Jewish Chronicle, November 15th 2018
Lady Irene Hatter was born in Amsterdam, a few days after the creation of the state of Israel. Like many Jews of her generation, the Holocaust cast a shadow over the family. As a child she overheard muttered comments, whispered rumours, but that was all —it was not until 35 years after her father’s death in 1980 that she set out to find out the truth about who he really was.
Forgotten Soldier, a new documentary narrated by Zoe Wanamaker and Henry Goodman, follows Lady Hatter as she embarks on an investigation into her father’s wartime past. At the outset she acknowledges that she knew little about his life during the war; she recalls only a single passing encounter as a teenager with a man who came up to them in the street in Amsterdam and told her father that he had saved his life.
With a film crew in tow, Lady Hatter set off to retrace her father’s wartime experiences. Sally Noach was born in the provincial Dutch city of Zutphen in 1909, into a large Jewish family. Even as a child he was something of a firebrand, and he left school aged 12 after an argument with a teacher, finding work as a butcher’s boy and a waiter before following his father into the carpet business. The family tended not to stay in one place for long, and in May 1940, on the eve of the Nazi invasion of Belgium, they were living in Brussels. Sally was the only member of the family who had the instinct to flee; he took the train to Lyon, where he managed, with the help of some contacts in the carpet business, to set himself up as a trader. After the war he discovered that 108 members of his close family had not survived, including his parents, killed in Auschwitz.
After the fall of France in June 1940, up to 8 million refugees, often with little more than the clothes on their backs and whatever they could pile into a wheelbarrow, took to the roads in what was called the ‘great exodus’, hoping to flee to the unoccupied southern zone. Lyon, sometimes called “the capital of resistance”, was teeming with refugees. Its Jewish population swelled from 4000 to 40,000 almost overnight.