Au Revoir Les Enfants — Paris Exhibition
The 1987 French Film,Â Au Revoir Les Enfants, tells a story of courage and betrayal involving the round up of Jewish children hidden in a Catholic boarding.Â Though it was 43 years since the roundup of Jews in France occurred, it was revolutionary at the time in causing France to, for the first time, really reflect on its role of the deportationÂ and extermination of one-third of its Jewish population.Â Not until 1995, however, did French President Jacques Chirac offically take homage of Franceâ€™s direct role with theÂ Nazis in killing its Jews.
The HotelÂ de Ville of Paris now has an official exhibition about the roundup and exterminatonÂ of Jewish children in France, focusing particularlyÂ on the large Jewish population in Paris.Â Over 30,000Â Jewish childrenÂ lived in Paris during the Nazi occupation of France, and over 4,000 were killed as a result ofÂ the French Vichy complying with Nazi orders to round up theÂ Jews, most recentlyÂ featured in the French filmÂ LaÂ RafleÂ (The Roundup), when duringÂ the hot days ofÂ July, 1942, Jews were taken from their homes and placed in the Hippodrome before being deported through Drancy to the Nazi concentration camps.
The exhibition is free, and has gripping photos of children, as well as heart-breaking artwork that survived the war.Â Anyone who sawÂ Au Revoir Les Enfants, and those who did not, surely should not miss this telling exhibition.Â As sad as these events were, they are also mixed, given that unlike in Poland, the Ukraine, Austria or Germany where the Jews were exterminated wholesale so the local population could profit by stealing their homes and businesses, two-thirds of Franceâ€™s Jewish population survived, and many French people savedÂ thousands ofÂ Jewish children by hiding them.Â This explains whyÂ over 10,000 children survived the war, without their parents, becoming orphans, many of whom were saved by Catholic convents.
French courage was selfless,Â as told to me by a Hebrew school student of mine whose mother was hidden by a French neighbor, and saved from the Nazis and Vichy.Â The woman refused any recognition, including the family request that she be inducted as a righteous gentile at Yad Vashem (Israelâ€™s Holocaust Museum).Â The woman simply saw it as her duty to save the child.Â There are many French people who did the same, and while the cruel slaughter of so many French Jews â€” especially children â€” is unforgivable, no one should forget that manyÂ French helped save so many Jews, including children.
AtÂ severalÂ ecole maternelles, Jacques Chirac had plaques placed in front of the schools to commemmorate the roundup of French children.Â ManyÂ ecole maternelle, including some within a block or two of Hotel de Ville, have these plaques placed prominently adjacent to the front door.Â They are a reminder of the roundup of Jewish children, so the French never forget.Â WhileÂ these plaquesÂ are a stark reminder of Franceâ€™s past,Â walking the streets ofÂ Le Marais, includngÂ Rue des Rosiers, are a more poignant reminder of the impact good and courageous French people had during these times, with vibrantÂ Jewish life enduring, freely, and proudly, in the heart of Paris.