Interviewee: Jacques Bramson
Interviewer: David P. Boder
Recordist: David P. Boder
Other: Herman Barnett
Transcriber: Olga Collin
Translator: David P. Boder
Annotator: Eben E. English
Annotator: Elliot Lefkovitz
Writer of added commentary: Elliot Lefkovitz
Editor: Eben E. English
Creation location: ORT School, Paris
Jacques Bramson was head of the ORT school in Paris when interviewed by David Boder on August 16, 1946. He was the nephew of Leonty Moiseivich Bramson, a president of ORT. Born in Russia in 1911, Jacques Bramson and his family moved to Poland after the 1917 Russian revolution and then emigrated to France in 1927. They were among a number of eastern European Jews who came to France during the inter-war period.
Mr. Bramson fought in the French army during World War II and was wounded and recovered. From the very beginning of the German occupation of France, he was one of a small number who became engaged in active resistance. He eventually moved to the town of Périgueux in the southwestern portion of the country. Determined to join the Free French armed struggle against the Germans he attempted to reach North Africa. He was unsuccessful and returned to Périgueux where he headed the ORT school. As time went on, he rose to become resistance commander of the entire district surrounding Périgueux. In the interview, he provides valuable information on the ORT school's valuable contributions to the resistance, and on daily life in a resistance camp.
Mr. Bramson was captured by the Germans after being wounded in a gun battle in the summer of 1943. His wounds increased the pain he experienced while enduring terrible torture by German security forces. He came perilously close to being executed but was miraculously spared only to be severely tortured again.
Concealing his Jewish identity by posing as a Protestant, Mr. Bramson was ultimately sent to the infamous concentration camp Buchenwald as a French political prisoner. Had his true identity been known, his fate could have been far worse. In the latter portion of the interview, he recounts his horrific experiences in Buchenwald. He endured fifteen months of captivity in this camp, from early 1944 until his liberation by American troops in April 1945. Mr. Bramson provides information on certain aspects of the resistance activities in which he engaged while incarcerated in Buchenwald. (Some of his testimony regarding other aspects of the camp is open to question as is indicated in the footnotes.)
In the face of advancing American troops, the SS evacuated thousands of prisoners, Mr. Bramson among them, from Buchenwald and sent them on death marches. He survived in part because, along with several others, he overpowered the SS guards on the march and escaped. Upon his return to France, after a period of recuperation, he rejoined ORT. Mr. Bramson's interview conveys a picture of a strong (both physically and morally), bright, cooperative, forthright and articulate individual. It is a remarkable story of courage, defiance, and luck as well as dramatic testimony to human resiliency and the capacity for regeneration.