Tuesday, April 27, 2010

“I will never forget them”

Evelyne Jacobson (left holding medal) of Montreal, and Irene Dutont of Switzerland, daughters of Marthe Helene Ducommun and Pastor Marcel Ducommun receive the certificate and medal on their parents' behalf today in the Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. The Ducommuns were recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations for sheltering Jews during the Holocaust.

Speaking about the couple who hid her for two years, Rev. Marcel & Helene Marthe Ducommun, Holocaust survivor Nadia (Grubain) Rosenblum recalled how even during those difficult times, there were joyful moments. “I will never forget them.”

The Grubstein family had emigrated from Poland to France in 1932. When the Nazis invaded France in May 1940, the Grubsteins were among the many refugees that escaped to Southern France. During their flight, the family was arrested several times, sent to a detention camp, and eventually arrived in the Tarn District. Upon their arrival, Abraham and Sarah Grubstein, and their three children, Jacques, Morris, and Nadia, sought out the leaders of the Jewish community in Castres and requested assistance finding a place to hide. The family was referred to Reverend Cook, who in turn sent them to his colleague Reverend Marcel Ducommun in the village of Senegats.

Reverend Ducommun, who tended to the pastoral needs of three small villages, immediately agreed to provide shelter for the persecuted Jewish family. The family hid inside the church compound and were given free access to the parsonage, and Jacques and Nadia occasionally attended the local school where the Pastor’s wife was a teacher. Nadia recalled that the Reverend and his wife, Helene Marthe, visited them regularly, and gave them the keys to the library. “Thanks to them, I entered the world of music and study,” she said. When Father Ducommun, a member of the French resistance movement, would hear of imminent arrests, he hurried to warn the Grubsteins, who would flee and hide in coal miners’ huts in the vicinity of the village.

The Grubstein family was rescued by remaining under the Ducommuns’ devoted care for a period of two years. After the war, the Grubsteins became French citizens and Frenchified their name to Grubain. Father Marcel Ducommun passed away on May 2, 1990; his wife Helene Marthe passed away on June 11, 1994.

At the event honoring them today at Yad Vashem, a teary-eyed Evelyne Jacobson spoke about how moved she was to be at Yad Vashem to receive the medal and certificate on her late parents' behalf.

She told the audience about how she came to tell Yad Vashem about the story. "In 2005, I visited Israel. My father had toured Israel many times. One day, we spent the day in Jerusalem and we visited Yad Vashem. All of a sudden, I felt as if my Dad was walking with us and I mentioned it to my cousins. Memories from the past came back in full force." She described how she contacted Yad Vashem to find out about going about getting the Righteous designation for her father, and was told to find at least one family her parents had helped. "I could only remember the name of a little girl with whom I had played, Nadia, but I needed a family name. One evening, we were in Montreal, and I was working at my desk when a picture fell from a book I had fell out. A family of three children, and in the back a few words signed, Grubstein, Metz, 1945. We had looked everywhere.” After finding Nadia through the Internet, they met in August 2008 – after 63 years, for a very emotional reunion.

“My parents never hesitated to help anyone, regardless of religion, race or social background. They were committed to their faith and guided by it,” she concluded. “My parents were very modest and probably would not have asked for this recognition. I admire my parents for who they were and what they did. Today I am glad and thankful to receive this honor in their name."

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