American Officers and Men Mark Yom Kippur in Mountain Synagogue in France

Two hundred and fifty American officers and men observed Yom Kippur in this mountain town in the Haute Savoie district in an elaborate little synagogue which had not been used for four years.

The only local Jew present was 86-year-old M. Ignace, former president of the Jewish community who emerged from his retreat in a Catholic hospice to attend services. All the other members of the once-thriving century-old Jewish community of Vesoul were deported by the Germans. The services were conducted by Major Earl Stone of Chicago, Jewish chaplain attached to the U.S. Seventh Army, assisted by Part. Kalman Yurman of Brooklyn.

The Vesoul synagogue is probably one of the few synagogues in France which the Germans or French fascists did not desecrate. The five scrolls of the law were in their accustomed place. The prayer books were neatly arranged in the pews. The list of deceased for whom anniversary prayers were to have been offered hung alongside the rostrum with a little pointer at the name “Emile Dreyfuss.” To judge from the names on the list, most of the 40 families which composed the community at the outbreak of the war were originally Alsatian. Ignace himself came to Vesoul from Alsace half a century ago.

Before and after the services he greeted many of the foreign visitors with handshakes and smiles. He tried hard to understand their pigdin French, but the occasion was obviously a great emotional strain for him. When some of the visitors asked him about the community, he replied brokenly; “They are all gone now. They were taken away. I alone remain.”

NEXT STORY