Louise (Gradstein) Dillery

angels in human form

“I am not a strong person. I survived because God put all kinds of angels on my road and that is why I am here at the ripe old age of 87.”

For many years Louise did not consider herself a Holocaust survivor. She was never imprisoned in a labor or concentration camp, but as a Parisian Jew she suffered greatly under Nazi occupation. Louise was only 13 when her mother died of tuberculosis. As an only child, Louise was left in the care of her widowed father. “My father was a stoic man, I only saw him cry twice. First when my mother died and second as we stood at the city hall and watched the Nazis replace the French flag with the swastika.”

Thus began a series of degradations. “Humiliations were the worst of all, they make you ashamed of who you are.” But the worst day was November 25, 1942. Louise’s father, a strong man, had never been sick in his life. On that day, when ration books were to be distributed, he was too ill to get out of bed. She decided to take both their cards to the city hall. Two men followed her home and arrested her father. Louise never saw him again.

Thanks to “human angels,” Louise survived through the rest of the war. There was the school principal who let her attend classes, provided books and lunch money even though Jews had been barred from classes. There was the French priest, Father Deveaux, who gave her money to pay rent. There was the French policeman who hired her to tutor his children and tipped her off whenever the police were rounding up Jews in her area. And there was the non-Jewish mother of her friend Jeanette who hid her in the attic whenever the Germans came to search.

“I am the best proof that the force of good is stronger than the force of evil. I survived because of these angels in human form.” The message that Louise would like to leave for future generations is “Be on the side of the force of good. I am living proof. By myself, I would never have survived.”