 2)

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    In this letter written in German from Martin-Sané, the prefect's representative in Orléans, to the commandant of the Feldkommandantur, dated March 24, 1942, he suggests that Paul-Henri's family be released because of the state of Isidore Rips' health.

    © Archive départmentals du Loiret 15 W 6282.

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    This letter, written in German to the commandant of the Feldkommandantur in Orléans, dated May 9, 1942, informs him the Rips family was escorted to Givet on the French-Belgian border by two inspectors from the special police on April 28, 1942.

    © Archive départmentals du Loiret 15 W 6282.

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    Paul-Henri threw this note out of the train from Liège to the Kazerne Dossin in Malines on November 16, 1943. The text on this page is written to his mother and sister, letting them know that the group is leaving the Citadel in Liège for an unknown destination, probably Malines. It goes on to say that he is in good spirits and still hopes to be reunited with them soon. The note is signed Henri Ryckmans – the name on Paul-Henri's false papers – and indicates that Joseph Perlman is on the train with him.

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    This text offers thanks in advance to the person who finds the note for having the charity to send it on to the address indicated, that the person will be doing a great service to a victim of the war. The note was indeed picked up and forwarded to Paul-Henri's mother in Brussels.

    © Jewish Museum of Belgium, Brussels, nº 6136

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    Paul-Henri's drawing depicts the sleeping quarters in Kazerne Dossin that he shared with 170 men, women and children who also had been assigned E cards. The bed Paul-Henri occupied along with the young Arouette brothers is marked with an X (centre left of the drawing). The area reserved for the boys from the Château de Bassines is marked in the bottom left corner with a dotted line.

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    A drawing done by Kurt Lewy, an internee at the Kazerne Dossin in Malines, showing the foot inspections described by Paul-Henri. The SS were particularly concerned with foot cleanliness and conducted surprise inspections, often at night. To facilitate these random inspections, the internees were required to sleep with their bare feet sticking out of their blankets.

    © Fonds: Felix-Nussbaum-Haus Osnabrück

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    Plan of the camp in Pithiviers. Paul-Henri's father spent his days in infirmary barracks 1 or 2 that were separated from the rest of the camp by a gate and barbed wire. Pithiviers, 1941–42.

    © Cercil, Orléans, France.

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    A modern photograph of the house at 51 Montjoie Avenue in Brussels where Berthe and Willie Lemlyn and Berthe's father and mother, Charles and Adèle Frantz, hid Paul-Henri, his mother, Faja, and his sister, Sina, from the Nazis.

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    An E card that is similar to the E/96 card that Paul-Henri had to wear around his neck for roll call while he was interned at the Kazerne Dossin in Malines, Belgium.

    © Archives de la Foundation Auschwitz, Brussels, Belgium.

The Book

Cover of E/96: Fate Undecided
2009 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal Winner

E/96: Fate Undecided

"Don’t move. Don’t open the door.” My knees had turned to jelly and I was trembling uncontrollably…. Sina grabbed her raincoat and declared, “I’m leaving. They’ll be back and I don’t want to end up in a camp.”

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E/96: Fate Undecided

Invasion

That night we bedded down on whatever was available and, being ten years old and tired, I just stretched out on the ground next to the truck and slept. We didn’t have much to eat, only the remnants of what we had managed to gather over the previous two days. The next morning, my parents woke me up at sunrise and we were on the move again. The driver had somehow managed to get some gasoline and bread from either the farmer or the hamlet down the road. It seemed that even in that chaos, you could still find the essentials – for a price.

We wanted to cross the River Somme, thinking that we would be safer on the other side, but we never reached it. The German army had gotten there before us and had been only temporarily stopped by a blown bridge. They were turning back refugees, urging people to go home, telling them that the war was finished for them. This was all done in a very nice way by the smiling young German soldiers exulting in their success in battle. They offered us bread, canned foods and Leberwurst, the famous liver sausage. When they heard that we were short of oil and gasoline, they climbed down from their armoured car, crawled under it and drew some oil from their engine and handed it to us. This was a particular relief because the old truck was badly leaking oil. Still with big smiles, they also gave us gasoline, all the while repeating that the war was over for us and we should go home. Unable to do otherwise, we turned around and headed back north, to Belgium, Antwerp and home.

The Jewish World War I veteran who had joined our group in De Panne didn’t hide his dislike of the Germans and, despite warnings from all the adults, persisted in declaring his status as a Belgian veteran and Jew. When we stopped for gasoline in the town of Amiens, we pulled up in front of the Kommandantur – the German military headquarters – to find the tall, grey-haired commandant standing out in front. Somebody may have alerted him to the presence of the Jewish veteran or perhaps the old man did so himself with his insistence on so proudly declaring his identity and his opinion of the Germans. Whichever it was, the officer ordered the man off the truck, threatening that unless he did, he would not give us gasoline. “Jew,” he said. “You walk.”

We continued on our way with heavy hearts. On our journey back to Antwerp, we saw much evidence of the rout of the Allied troops and the overwhelming power of the German army. Tanks and more tanks – small, medium and large – thundered down the road, pushing the column of refugees to the side. Everywhere we looked in the meadows beside the road we saw German soldiers cleaning their weapons and machines. Above all of this, the sun shone brilliantly and incongruously from a clear blue sky.