Today is National Holocaust Day. I’m on the fence about this because the Holocaust shouldn’t have just one day of remembrance. We should always have a piece of this placed in our memory bank—whether Jewish or not.
It shouldn’t be remembered for just one day.
Being a writer, I’m on the internet. A lot. Doing all sorts of research. And the internet is rife with news of reality show participants who think they are celebrities. Betheny Frankel of Real Housewives of New York’s face was splattered all over the net due to a rant she had about K-Mart and some of the help speaking Spanish.
Andie MacDowell, the former model-turned-Hallmark-Channel-actress, ranted publicly because she was downgraded from first class into what she called “tourist” class. Granted, the airlines made an error in downgrading her because of her dog, but to smugly call anyone not in first class “tourist”—is vulgar and entitled. Remember Andie—your voice was dubbed in “Greystoke—The Legend of Tarzan”. (Now there’s an important movie *cough*).
Then we have the Oscar boycott. I swear on my mother’s grave, my hand to God, it is easier to find celebrity information than it is to find detailed information and other lesser-known nuances about the of The Holocaust, WWII, and Nazi-occupied France!
And as the years go by, it seems that the Holocaust fades into history and almost becomes forgotten.
As a young student in Catholic school, we became aware of the fact that Jews were exterminated by Hitler and his Nazis. But we were never taught about the atrocities—the inhumane medical experiments, the treatment of Jews in concentration camps, the way their bodies were starved and beaten and upon death from the gas chambers or ovens, the way their bodies were thrown into trenches.
Although we were made aware of the horrors of the camps, we were never told about what really took place.
I have Jewish relatives and friends, but have never really spoken with either in –depth on how the Holocaust had or may have affected their families.
Bonaparte, however, was born in 1944. Just as the Nazi occupation in France was ending.
His family was greatly affected. And what I’m writing is just one of many, many family stories. It may not be as horrific as others, but in the words of Bonaparte’s father, Dany “The war tore families apart. It destroyed our family”
Bonaparte, on the right with his sister, Isabelle and mother Evie. This photo was taken when the family was still recovering from the devastation of the Nazi Occupation in France.
Bonaparte’s paternal grandmother, Muse, was Jewish and was fortunate enough to have escaped to England.
Muse, Bonaparte’s fraternal grandmother was incredibly lucky to have escaped to England.
Not much has been said about Bonaparte’s grandfather, J. H. Lartigue, the photographer.
Dany Lartigue, as a boy, with his father in his studio.
Dany, Bonaparte’s father, escaped STO, Service du Travail Obligatoire three times—finally making the trek by foot to Switzerland for freedom.
Bonaparte’s maternal grandfather, Andre Girard, founded the CARTE Network and was extremely active in The Resistance. He was also fortunate enough to be summoned to England and avoid arrest, but his wife’s fate was far worse.
Andre Girard, Bonaparte’s maternal grandfather, was very active in The Resistance, helping Jews to escape the Nazis.
Girard, a talented artist, moved to Nyack, NY after the war ended. He moved there thinking that his wife, Andrée had been murdered in Ravensbrück. She wasn’t. Andrée was one of only 15,000 who survived until the liberation. War wore the couple down completely.
This image, from Getty, is only one of the many photos of what happened at Ravensbruck. There are no more words…
Andrée, who was Catholic, was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp and onto Theresienstadt in Czechoslovokia. She was sent to Theresienstadt in error—and it was a move that saved her life.
Andree Girard’s life was actually ironically saved by being transferred from Ravensbruck to Theresienstadt. Surviving one camp is a feat that many have–but surviving two is nothing short of a miracle.
Entrance to Theresienstadt. The above reads “Work Makes You Free”. It’s so pathetic.
She finally returned to Paris when the War ended and was reunited with her daughters at The Hotel Lutetia. Danièle told me, other than the birth of her son, the day her mother returned was the happiest day of her life.
Thousands of displaced persons and those freed from camps found a safe haven at the Hotel Lutetia. Each time I pass it, I always think of what Bonaparte’s grandmother must have thought as she returned here to Paris.
