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

(page 2 of 5)

Over the years, Charlotte talked informally with my husband and me about the times during the war. But after I mentioned Cohn, and Charlotte agreed to be interviewed, she and I talked in a more deliberate way. We would sit together at the huge dining room table in her house in Washington, D.C., which was filled with her sculptures, including a bust of her father, figures reminiscent of the work of Alberto Giacometti, small abstract metal pieces mounted in wood and hand-blown glass pieces made by her grandson. Over the course of our conversations, among the many things I learned was that Noshpitz did know about Cohn. In fact, one of Noshpitz’s duties was to assume Cohn’s responsibilities of transporting children to the Swiss border.

Charlotte tells me of another dream, this time of her grandmother, whom she does not recall ever dreaming about.

“Where is your grandmother?” I ask her.

“In my kitchen, here in my house in Washington,” she says.

And now she remembers that when her grandmother died, she repeated the words to herself from the Gluck opera “Orpheus et Eurydice” over and over: “I have lost my Eurydice, nothing equals my unhappiness… I am overwhelmed by my grief. Eurydice!”

A Life on the Run: As a teenager, Charlotte Sorkine ran weapons and made false identity papers.
Courtesy of Charlotte Sorkine Noshpitz
A Life on the Run: As a teenager, Charlotte Sorkine ran weapons and made false identity papers.

Charlotte Sorkine was born in Paris on February 15, 1925. Her mother was born in Braila, Romania, and her father in Rogachev (now Belarus). They were not French citizens at the time of the German occupation, which is important to note because foreign nationals were taken in the first round-ups. As early as 1940, Vichy laws revoked the citizenship of naturalized Jews and decreed that foreign nationals of Jewish faith could be interned in camps or restricted to residence by regional prefects.

Charlotte’s maternal grandparents lived in the family home, as did her brother, Leo Serge Lazare Sorkine, a poet who served in the Resistance and was betrayed and sent to Silesia to work in the salt mines. He was killed before the Russian liberation too weak to survive a forced march in freezing conditions.

Charlotte grew up in a highly intellectual household. Her maternal grandfather, Wolf Louis Horowitz, born in 1866, was a professor of anthropology who spent much of his professional career at Kings College, London. There were weekly salons with such individuals as Henri Bergson and Gerard de Lacaze-Duthiers. During the war, he and his wife were taken to the Rothschild Internment Center. They both died in 1946. His numerous publications are archived in New York at the Center for Jewish History’s Leo Baeck Institute.

As a young child, Charlotte heard about the Germans and an apparent danger, though not a clearly defined one. She recalls German refugees coming to the door to sell pencils. At one point, she gathered up a collection of prized porcelain dolls marked “Made in Germany,” walked to the balcony of her home and threw them over the railing, where they broke into pieces. Years later, when she and her brother were teenagers, their mother told them that they must attach a Jewish star made of yellow cloth and outlined in black to indicate that they were Jewish. They both wept.

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!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • 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.
  • 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.