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!