Bonaparte’s aunt, Danièle and I had a few conversations about the family’s years during the Occupation. She told me that whenever she heard a German accent she became terrified—and she told me this just a couple of years ago. Well into her eighties, she still feared that accent.
Daniele and I had many conversations about her time during WWII. She and her sisters were so young to have gone through what they did—I cannot imagine today’s young people having the strength that all off the young people throughout Europe had during those days.
She told me of the uncertainty of being in the “Free Zone”. With her father, André, in England, and her mother, Andrée, arrested and in Ravensbrück, the four sisters, Evie (Bonaparte’s mother), Danièle, Théote, and Marguerite were on their own, being split with relatives and family friends in Antibes and other areas of the South.
The girls had no mother to teach them object lessons about life. It was during the time in the Free Zone that Danièle became interested in theatre. And that interest is what could have gotten her mother arrested. Danièle’s first “boyfriend” was Gérard Philipe, who would go on to become one of the greatest French actors. Danièle and the Girard family always believed that it was Philipe’s parents who informed the Gestapo of the whereabouts of Andrée and her being arrested by the Gestapo when she boarded a train for Paris.
Other than the fear, Danièle was always visibly uncomfortable talking about the days of the Nazi occupation in France. She was lucky too, because she was too young and feisty to realize what the Nazi’s could have done to her after she narrowly escaped arrest as well.
Dany, Bonaparte’s dad, doesn’t speak of it at all—only to say that it destroyed their family.
Dany Lartigue, last summer. Every time I see him he ALWAYS mentions how the war destroyed the family.
Hate is an evil emotion. Hitler’s hatred for Jews destroyed much more than families. His hatred almost destroyed an entire culture and wreaked havoc on civilization. All this from the hatred spewed from one person. Hate kills. Hate maims. Hate destroys.
We must remember this because at present, hatred is rearing its ugly little head –in politics, in religious ideology, in antisemitism. This hatred cannot grow. It will never be destroyed but perhaps it can be buried and kept at bay.
If you want to learn a bit more about the Nazi occupation in France and the atrocities of the disgusting Nazi Party the horrors of Hitler, there are many documentaries and films on this subject. I recommend the following:
le Chagrin et la Pitie, The Sorrow and The Pity, is an excellent documentary focusing on Vichy. Children of the Chabannes is REMARKABLE–it is about a school in one of France’s remote southern areas. The staff took in children from all over Europe and it is so uplifting and special. It tells of the kindness that was shown during the war. Night and Fog is a short–a little over a half hour. It is really intense but people need to see what kinds of horrors this war brought about.
In addition, if you visit Washington DC, The Holocaust Museum is a must-see. If you are visiting Paris, The Mémorial de la Shoah is one museum that should also be a must see. The French hold no punches and it is an alarming yet necessary place to visit. We really cannot forget what evil viciousness that mankind is capable of.
Thank you for reading this post today. My apologies for not adding my usual humorous tone but this isn’t a subject to be taken lightly. And please remember to click on the links that I’ve added.
My love to you all and my wishes for peace in our world. Let’s save ourselves!
What a very moving piece, Catherine, thank you. I am so very sad that Bonaparte’s aunt Danielle should still be so terrified on hearing a German voice, that’s a whole lifetime in which she has been living in fear. You are right, we cannot forget, and hatred cannot grow. We need to love each other so much more.
Hi Judy, Thank you for your thoughts, they are greatly appreciated. Oh it was so sad that Daniele was so terrified of those voices, and she was until she passed in October. But I swear, whenever we would talk about it, she would start shaking–and I’d never seen her that upset. We can’t forget–especially with all the bad things going on in the world now… XOXOXOXO!
Thanks for sharing the story.
You are welcome Christophe. Its important to share this with everyone! XOXOXO!
WOW, a powerful post and reading the story of Bonaparte’s family is amazing and understandably sad. So much hatred then and yes, I agree much today also. I did visit the Holocaust Museum in D.C., years ago – but I need to go again. Thanks Catherine for this valuable and important information and writing such a heartfelt post.
