Homage to Maurice Sister
Maurice Sister (Schuster) has been for long years general Secretary of the Union.When Maurice Sister was born on October 7th1911 in Bessarabia; this region disputed for years between Russia and Romania, was then Romanian. The conditions of the Jews there wasn’t much better than those of the Polish Jews. The monarchy that was in charge there was dictatorial, conservative and strongly anti-Semitic. Coming from a humble background, Maurice Sister’s family couldn’t assume the cost of his studies, even less after his father’s death, and it’s his uncle who raised him; he played a major role in Maurice’s learning of life. He awaked him to the Yiddish culture but also to the ideas of progress. Despite the disadvantage of his social origin, Maurice Sister was very young attracted by culture, not only Yiddish but also Romanian, Russian and French. Very young he developed an inexhaustible thirst for learning and knowing… He was autodidact and this qualifier takes its valor when one knows how tough was the Jewish life in Bessarabia. Maurice Sister was very sensible to the misery, injustice and anti-Semitism. He joined very young the ranks of the Romanian communist party, that’s why he was prosecuted and condemned to jail. Only one issue was left, exile. Where to go if not to France, reception country for all the persecuted, the country of human rights… At his very arrival he accomplishes one of his dearest wishes, to study, he registers at the Sorbonne… Faithful to his engagements, Maurice joins political unions organizations close to the French communist party, known to day under the name of M.O.I. (“main d’œuvre immigrée” or immigrate workers). For Maurice that’s the continuity of his engagements in Romania but in a more democratic context, especially with the Popular Front in charge… When the war became obviously unavoidable he engages in the French Army for the duration of war… This engagement is the best testimony of his immense gratitude to his adoptive fatherland but also of his will to fight against the nazism. After the training in Barcarès, he is assigned to the 22ndRMVE(Infantry Regiment of Foreign Volunteers).In this regiment he fights on the Somme front in June1940. He becomes prisoner and is sent to a stalag in Oriental Prussia. Seriously hill he is lucky enough to be repatriated in 1942. He was able to hide that he was Jewish. Hardly returned he engages in the active resistance, in the ranks in the Jewish resistance of communist obedience. He becomes Captain Christian who fights first in Lyon then in Périgueux. After the Liberation Maurice Sister continues to fight, not against the occupant or the collaboration anymore since they are beaten, but to help his veteran comrades. He is among the first more ancient founders of the Union, in the committee director of which he belongs since the foundation. He will have the privilege and the honor to succeed to Isi Blum at the position of Secretary General. In the same spirit of mutual help he works in the ministry of the veterans and war victims for the return of the POWs, and by chance he happens to be in the office next to François Mitterand’s one, then minister. In other circumstances on Mai 8th1988, the same François Mitterand then President of France will eventually knight him as Chevalier of the Honor Legion and to the National Order of the Merit under the Arch of Triumph. There is no more beautiful homage to be given to a volunteer combatant and Jewish partisan. After the war, not only does Maurice take care of the fate of his veteran fellows, he also dedicates a lot of devotion and abnegation to the Jewish children whose parent were massacred by the nazis and the collaboration. He is the director of one of many children homes created by the UJRE. Many of those children are today members of the Union. Short after the Liberation, once his mission completed, Maurice returns to his first loves, arts and literature, he exercise in several newspapers and bulletins in the Yiddish “progressive” world, mainly in the “Naïe Presse” where for many years, he fulfills with same passion the cultural columns. But mainly, as long as his energy allowed him, he worked to make from the Union’s bulletin “Notre Volonté” a chronicle appreciated by the members and the veterans world, dedicating many precious hours to the design and the fulfillment of this bulletin. From this gentle man whose curiosity burned out with him, we will remember that he dedicated his whole life to noble causes and that he contributed, with his own means, to the safeguarding of the Jewish people, thus, modestly to the safeguarding of humanity.
Extract from the speech of David Douvette
published in Notre Volonté
N° 11 (201) October-November-December 1994.