“I was born in February 1925, in Paris. I am the sixth of a family of seven children ”, begins Ginette Kolinka. One of the last survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp told her story to the hundreds of students in the four classes of 3e from the college of Rhuys, from Sarzeau (Morbihan), Thursday 1is April 2021, in a silence full of emotion.
“I was arrested in March 1944”
A non-practicing Jew, Ginette spent her childhood in Aubervilliers and saw her life turned upside down by the Second World War when she was just 16 years old. In July 1942, warned of an imminent arrest, his family managed to join the free zone and settle in Avignon in the Vaucluse. But everything changed, in March 1944. Probably following a denunciation, “I was arrested in March 1944 by the Gestapo with my father, my little brother, my uncle and one of my cousins”, she says.
After several stages in Avignon prison, then that of Baumettes in Marseille, the family found themselves interned in the Drancy camp, Seine-Saint-Denis, for a month, before being deported, by train, to the camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, in the same convoy as Simone Veil.
“They were taken to the gas chambers”
“As soon as I arrive, I am brutally separated from my father and my brother, whom I will never see again because they are immediately taken to the gas chambers”, remembers the survivor. Ginette was then selected for earthworks which she endured in appalling conditions until October 1944, when she was transferred successively to the camps of Bergen-Belsen, in Germany, and Theresienstadt, in the Czech Republic.
In May 1945, “I am freed by the allies and repatriated to Paris the following month”, continues Ginette. Barely recognizable as she weighed only 26 kg, she reunites with her mother and the other surviving members of her family.
For more than 40 years, Ginette remains silent
For more than 40 years, Ginette kept this terrible period of her life to herself. But in the early 2000s, she met an association of deportees, of which she became one of the ambassadors. She then crisscrossed France to transmit her history and remind the horror of the Shoah, more particularly to the younger generations.
She is the mother of Richard Kolinka, drummer of the French rock group Téléphone and the grandmother of actor Roman Kolinka.
« What were you thinking on the departure train? »
At the end of this conference, after a few seconds of silence, the students were able to ask their questions. ” What were you thinking on the departure train? One of them asks. Ginette has no memory of it. ” How were the relations between the detainees in the camp? », Asks another. ” There was mutual help with some. It took courage but it existed She replies. ” What did you eat? Another asks. ” Brown water for breakfast, hot water called soup for lunch, and a slice of white bread with margarine served for dinner. With this diet, you don’t have to worry about keeping your figure, », Ginette laughs. ” What did you miss the most? », Asks a student. ” Everything, there was nothing! But we get used to it very quickly She says. ” What did you dislike the most? »Asks a schoolgirl. ” I will never forget the moment I got naked to get a shave before I got my registration number tattooed. »
Ginette ended her conference with a strong message: “ It is hatred that has been the cause of all this misfortune. And history can never really show the horror of what we went through. »