Nineteen years ago, in the December 12, 1997 issue, The Jewish Press published in “Lessons in Emunah” a text I wrote entitled “A Supreme Act of Love.”
It was about the story of a young boy, during WWII, in Nazi Occupied France, who was learning for his upcoming bar mitzvah in 1944 in the Shul of Brive-la-Gaillarde (Corrèze) in France.
My Father, Harav David Feuerwerker, zt”l, was the rabbi of the city and in charge of three French Departments (Corrèze, Creuse and Lot).
I had heard the story many times from my mother but I had no idea who this young boy was.
He was arrested in the Shul together with several other Jews, including my aunt, Rose Warfman (Rose Gluck at the time), by the Gestapo. All those arrested were put on a flat open truck and taken away. Then, someone pointed to the young boy’s mother walking on the street. Amazingly, the young boy didn’t call out to his mother. By doing so, I wrote, he saved, at that very moment, her life.
Who was this young boy? What happened to his mother?
A while ago, I came upon handwritten notes from my father. There in a list of people from Brive (Brive-la-Gaillarde is often called more simply Brive), I saw a name, unknown to me, which I researched: Najberg. I looked up in the book The Memorial of the Deportation of Jews from France by the French Nazi hunter, Serge Klarsfeld, published in 1978, which I possess, and found that there was a Robert Najberg, born on June 29, 1931, in Lens.
It had to be the young boy, the age corresponding to 12!
I searched further on the Internet and found that Robert Najberg was born in Lens, Pas-de-Calais, France, in a Jewish family of Polish origin. Another name I found in the handwritten notes of my father was Bindefeld. I searched for information about him. He was Nathan (Nachman) Bindefeld, the Hazzan, who was teaching Robert Najberg for his bar mitzvah. I found in Klarsfeld’s book that Nachman Bindefeld was born on June 25, 1906, in Frankfurt-am-Main, in Germany. I found out about the fate of both the teacher and his student.
Nachman Bindefeld was deported from the Drancy internment camp (next to Paris) to either Kaunas (Lithuania) or Tallinn (Estonia) by the Convoy No. 73, of May 15, 1944, where he was killed. He was 38 years old.
Robert Najman was deported from Drancy internment camp to Auschwitz concentration camp, by the next convoy, Convoy No. 74, of May 20, 1944, and killed upon his arrival, on May 25, 1944. He was 12 years old, soon to become bar mitzvah.
My aunt, Rose Gluck, a nurse and member of the French Resistance, was deported from Drancy internment camp to Auschwitz concentration camp, on an earlier convoy, Convoy No. 72, of April 29, 1944. She survived both Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen concentration camps. Her story is known around the world.
Recently, she has seen one account published as a chapter of the book by Renée Worch: Holocaust Heroines. Four Teenagers’ Stories of Courage and Miraculous Survival (Feldheim).
Rose Warfman passed away this year on Shabbat Parashat Ki Teitzei (14 Elul /September 17), in Manchester, England, a few days short of reaching the age of 100.
On the train taking Nachman Bindefeld to Eastern Europe to be killed was my uncle, Dr. Salomon Gluck, a physician and member of the French Resistance, who was also killed. He was 29 years old.
What happened to Robert Najberg’s mother? I have no clue; I can’t find any information.
The 1978 edition of Klarsfeld’s book gives the lists of deportees convoy after convoy. You have to go through one after another to find the names.
In 2012, Serge Klarsfeld published an updated version of his work, with corrections and additional information with one great improvement, according to me: all the names are listed alphabetically, which makes it easier to consult. It is a huge and heavy folio. There are only 1000 copies printed of that work, and Klarsfeld was kind enough to give me a copy.
There is only one other Najberg listed in the deportees from France. Mordko Najberg, born on April 23, 1899, in Bialoczow, who was living in Malemort (Corrèze), next to Brive.
He was detained in a camp in Marseille. He was then deported to Drancy internment camp and from there to Majdanek concentration camp by Convoy 51, of March 6, 1943. He was 44 years old.
In passing, I just saw news published about Bialoczow, a village in the district of Opoczno, by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), dated April 1, 1929: “Purim Play Leads to Anti-Semitic Disturbance in Polish Village.” Did this event push Mordko Najberg to leave Poland for France? I can’t answer that question.
It seems that Mordko Najberg was the father of Robert Najberg. If so, it means that only his mother was still free at the time.
The fact that Robert Najberg’s mother is not listed among the deportees from France, can be interpreted, until proven wrong, that she was not deported.
Who was she? What happened to her? I have no answers.
It seems that she survived and that her son, 12 years old, saved her life. A supreme act of love.
Dr. Elie Feuerwerker