Marie Jucht Kaufman papers
Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Marie Jucht Kaufman (1930-1994) was a French-Jewish Holocaust survivor. Her son, American writer and artist Alan Kaufman (born 1952), has written of the lasting effects being a survivor had on her and her family in his memoirsJew Boy (2000) and Drunken Angel (2011).
Marie Jucht was ten years old in 1940 when the French government fell to the Nazis. The Vichy Government persecuted Jews through anti-Jewish legislation and propaganda. Their movements monitored and restricted, Jews were banned from many public places like parks and cinemas. Jewish children were prevented from attending school, and business owners' stores were vandalized and closed. Jews were required to wear yellow Stars of David on their clothes, emblazoned with "Juif” (“Jew”). Hannah Jucht, however, kept one set of clothing for each of her family members without the stars, which would later save her and Marie's lives.
Marie Jucht, her parents, and three brothers narrowly avoided arrest by the French State during the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup on July 17, 1942, in Paris. Over July 16-17, French officers arrested 13,000 foreign Jews living in Paris—many of whom were women and children. (Those arrested were temporarily held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver, a bicycle track arena, before being sent to concentration camps; the arena's nickname, Vel' d'Hiv, became associated with the mass arrests.) More arrests and deportations to concentration camps followed: by the end of September 1942, nearly 38,000 Jews in and around Paris were arrested and deported to Auschwitz.
Marie and her family fled south across the Demarcation Line into the French Free Zone, which in 1942 was still under the control of the French government. It was illegal for Jews to cross the Demarcation Line, and the Jucht family had to circumvent both German and French checkpoints. The Jucht family split up for safety, and Marie hid in a French Catholic girls' school for several months until Nazi occupation began to expand south.
The family later reunited and traveled in secret to northern Italy. In September 1943, the Allies had invaded Italy and in October, the Italian forces declared war on Germany and sided with the Allies. The Juchts and several other families traveled with a convoy of repatriated Italian soldiers across the border into Italy. Between 1943 and 1944, the Juchts traveled through small villages in the Italian Alps, befriending several families whose kindness kept the family alive, despite the danger to themselves and their homes. Marie Jucht became fluent in Italian and served as the family's translator.
The Juchts traveled with a band of Italian Partisans (resistance fights who utilized guerilla tactics) from late 1943 until early 1944. During that time, the Germans began to move into northern Italy and the group saw combat, during which Marie assisted a soldier with a machine gun. The family separated for safety in the aftermath of the fight; Marie and her mother took refuge with a Catholic priest, but her father and brothers were arrested as political prisoners. After the war, Marie Jucht immigrated to Venezuela, where she established a children's clothing factory. Marie Jucht married George Kaufman in 1951 in Mount Vernon, New York. She became a United States citizen in the early 1990s.
Biographical information derived from the collection.
Marie Jucht Kaufman (1930-1994) documented her survival of the Holocaust through letters written to her son, American writer and artist Alan Kaufman, between 1993 and 1994. The collection also includes photographs of the Jucht family during and after World War II, as well as photocopies of Marie Kaufman's naturalization documents from France, Venezuela, and the United States. In 1993, Alan Kaufman requested that his mother detail her survival account. Between 1993 and May 1994, when she became too ill to write, Marie Kaufman wrote thirty-three letters in which she recounted her and her family's harrowing experiences hiding from the Nazis, the French State gendarmes, and the Italian Black Brigades (also known as Black Shirts) between 1942 and 1944.
The collection also includes photocopies of Marie Kaufman's naturalization records and photographs of herself and family members before, during, and after World War II. The documents from the French government, in Alan Kaufman's words, proved his mother's existence: she had been listed among those killed at Auschwitz. Alan Kaufman labeled many of the photographs and documents with Post-it notes; these notes have been kept in the collection, representative of Kaufman's role in maintaining his mother's memory.
In September 2013, Alan Kaufman was in Germany for a literary event and traveled to Demonte in the Stura Valley seeking locations related to his mother's experiences in Italy. Kaufman was able to locate members of the Melcchio family who had helped his mother during the period of wartime hiding. Notes and souvenirs from this 2013 trip are found in Folder 7B.
The letters provide a first-hand account of a French-Jewish family's survival in World-War II France and Italy. Marie Kaufman's testimony not only recounts in detail events she witnessed but also reflects on her own Jewishness and the kindness of many of the French and Italian people who aided her family and those with whom they traveled.
Of his mother's letters, Alan Kaufman wrote: "The narrator of the letters is a keen observer, unashamed of her uncertainty, frank about her despair, but also extraordinarily resolute in her desire to live, and her faith in human goodness: her belief despite all evidence to the contrary that good itself still exists. But she is unflinching in her observations of the cowardice, delusion and brutality raging all around her, and these, too, make the letters remarkable."
Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
Box 2: Shelved in SPEC MSS binder boxes
Digitized versions of the materials in this collection are available at the University of Delaware Digital Institutional Repository.
Gift of Alan Kaufman, 2013, 2017.
Processed and encoded by Maureen Cech, October 2015.
- University of Delaware Library Special Collections
- Finding Aid Author
- University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
- Finding Aid Date
- 2015 October 27
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Use of materials from this collection beyond theexceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S.Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce isrequired from the copyright holder. Please contact Alan Kaufman via Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library, https://library.udel.edu/static/purl.php?askspec
European travel itinerary, postcards and souvenirs, notes form Alan Kaufman trip to Demonte, Valle Stura, Italy, September 2013. Souvenirs include grass from barn where Marie Jucht Kaufman hid and notes refer to Alan Kaufman's search for members of the Melcchio family who helped his mother during wartime.
Includes 99 photographs of the Jucht family before, during and after World War II, as well as photographs of Alan Kaufman and his daughter Isadora, George Kaufman, and other family members. Includes Alan Kaufman's notes identifying some family members. Some photographs bear inscriptions in French.