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A Jewish Childhood - Reflections to Honor Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) - Paris, 1990
Sunday, 07 April 2013 20:59

I went to Paris in 1990 to celebrate my 50th birthday. I went with a group of friends from Los Angeles. I was there before them, among them Lee Wilbur, Marie Colaneri, and Martha Ramirez.

On that day, I walk on Boulevard Invalides and come upon two swastikas etched into a wall, not as deep as hate goes, but there under layers of the past, the dust which is sent out into air and breathed in.

Le Theatre De La Mode. Models have legs of wire, nothing left inside save air. If only these mannequins could breathe. Originally created to tout the fashion of the day, they were 27.5 inches tall, fabricated entirely of wire, 200 doll sized figures, 15 elaborate artist created sets. I go back to my journal, started 8-31-90 via Paris France, #6 Bis Place St. Sulpice, in a hotel where Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas put up their friends, the Hotel Recamier. Click here: Theatre de la Mode - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From the journal: 'Walk down a street of wire houses with wire clouds, the basic thread of this world is bound together rescued from the glories of war one more time. The photographs of the wire manikins in the season of war, 1941-1945 set out in mystery, taken but not lightly with spectrum of wire and no flesh'.

The song playing, ‘Oh you beautiful doll’... trails down the theater streets in isles and out to the Rue Bonaparte and Les Invalides. Now what?? Where do we go from here, melody against discordant ripping of flesh off bodies that are only made from wire. No flesh, no bones, nothing to make of it now. It's gaiety and from a devastation of what we really set about to do: explore the French so many years after the Holocaust.  My favorite in the exhibit, Jean Cocteau, Homage a Rene Clair: “Ma Femme Est Une Socriere. My wife is a witch."

It's impossible to totally describe the mannequins, or the sound of music or the photographs of Edith Piaf sitting at the piano singing, smiling, enjoying the day. And the day, one of so many when Jews were being carted off in boxcars to the camps toward slaughter.

This time I go back to Paris to see what I've seen so many times and to see what I've not seen before.

Luxembourg Gardens is two blocks from the apartment I rent each year on Rue Gay Lussac. In the museum this time is a retrospective on Marc Chagall.

The first time I saw a show of Chagall's work was in the basement of Centre Georges Pompidou, a retrospective called WORKS ON PAPER. It was Chagall's work during WWII. I bought a poster of a man, his house strapped on his back. That is what it was for those Jews fortunate enough to not be sent to the internment camps from France, especially Paris. Life back then for what I can surmise from visiting the Jewish Museum in the Marais and the new and modern Shoah Museum a little further away, was that many were not fortunate, sent to camps called Drancy, a northeast suburb of Paris. They totaled 67, 4oo including 6,000 children who were sent in 64 rail transports. 1,542 remained alive when the Allied Forces liberated it on August 17, 1944.

I have seen remnants of the camps imbedded in the wall and stairs down to the Deportation Memorial. The actual fragments of bones. Many quotes from artists and writers and down each hall, rows and rows of small lights, each one representing one taken and not returned.

Return soon to read more about the link to the present time and thank you for reading A Jewish Childhood Blog.