October 27, 1938,
Jacques Fein was born in Paris, France in October, 1938. His parents, Rojza and Szmul Karpik, were Polish Jews who had immigrated to Paris in the 1930s. Jacques’ younger sister Annette was born in August, 1940. The Karpiks were a fairly typical Jewish Polish immigrant family; Szmul supported his wife and children with a modest income from his work as a tailor, while Rojza cared for the home and children. After the German invasion and surrender of France in 1940, the Karpiks’ lives changed drastically.
In order to protect their children’s lives, Szmul and Rojza turned to the Oeuvres de Secours aux Enfants (OSE), the Society for the Rescue of Children. The OSE placed Jacques and Annette with Marcel and Suzanne Bocahut, a Catholic family in Vers-Galant, about 20 miles north of Paris. Jacques’ parents had acted just in time. Shortly after Jacques and Annette went into hiding, the government began to deport Jews to transit camps and later to concentration camps. Jacques later learned that his father had been deported to Pithiviers, and then to Auschwitz, where he was murdered in 1942. One year later, Jacques’ mother was arrested on the Paris Metro and sent to Drancy in the suburbs of Paris. She too was murdered along with other family members in Auschwitz. Several cousins, aunts, and uncles survived.
Jacques and Annette lived with the Bocahut family in Vers-Galant for the remainder of the war. The family had four children of their own, and hid several other Jewish children in addition to the Karpiks. The Jewish children were not physically concealed. They had to be extremely careful to hide their identities from neighbors. Jacques was baptized to avert suspicion that he might be Jewish. For the first year, Jacques’ mother visited the children in secret.
Once the war ended, the OSE was faced with the task of reuniting hidden children with their families. Jacques and Annette were placed in OSE homes for displaced children, happy finally to be with other children in the same situation, and still hopeful that they would see their parents again. Jacques and Annette were among the many children whose parents never came back. They were placed in Les Roches near the beaches of Brittany and in Taverny outside of Paris. In late 1947 Jacques and Annette were visited by Harry and Rose Fein, a Jewish American family who had connections to OSE in New York City. They could not have children. In October of 1948, the children left for the United States with their new “adopted” family.
In the United States, Jacques completed his schooling, and had a career in the computer software industry. He has two children, Rachel and Matthew, from his first marriage, and a step-daughter, Laura, from his marriage in 1986 to Judee Iliff. Jacques and Judee have three grandchildren, Samuel, Zachary and Adrienne. They live in Elkridge, Maryland. Jacques is an active volunteer in the Jewish community and in organizations dedicated to teaching about the Holocaust, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and is one of the founders of the Washington/Baltimore Survivors of the Holocaust-Last Generation.