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From Drancy to Auschwitz
by Georges Wellers




5.5" x 8.25"
210, ill.
November 2011

Soft laminated cover




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About the Author

Georges Wellers was born in Russia in 1905 (The “s” was added to the name to allow the French to pronounce it correctly, not like Wellé).

How he ended up in France needs some explanation. After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 their father’s little “nuts and bolts” factory was expropriated by the proletarian state. Since the father had earned his chemical engineering degree from Riga University and had dual Latvian and Russian citizenship, in 1922, when the USSR was formed and Latvia was an independent state, he was ordered to leave Russia with his family. George and his younger sister Rachel were still minors, and thus had to leave with their parents, while my father, his two other brothers and a sister were adults and stayed behind. The parents and George did not want to leave, but in 1925 they found themselves in Riga.

Like nowadays, Latvia did not recognize George’s degree in biology from a Russian University and required he take all his graduation exams again, and in Latvian… which he did not speak. It meant he could not find any work in his field there. Even though the Jewish leaders in Riga promised to do everything possible to help the grandson of Rabbi Weller, a holy man and well-known Talmudic scholar, all George could do was load/unload ships in the port of Riga.

When in 1929 he married Anna Rappoport, the young couple went on their honeymoon to Paris where Anna’s sisters lived. And there they found out that France would accept his credentials, especially since he spoke French fluently. Eventually George and Anna became naturalized French citizens, he became a prominent researcher in physiology, they had two sons, and everything went well… until the Germans occupied most of France and soon after required all Jews to “register”…

About the book

Part One is a meticulous description, with a scientist’s precision, of the Drancy camp throughout its existence.

Part Two is a personal and emotional description of several people whom George befriended in the camps, from prominent individuals much older than he was at that time to teenagers whom he helped to survive at amazing risk to himself and self-sacrifice that might be expected towards one’s own sons. It takes the reader to Auschwitz and the death march to Buchenwald after its liquidation. Although the book is entitled “From Drancy to Auschwitz” it was Buchenwald where George was liberated by the Americans.

From the translator

George did not talk much about his captivity, even many years later when we first met in Moscow in 1960. His wife Anna mentioned that when he returned home from Buchenwald he spent weeks in bed, facing the wall. And yet, this book was published in 1946. It means that he wrote it very soon after regaining his physical and emotional strength. Even if he managed to keep notes in the camps, in his microscopic handwriting that amazed me in his letters, he must have made good use of the obsessive German record-keeping to produce all the dates and numbers of deportees that the reader found in this book.

He published several other books about the Holocaust, but this one was never translated. Until now. A group of enthusiasts decided to dedicate its Russian and English translations to the memory of those who perished, and those who survived against all odds, so that the younger generation can learn about the Nazi persecution of the Jews from a firsthand account at a time when anti-Semitism is raising its ugly head in so many countries that should know better.

George’s older siblings in Moscow did not know that he survived the war. My father died almost two years before his first letter arrived during the Khrushchev “thaw”—during the war no correspondence with foreign countries was allowed at all, and for many years after the war was very restricted and perlustrated by the KGB, and George realized that a letter from him would damage his siblings’ reputation.

Despite all the deprivations during his captivity, George lived a long a productive life. He died in Paris in 1991 at the age of 86. He excelled in a prominent scientific career, was awarded the Legion of Honor rosette as its Officer, was Vice-President of the Association of Nazi-camp survivors of France.

He was the only French witness at the Eichmann trial in Israel. Transcripts of his three hours of testimony about the deportation of children are available on the Internet and you can see also video of his testimony (in French with English translation from about 6th min to 35th min).

George Wellers at Eichmann Trial

Olga Weller-Lifson

About the book — Reviews, Opinions

Excerpts from the book

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