Summer Day Camp 1941
It was my best summer ever, the summer when my mother let me register for day camp. Every morning I walked down the rue Verbist to the tram station near the Place St. Josse where my mother shopped every morning in the open market. Lots of kids assembled there, carrying their lunch bags. As soon as the tram arrived, we would try and jump onto it while it was still in motion. We, the older kids, would stand on the platform all the way to the end station and sing at the top of our voices. I learned a lot of new songs that summer. Sometimes I would come home hoarse from forcing my voice.
I don’t remember much about our day camp except that my good friends Gina and Ruth joined me. There was a volleyball field for sunny days and a covered area for rainy days. It rained or drizzled most of the days. I made friends with different groups. I found myself a “cousin,” a boy who became very attached to me. He was a year or so older than I, very nice and protective when I got into fights with other kids. I saw him a few times after summer camp when I went to visit him with my mother to bring him some of Henry’s outgrown clothes. I also met Josée, a few years older than me, with two blond tresses. She taught me how to play volleyball and usually would pick me on her team.
Summer camp was my first all-day activity away from home, and I loved it. By that time, many decrees had come down from the occupying Germans forbidding Jews to do various activities, so that day camp was a sheltered, fun world for me. I could play ball all day long. I met Josée’s mother, a very nice woman who felt sorry that we Jews were persecuted. She was Protestant and very sympathetic. Josée remained my friend after the summer and helped me sometimes with my schoolwork. Her mother was truly happy when she saw me after the war. She expressed thanks that I had survived with my family.
I remember a hot summer Sunday when my mother, who loved to swim, decided to take me to the outdoor public pool not too far from our house. When we got there, a huge sign greeted us: “This establishment is forbidden to Jews.” My mother looked at me and said that since we had come so far, we’d go in anyhow. While I ran up the stairs to the entrance, I stumbled and stubbed one of my toes so badly that I must have broken it. By the time we wanted to go home, I was unable to walk on my swollen foot. My mother had to call a taxi to take us home. It had felt good to defy the German decree, while at the same time I wondered why Jews were singled out everywhere and why they did not revolt.