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Mount Vernon Resident Recalls Holocaust With Poems Of Lives Lost

Paris-born Francoise Grab of Mount Vernon.
Paris-born Francoise Grab of Mount Vernon. Photo Credit: Submitted

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. -- For the first time ever, and in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Francoise Grab, a poet living in Mount Vernon, will have her work set to music.

"Stories of Liberation," presented at City Hall April 13 at 7 p.m. is sponsored by the Mount Vernon Jewish Community Council and The Office of the Mayor and is all about never forgetting the atrocities of the War.

For 81-year-old Grab, who grew up in Paris, the memories are like they were yesterday. Her family was very involved in the Resistance.

Though only a girl at the time, Grab has very clear memories of people staying weeks and days at a time at her grandparent's house, coming in at the dark of night.

Her most poignant memories are of her Jewish friend, Leah, who was in hiding nearby and couldn't go to school. "I remember the curtains were always drawn and she wanted to hear about what I was doing in math,' said Grab. "She was good at math, but I wasn't."

She also remembers having to play in quiet whispers.

And, she recalls a fall day in l943  when she knocked on the door and no one answered.

"Memories" is written for Leah, who Grab never heard from again, and will be part of the Remembrance Day event. A portion reads: "And so went the war, Sunshine and dark night. Air raids, shelters, survival, But I lost you, my friend., One day, you left to the unknown, Behind barbed wires, I remember your smile, Such a quiet, wonderful friend, I almost thought I forgot you, And I saw this anniversary program, It came back to me, like the past, long ago, Like a slice of history..."

Growing up with a family that fought against the War - and had it's own series of challenges as a result -- one uncle was sent to Buchenwald, her father served in a labor camp, her grandparents were threatened by the Gestapo , etc. -- makes Holocaust Remembrance Day an important one to honor.

"For so many reasons, this is an important day to continue to talk about," she said. "Thanks to the Resistance in France, more than 200,00 Jews were saved that otherwise would be gone."

Grab is a frequent speaker at schools and a prolific writer who is working on additional poems along with a memoir. She said she does this for her grandmother. But also because it's the right thing to do. "It's what you do," she said. "You help people."

For other Holocaust Remembrance Day events, go to previous Daily Voice story here .

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