In first person: Yiddish broke the ice in 1945 at a soldiers seder in Le Havre

It was 1945 in the city of Le Havre and I was invited to a seder. Why was this American soldier invited? Well, I was the designated Jewish religious leader in the engineering regiment, which had just enough Jewish men to make a minion. There was no Jewish chaplain, so our regimental Lutheran chaplain selected me since I was the highest rank (tech sergeant) in the group.

At the seder at a very long table were seated about 30 people but no children. On one side of the table were American servicemen and on the other side were French men and women. Since we did not speak French and they did not speak English, we just smiled at each other across the table and started to eat. I don't recall any formal seder service and there were no Haggadot.

Finally one of the Americans started to speak in Yiddish. Soon there were conversations across the table, and some needed translations.

It was a memorable occasion and I never learned how these French Jewish people survived during the time of the Holocaust.

The seder and the food were probably provided by the Americans, since the French had a very limited food supply. Were there matzahs? Probably, but this all happened almost 60 years ago and memory grows dim with time.