I was born in Colmar in 1933, an only child, to Maurice Hoch and Georgette Offman.
My father was born in 1897 in Przysucha close to Łódź, in Poland. His parents owned a “Hof”, a large farm which they ran, as well as the surrounding forests. In 1914, my father was enlisted into the Tsar’s army and worked as a boatman on the river Volga.
After the 1914-1918 war, he left home and moved to Łódź (1) where a vigorous Jewish cultural life included plays, newspapers and books all in Yiddish. He completed an apprenticeship as a bookbinder and typographer at a Yiddish language publishing house and was an active member of the Jewish workers movement, the “Bund”. There were strong currents of anti-Semitism in that young Polish Republic and this caused many Jews to emigrate.
He left Poland in 1923 and went to Frankfurt am Main in Germany where he worked in a mustard factory. Then he went to Colmar; I’m not sure why. Thanks to his skills as a bookbinder he found work in the Netter family’s (link) workshops where he probably worked for one or two years. The Netter family showed him hospitality and kindness. In the evenings, he took adult education classes in French and Esperanto at the Ecole Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Then he set up on his own and practised his different trades (enlarging and framing photographs) by travelling around the surrounding communes.
My mother was born in 1907 in Sosnoweic, in Polish Silesia, which at that time was under Russian control. Her father was a clockmaker.
She left her family in 1926 to join her sister Fanny “Fella” Seibert in Bollwiller (near the city of Mulhouse in Alsace). Fanny was a hat maker and her husband owned a textiles company.
My parents married in 1931 in Bollwiller and settled in Colmar. My mother set up a clothing business (hosiery and work clothes) first of all selling from door to door but eventually got a stall on the Colmar market.
My parents were stateless and although in 1939 they applied to be naturalised, because of the war, they were unsuccessful.
1939 – The Phoney War
I was six and half years old when the war began.
My father served in the army and was stationed at La Valbonne in the department of Ain. My father found other Jews serving in the army who were originally from Colmar and who were themselves stateless: Berger, Edelstein, Frost and Weinberg.
My mother and I left for Faverny (Haute-Saône). We stayed in a hotel next to a level crossing; I used to spend whole days waiting by the barrier for my father to get back.
My father was discharged during the phoney war. We went back to Colmar and life returned to normal
Continue reading Solange’s story here at “The beginning of hostilities: Montbéliard, Moulins and Limoges- Sabine Solange Mantel”
(1) In 1900, Łódź had a population of 350,000, 80,000 were Jews. It had a thriving textile, cotton and wool industry which employed 40,000 people.
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