You’re welcome Spear. Trust me, Bonaparte’s family really is amazing. I’ll tell you, the Holocaust museum in DC is a more “gentler” museum. The one in Paris is incredibly intense and frightening! If you get the chance, try to watch the documentaries I recommended–they are gut wrenching. XOXO!
Was Andree reunited with Andre? (Did I get that right?) This was great! Thank you for posting it! My husband’s nephew’s wife (whew!) is French and has many stories about her family’s involvement with the Resistance in Paris. Very inspiring. My husband used to see patients with number tattoos on their forearms…. It’s been a while.
Leslie. Unfortunately, they were not reunited. It’s almost like a soap opera, but they ended up living separate lives. Andre in America and Andree in France. What I wrote was Bonaparte “lite” but there were more intense stories–as so many European families also had–and worse! XOXOXO
Thank you Catherine <3
We must never forget , and sadly most young people know nothing (and don't want to know and believe it did really happen , even denying it – just yesterday my youngest who is informed , had a huge fight with her boyfriend over this denial and ignorance 🙁 ).
My father tells us how scared they lived (even here in Lisbon) fearing a neighbour would turn them in ; and as gifted as he was to learn languages he always refused to learn or speak German.
Thank you for your post and for the links
Can you imagine the fear running through ALL the European countries at that time? No one was safe–even Switzerland was prepared for the worst. It is a horrible thing that our educational system, not only here in the USA, but throughout the world fails to teach our children the horrors of the Holocaust. This could happen again. There IS that much hate out there. I know there are parents who don’t want their children to “see” the atrocities of what the Nazi’s did–but what about the children of the Holocaust????
You are welcome for the post and the informing links. XOXOXO!
Thank you for sharing Catherine…🙏❤️🙏❤️🙏❤️🙏
You are most welcome XOXOXO!
Thanks for sharing such a personal story. We couldn’t agree more about the Holocaust Museum in DC.
Right? Everyone wants to see all the monuments, but at times, fail to see the importance of the Holocaust Museum. It really is a place that all visitors to DC should see. XOXOXO!
Excellent. I am drawn to this section of history. What happened to Evie and the children. Such a lovely picture. We just passed the day marking the liberation of Auschwitz. Thank you again.
Evie and Dany divorced. Evie went on to marry Jean Casadesus, a well-known concert pianist and they had a daughter, Agnes. Jean was killed in an automobile accident. Agnes died when she was young. Isabelle passed away about six years ago–and she is missed. She was a very kind woman. Evie passed away in 2012–she had Alzheimer’s. It was sad because whenever we went to visit her while she was quite ill, I like to think she knew a bit of what went on around her. It’s a sad story. XOXOXO
I wasn’t aware it was today, but I simultaneously saw your post as a tribute was starting on the BBC. Both the tribute and your story were so moving.
It’s a situation that can be beyond comprehension, especially for this generation. So thank you for sharing, reading a personal connection to the story I think helps bring home the far reaching effects of the atrocities.
And I think it’s good the French museum doesn’t gloss over the details. It may be more difficult viewing but sometimes the raw truth needs to be told to prevent something like this ever happening again.
Hi Haylee. I haven’t seen any tributes here on US television, but I do hope that they are aired and I”ve just missed them. Oh..the French Holocaust museum is incredible–and it’s great that they don’t gloss over anything. This is not an issue that needs to be Disneyfied! Let’s hope that something like this never happens again. Ever. XOXOXO
Beautifully written. I have read quite a lot of non fiction on those times. Every. Single. Time. I have to ponder how on earth could this have happened. Love the pictures. Some extraordinarily beautiful women in that family. Wonderful post
Thanks Jean. Yeah–the women in Bonaparte’s family were all absolutely gorgeous! His mother dated Roger Vadim and he wrote about her in one of his books. Evie was an incredible beauty! I think we all can ponder how this happened and that’s why we need to be aware and not ignore hatred. XOXOXO
Thank you for sharing such a personal story. You are absolutely correct – this is something that needs to be remembered every day. Both my Mother and Father in law were old enough to remember the start of the war and they have shared some stories with me as what life was like here in the Netherlands at the time. My Mother in law’s father was a police chief and she remembers having American soliders hiding in her house. She has memories of their lack of food becasuse everything was going to the German soldiers, however the Americans that were hiding at her house would share some chocolate with her that they had, families were getting kicked out of their houses or forced to share their house for the Germans. After the war ended the family found ount that her Father’s name was on the top of the list to be killed for assisting the “enemy”. Growing up in the US, I of course learned in school about the war but like you, I did not hear about the horrible unhumane treatment of people in the camps or how the war destroyed people’s lives/families who were not arrested. I cannot begin to imagine what life was like during the time.
