When Charlotte Adelman was just nine years old she was living in Paris with her family. When the Germans invaded France in 1940, Charlotte and her brother were sent to an orphanage while their parents were sent to a “work” camp. They never made it to any work camp, and her mother ended up being killed in Auschwitz.
Charlotte suffered a lot over the years but was thankful to have been protected and ultimately saved by a loving family. Seven decades later and the wonders of social media shone through for Charlotte after she reconnected with the family that saved her life during the war thanks to a simple Facebook message.
As Adelman recalls, “When they took (my mother) away, it was like them taking my arms and legs.” And while Adelman’s father was able to escape the truck en-route to the death camp no one knows if he survived the war. Adelman’s brother also didn’t make it to the orphanage as he had Scarlet Fever at the time and was sent to the hospital. He was then adopted by a woman who sold Jewish children to the Germans, and Adelman found herself completely alone.
From the orphanage, Adelman was able to make contact with an old family friend called Madame Elazare. She was able to save Charlotte and take her back to her Paris apartment. When she arrived, she cleaned, fed and helped the young girl back to health but that location wasn’t a safe long-term option, so Adelman needed to be moved as soon as possible.
Adelman’s father had made arrangements before he was taken by the Germans for his daughter to be taken in by the Quatreville family in Beaumont du Argonne. It was just as well that Adelman made it there when she did as it later turned out that all 79 children who had been at the orphanage had been taken to death camps and killed.
Mr. Quaterville assured Charlotte’s father that he would take care of his daughter. She was taken and hidden in the cellar of the family home where she had only a mattress and a lamp. There was no window, and Adelman only knew what time it was when her food was brought to her, and when she was given a bath. She lived there alone for a total of nine months.
Adelman told reporters, according to a People report that the only thing that kept her spirits up in that cellar was the thought of seeing her mother once again. Sadly that never happened and Adelman’s mother was killed in Auschwitz at the age of just 33.
Adelman lived in the Quatreville family basement for a further six months until the end of the war. “They treated me like their own child,” Adelman said of the Quatrevilles. “My mother loved Charlotte,” said Alain Quatreville, who was four years old when his parents took in Adelman. But after the war, Adelman lost touch with the family, which caused Mrs. Quatreville “great anguish” according to her son.
Seventy years may have passed by, but the memories remained. It was 2014 when one of the Quaterville clan made contact with Adelman via Facebook. She received a message saying that the family had always wondered what had happened to Adelman after the war. They said they wanted to reunite with her and made plans to make that happen.
“Receiving that message put me back to the time when I was hiding in their cellar,” Adelman said. “It was very emotional. The fact that they found me meant so much.” At the age of 86, Adelman reunited with Quatreville junior at the Wall of Names in Paris at the Mémorial de la Shoah. That reunion was a highly emotional and very special one.
When the old friends met, Quatreville asked, “What can I say, Charlotte?” to which Adelman replied, “This is a dream come true.” Adelman was taken by the family that saved her life back to the small village for a visit. As the two strolled the halls of the property all Quatreville could think about was his late mother. “This reunion would have meant so much more to my mother,” he said. “I think of her especially. She would’ve been very happy.”
Adelman also said that if Mrs. Quatreville were still alive today she “wouldn’t know how to thank her for what she did for me.” Adelman added, “She risked her life to save me. How can you ever thank someone for that?” Sadly she cannot give that thanks to the older Quatrevilles due to the passage of time, but meeting Alain was something very special for Adelman.
All those years ago, the Quatrevilles went to great lengths to ensure Adelman was saved from the Germans. While she was smuggled out of Paris in a noodle truck, “Everything was clandestine,” she said. “I never knew what was going to happen to me. I was always the lookout.” And while Adelman was relatively safe in the basement, the constant threat against her life was something very real.
One particular night, Adelman recalls she was scared to sleep alone in the basement and asked if she could sleep in a proper bed upstairs. “One night I said, ‘Please, I cannot stay here. Let me go upstairs, and sleep in a regular bed,’” she recalls. “Well, that night the Germans came.” Adelman was lucky on more than one occasion to escape with her life, and this was one such night.
At the tender age of just eleven, Adelman recalls well that night when the Germans came to visit the home. “I heard them coming in the front door, so I slid under the bed, against the wall. I put my little hands in my mouth because I was afraid to scream,” she recalls. “It was a miracle I survived,” she says. “It was like something was looking over me.”
In 1957, Adelman was given a chance for a new start in life after the war was well and truly over. She moved to the US and met her husband Alex in Canada some years later. The couple was married for 50 years until Alex died in 2011.
For her part, Adelman was thrilled to receive that Facebook message from the family who saved her. “I never forgot the Quatrevilles,” Adelman said. Her daughter Roz told reporters, “He (Alain) really wanted my mom to come to his little town,” she said. “I knew it was going to be emotional, and I didn’t know if she was capable of that.”
Alain who is a retired math professor and is married with three children and lives in the French Ardennes said, “This meeting made Charlotte real to me. Until that day it was a very distant childhood memory, and she was almost unreal.” He added, “My mother waited all her life to see Charlotte again.”
When Alain met Charlotte at the Holocaust memorial, she recounted what a special and emotional moment she shared with him. “We met at the Shoah, and I lit a candle for my mom, and he came to help me to light the candle,” Adelman said. Her daughter Roz was also thrilled to be a part of the long-awaited reunion.
Came to Life
Roz said that her mother had told her stories about her time in France as a child for years but that it was hard to grasp the reality of the time. “All the stories that my mom’s been telling for years and years and years, all of it came to life,” Roz said. “It brought it all back,” said Adelman, who has kept in touch with Alain ever since.
Having been silent about her childhood for so many years, Adelman’s reunion with Alain brought back many memories. She decided after the reunion to reach out and help others and to share her experience, especially with children who know little about the Holocaust. Having not told even her own children about the Nazi horrors, Adelman decided it was finally time to reach out.
As Charlotte explained, according to an ABC report: “When I lost [my husband] seven years ago, I felt, for me to be strong again, I have to tell the story to other kids, and to other people,” Adelman says. “I don’t want my story to vanish. It should be always around for people to know what happened.”