At times the epithet sale Juif (dirty Jew) was heard at school, but it was quite meaningless to the children. It was simply a common slur that even Jewish children sometimes hurled at their gentile friends.

At the outbreak of World War II, the Kornowski family (Paul was thirteen at the time, and Henri ten) stayed in a rented house in the country for the 1939 summer vacation. When news about the outbreak of war arrived, they hastily returned to Paris, where a French Army mobilization order awaited Jacques. Despite the dramatic turn of events and the fathers prolonged mobilization, life in the winter of 1939-1940 continued on its normal course.

The mother ran the shop, the children went to school, and in Pauls memory these months were not etched as particularly frightening. Only toward the spring of 1940, as a mass of Parisians began streaming eastward, Helene decided to flee as well. She traveled with her two boys in the long convoys, which were sometimes bombed by German aircraft (Paul vividly remembered a German plane diving over his head, making a terrible noise), to the village of Lautrec in Normandy, a few miles away from the Omaha beach where the Allies would land four years later. They stayed with Madame Aigre, whom Paul remembered as a warm and welcoming woman, despite her name which means sour in French.

 

 
 
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