Mireille Radzner was born in 1942, hidden on Nazareth Street … near the Gestapo.
The calm of this spring morning invites you to stroll. Especially in the beneficial shade of the hundred-year-old trees in the Boutonnet District Garden, which opened last month and christened Susan Pappott.
Sitting on a bench, in a summer linen dress and red scarf tied with her gray hair, Mireille Radzner evokes in a calm voice the memories of life, those she associates with this woman honored by the city in Montpellier.
A life that would have collapsed – like many – in the turmoil of World War II. “I was born on the rue de la Valver in 1942. One day someone from the province came knocking on my mother’s door to warn her that the Gestapo was coming in half an hour.” An example, among others, is the work of the resistance network Camille Ernst, the then General Secretary of the Prefecture.
“My brother Serge was born in August 1943 in a monastery”
The Radzner family (the couple and their two granddaughters, Elder Alice and Mireille) fall under enforced secrecy. Thanks to Protestant networks, she temporarily settled at Marvejols in Lozère.
“My brother Serge was born there in August 1943 in a monastery. ” Thanks to the fake papers, which were renamed Dunac, the residents of Montpellier finally, at the beginning of January 1944, found shelter in the boarding house, Nazareth Street, which is managed by Suzanne Papbot. Who writes in her little notebook: “I saw an unhappy man who did not know where his three children and his wife lived. You want to take care of me, but where and how?”
Despite the proximity of the Lauwe barracks where the militia tormented resistance fighters and the Villa des Rosiers where the Gestapo settled, Suzanne Papbot does not hesitate. In a text of memories, Mireille’s brother Serge recounts these months of hiding. “In this boarding house, several Jewish families found refuge and no one disturbed them.”
Even by Allied air bombing in the summer of 1944. “I saw the picture of the big hole that was covered with wooden planks where all the residents and their guests are holed up to protect themselves from the bombs. My mother always told us that she refused to go down so that she would not die like mice,” he said.
Susan Pappott always said she wasn’t a hero, and she didn’t do anything in particular
Mirai picks up the thread: “We stayed until early 1945, after Mrs. Papbot found us housing and a job for my tailor’s parents.” Small house on the corner of Lacanal and Bousquet Streets. “It hasn’t changed. I see the same halos of dampness on the outer walls. For us, it was heaven: we had our home after it was hidden.”
After the agony, in a time of patchwork happiness, Mireille and her family saw Susan Pappott again. “She invited us, with a lot of kids, to many birthdays. We all had a little game. And when we talked about it it was always with so much respect and gratitude. Susan Pappott didn’t start out in love.” The lady preferred to act, in the shadows, simply. An enormous humanity. “She always said she wasn’t a hero, and she didn’t do anything in particular.”
A woman involved in the resistance
Since the end of the 1930s, Susan Papote has welcomed Spanish refugees fleeing Franco’s dictatorship into her boarding house.
After the defeat of 1940, she joined the resistance. Taking advantage of her family’s fame (her father was Professor Louis Blanchon and grandfather the botanist Jules-Emile Blanchon), she passed on secret messages, and helped several Jewish children escape to the shelters in Sevin.
Since the fall of 1942 and the conquest of the Free Zone, Susan Papote has been sheltering exclusively Jews (about fifty until the end of the conflict). In 1976, two years before her death, Yad Vashem awarded Susan Babbot the title Righteous of the Nations.