About Valentin Valentinovich Yarmonkine
Valentin Yarmonkine was captured in Paris by the Gestapo in the summer of 1944. Soon after, on 3 July, 1944 the Gestapo came for the Raffalovichs. They lived in the top floor apartment at 110 Boulevard Hausmann and family tells, with some drama, how they attempted to escape by running over the roof tops with bullets flying.
His sister, Vera Yarmonkine-Raffalovich, born 1st November 1901 in St Petersburg Russia, was a refugee from the Bolshevik revolution. She escaped from Russia through the Crimea with the Czar's mother, Marie Feodorovna, and boarded the British Navy ship HMS Marlborough in Yalta on April 7th, 1919. She lived in exile in Paris with her second husband, Andre Raffalovich, who was a French banker born in Enghien-les-Bains (Seine-et-Oise) on the 23rd February 1896. The couple had two daughters, Michelene and Pierette and homes in Paris and Bordeaux.
During the German occupation of France Vera became involved with the Comete escape line, she worked at guiding evading Allied airmen through Paris and Bordeaux and finding them safe houses to stay in. Her husband and her brother, Valentin Yarmonkine, who was born in St. Petersburg on 9th May 1898, were also involved as was her daughter Michelene, who was in her early teens at the time, she claimed to have learned to speak English helping the evaders .
The anguish of losing their parents, so abruptly, haunted Michelene and her sister Pierette, for the rest of their lives. Their fear and frustration was made all the worse when their parents were deported on the last Nazi train to leave Paris with prisoners for the concentration camps.
Their father had been able to write one last letter to his daughters before being put on the train. Vera survived Buchenwald and Ravensbruck but her husband and brother perished after being taken to the Dora Mittelbau slave labour factories in the Hartz Mountains. Andre died of typhus on the 2nd December 1944 in Buchenwald and Valentin died in Ellrich.
After the war Vera would never speak a word about her ordeal, she always carried a bitter hostility to those French public figures she considered collaborators. Her daughters were ambivalent about their mother. On the one hand, they were proud of their parents' achievements and their decorations. On the other hand, they also admitted that they secretly blamed their mother for encouraging their father to engage in such dangerous endeavors when they had two young daughters in their care.
Vera died 13th January 1964 and is buried in Chaville, France. Andre Raffalovich and Valentin Yarmonkine are on the list of Comete Escape Line war dead.
Vera was awarded the rank of Sous-Lieutenant des forces francaises combatantes, reseau "Comete Evasion" after the war and received the following medals.
Medaille de la resistance (France)
Croix de Guerre avec Citation "a l'Ordre de la Division" (France)
Medaille des Deportes et Internes de la resistance. (France)
Medaille des Combattants Volontaires. (France)
King's Medal for Courage (Great Britain)
Chevalier de l'Ordre de Leopold II avec palme. (Belgium)
Croix de Guerre Belge 1940 avec palme. (Belgium)
Medaille de la Resistance Belge. (Belgium)
-- Escape Line Research and Remembrance
By David Pitt, Thursday 20 October 2011 - 12:19 :: Good
Let’s talk about the other for a change – in this case the brother. There is a strong tendency in the family to talk about Vera and … – but then actually only talk about Vera. Valentin Valentinovich Yarmonkin II is worth talking about in his own right. He had the courage to fight the German Occupation and he paid the price. There were a fairly large number of collaborators amongst the French, but then too there was the large majority who were the vast silent majority content to simply survive reasonably comfortably, and finally a few brave souls who actively joined the resistance long before D-Day. VVY II was among the few.
According to Alan Guggenheim’s family tree maker he was born into hereditary nobility on June 9, 1898 in St Petersburg. Apparently 20 years later and very close to on the way out of Russia he married Anna Yakovleva Aivaz in September of 1918 in the Crimea. They had a son VY III (1919-1985) who had 3 daughters but no sons. VVY II did remarry a Marie Romischowski but they also only had a daughter so apparently there will be no further Yarmonkins going forward. Still VVY II did his job of producing a male heir and the next generation didn’t capitalize. Somehow I think perhaps the Revolution sapped the spirit and energy that had previously been the earmark of the Yarmonkin family. Paul Mifsud (another grand-son of Vera) wrote a piece that I found on the internet about the Comete Escape Line. In it Paul said that Valentin was arrested by the Gestapo in Paris in the summer of 1944 and that soon after the Gestapo appeared at the apartment of Andre and Vera Raffalovich (which I have detailed elsewhere). The wording seemed to imply without saying it specifically that there was a cause and effect connection between the two events. Previous to that I had never heard anyone in the family connect the two seizures in such a way but I do not know the truth. For sure all three were taken into custody, all three shipped to Germany and two never returned.
All three were sent to Buchenwald with Andre and Valentin sent on to Dora Mittelbau (originally known as Block 17/3 of Buchenwald). Overall Buchenwald received about 240,000 prisoners with approximately 56,000 dying there mostly of disease and starvation. This Dora Mittelbau was connected to the production of V2 rockets and received about 60,000 of the total, mostly Russian, Polish and French, with 20,000 fatalities. Valentin himself, at about the age of 46, died in Ellrich which is a fairly small town in Thuringia with a present day population of 5,700. Andre died of Typhus in early December 1944. Five months later Dora-Mittelbau was liberated by American troops in April of 1945. Looking at the photos and reading the statistics about the Concentration Camps when your relatives were involved is a particularly ugly experience. I have tried not to dwell too much on the subject but I simply couldn’t ignore it.
October 3, 2011 / The Brother / FHP, BK 1, #49 / FAM Pg 7 © 2011 / CIP # 1225, Oct 20, 2011 / KD June 9, 1898 / FHPY GD / YP 76/7-7B, 10-10D, File 288C
Valentin Yarmonkine's Timeline
June 9, 1898
St. Petersburg, Russia
Buchenwald, Concentration Camp, Germany