Daniel Korski

Celebrating Marcel

Celebrating Marcel
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Around the world workers are celebrating 1st of May. I too will be celebrating, but for different reasons. Today Marcel Rayman – my first cousin twice removed – would have turned 86.

Born in Warsaw, he moved to France aged eight. A studious boy, he finished his exams in record time and went to work with his parents as a tailor. By all accounts he showed great promised.

Unfortunately, we will never know what things Marcel would have gone on to do for his life was cut short one February morning in 1944, when the Nazis executed him.

For between the German invasion of France and early 1944, the young Marcel had became one of France’s most notorious resistance fighters. As part of FTP-MOI, a famous resistance unit made up largely of immigrants, Marcel terrorised the Nazi occupation forces, killing 13 soldiers in various attacks.

His final – and potentially most spectacular – action came in September 1943 when he tried to assassinate the Nazi commander of Paris, General von Schaumburg. The plot failed and he was eventually caught by the Nazis and killed.

His mother Chana Rayman died in Birkenau and his brother, Simon, was sent to Buchenwald. But by then the German war machine was collapsing and Simon miraculously survived, ultimately settling in Montpellier. There he began a campaign to have Marcel’s sacrifice recognised. And in 1994, Square Marcel Rayman in the 11th district of Paris was created. The commemorative plaque reads: Marcel Rayman, heros Juif de la Resistance, Jewish hero of the Resistance.

This weekend I will visit the square in Paris to pay tribute to my 21 year-old first cousin, twice removed, to whom I feel we owe so much. I cannot begin to understand his life, his choices and his predicament. But I can honour it.