Charles Aznavour and the saved Jews of Paris

Written by on November 18, 2017 in Europe - Comments Off on Charles Aznavour and the saved Jews of Paris

Charles Aznavour will be performing in Sofia very soon, on November 30, 2017. But, as it turns out, the 93-year-old artist is not just a living Chanson legend, but also a hero. Aznavour, one of the most popular French entertainers ever, recently started talking and writing about what happened around him during the Holocaust.

Last year, Charles Aznavour and his sister Aida received the Raoul Wallenberg Medal in Israel, in recognition of their family, which saved the lives of several Jews during World War II. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin was the one who presented them with the medal.

On that occasion, the singer recalled what had happened, back then. His family lived in the Les Marais district, where lots of immigrants were accommodated. They included Jews and refugees from Armenia.

In their small three-room apartment, the Aznavour family hid Jews hunted by the Nazis, as well as other people who were in danger. By doing so, they risked their own lives.

First, the Aznavours sheltered a Romanian Jew who had been sentenced to death for subversion. From Germany, he managed to reach Paris, disguised as a Wehrmacht soldier.

In a Hebrew book he wrote with Dr. Yair Auron in Israel, entitled “Righteous Saviours and Fighters”, Aznavour says this: “We understood that the Jews were going to be the victims of brutality. We looked upon the Jews with sadness and sorrow.”

The entertainer’s sister Aida recalled how dangerous things were for his family: “It was clear that if the Nazis found this man in our house, they’d kill us right away.”

Later, the family also sheltered the Jewish husband of a friend, and a third Jew. Also they hid Armenians who had been drafted into the Wehrmacht and became deserters, instead of fighting for Nazi Germany.

At times, up to 11 people hid in the family’s small apartment, including Armenians, Jews and members of the French resistance who could not go anywhere else since nobody, apart from the Aznavour family, was ready to risk their lives for them.

“My parents knew the danger was there every day, but my sister and I only grasped it later”, Charles Aznavour’s Israeli book reads. “Only after the war did we realize how great the risk really was.”

He and his sister actively helped the refugees their family hid, e.g. by running errands, by burning the Armenian deserter’s Nazi uniforms somewhere in the city, and by keeping the secret.

Information about Charles Aznavour’s artistic career and his Sofia concert on November 30, 2017, can be found here.

 

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About the Author

Imanuel Marcus is Associate Editor of The Sofia Globe. He is German and lives in Sofia. Contact: imanuelmarcus (at) gmail.com