Arrival at Couvent St. Joseph

The day of departure arrived.  I was told to remember my new name, and was again told never to tell anyone that I was Jewish. My mother took along a bag of my clothing, and off we went by tramway to the Couvent St. Joseph.  From the tram stop it was still a considerable distance to the place itself, and I remember worrying about what the place would be like.  As we walked I remember hoping that it wouldn’t be this place, or that one, for whatever reason made them unappealing, but eventually, after passing a long, unpainted brick wall we arrived at a closed, wooden door, a couple of  steps down from the street level.  My mother pulled on the bell, and after a short while a face appeared at the screened doorlite.  After a brief exchange between my mother and the face, the door opened to a small hall in one corner of which stood a plaster statue of a woman all in blue and white, and in the other a statue of a tonsured man in a brown habit, holding a small child whose index and middle fingers were jointly raised.    At the time,  I had no idea I was in the presence of  statues of the Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus himself.

We entered a large, unpainted brick room with a large, dark wooden table at which my mother and I sat, and where we were joined by a nun in black tunic, white coif, and black veil who was introduced to us by the nun who had admitted us as Mother Superior.  I regret to say I do not remember her name.  I also do not remember too much of this interview, but what I do remember was the large, lifelike, bearded man in a loincloth attached to a wooden crucifix by large nails driven into his hands and feet, all bleeding profusely.  His face was also quite bloody, the blood dripping from his forehead on which sat a ring of thorns.  While I do not remember much about Mother Superior, my introduction to Jesus Christ was unforgettable.

I have no idea of how long this interview took.  I was again rehearsed in the use of my new name and was addressed in it, and was reminded again by Mother Superior never to tell anyone that I was Jewish.  And then it was time for my mother to leave.  She gave me a little brown bag with some food in it, didn’t say very much other than good bye, kissed me, and left.  And no, I didn’t cry.  I was left alone with Mother Superior who handed me over to the nun who had just let my mother out.  I was then taken to the courtyard in which  many children played, almost all of whom were girls.  The only boys in the yard besides me were my cousins Marcel and Robert, and Norbert who had lived with my mother and me a while back, and had also recently arrived.  Also present were Fela and my cousin, Irene, but I  saw very little of her, as she was much younger than any of the other children.  We made up the Jewish contingent of the Couvent Saint Joseph, or so I thought at the time.

About AlexLevy

Dr. Alex Levy is a retired English teacher who survived World War II and the “Final Solution” by hiding in a Catholic orphanage for girls in Belgium for several years.

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3 Responses to Arrival at Couvent St. Joseph

  1. Sylvia Wildmann says:

    I just read the blog on Couven S. Joseph. If you are interested, I can send you contents of my short chapter describing my stay at Couvent St. Joseph, Etterbeek, where I was hidden for a few months during fall and winter 1942/43.

  2. Alex Levy says:

    Absolutely! And please do! I was so young at the time that it is difficult to remember much of anything, and I would be most interested in what you have to say about the experience.
    Alex

  3. Norbert says:

    Im Norbert. Alex friend. From many years ago. Just read his blogg. I’m in Toronto Canada. And would Appreciate. It if Alex. Could get back to me it’s been years n. years
    Thank you

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