A Turkish Jew interned at Drancy writes home.
The following is a letter from Yaco Soulam, detained in Drancy, to his wife, Rebecca in Paris. The letter was translated from Ladino by Julia Phillips Cohen and is excerpted below from Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History 1700-1950:
Located in a northeastern suburb of Paris, the Drancy camp was first established by the German authorities in August 1941 as a site of internment for foreign Jews living in France. It later became the primary transit camp for all of French Jewry. In this intimate letter a Sephardi man named Bension Haim Yaco Soulam (1901-1942) tells his wife, Rebecca Soulam (née Bensasson) (1900-1974) about his days spent in the camp, urges her to keep their family safe, and attempts to arrange a clandestine meeting with her while he is interned. Yaco's letters to his wife during this period, written in a combination of French and Ladino, included elaborate coded messages and instructions, including his suggestion that their children keep a record of their naturalization as French citizens as a form of insurance. By contrast both husband and wife remained stateless, although they had come to France from Turkey more than a decade earlier; having failed to renew their papers with the Turkish authorities, they were not recognized by the Turkish consulate as Turkish nationals. Along with countless other stateless Jews of Turkish origin, Yaco was deported from Drancy to Auschwitz, where he perished. His wife Rebecca remained in Paris for another two years before she too was sent to Auschwitz. Having endured the horrors of the camp and nearly dying of typhus, after the war Rebecca Soulam was reunited with her children, both of whom survived in hiding.