Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Sunday in Paris: Memorial for the Deportees and Victims

This Sunday in Paris was the National Day Memorializing those Deported during the German Occupation. Every year since 1954 it's been organized with the children of the Deportee's and their families participating along with a dwindling number of survivors of the Shoah, what the French call the Holocaust. 
 The street to the Centre de Juive, the Jewish Center was closed to anyone without an invitation. As you can see the 'flic's were doing their job. Even my friend Naftali, in his 80's a Resistant who'd forgot his invitation, wasn't allowed to enter so we had to walk around the block.
 The small ceremony at the Wall of Names had ended so we joined the cortege, the parade of survivors, families, and military and ministers and the Mayor walking over to Ile de la Cité. Doesn't he look like de Gaulle?
 Michelle, Naftali's friend in purple on the left, spoke with Henri who wore his own camp clothes from Struthof-Natzweiler, the only concentration camp in France. The same camp, where Naftali's father was interned and executed, is in Alsace-Lorraine.  Henri made every step of the march. Hen
 What ceremony wouldn't be complete without a Rothschild, in the grey suit + grey hair, kissing a ladies hand. This Rothschild is a sponsoring director of the Centre de Juive.
 After the march across the Ile Saint-Louis we made it to the Deportation Memorial behind Notre Dame and various ministries and groups laid wreaths, speeches were made and a beautiful poem by Robert Desnos, a deportee, read.
 It took awhile before I realized Bertrand Delanöe, the Mayor of Paris, stood in front of us and he consented to a photo with me.
 Naftali's friends, Annick who was born in 1924, on the left with the medals and Pierette, born in 1918, with the stylish purple hat were Agents de liaison in Lyon during the war. Between them they made and distributed false identity cards, underground papers and assisted families of those arrested.
 What is amazing is that these 80 and 90 years old made it (some walked part of the way down the Champs Elysees!) to the Arc de Triomphe for the last part of the ceremony. More speeches, laying of wreaths, the military band played le Marseilleise twice, and we all stood in the cold for almost two hours in the chill April evening. The young ones (in their 70's and early 80's) held the heavy flags for almost an hour, considered an honor, and I wondered how they did it with the cold updraft that whips thru the Arc de Triomphe.
 Naftali invited Pierette and Annick, (her Resistance name) to talk and we repaired to Cafe des Dames, chosen by Annick. Notice the photo collage behind her. I taped a lot of their conversation but both were clear on one point, the Resistance was only 2% of the population and the Collaborators 2% and de Gaulle made a myth of la Resistance to unify a damaged France.
Pierette, without her stylish hat, was denounced in Lyon in 1944 and sent on the last convoy of deportees. She was interned in Ravensbruck almost a month before it was liberated but it took her a year via various displaced persons camps to get back to France. Annick, was denounced, and held in the infamous Lyon prison run by Klaus Barbie. Her interrogator was Barbie's second in command and she missed the firing squad by two people. During dinner Annick turned to me and said 'in three years Pierette will be one hundred, hard to believe, eh, she lives by herself, like I do and we still take the Metro.'
Cara - Tuesday
PS it's the last day to enter the sweepstakes to win a killer trip to Paris and join me here in October http://www.parisisformurder.com/rules.html bon chance


  1. Just amazing!
    Very strong people, strong in spirit too.
    Thank you for posting this Cara.
    Moving to say the least.

  2. Bravo to you, Cara, for this wonderful tribute to these very brave women! Great photos of familiar Parisian sites!
    Arnold Zeman

  3. These are remarkable women. Thank you for the photos. Very poignant and touching.

  4. Such a great blog, to touch a living history like that. Thanks Cara

  5. Thank you, Cara, for putting faces to the reason to "Never Forget."