Batty France are proud to be able to sponsor Fabian Hamilton as he undertakes a holocaust pilgrimage – another long distance cycle ride for charity, this time to support the work of Donisthorpe Hall in Shadwell Lane.
Donisthorpe Hall is a care and nursing home for the elderly that is run with a Jewish community ethos but it welcomes residents from all faiths and cultures.
For his ride this year, Fabian is incorporating the concept of a pilgrimage – making a journey of remembrance and reflection – and, appropriately, has chosen to remember the World War 2 Holocaust of Jewish people in Europe. Taking a ride from Leeds to Drancy near Paris with stops along the way. .
We join with other sponsors, namely: Beaverbrooks, Berry’s, Michael Marks Consultancy, Batty France, Watsons, and Recharge Energy Therapy.
“…my late Father Mario was an only child but his mother Louise Sevilla was one of four children who grew up in Geneva in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Of Louise’s three brothers, only one had children, Jacques had a boy called Roger, my Dad’s first cousin and just two years younger being born in 1924.! ! Jacques and Roger moved to Paris in the 1930s, as did my Grandparents and Father. Mario was sent to a boarding school in England in 1934 and when Paris fell to the Nazis in June 1940, he was safely in Essex, his Father Isaac was in Spain but my Grandmother Louise was stuck in Paris. 1940 was not a good time for Jews anywhere in France, but because the majority were in Nazi-occupied Paris, it was far worse there.! !
Uncle Jacques and his son refused to register with the Nazi authorities or to wear the Yellow Star and as a result they spent the rest of the occupation trying to avoid detection and arrest – they succeeded and survived the war. Jacques was a guest at my wedding in 1980 and died at the age of 88 in 1988. Roger is still alive in Paris and is now 90 years old. My Grandmother survived because she managed to obtain Portuguese nationality and, bizarrely, the Nazis left her alone until she decided to escape Paris for Bordeaux in 1944 and walk across the Pyrenese mountains into neutral Spain to try and join her husband.
Louise and Jacques parents were not so fortunate, however. They dutifully registered with the Nazi authorities as Jews and wore their Yellow Stars. During two nights in July 1942, more than 13,000 Parisian Jews were arrested and taken to the Vel D’Hiv velodrome from where many were taken to the concentration camp in Drancy to the north east of Paris and then onto Auschwitz. Raina and Isaac Sevilla were amongst them and we have a copy of Raina’s death certificate issued in Birkenau.
My pilgrimage will involve a four day cycle ride from North Leeds through England to London, via the Beth Shalom Holocaust museum near Newark in Lincolnshire and then onto Lewes in Sussex from where I will travel the seven miles to the port of Newhaven and cross the Channel to Dieppe. Whilst in London I will visit the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue on Lauderdale Road in Maida Vale, near my flat in London. From Dieppe I will use the ‘Avenue Verte’ – a dedicated cycle road which runs for fifty miles into South Normandy. After two and a half days in France I will arrive at Drancy where there is a memorial and museum to the Jews who died or were deported from there. I hope to meet my cousin Peggy Sevilla in Drancy – she lives in Paris and is the eldest daughter of my father’s cousin Roger. We had the same Great-Grandparents and she did all the work to discover their fate during the war.
I hope to raise a lot of money for Donisthorpe, a Jewish nursing home in my Leeds North East constituency, which offers exceptional care and love to not only Jewish elders but also to a third of the residents who are non-Jewish…”