Bernard Darty still vividly remembers the American soldiers who came to the rescue. The youngest son of a Jewish family living in Paris during the German occupation, he had been living in hiding in the outskirts of the city for two years. His family had been scattered – his mother and eldest brother to Auschwitz, another brother escaped to join the French resistance and his two sisters also escaped. He was losing hope and knew time was running out before he was captured. He was not even 10 years old.
He survived, he says in a moving letter to the Red Cross (below), “thanks to the hundreds of thousands of American men your country sent to land in Normandy in June 1944.”
Now, in honor of the U.S. Armed Forces who saved his and countless lives and liberated his country, Darty has given the American Red Cross a half a million-dollar gift. This is the largest single gift ever received by the Red Cross designated specifically for its military and veterans programs.
Throughout his life, Darty always felt a deep gratitude and beholden to the American soldiers who secured his freedom. After seeing the devastation caused by multiple disasters in the U.S., he felt compelled to finally give back.
"In giving this donation, I want to thank Americans with all my heart for coming to rescue us in our hour of need," says Darty.
He hopes his gift inspires other like-minded Europeans to show their support of U.S. veterans.
To learn how you can also support our military and veteran families, please visit RedCross.org
Written by Estefania Garcia
Mr. Darty's full letter to the Red Cross:
Since September, from our home in Europe we have been watching on television the terrible calamities that have struck different areas of America in the form of hurricanes, flooding and wildfire and we know that many veterans are among the families who are suffering today. Those striking images reminded me of how beholden I am toward America and transported me back to my childhood, almost three quarters of a century ago. As a child, I spent most of WWII in hiding from the Nazis invaders in France. It was an awful time.
I was born in Paris in 1934 into a Jewish family, the last of five children. My parents had fled the pogroms in Poland, to make their home in the comparative safety of France. Unfortunately, with the German invasion in 1940, we were again at risk. A year later, my oldest brother, who was 21, was sent on the first convoy to Auschwitz. He was young and strong and survived, coming back after the war. Other members of my family were not so lucky.
On July 16, 1942, there was a big round-up of Jews in Paris, undertaken by the French police. More than 13,000 Jews were detained at a cycling stadium, the Velodrome d’Hiver, before being deported to Nazi death camps. The police came to our apartment at 6am, and my parents managed to take me to my aunt’s home. She was married to a French soldier, and so was protected.
A few hours later, my mother and my brother Marcel, 20, were trying to get information about my father who was hidden in the nearby grocery store. They were walking on the other side of the street, but the concierge there pointed them out to the police. They rank but my mother was not fast enough and was arrested. She was sent to the stadium, and was selected to be sent to Auschwitz concentration camp. She probably died three weeks later. My brother escaped the police, and survived, joining the French resistance. My two sisters were not at home, and also survived.
I wa seven and a ahfl, and for the next two years, I lived in foster homes on the outskirts of Paris. It was a tough time. By 1944, we were living on borrowed time. The same was true for my future wife, who was also a child in hiding. It is obvious that if the war had continued much longer we would have been taken and would not have survived.
So how am I able to tell this story today?? It is thanks to the hundreds of thousands of young American men that your country sent to land in Normandy in June 1944, that we have survived. I vividly remember the arrival of the American troops who liberated us. They were our saviours, doling out packets of sweets to half-starved, war-worn children who had almost given up home of freedom.
The gratitude I feel to these men is beyond words. They freed our country, they saved our lives and without them, none of us would have survived to create the family we have and love today. Now, my family numbers more than twenty – and without American troops, we simply would not have existed. I think that every time I look at our family photographs. And so, my wife and I have always felt a deep sense of gratitude for your country.
My story with the United States did not stop there. In the early 1990s, my wife and I, freshly retired, decided to buy a home in South Florida. For the past 26 years, we have escaped the cold winters in Europe to enjoy warmer days in Miami Beach, where we spend almost a third of our time. I have had the chance to meet many American people who I am lucky enough to call my friends. First, Americans saved us, and then fifty years later, they welcomed us.
You can imagine why I felt particularly moved by the sad consequences of all these natural disasters that have struck America. It appeared obvious to me that it was time to give back to this country. That is why I have decided to donate $1 million to the relief effort. Through gifts to the Red Cross and the Wounded Warriors project we hope to help veterans and their families just as we were helped so many years ago.
In addition, I am angry at the American-bashing I have seen in Europe, and especially in France. I will never forget what the Americans did to save us. Were it not for those soldiers, we would be speaking German in France. I want to help American veterans. They pursue the tradition of the Young Men who landed on the Shores of Normandy in June 1944. But I also want to make a public stand in support of America. I am sure that many in Europe agree with me. I hope that my donation can trigger a movement, and can lead others to take action, averting the anti-American sentiment that has become so popular these days.
Too many people have short memories. They forget that America freed us with the Allies in 1944. They forget what you did for us. But I will never forget. In giving this donation, I want to thank Americans with all my heart for coming to rescue us in our hour of need.