Paulette Cooper Noble, a Palm Beach resident and prolific author, spoke at temple on Kristallnacht anniversary. "Sometimes I think it all happened because God looked down at this little orphan, me, and said ’I want Paulette to live.’..And here I am."
PALM BEACH — Paulette Cooper Noble was about a year old at when Nazis tried to reduce her to a number.
She was prisoner No. 843 at Belgium’s Mechelen transit camp.
Through the intervention of a family friend, Cooper Noble and her sister were spared from transport to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, one in a series of close calls during the Holocaust the 77-year-old described Saturday at Temple Emanu-El of Palm Beach.
Cooper Noble, a Palm Beach resident who writes the Pet Set column for The Palm Beach Daily News and has authored 26 books, spoke at the synagogue’s Saturday service marking the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht, the brutal pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany.
Cooper Noble was born four years later in Belgium, at a time when she said the situation for European Jews had become radically more dangerous.
Both of her parents, father Chaim and mother Rachel, were killed at Auschwitz. Nazis pulled her father off a train. Her mother was captured while trying to find milk.
"My father never saw me, never knew he had a little girl," she said. "I never saw my father, which breaks my heart."
She and her older sister, Suzy, were smuggled into the countryside after her mother was captured. At least four people hid them at various points before Cooper Noble's first birthday.
There were subsequent escapes, though Cooper Noble and her sister were eventually captured and sent to Mechelen.
Her father’s friend bribed a guard to let the girls avoid being taken to Auschwitz. More brushes with death happened through the rest of the war, Cooper Noble said, before she was adopted by a family in the United States.
Cooper Noble sometimes struggles to understand why she lived when so many others did not. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, in addition to millions of others — Romani, Soviets, Poles and gays among them.
"I ask myself, how did I survive all those close-calls? ... Sometimes I think it all happened because God looked down at this little orphan, me, and said ’I want Paulette to live.’" Cooper Noble said. "And here I am."
MiaBeth Gorodetzer-Edelman, who attends services at the Palm Beach synagogue, said she was inspired by the sacrifices many made to help Cooper Noble survive the Holocaust.
"It ... reminds you how wonderful humans can be in such an unspeakably horrible time," the 17-year-old said.
Hearing from Holocaust survivors is important, she said, because their memories can break down cultural barriers and help people find common ground.
"It helps us be able to understand other people as a whole," Gorodetzer-Edelman said.
Sharing her memories is taxing for Cooper Noble. Although she’s no stranger to public attention — her 1971 book "The Scandal of Scientology" ignited a furor among Scientologists — speaking engagements about her childhood in Europe are rare, she said.
"It takes so much out of me emotionally," Cooper Noble said after her speech. "I’ll be thinking of it for days."