Gert Lippman

Title: A Link in the Chain
Author: Gert Lippman
Publisher: Self Published
Place of publication: Sydney
Year of Publication: 1990
Location of Book: Rare Books Collection, Sir Louis Matheson Library, Monash University Clayton Campus
Cities/town/camps: Germany: BerlinFrance: Paris, Albi, Montpellier, Combalier, Mercouer, St Martin-en-Vesubie, Grenoble
Note: those cities/towns/camps underlined are those which are most central to the narrative

A Link in the Chain is the life story of Gert Lippman from 1914 to 1988. The first 36 pages outline his family background and childhood in Berlin. Pages 37-115 contain historical information about German Jewry, prominent Jews and the Nazi plans for the destruction of European Jewry. Pages 116-152 portray the perils of immigration and settlement in Paris, while pages 153-195 describe Gert’s time in and out of the French army, as well as his work for O.R.T. in Montpellier. Pages 196-217 depict Gert’s time spent in Combalier, Mercoer and St Martin-en-Vesubie under a false identity, while pages 218-236 outline Gert’s brief stay in France following liberation. Pages 237-368 tell of Gert’s new life in Australia. The final 140 pages of the book are an extensive appendix of prominent German and Austrian Jews before the war. Gert wrote A Link in the Chain for his grandchildren and published the work privately in 1990.

Gert Lippman was born in Berlin in 1914. He was a member of a Jewish youth movement and was elected to a position of leadership. After training as an actuary, Gert was transferred to Paris in 1935 where he met and married Annalise. With the outbreak of World War II, Gert volunteered to join the French army. When he was called up, however, he was not drafted into the French forces but rather placed in an internment camp for enemy aliens. After three months prisoners were given the choice to remain in the camp or join the French Foreign Legion. Not wanting to stay in the camp, nor to be sent to some hellhole in North Africa, Gert enlisted for the Foreign Legion but got himself released from service by faking an incurable illness.

Following the invasion of France by the Germans, Gert was redrafted into the army. As the Germans advanced, Gert went A.W.O.L. to be with his mother and wife in Montpellier, and in the process managed to avoid falling prisoner to the Germans. After returning to the army in Albi, Gert received a discharge in December 1940 and returned to Montpellier, where he became the General Secretary of O.R.T. (Organisation for Retraining in Trades). Gert met, unsuccessfully, with leaders of the Catholic Church in an effort to enable Catholic schools and convents to be used to shelter Jewish children.

In November 1942 the Germans announced that they would be moving into the previously unoccupied south of France. Knowing that they could not stay in Montpellier, the family obtained false papers and became partners in a farm in Combalier. Raids by Gendarmes increased in frequency and needed to be placated through bribes. The poor running of the farm attracted unwanted attention, so in an attempt to blend in with the locals Gert and Annalise began attending church. After the expiry of the farm lease they moved to Mercoeur, where they became active in the French underground. When their activities in the underground were revealed, Gert and Annalise moved to St Martin-en-Vesubie where they helped delay German forces retreating from the D-Day campaign. Following the German retreat Gert was able to return to work at O.R.T. in Grenoble. Gert and his wife were naturalised as French citizens in 1946, but later that year immigrated to Australia to begin a new life.

In style, A Link in the Chain is addressed directly to Gert’s grandchildren. The main protagonists of the narrative are referred to as ‘your nanny’ and ‘pop.’ Gert’s strong desire that the glory, and fate, of European Jewry not be forgotten pervades the text. In addition the autobiographical details, the book also contains a wealth of additional historical information on events during the war, and especially on German and Austrian Jewry.