Thank you for your story. It’s incredible how so many of us have our stories to tell. It’s a shame that schools are not educating children on all the details of the Holocaust or of Hitler’s invasion. I’m still disappointed in this. I also find it incredibly daunting that last night, on the evening of the Remembrance Day, not one TV station had a tribute to the Holocaust survivors or any documentaries. It was shameful. Earlier this morning I was watching the news and President Obama (and I’m a huge supporter of his), was talking about diversity in Hollywood films. Further proof that the Oscar Boycott was far more important than the extermination of 6 million Jews. It’s a goddam disgrace. XOXOXO!
My father always insisted on us kids (only 8 or 9 at the time) watching the newsreel re-runs of British troops first discovering the concentration camp at Belsen in Germany. He used to say, “Never forget.”
I did the same with my kids. It is a lesson from history that must never be forgotten.
Coincidentally on one of my many trips to Celle, Germany, as a barrister defending British soldiers at courts-martial, I was sat next to an octogenarian on the flight to Hanover. I noticed the tell-tale tattoo on his arm.
Tentatively I inquired of him as to its meaning (I already knew the answer).
He went on to tell me that he was a survivor of the Holocaust now living in the US. Every year he was invited to talk to school kids in Germany about his experiences.
Fascism must always be resisted no matter where it occurs. Even the merest whiff must be condemned and exposed. It is still alive and kicking in Britain and Europe. I can also think of a certain American would-be Presidential candidate who scares the hell out of me!
Oh..and that would be Trump. A scary man for sure! Last night, Bonaparte thanked me for writing this post because it remains a subject very near to him. He also added that his grandmother, when asked about the camp, would tell him that the main topic of conversation was “food” (hey, she’s French!)..they women would create recipes in their minds and share with each other and they would discuss their favorite meals. That is so sad–they were all but starved to within an inch of their lives and yet they had the strength to still talk about a lovely subject! XOXOXO!
Catherine, brava! So beautifully written. You are so right when you say we must remember this everyday. I’m fearful as time passes and we lose the Greatest Generation that we will forget this horrific time in history. My parents lived though WWII and my dear Mother lost her beloved fiancé in Montecassino. She always said keep talking about it and NEVER EVER FORGET. On behalf of my Mother, thank you dear Catherine for sharing this story. Let’s keep talking! Are the documentaries in English?
Hugs, kisses and peace,
Hi Paula. I’m so glad that you could connect with this post and I thank you for your positive input. Your poor mother. It’s horrible to be young and lose a love–it’s awful. I also fear that as we lose a generation of people who worked hard and had wonderful values, that we are raising a rather soft bunch of generations to come! The documentaries that I posted are in French, but have English subtitles. Honestly, they are all fantastic–but I would recommend Children of the Chabannes first. It is a beautiful documentary! XOXOXO!
I forgot to mention another movie. Monsieur Klein. It’s about mistaken identity during the Nazi Occupation in France. I have to tell you, it is Alain Delon’s BEST role to date. He was fantastic in it! I cried for days after watching it!!!
If I could like this a hundred times I would. I’ve been reading about the Holocaust for the last five or six years now. I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum in DC four times and the display of children’s shoes totally undid me the first time. It wasn’t until a couple years after I began reading about it that I discovered the plight of France, of Paris. I read the book “A Train in Winter” (non-fiction) by Caroline Moorehead which is about all the WOMEN who were active in the French Resistance. It was an amazing book. Then I read “Sarah’s Key” (fiction) by Tatiana De Rosnay and that book broke my heart. It gives such a clear picture of what happened to the people when they were pulled from their homes and arrested in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup.
