Above, David, Leon, Odette, and Rose (probably 1937).
May 2021 – Their deep dark eyes caught her attention for the first time in June 2019. When she allowed herself to truly gaze into the eyes of Rose and Odette Aboulafia, there was no turning back. Joy Lucius’ 19-month providential journey of researching and writing about unknown children of the Holocaust had begun, and her young adult historical novel, Priceless Pennies: Rose and Odette, was birthed.
Lucius knew the Lord called her to write this book as a response to today’s growing antisemitism and to memorialize the 1.5 million children murdered during the Holocaust.
But other than basic information posted by “David A” about the Aboulafia family on the website of Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust Museum, Lucius could not find anything more about the family.
Lucius logically assumed that the “A” following David stood for Aboulafia, so she began searching Holocaust websites, genealogy groups, Holocaust survivor forums, and social media sites for someone named David Aboulafia. She found no one by that name, so she widened her search to include anyone with the last name Aboulafia.
“I corresponded with dozens of gracious, helpful family members across the globe in France, Israel, Argentina, and the United States,” Lucius told AFA Journal. “They connected me with synagogues and colleges that researched and collected the stories of Holocaust survivors. But no one had any information to offer me other than the reality of the murders of the entire little family.
“Essentially, the trail grew cold, very cold,” Lucius admitted.
Six months passed.
“I was quite discouraged, so I began to pray diligently. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had gently but persistently directed me to begin this writing project,” Lucius said. (See AFA Journal, 4/21.) “But I knew it would take another miracle to discover any more information about Rose and Odette.”
And a miracle it was when Lucius returned to work after the Christmas holidays and found new photos added to the girls’ memorial page on the Yad Vashem website. This time, the photos were added by someone else. So Lucius began to search diligently for this mysterious person with a different surname. Finally, she found the matching name of a businessman on an international corporation’s website.
Hesitant to contact him, Lucius did so anyway but was very terse in her query: “Do you know Rose and Odette Aboulafia? I am working on a research project about them.”
Surprisingly, she received a response, just as abrupt as her inquiry, within 24 hours: “Yes, Rose and Odette Aboulafia were my aunts who were killed in the Holocaust.”
But Lucius was doubtful. She thought Rose and Odette had no siblings. Wary of the businessman, Lucius decided to email him again, bare the facts, tell him everything she knew, and see what happened.
“Within just a few days, I had a packet of pictures and the beginning of the truth,” Lucius said. “And a new friend named Jean-Luc.”
David A., who posted the initial photos, was Jean-Luc’s father and Rose and Odette’s brother. In fact, the girls had two brothers, David and Leon. They survived the war by escaping Paris hidden in a city garbage truck.
Sadly, David died only a few months prior to Lucius contacting Jean-Luc. According to Jean-Luc, his father never discussed life before the war.
“But after his father’s death,” Lucius explained, “Jean-Luc found a suitcase full of old family pictures but did not sort through them. He put a few pictures on the Yad Vashem website as a memorial of sorts to his father, and he let it go at that. … Until I emailed him!
“He’s been my partner in research ever since!”