From a World Apart: A Little Girl in the Concentration Camps

From a World Apart: A Little Girl in the Concentration Camps

From a World Apart: A Little Girl in the Concentration Camps

From a World Apart: A Little Girl in the Concentration Camps

Synopsis

"I'm frightened, Mother. Last year, I was seven years old. This year, I'm eight and so many years separate these two ages. I have learned that I am Jewish, that I am a monster, and that I must hide myself. I'm frightened all the time."- Francine Christophe.

Francine Christophe's account begins in 1939, when her father was called up to fight with the French army. A year later he was taken prisoner by the Germans. Hearing of the Jewish arrests in France from his prison camp, he begged his wife and daughter to flee Paris for the unoccupied southern zone. They were arrested during the attempted escape and subsequently interned in the French camps of Poitiers, Drancy, and Beaune-la-Rolande. In 1944 they were deported to Bergen-Belsen in Germany.

In short, seemingly neutral paragraphs, Christophe relates the trials that she and her mother underwent. Writing in the present tense, she tells her story without passion, without judgment, without complaint. Yet from these unpretentious, staccato sentences surges a well of tenderness and human warmth. We live through the child's experiences, as if we had gone hand-in-hand with her through the death camps.

Excerpt

As the author herself has pointed out, what follows is neither a sweeping narrative of a world at war – of which there are many excellent examples, since events often did indeed take on epic dimensions – nor even a documentary of the Holocaust. We find instead a rather unassuming, fragmentary collection of what she has aptly termed “photos.” And yet these snapshots of ordinary people striving to fulfill the most mundane human needs in these most extraordinary circumstances are windows that open to a world far removed from our own historical time, as well as from our day to day life. Indeed, warns Francine, “I am no longer of your world, I am from a world apart… from the world of the camps.…” And although daily news reports in the last decade of the twentieth century have been a stark reminder that ethnic conflict and even genocide continue even fifty years after the cannons of World War II have been silenced, we by and large keep these events in the margins of our minds, since most of us find it difficult to connect them with our own experience. It is precisely here that Francine’s modest testimony proves invaluable: in recollecting her experiences of the camps and assembling them into this “photo” album, Francine has opened a series of windows that allow us to go back and forth between the past and the present, our “normal” world and the world of the camps.

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