One cannot – and should not – contemplate survival in the same as its contrary, because one dies only once whereas survival must be repeated ad infinitum. To survive, one must benefit from a long chain of non-arrests, a longue series of instants when the loss did not happen for whatever reasons. And there are many such reasons. Hence, to explain someone’s survival, il will necessary to explain why death did not strike this person at every moment of the war. Paradoxically, one will have to look for the reasons of what did not happen, every time it did not happen, and this will require filling a lot of empty space.
It is this complexity which causes survival to be much less understood than persecution. There are few official sources, but there are many testimonies. We have been lucky to record a good number of oral testimonies and to read the testimonies dating back to Liberation in the judiciary files. There are also the writing that were published at a later date. Without doubting the authenticity of this last category, it is doubtful that they represent the entire population of survivors, because the ordinary itineraries rarely present a literary interest, and hence do not attract publishing houses. One must also beware of good faith mistakes. Someone will testify at Yadvashem in favor of a righteous gentile who had provided a hiding place for his or her family, without realizing that the members of the family were listed in the census at the exact address of these righteous gentiles and that local anti-Semitic informers were aware of it. Without diminishing the moral value of this act of solidarity on the part of these righteous gentiles, one can however doubt that this help was at the base of the survival of the family they had “hidden”.
Most of the Jews in Vaucluse lived in the open, and yet, their survival rate amounted to approximately 78%. This contradiction is at the core of our last book: Hunting down the Jews (2012). Follow the link below, if you want to see the presentation where we give a glimpse of our conclusions. We have presented these conclusions on June 8. 2014, at the Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie (Illinois).