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‘Miss Lovely’ as you’ve never seen her — new photos of Paulette Cooper, war survivor

[Previously the earliest known photo of Paulette Cooper and her older sister Suzy Bucholc]

One of the most rewarding experiences we ever had as a Scientology watcher started out in a Manhattan eatery and a simple question.

We were having breakfast with Paulette Cooper in our first ever meeting with her in December 2011. We had just recently written a story for the Village Voice summarizing some of the amazing things that she was famous for, namely that Scientology tried to destroy her because she wrote one of the earliest books about the church, 1971’s The Scandal of Scientology.

Paulette lives down in Florida, but we got together when she happened to be in town. And that’s when we asked our fateful little question: What had brought her to New York?

She explained that she was visiting her sister Suzy, who lived in Manhattan. And she also mentioned that even after all of these years, the two of them were still trying to figure out how they had survived the Holocaust as little children.


[Meeting Paulette for the first time at the Noho Star in 2011]

Really? This was a mystery? We love mysteries. Well, if you’ve read our book about Paulette, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely, you know that we managed to track down quite a lot about her first years, when she was born in Nazi-occupied Belgium and her parents were arrested and sent to Auschwitz to their deaths. Paulette and Suzy were kept hidden by their family but eventually they, too, were sent to the Mechelen transit camp and were scheduled to be put on a train to Auschwitz in July 1943. But they didn’t end up on that train because family friends managed to raise enough money to bribe a corrupt Nazi camp commandant, and the girls ended up in a series of orphanages after the war.

After our initial story about that breakfast meeting, we were lucky enough to make contact with a Dutch family that still had records of the Bucholc girls (as they were known before Paulette was adopted by Ted and Stella Cooper in New York in 1948), and they helped us piece together the story.

But even now, Paulette is continuing to discover new information about her past. This summer, she traveled to Belgium and she learned that a family had bought a house in Brussels that turned out to be one of the orphanages she had lived in. The family is reaching out to the children from that orphanage, and they are planning to have a reunion.

“The only way I could have been tracked down by these people was that story in the Village Voice,” Paulette told us this week. “And they not only found that the house had been an orphanage, but they found photos, too. They are the first photos that I’ve ever seen of myself at such a young age.”

Here she is, Paula Bucholc (misspelled Buchholz by the orphanage, with her birthdate, July 26, 1942), photographed we think in 1944, with the war still going…


“And here’s the group shot. I’m crying on the far left, and Suzy is the blonde in the middle. They’ve tracked down several of the others, too.”


Meanwhile, the de Hoo family in Amsterdam, which has been so helpful, found a new letter written by Sijbren de Hoo, who had been such a close friend to Paulette’s father Chaim Bucholc. It’s dated September 1, 1943, just a few weeks after the girls had been saved from the transport to Auschwitz.

Says the letter at one point: “…I was informed that our friend L. is back in Portugal. As far as I know without problems. The children ‘B’ are now in the house of Sister Louise.”

The friend “L” is a reference to Leonard Rodrigues Lopes, a Dutch Jew of Portuguese descent who worked as a reporter for a British newspaper, and who helped raise money for the bribe to save the girls. The “children ‘B'” is a reference to the Bucholc girls, who had been smuggled out of the Nazi transport camp to the first of the orphanages, run by a Catholic nun.

It’s another layer of confirmation for the story we told in Miss Lovely, and another connection to Belgium for Paulette. Sadly, on the day she was scheduled to visit the house in Brussels and meet the new residents there, they had a death in the family.

But Paulette tells us she plans to go back for the reunion.

“I’m excited about the new photos because I’ve always had a disconnect to my early, early life. Most people have a family and family photos. But I never did, so when I saw that, it gave me a sense of continuity about myself,” she says.


[Paulette in an orphanage, right, at about 5, with her best friends Jeannette, center, and DeeDee. Chapter 8 of our book begins with the story of DeeDee leaving the orphanage with “Tante Brunya,” which was such a blow to Paulette at the time.]


[An earlier photo of Paulette, right, DeeDee, center, and Jeannette.]


[Paulette is in the second row, fourth from the right, and her sister Suzy is directly behind her.]


[A recent photo of Paulette with her sister Suzy and Suzy’s daughter Rachel, named after their mother Ruchla Minkowski Bucholc. Suzy also has a son, named after their father Chaim.]

For more photos of Paulette, see our slideshow.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,900 days.
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Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 655 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,957 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,063 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,466 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,339 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 920 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,425 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,669 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,778 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on October 12, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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