And as the last survivors pass to the other side, here we are ready and chomping at the bit to forget what happened. The scary part is THIS nation is poised on the verge of committing some of the same atrocities and it scares the hell out of me. I thank God for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation and their documenting of survivors’ lives. One of his workers, Jenna Blum wrote an interesting fictional novel called “Those Who Save Us.” Such a picture of what it was like for some of the ordinary German people during the war. “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, of course, is another great picture of that.
Thank you, Catherine, for posting this. I hope a LOT of people read it.
You are quite welcome Lady Calen, and I’m hoping a lot of people read this as well. It is meant to be shared so we don’t forget. I’m glad you mentioned a few books. I would love to read “A Train in Winter” and “Those Who Save Us”. I read Sarah’s Key, as did Oona and Bonaparte and it was a gripping read for sure. The DC museum is Holocaust lite compared to the Shoah in Paris. I’m telling you the Paris museum was really intense. But I”m glad that DC has a Holocaust museum to remind everyone that they should never forget what happened. I’m still saddened though that there was no mention of this day of remembrance on TV here in the States. It’s disgusting. The Kardashians are all over the news stations and no mention of the Holocaust–not even for one damned day! XOXOXO!
I so agree. We live in a country with such a short memory… A country that should be ashamed of it’s lack of involvement until so late in the war.
Thanks for this, Catherine. I usually can’t bear to read much about the Holocaust (I am Jewish and think perhaps I was there in a previous life). The stories of Bonaparte’s family are fascinating. His grandmother Muse was Bibi, right? I know that after she and JH split he was with a Romanian Jewish model named Renee, but Dany’s mother was Bibi?
Hi JUdy. You are correct, Muse was Bibi. The kids referred to her as Muse. And Renee was one of J.H.’s mistresses. He ended up with Florette..who was a lot younger than him but they had a great time together. Bonaparte’s family does have an interesting history on both sides. I swear when I first started hearing the stories I couldn’t keep track! XOXO!!
Maybe you should write their history! You could do it justice, and Bonaparte is your go-to resource!
Judy, I’ve often thought of writing a story about the the Girard women. Lots of research……XOXOXO!
It’s worrying to see the deniers try to rewrite history. Thank you for this post, I think personal histories make it all so much more real. Another documentary, a marathon and very harrowing one, is Shoah. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090015/
Isn’t it time that we made sure that political candidates are sane before we allow them to run for office?
Hi Maddy. You know–I’m pretty sure we saw Shoah. I’m sure of it. I’ll have to check with Bonaparte when he returns from seeing clients. Personal histories are far more meaningful–I agree on that 100 percent.
Oh…I think you HAVE to be slightly crazy in the ego department to even THINK about running for office–unfortunately, most of those in running are not only crazed, but they are filled with hate. It’s sad. XOXOXOXO!
Thank you for sharing this Catherine. While I was admittedly mesmerized by the photographs, the actual message was nothing short of hard-hitting. The Holocaust isn’t something to just glance over. It’s not. It impacted the entire world. Changed history forever. Damage done that cannot be reversed. It’s crucial not to forget.
I don’t know if my generation would have the gall to deal with something like that. But then again, who is every willing and completely ready to deal with something like the Holocaust? I argue no one.
I feel empathy towards Bonaparte and his family. It’s a story that I’m quite interested in. I love hearing life stories and history. Never fails to snag my attention. I think I need to reblog this soon. Promise I will, when the opportunity arises!
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An eye-opener! I am speechless.
Thanks for your beautifully written story. I was an occasional visitor to painter Andre Girard home in Nyack NY – my mother was an artist and a friend\student of Andre and welcome guest of Andrea. I have dozens of letters written to my mother from the painter Andre, I also have many original works of art of his. I treasure all these keepsakes. When in France I would visit Danielle at the gallery and we would share stories of memories. I had no idea my last visit to see Danielle would be our last encounter, She is with the angels which includes her parents.
Hi Michael. I think I may have met you at Daniele’s gallery a few years back. I miss Daniele terribly. She was one of the greatest women ever. Thank you so much for your words. They really touched me! XOXOXOXO
I’ve been watching the wonderful French series Un Village Français. Truly wrenching.