Created to remember one of the darkest chapters in mankind’s history, Holocaust Day is
for many people an occasion for unadulterated discomfort. Most of my family perished in the Holocaust and those who survived either hid in occupied Poland, pretending to be Catholics, fled to
Uzbekistan in the then-USSR or, like Marcel Rayman, fought the Nazis. Today I re-read a letter Marcel sent to his family the night before he was executed by the Nazis for trying to kill the German
commander of Paris:

Little mother,

When you read this letter, I’m sure it will cause you extreme pain, but I will have been dead for a while, and you’ll be consoled by my brother who will live happily with you and give you all
the joy I would have liked to give you.

Forgive me for not writing at greater length, but we are all so joyful that that it’s impossible to think of the pain you will feel. I can only say one thing, and that’s that I love
you more than anything in the world, and I would have liked to live for your sake alone. I love you, I kiss you, but words can’t describe what I feel.

Your Marcel who adores you and who’ll think of you up to the last minute. I adore you, and long live life.

My dear Simon. I’m counting on you to do all I can’t do myself. I kiss you, I adore you, I’m content, live happily and make Mama happy the way I would have had I lived. Live the beautiful
and joyful life that you will all have. Tell all my friends and comrades that I love them all. Don’t pay any attention if my letter is crazy, but I can’t remain serious. I love
everyone and long live life. Let everyone live happily.

Marcel

Maman and Simon I love you and would love to see you again.’

Chana Rayman never received the letter. She was killed at Birkenau. But Simon, Marcel’s brother, did survive the Holocaust and went on to live a long life, helping France honour
his brother’s sacrifice. Today is Marcel’s day, it is Chana’s day — and it is Simon’s day.

Tags: France, Germany, Holocaust, Nazism, Paris, Second world war