"Touch Wood" By Renée Roth-Hano

³Touch Wood² is based on the author¹s own life when she was growing as
a Jewish girl during the German invasion of France. In 1940, Renée and
her family were living in Alsace, France, where nothing ever changed. No
one expected anything unusual to happen. Then one day, a war with
Germany is announced on the radio. The Germans wanted to annex Alsace
and forced the Jews to leave. France was split into two zones- the Free
Zone and the German occupied zone. Renée¹s father chose for them to move
to Paris, because it is a big city where he can find work, and also
because Renée¹s mother has childhood friends there. So, Renée, her
parents, her two younger sisters, and their blind grandmother move into
a crowded apartment in the German-occupied zone.
Renée was disappointed in Paris when she arrived. She finds that
everything seems to be smaller in Paris. Eventually, her new
neighborhood becomes more of a home and helps Renée to miss Alsace a
little less.
Renée¹s parents had left Poland and then Hungary to find a freer,
better life. They settled in France and thought they¹d be safe. Then
Adolf Hitler, a German man who hated Jewish people, started trouble all
over again. First, seven synagogues were blown up. Then, the Germans
created a curfew prohibiting Jews to go during certain hours. Any Jew
caught in the street after curfew would be taken as hostage. Also, all
Jewish people must wear a Star of David on their shirts. An ordinance is
created requiring all Jewish firms to be registered. Then the Jewish are
forbidden to go to most public places, and they are only allowed an hour
to grocery shop.
Suddenly, their family¹s Jewish neighbors are being taken away one by
one. Renée¹s family becomes fearful. At one point, they have to hide
from the police. Renée¹s parents decide to take action. They have
friends who know Mother Superior. They send Renée and her sisters to a
Catholic residence in Normandy until the war is over. Their father
emphasizes for them not to tell anyone that they are Jewish. When they
arrive in Normandy, they find a cozy bedroom, appetizing meals, and
friendly people. Renée has to deal with a nosy housekeeper, who could
possibly uncover their secret. Renée and her sisters love their new
school, which is much more spacious and modern than the one in Paris.
Renée¹s main concern is confusion over her religious identity. They
must convert to Catholicism to perfect their disguise. Their parents
have given permission for Renée and her sisters to be baptized and to
take their first communion. They decide to pray to the Catholic god to
make the war end soon, to help the French and their Allies win the war,
and to protect the Jews.
Renée becomes worried when she hears about the bombing of Paris, but
she was relieved to hear that her parents were not affected. Then thirty
young girls come from Paris to live in the residency where Mother
Superior feels they will enjoy the fresh air and will be able to eat
better than they did in Paris.
Renée¹s life during the war was full of illnesses. First, her sisters
and her suffer from scabies, a contagious disease that their doctor says
he¹s only seen in animals. When their mother comes to visit them, she
must cut Renée¹s hair because of the nits in it. Then Renée is sick in
bed for a month with jaundice. It was a miracle that she recovered from
it. Because her body wasn¹t very resistant after recovering from
jaundice, Renée became infected with impetigo. Somehow she managed to
overcome all of her illnesses.
In 1944, the wine market being used by the Germans to store ammunition
is bombed by the Allies. The fire spreads to several surrounding houses.
Then the residence where they are living is bombed. They must flee their
home. A farmer volunteers for them to live in his barn until they are
safe. German soldiers are very close to the barn, for they can hear the
troops singing. The bombshells are coming from the Germans, who refuse
to surrender, and from the