Survivor STORY

Lucy Carson was born Louise Rosenblith to Beryl Rosenblith and Machla Strickler Rosenblith in 1931 in Antwerp, Belgium. Lucy’s parents were originally from Poland and had immigrated to Antwerp, where Beryl joined his brother in the diamond business and a men’s clothing store.

In May of 1940, the sky suddenly darkened with planes, and that’s when members of the family decided to evacuate to France, including Lucy’s cousin Regina Dollman (Rosenfelder) her sister Susy (Tibor), their parents, Lucy’s aunts, Sabine and Helly, and Helly’s two boys, Herbie and Freddie, and Grandpa David Rose. They managed to get on a cattle car or coal car that didn’t have a top. Whenever they heard a plane, the train stopped and everyone had to get off and hide either underneath the train or in nearby bushes. After eight days they ended up in a detention center in France, but soon, for no apparent reason, the gates were opened and everybody walked out.

The family left together and ended up in Vicq, a very small town in the Department of Allier, which was ruled by the Vichy government. There they were given two houses in the middle of town. As soon as the French capitulated to the Nazis, all the men of working age in the family were picked up, deported to a camp for foreign workers and were not seen again.

It got to the point where it was too dangerous for the family to stay in the village, so they moved into a tiny abandoned railroad station in the middle of nowhere. They survived on potatoes, they had a few chickens, and the farmers would help. Lucy recalls, “One of the main things I remember there was there was an apple tree. That apple tree was like manna from heaven, believe me. We would wait every morning, get up and see whether an apple fell down so we could split it up between all of us. It was just, I mean, it was the most delicious thing that we had at the time. I remember, I mean, crazy, when you grow potatoes, you had these bugs that eat the leaves, called the [sounds like] dorefores in French, and we were so afraid that something would happen to these precious potatoes, that Regina and I and the cousins would pick those bugs and put them on the railroad tracks and with a brick we would kill them. That’s what we played, you know. It, that was, that was hard there.”

It during that period of time that Lucy’s sister, Betty, was born in a hospital, thanks to a farmer who took her mother to a nearby village. About a year later, they family decided to move into Unoccupied France and to go into hiding somehow. Lucy recounts, “How their places were chosen, I don’t know, but it was decided that my mother would take Betty – she was too little – and take the train in Limoges, and there she would get off the train and hand my sister over to, we presume now that it was an OSE representative, and she would take Betty and put her into a family, and that would care for her for during the war. And she remained there the whole war. But my mother lingered one minute too long on the platform in Limoges, and I know that as a fact, because Grandpa was also, they were both going to a place of hiding and he was on the train and she was picked up and sent to Drancy. We got a card from Drancy, and then, of course, Auschwitz, and that was the last I saw of my mother.”

Lucy’s aunts went into hiding and the children were taken into hiding by the OSE, the Organization to Save the Children, to Le Chateau des Morelles in Brout-Vernet, run by Orthodox rabbis. Lucy recalls, “And then one day, the impossible happened. In the middle of the night they told half the children to pack up their belongings, get dressed, and they had to leave immediately. And so, about half the home left that night, immediately. And it wasn’t till years later that I found out that the other half, the rabbis and the staff, they didn’t make it. So, as far as I know, none of those children survived.”

From there, Lucy was hidden in a convent where children were living in a kind of boarding school, and Lucy’s life depended on pretending to be a good Catholic girl. That very lonely and fearful period finally ended when the OSE came back to pick her up, long after her cousins had already been moved. Lucy, with false identity papers under the name Genevieve Risenol, was moved to LaSone, where she lived with a woman, two babies, and her son and his wife. The son, who was a member of the Underground was later turned in by his wife and executed by the Germans. From there, Lucy was picked up again and taken to La Chaumiere, a former sanitarium for tuberculosis patients way up in the mountains, where food was scarce and the cold was bone rattling. Lucy lived there with about a hundred other Jewish children, including her sister. At the end of the war, Lucy and Betty were brought by the OSE back to Antwerp, where her aunt, Sabine, took them in.

