St.Porquier

I cannot remember how long it took, but the train was moving at a fairly good speed and at last we were not faced with relentless bombing. Eventually, the train stopped in La Ville Dieu and then Tarn and Garonne, where we were asked to get off the train. We were driven about six or seven kilometers and told to disembark at our final destination, the town of St. Porquier.

The weather in St. Porquier was beautiful. I remember it was a Sunday when we arrived, because all the local people came and saw our group of mostly Parisians converge in the center of town. I am sure many of the local people had never seen anyone from Paris. It was quite a treat for them.

St. Porquier was a village of about 900 people. It was predominantly agricultural, inhabited mostly by farm people. We took up residence in a house with one bedroom, washroom and a kitchen, all by ourselves. The very next day, my brother Charles managed to get a job in a local brewery. He used to go around with the local driver and deliver beer, lemonade etc.

 St. Porquier:

This rural southern French village is where the Mammon’s fled to safety during World War II. This picture was taken many years later when Joseph & Shoshana went back to visit.

Dora Mammon:

Joseph’s mother Dora is pictured here in St. Porquier where the Mammon’s fled during WWII


I found employment on a farm with Mr. Delrieux. The first thing he asked me to do was take about twelve or fifteen cows into a field where they would graze. I was given a dog named Labrie and I had to communicate with him so he could gather the cows together. The only words I used to say to him was, “Te Te Labrie”, and he managed to get all the cows together by biting at their ankles. I remember one time when the dog started barking because one of the cows had fallen in the river. I was very frightened as I had so many cows to attend to, but after a while I managed to rescue the cow.

Although I had no previous experience with cows or with any type of farming, I progressed and learned many farming skills. I used to plow, gather the wheat, clean the cow shed, collect grapes for wine making, saw wood and many other tasks. A few months later, Michel and my father joined us.

So life went on slowly, but peacefully. For a young boy from Paris, fresh out of school without a farming background, I think I was doing very well. I was very keen to please the French peasants. Otherwise, if they didn’t like us and eventually found out that we had fled as Jews from Paris, they may have reported us to the authorities. There were other Jewish families from Paris in St. Porquier who did not work. People used to talk about them, because they seemed to survive without working, which drew some suspicions and envy.

I became a freelancer. In other words, I used to work in different places, at different jobs, which gave me more money. I remember one year during Les Vendages, I was asked by the Wineries in Ville Dieu if I could take a cart and a mule to carry about ten ladies from St. Porquier to Ville Dieu. I worked for about ten days in the wineries and took the people back to their homes in St. Porquier.

One morning after I took the mule out to drink, which I did every morning, I was careless and she pulled on the chord and ran off. It’s amazing, but somehow, she knew exactly to run towards home. Eventually, I stopped the mule and brought her back.

Unfortunately, my brother Michel contracted an illness and was hospitalised. On one occasion, my father had to go to the hospital in Montauban to visit Michel. At the time, we were residing in St. Porquier which presented a problem.  To visit the hospital, we needed a permit from Castle Sarrazin which was the prefecture de police. To go to Castel Sarrazin, we had to get a permit from St. Porquier, so it was a vicious circle.

To side step this problem, the local doctor gave my father and me a letter of permission to travel to Montauban. Since we had only one bicycle, my father rode it and I ran behind him all the way to the hospital.

My father stayed in the hospital for a few weeks and then sent word that Michel’s health had deteriorated and that he had died. He was just over 21 years of age. I remember my brother Charles and I both went to Toulouse for my brothers burial in 1941. My parents were in a very bad state. Both of them were crying. After the war, July 23rd 1946, my father had the body exhumed from Toulouse and re-buried in Nimes. My youngest brother Albert died in 1942, at the age of 12 1/2, and was buried in St. Lazar in Montpellier.

My Brother, Michel’s Driving License 

5th February 1940 (Age 19 1/2)

I remember the first Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in St. Porquier. We were supposed to work, but my mother wanted us to observe the holiday, so she suggested we tell our employer that we were ill. Unfortunately, when they heard we were not well, several of the residents of St. Porquier, who had taken a liking to us, offered to send a doctor to see us. Of course, my mother refused and said she had the proper medication to take care of the illness.

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