Jacques Fein died May 11 from complications of a stroke at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Columbia.
Jacques Fein died May 11 from complications of a stroke at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Columbia. (HANDOUT / HANDOUT)

Jacques Fein, who eluded transport to a Nazi concentration camp after he and his younger sister were hidden by a sympathetic French family during World War II, died of complications from a stroke May 11 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Columbia.

The former longtime Columbia resident who was living in Elkridge was 78.


The son of Szmul Karpik, a tailor, and Rojza Karpik, a homemaker, Jacques Fein was born in Paris, where his parents, Polish Jews, had immigrated in the 1930s in hopes of avoiding Nazi persecution.

"After the German invasion and surrender of France in 1940, the Karpiks' lives changed drastically," according to a profile of Mr. Fein on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Terrified of what might happen to their two children, they turned to the Oeuvres de Secours aux Enfants (OSE) — or the Society for the Rescue of Children.

In 1941, at age 3, he and his 18-month-old sister were placed with Marcel and Suzanne Bocahut, a Catholic family living at Vers-Galant, about 20 miles north of Paris.

"Shortly after Jacques and Annette went into hiding, the government began to deport Jews to transit camps and later to concentration camps. Jacques later learned that his father had been deported to Pithiviers [a French transit camp], then to Auschwitz, where he was murdered in 1942," according to the Holocaust Museum.

For the first year, their mother visited them in secret until she was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Drancy, an internment camp in the Paris suburbs. Eventually, she was sent to Auschwitz, where she perished along with several other family members.

The Bocahut family, who had four children of their own, took in several other Jewish children in addition to the Karpiks. According to the Holocaust Museum account, "Jacques was baptized to avert suspicion that he might be Jewish."

At the end of World War II, the Karpik children were once again placed with the Oeuvres de Secours aux Enfants at Les Roches, and later at Taverny outside of Paris, where the postwar mission was to reunite displaced children with their families.

"He remembered this as a happy time, free from the threat of Nazi soldiers," wrote his daughter, Rachel Burrows of Ellicott City, in a biographical sketch of her father.

According to the Holocaust Museum, the children remained hopeful they would see their parents again — but they never came back. In 1947, the children were visited by Harry and Rose Fein of New Jersey, who had connections to the Oeuvres de Secours aux Enfants.

The couple, who could not have children, adopted the brother and sister in 1948.

"Jacques arrived at Ellis Island when he was 10, not knowing any English, but quickly acclimated to his new home, family and country," Ms. Burrows wrote.

They settled in Union, N.J., where they were "raised as regular American kids," Ms. Burrows wrote.

Mr. Fein often spoke of having had multiple families, his daughter said: his birth parents, the Bocahut family, the Oeuvres de Secours aux Enfants and finally the Fein family.


Mr. Fein was a graduate of Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and took graduate studies in computer science at the Johns Hopkins University.

He joined Computer Science Corp. in the early 1970s and worked on projects including those related to the space program. He retired in 2014.

His daughter said that because of the experiences of his childhood, he dedicated his life to "repay the kindness of all the people who saved him and his sister during and after the war."

He was the past president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County and was founder of the World Federation of Jewish Holocaust Child Survivors, and a founder of Washington/Baltimore Survivors of the Holocaust — Last Generation.

Mr. Fein was also was co-president and treasurer of OSE-USA and a weekly volunteer at the Holocaust Museum; he gave presentations on the Holocaust to students and other groups. He also was a participant in the Shoah Project, established by filmmaker Steven Spielberg to chronicle and preserve the experiences of those who survived the Holocaust.

Mr. Fein was named Howard County Volunteer of the Year in 2011.

Funeral services were held May 14 at Oakland Mills Interfaith Center in Columbia.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 31 years, the former Judee Iliff; a son, Matthew Fein of Columbia; a stepdaughter, Laura Alima of Hampden; his sister, Annette Fein of Israel; and five grandchildren. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.