True History of an Unknown Hero of the French Jewish Resistance

Charlotte Sorkine Noshpitz Finally Tells Her Story

Assuming Her Identities: During World War II, Charlotte Sorkine’s many aliases included Charlotte de Nice and Anne Delpeuch.
Christopher Parks
Assuming Her Identities: During World War II, Charlotte Sorkine’s many aliases included Charlotte de Nice and Anne Delpeuch.

By Myra Sklarew

Published June 11, 2013, issue of June 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Shortly after she agreed to speak to me for an interview, Charlotte Sorkine Noshpitz tells me that she has had a dream. Members of her Resistance group are seated on the floor, the way children in a group sometimes arrange themselves. She is standing — behind them, looking down at their heads. She is shocked to see them. Most, she says, are dead by now. She was the youngest of her group, 17, and now she is 88. If the others were alive today, they would be nearly 100.

In Nice, France, during World War II, Charlotte Sorkine conveyed groups of children to the Swiss border to be rescued. Under Maurice Loebenberg of the French Resistance, she created thousands of false papers. She accompanied groups of young people who went to join the Allied armies in Spain.

After the Gestapo arrested 24 members of her group, the Armée Juive, in July 1944, she joined an independent liaison group, the Jewish Fighting Organization, and obtained and transported weapons. She took an active part in the liberation of Paris.

For her service in the French Resistance, she was awarded the Médaille de la Résistance, the Croix du Combattant Volontaire de la Resistance, the Médaille des Services Volontaires Dans la France Libre and the War Commemoration Medal. And yet hardly anyone knows her story.

I have known Charlotte for nearly 50 years. We met in 1964, when she and her husband joined us for a Passover Seder at the home I shared with my then husband, Bruce Sklarew, in Maryland. A psychoanalyst, he worked at the National Institute of Mental Health with her husband, Joseph Noshpitz, an eminent child psychiatrist and child psychoanalyst who conducted our Seders for more than 30 years. He died in 1997, at the age of 74, and my former husband and I edited and published “The Journey of Child Development,” his collection of unpublished papers, in 2012.

Though I had wanted to interview Charlotte for decades, as I feared that her story would never be told, she had demurred. “It is not a story, but a life,” she said. “It came about because of the situation I lived in. If it becomes a story, you could rent it. Like a good movie. But it would not be understandable,” she told me. I recall her saying at one time that it would no longer be hers if she told it.

In 1986, when I was thinking of leaving my current life and heading north to direct the artists community of Yaddo, Charlotte gave me two gifts. The first was a tiny book called “The Essay of Silence,” published in 1905. All its pages were blank. The second gift was a small book by Vercors, a pseudonym of Jean Brulle, written in 1942 and called “Le Silence de la Mer” (“The Silence of the Sea”), published secretly in Nazi-occupied Paris. It tells the story of an elderly man and his niece who refuse to speak to the German officer occupying their house. Both gifts reminded me that Charlotte did not wish to make a story out of her experiences.

The impetus for our conversations came in 2012 when I received the spring issue of Prism Magazine, an interdisciplinary journal for Holocaust educators that is published by Yeshiva University. It fell open to a page with a photograph of a young woman who had been a member of the French-Jewish Resistance during World War II. Marianne Cohn had taken hundreds of children to the Swiss border before the Gestapo captured, tortured and killed her — only three weeks before the liberation of Annemasse.

Though Cohn had the chance to save herself, she determined that to do so would put the children at too great a risk, and she refused. I was struck by the similarities between Cohn’s life and Charlotte’s. Could Cohn have been someone Charlotte knew?


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.