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« We’ve Got Magic To Do | Main | Oscar Pre-Show 2009 »

February 21, 2009


Danny, if I told you how I really felt....well, let's just say that "yawn" isn't the word that comes to mind. I am angry, and the official words, so carefully measured, ring insincere and expedient to me.

Thank you for getting me riled today. I was way too mellow.

Lovely wedding picture, though.

Very good post as always, Dany, however, I'd like to comment, concur on certain aspects and disagree on your assumption about the motives behind the ruling that we didn't even rejoice upon, we being the French Jews. It was significant, for sure, but it did not bring the same kind of relief that was brought, for instance, in 1995, when Jacques Chirac finally acknowledged the responsability of L'Etat Français in the atrocities against its citizens and the deportation of 75,000 Jews during WWII.

First of, because as you stated it, it was a personal case brought to justice. It is not the first, there are several others that led to interesting rulings. There was recently a trial against SNCF which is the French nationalized railways, that were used to deport the Jews for instance. The trial brought in very interesting reactions (if you want me to research references for you just ask me, I will oblige with pleasure).

I disagree with you on stating that this ruling might have anything to do with the recent raise in antisemitic incidents in France. It does not. It may be a coincidence because of a coincidental timing only. The judicial system is very different in France from the judicial system in US remember it. The comments section is not a good place for me to develop on that topic, I just mention it. Judges may be influenced by the current events, but these kinds of trials take years and are pretty devoid of influence in general. Also, I don't have the specifics about the case itself, so I won't be positive about anything that would be dishonest intellectually (and you certainly know how intellectual honesty is a French national sport! :-)

I am the granddaughter of a deported to Auschwitz. My father's mom was arrested by the French police on September 2, 1943 and taken to Drancy, from where she left to Auschwitz and was assassinated there upon her arrival. We have information about her fate thanks to Klarsfeld's work, whom you mentioned. The French governement later acknowledged about her fate when it declared her "Mort pour la France" in 1949.

I have never actually asked my father how this mention was notified to him - and how he acknowledged it. It has been extremely long and painful, and difficult to get pieces together for years for me, from him and surviving family members. I could write for ever about this.

Also about the two communities you describe so accurately, I feel like I could add my two cents, if I wasn't afraid of squatting your comment section with my awkward English! - as my mother's father was a Sephardic Jew, and they retired from Algeria just before the war (in Algeria, 1954) erupted there, to end up losing all their properties to the Independance, despite being warned by the rest of the family who were not so blind about what was going on.

(For your readers who might not know about the episode of French history, this is the link with Wikipedia for a short reference: )

Despite the French government at the time clearly had serious responsibilities in the disaster that it created for countless Jewish and non-Jewish families who lost everything in their home country and had to return to France with nothing on their shoulders, people were never actually compensated for their losses. I remember receiving something like 2,000 dollars which became my share given by my mom as a third of what she received herself being the third of the surviving heirs to her father's lost fortune. I guess that's life and governments' compensations.

It is subsequent to 1962's return of all the French Jews from Algeria, that the French Jewish community changed a lot in France. My family being the product of this nearly unconceivable mixture before 1962 (my parents married in 1954!), I have heard and learnt a lot about all this.

I think you should also mention a fact that is very prevalent in our French mentality and that is fundamentally different from what the American jewry faces in the U.S. is the relationship towards religion in general. Religion IS a private matter. Whether you are a catholic, a jew, a protestant, a muslim, a buddhist, an atheist, this is a private matter and not a social characteristic.

This is changing these days because of the growing problems with immigrants and fundamentalism, radicalisation of feelings around the Middle-East too. People have a complete misunderstanding of judaism because it is not so public as it can be in certain ways in the American life: ask a French guy what Chanuka is, he will look at you with a big interrogation mark in his looks.

Today, in the French Jewish communities, the responsibility of the French State of 1940 is not so much of an issue as the difficulties of living altogether in a country that used to have a tradition of integration that has really, really deteriorated in the last decades. Now, I have to say that I am now writing from a different place, since I have lived in the United States for the last ten years, but I still defend the fact that France is not an antisemitic country at all, contrarily to some of the impressions that come from the press treatment of the news.

Wow, merci beaucoup, Otir, for your fascinating comments. You are obviously way more qualified to comment on this matter than I am, and I so appreciate your thoughts here.

Your background sounds very similar to my ex-wife's. Are you sure you weren't at my wedding in 1993?

Laughs. I am sure. I don't remember ever going to a lavish wedding à l'Orée du Bois (ready to bet that was where it was?) except for my first cousin's one and I was in my teens then. I was pretty cut from any social life in the nineties, being secluded in my own marriage at the time... another story with another part of the ashkenazic branch of the European jewry!!

Glad you enjoyed my long post, and apologies for skipping one n in your name, Danny! (what was I thinking, I proofread three times the rest of the comment of course).

Dear Danny,

In our house, growing up, I don't remember there ever being anything said about Jews or Judaism, one way or the other. Anytime I saw something in the news about vandalism and painting a swastika on something, I thought it was the strangest thing. I couldn't understand it. Why was this one religion singled out for such intense hatred ?

I've always been fascinated by the Nazis and the holacaust, trying to understand it, but always ending up puzzled.

The extermination of 6 million Jews is unquestionably the most horrific act ever to have been perpetrated by mankind. What action today could make up for that ? There is none. Reparations ? Pfft. Apologies ? Big deal.

I think that the admonition to never forget is the most important way to prevent it from ever happening again. It should be mandatory for every school class to tour the memorial in Washington, DC and the Ann Frank house in Amsterdam. That way, even the most hard hearted among us would be forced to examine and confront their emotions and thoughts and beliefs concerning Judaism.

Hugs, my friend...

Danny, just to relate to a small point in a big piece - about Jewishness in Europe. I lived in the UK for 10 years and I totally "get" what you mean by the difference. The percentage of Jews in the UK (under 1%) makes them a tiny minority. They define their distinction by religion - not by culture or ethnicity or history. Other than faith, this makes for a much more assimilationist attitude. Being openly Jewish - in the way we're used to in the States - is considered a bit vulgar. One result is that the rest of the Brits know very little about Jewish culture. I could tell you stories!

Wonderful and important piece, Danny. I'll write more when I am not trying to type on my phone.

@ Gordon
I disagree with you.
The important thing is not "to never forget" but "to never allow it to happen again" to any human being, yet we have failed: Rwanda genocide, the Bosnian genocide in the 90's....etc
As a Jew I would prefer that we also treat the Palestinians with dignity.
We have not learned from history and some are quick to label those who oppose the Israeli occupation as "traitors" even though some of them are holocausts survivors and others like myself are sons and daughters of holocausts survivors.

Thank you for sharing your story: I have Algerian friends as well as met Algerian-Jews who stayed behind who told me they never felt prosecuted but at he same time they were not recognized by the Algerian government for having helped the fight for Algeria's independence. It's surprising that the Jews left Algeria after the independence when they have lived in North Africa in harmony with the locals for centuries after being expelled from Spain.
We also tend to forget that there are Algerian-Jews who are native of the country: the first woman leader of an army who fought against the invasion of Arabs is said to be a Berber-Jew named "Dyhia" who was defeated in Tabarka/Tunisia....
That aspect of Berber-Jews is not well-know in North Africa. It could be that Berber-Jews do not publicize their Jewishness in a Muslim majority, even though I suspect most of them are now Muslims despite their Jewish origins.
Anyway, I went a bit off tangent here.
It's fascinating how rich our culture is.

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