Jean Samuel

JeanSamuelYoung

 

Jean Samuel, aka André Ratier, was arrested by the Gestapo on May 18, 1944, around noon, in his office, in Paris. The Germans burst into the office, guns in their hands, screaming "German police, hands up". A member of the network manages to escape but the end result is dramatic: one dead, one injured and the network destroyed.

  

 

Jean Samuel

Jean Samuel was born December 15, 1923 in Paris where he spent his childhood with his parents and his older brother. After graduating from high school, he attended a commercial school for three years. When Alsace became German after the defeat of 1870, his family, originally from Alsace, settled in the capital. After the defeat of the French army in 1940, he sought refuge in south-west France, in the city of Agen (Lot et Garonne). In order to earn his living, he works in an expert accounting firm. His brother lives in Lyon and works as a sales representative for a cousin. This cousin is part of a resistance network. His brother Claude will become involved in this network and Jean follows him without hesitation.

 

In Paris Jean meets Pierre Kahn, aka Roger Farelle, head of the Forged Documents Service of the National Liberation Movement. Jean integrates in this service under the pseudonym "Sévigné" and becomes, under a false identity, André Ratier. The true identity of Jean Samuel will never be discovered by the Germans. The office of Forged Documents is located in Paris, City of the Flowers. This service will develop and provide fake identity cards, work cards, ration cards, birth certificates, administrative documents, in short, all possible and imaginable documents.

 

Jean Samuel, aka André Ratier, was arrested by the Gestapo on May 18, 1944, around noon, in his office, in Paris. The Germans burst into the office, guns in their hands, screaming "German police, hands up". A member of the network manages to escape but the end result is dramatic: one dead, one injured and the network destroyed.

 

Jean was brought to the headquarters of the Gestapo, Rue des Saussaies in Paris, and severely interrogated. His tormentors beat him up. They wanted to know the address of the escapee. To make him speak, he is tortured by drowning in the bathtub. He fainted. The Gestapo didn’t manage to find out the address.

 

Transferred to Fresnes, in the cell of the prison, he rejoins Pierre Kahn. It is in Fresnes that they learn about the allies landing in Normandy, and that helped strengthening their morale. After about three weeks, Jean Samuel is transferred to the Compiègne internment camp. Soon after the departure for Germany followed.

 

July 2, 1944, it is the hottest day of the year, according to the weather forecast. Piled up, up to one hundred per car, Pressed together, squashed in one another, one could suffocate. The air enters only through a small skylight. The cattle car starts to roll. Very quickly, the tension rises. There are fights. Those who fall are trampled by the others. They are dead. Jean Samuel is one of the 37 survivors of his wagon. 891 corpses in the train. On July 5th the train arrives at Dachau station.

 

Convoy N ° 7909 became notorious as "train of death": of the 2521 prisoners piled in these 22 wagons, only 1630 walked alive through the gate of Dachau. Corpses left in the cars will be burned directly at the camp's crematorium without being registered. Like all survivors of the train, Jean Samuel walks to the camp, where he arrives about 2 hours later.

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He is registered under the name of André Ratier, number 77655. For him the shower and the striped clothes are like a blessing. The Dachau camp was only one stage. After being placed in the quarantine blocks of the camp, he does not stay in the central camp. Together with more than 800 deportees, he is sent to the labour camps of the Neckar Valley. He is part of the large anonymous majority of deportees working in the mines for the production of the war industry of the Third Reich: hunger, cold, beatings, work in a gypsum mine, Kapos, lack of sleep, diseases.

 

1493 Ratier AndreJean SamuelJean Samuel describes his daily life in Neckargerach: "The barracks where we lived, three or four pressed together in a bunk, the lack of water to wash, a tap for several dozens of people, lice and soon typhus. In winter, the cold with our clothes made of canvas, for our feet, clappers, kind of sandals with wooden sole, and as a sock, a piece of cloth, which must be folded so that- more or less - it holds around the ankle. Waken up at dawn, distribution of warm water called coffee, gathering for the roll call, and the departure for the station. A train takes us to work, after a journey of about half an hour. Exiting from the wagon, frozen, weakened by lack of food, limbs sore from the work of the day before, I must, behind the Kapo, climb the stairs to reach the workplace, take a shovel, or stand behind a wagon with the perspective, of having to push it all day long. The mind always awake, fusing into the mass, avoid the eyes of Kapos and guards, and thereby protect oneself from blows. Hunted by a persistent hunger, I wait for the distribution of the soup. "

 

It is in Neckargerach that he catches typhus. He has more than 400 fever and stays a week in the infirmary. He survives, but must resume work in the mine, despite the cold.His knees were shaking and his legs were covered with purulent abscess. He feels he will not be able to continue that way for long. But fate smiles at him. For some unknown reason, a German soldier chooses him, and he is transferred to the Neckarelz-school camp, where the living conditions are a little easier. The mine is closer to the camp. On the advice of French deportees, he went to the Revier where he met a French doctor who signed a voucher allowing him to stay at the camp and exempt him from work in the mine. Assigned to peeling potatoes in German kitchens for two months, in the middle of winter 1944/1945. He works in a warm environment, and takes the advantage of the food of the Germans. This doctor saves his life and Jean will always be deeply grateful to him. He was lucky. He survived.

 

Due to the advancing Allied troops crossing the Rhine, he was evacuated from the Neckar camps in March, first on foot for two days, many die on the road, and than by train, he returns to Dachau. The end of the war is approaching. On April 29, 1945, the camp was liberated by the Americans. The most beautiful day of his life.


On May 10, he is back in Paris, where, with grate relief, he finds his family. He gets married, has a clothing business, first in Le Havre, then in Rouen. Each year, the survivors of the convoy of July 2 meet. For them, it's a sacred rendezvous. When he retires, he returns to Paris, and participates more actively in the activity of the French Amicale. He is the treasurer for many years. At the 1994 General Assembly of the International Committee in Munich he was appointed Secretary General of the CID. In May 2013, he handed the torch to the rising generation, Jean-Michel Thomas, son of one of his deportation companions. The general assembly appoints him secretary general emeritus and Jean Samuel continues to attend and regularly participate in the meetings of the Executive Board, the Board of Directors and the General Assembly of the International Dachau Committee.

 

Mai 2013 JeanSamuel 

 

In 2005, during the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau, he took part in the Franco-German symposium "Memoirs and history of the concentration camp experience" organized by Anne Bernou and Fabien Théofilakis and testified:

 "I left Dachau, but Dachau never left me. (...) Dachau shared my life. Dachau is present in me, but I keep my distance. It does not have priority. On the contrary, I'm using it to fill my life, and that's good. I believed in my country, and I still believe. I see myself as a democrat. I am a witness of the past but I want to live to testify to Hitler's crimes, and to fight against the institution of oblivion. (...) Be careful, the evil is not eradicated, we see evidence every day. " 

 

 

Berlin novembre 2014 Bundeskanzleramt

Today, Jean is 95 years old. He has been married to Estelle for more than 70 years and is happy.