Holocaust survivor tells her story to MCHS students

Friday, March 20, 2015

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

Frances Cutler-Hahn, a courageous woman who escaped the Holocaust in the 1940s, spoke to Marshall County High School students Tuesday.

Hahn was born in 1938 in Paris, France, a period where anti-semitism, a prejudice against, hatred of, or discrimination against Jews, was rampant.

At age 3, she was sent to a children's home by her parents in hopes of a better life.

She spoke to the students about her experiences living in the orphanages and how she more than likely would have been sent to a concentration camp and put in the gas chamber if it weren't for being sent away.

In the homes she was often seated away from the host family's birth children, never sharing in the joys of dinner table laughter, toys and treats.

"I remember most being jealous and resentful that I was not part of a family," said Hahn.

She remembers seeing the Jews wearing yellow badges in the shape of the Star of David that marked them as Jews while they were in public.

At 10 a.m. on July 27, 1942, Hahn's parents were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where her mother died, pregnant with her only sibling. Hahn's father later died from combat wounds after joining the French Resistance. She was left to grow up without any parental guidance and love that she longed to have.

At age 10, her great-aunt and uncle moved her to America where she attended school and later graduated from college.

At the end of the presentation she allowed people to ask questions.

One teacher asked, "What were things you found odd once you moved to America?"

Hahn replied with saying she struggled learning the English language. She said she still has a hard time with words like "Arkansas" and "knife."

She also thought it was strange that her college professors wanted to have coffee with her and that boys and girls played spin the bottle.

Cantaloupe was something she found odd when she first tasted it, but she now loves it.

"America was looked at as being the savior during the war, but it changed when the war was over and Americans started touring France," said Hahn.

"The French didn't like how Americans insisted on the same amenities when they visited. They were often called the "ugly American" for their superior attitude."

She thinks the outlook on Americans has changed now that they are more accepting of other cultures and traditions.

After graduating college, she moved to Nashville, married and had her first child.

Living in America most of her life, she has lost a lot of knowledge of the French language and has adopted English as her main language.

Although she became an American citizen in 1953, she didn't feel as if she were a real citizen until she was in college.

Years later she visited France to begin her process of healing.

"I have never thought about moving back to France. Nashville is my home. That is where I feel like I belong," said Hahn.

She recently published a book in collaboration with other hidden children of the Holocaust.

She concluded with a word of encouragement, saying, "Despite a really horrible childhood, things can get better."