At that time, my father acquired his first car, called a “decapotable”, a convertible. I was six years old. My father Pinchas, his uncle Eliyahu (his mother Rivka’s brother) and Eliyahu’s son Shmuel went to Caracas, Venezuela, searching for a better life, but they returned disappointed, back to the old routine in France.

We moved to Paris in 1936. My grandfather Benyamin Katan died in Paris that year. My grandfather’s brother Emmanuel had died the previous year, 1935. Emmanuel’s wife, Zena, was deported.

In Paris, we first lived in the 10th Arrondissement where my brothers and I attended the local school. I was a very good student and managed to win Le Prix de Camaraderie (prize of friendship), and I also received Le Prix D’Excellence for my school work. This was in 1937 when I was 12 years old. The local MP attended the award presentation and told me to be especially proud of receiving Le Prix de Camaraderie since this was an honour voted directly by my classmates.

A Gifted Student:

For his achievments in school, Joseph was awarded the prestigious ‘Le Prix d’Excellence’ and from his classmates ‘Le Prix de Camaraderie’

Looking back now, I realise my brothers and I were so motivated to do well at school because our parents did not have the opportunity to study in their country and we were given the chance in France. I excelled in school and to this day, I remember how much I loved that particular school which was at 10, Rue Eugene Varlin. It was a very long walk, from beyond Gar d L’est to 10 Rue D’Enghien, perhaps two kilometers (1.25 miles), which my brothers and I had to work every day. We did not mind at all.

Life went on without much excitement. We were very happy at school. I do not know if my parents were happy in their lives. They worked very hard and did not have much to show for it.

44 Rue Vitale, Passy: Joseph lived in this Paris apartment in 1937.  


I have many other memories from that time. For instance, I remember on the first night of Chanucah, the Rabbi of the Synagogue at La Varen St. Hilaire asked me to say the prayer for lighting the candles. I was rather nervous of course, but managed to do it well. I think we also went to another synagogue, because I recall walking back from cheder at the other synagogue on Thursday and passing a market along the way. In that market there were bananas for sale so I stopped and purchased two pounds of bananas, as I knew my father could sell them in his shop and make a profit.

My father was very happy with my purchase and he did sell them for more. Sometimes the bananas would turn black and of course he could not sell them, so I decided to return them to the market. On the following Thursday, I saw the merchant and told him they were black. He initially refused to refund me, but eventually, after seeing that the dispute was interfering with his business he refunded the balance.

When I was thirteen years old, my father took me to the Synagogue on Rue St. Lazar in Paris where I had my Bar Mitzvah. It was held on a Monday and I had a small party. Around this time we moved again to the 16th Arrondissement in Paris. The specific are was called Passy where my father started a new fruit and vegetable business


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