Two years after liberation, in 1947, Lucy and Betty, along with her surviving family members, emigrated to Atlanta. After graduating high school in Atlanta, Lucy married Sam Carson, and had three sons, two of whom, Bennett and Dan, died of complications from a genetic disorder, disautonomia. Sam and Lucy adore their son, Joe, and his family. Lucy has been a very active member and volunteer at Congregation Beth Jacob since its founding.

Human Spirit and Warmth

But still, but still at that point I want to add, why did she do it? Why did she take the risk? I mean, nobody can imagine what the risk was to do this. Why did even the convent do this? Why did any of these people take such risk when you could barely survive. I don’t know whether even I could, could do this. You have such chaos around you that you barely have enough, you’re rationed with food, would you take a stranger into your house and hide them? And you really risk your life. I mean, I don’t say that lightly. You really risked -- all it took was one person having a suspicion and the whole family’s gone, because I don’t remember a place where the Germans weren’t somewhere, that you didn’t see them.

You lived, you know, you lived through the generosity of other people. You’ve missed your childhood, you’ve, you don’t know, people talk to me and I – sometimes Sam gets together with some of his buddies and they talk about what they did as a child and we did this and we did that. I can’t contribute anything. You know, no birthday parties, no baking cookies with Mom, no shopping. Unheard of. So really, that was not part of your life. And you really, I feel like I lived through the generosity of other people. You know, I was at their mercy, really. So, but I’m here today, so. I had a lot of determination. I was one determined kid.

Where did that come from?

Lucy: I don’t know. I don’t know. I’ve always said I have super A personality, super A personality. Nothing is too hard, nothing is impossible. And you know, you learn priorities. You know, some of the things that people worry about here.

Coming to America

Yeah. I was a teenager when I came here. Now, you have to picture that. I was on a ship for eight days, just me and my sister, five years old. I don’t know who took care of me. Somebody met me in New York. I came down here. My experience was that I learned four words of English: “attention,” “passengers,” “upstairs” and “downstairs.” And I came in August and I went, the following week I went to school. And can you imagine going to China, and you’ve got all these kids yakking away. You don’t know what’s going on. The food is different. Everything is so, so different. It’s a culture shock. I mean, really. You think you go to, you’re coming to Paradise, but you have to adjust to that paradise first.

But you know what the hardest part, what the most unbelievable, I mean, it may sound trivial. I went to school, I came on a Friday, and I went to school on a Monday. I mean, really, no transition here. And, we went to the cafeteria, and I’m telling you, I can remember that today. They would eat three bites of a sandwich and the rest was thrown away. I was having a heart attack there. All that food that was being thrown away was unreal to me. That’s how food affects you. I still don’t throw anything out. Unless it’s rotten, of course. No, that’s an exaggeration.

So what was Atlanta like in 1947?

It was hard, because you’re, you know, you’re at an age, you’re a teenager, you’re at an age that you start dating and parties, and you know, it all seemed so frivolous. You know, carefree, and frivolous to me. You know, I had to worry about everything all the time. And to just not, I don’t know, life was one big party, isn’t it? You have to get used to that.

Talking About the Holocaust

Well, when I first went to school, talking French was a novelty, so, you know, that was OK. Nobody really asked what happened when we came. People did not talk about it, and I didn’t talk about it. Why didn’t I talk about it? If I were to tell you some of these stories in more detail, I probably would have seen disbelief in somebody’s eyes, and I didn’t want to see that. And so, I could just imagine my son saying, “Oh, Mom, come on.” Or somebody saying, you know, “It can’t be.” And that’s true. You couldn’t believe what you went through. Nobody could believe, who had a happy life over here, could believe what you went through. So, you don’t talk about it. And what was nice with me is that Regina was the same age as I am. We were always able to talk about it between ourselves, and so, we, I did have a sounding board as to talk with someone. But to just talk about it? Why would you? Well, in a way I can understand why the Vietnam veterans didn’t talk about it until forty years later. Nobody would believe them, that it was really so bad, because it was so bad.

Lucy Rosenblith Carson