You really can go anywhere you want as an invisible person. It is up to you. You will never bother people, you will never get noticed, you will never put yourself in physical danger. So I choose to go to the beginning of the Second World War in France.
It is a bit weak, isn’t it? To choose to live during the Second World War while being invisible after all I said. It is true. I wouldn’t risk to die, it is true too. However, I think it would be a good way to understand my family’s feelings, and this is hurtful. I couldn’t do anything to help them, to speak with them, to express my own support. I couldn’t even tell them when the war ends or if they will still be alive after all. Maybe it is weak to choose that period of History as an invisible person, but it is the best way to enter intimacy and reject taboos.
I love History for its secrets. I know there are many events hidden by the governments, that would be essential to understand what really happened. I also know taboos harmed our knowledges because what is not told is never passed down. The Second World War has always fascinated me, especially its social and psychological sides. I am impressed by the change of behaviors and values, by how governments imposed new ways of living — rationing, more faith in God, propaganda — and how peoples reacted to them. But all of these things can be learnt at school or in books. What your teachers can’t tell you is how your own family lived during the war. How small people, person by person, were involved in that big machinery.
So, why the Second World War? Because since I am little, I see some signs that call to my mind. My dad told me his father was an unknown Righteous Among the Nations — Juste (parmi les Nations) in French and Hasid ummot ha’olam (חסיד אומות העולם) in Hebrew. My grandfather was a teacher at that time and hid a Jewish kid in the school just before Nazis arrive. When I was in junior high school, older students told us about their visit of Auschwitz. I watched Night and Fog at 14 and I still remember my history teacher saying “if you don’t want to see the whole movie, you can leave the room”. She left the class when pictures of children appeared. At 17, I read Une jeunesse au temps de la Shoah by Simone Veil and at 18, a girl of my class said all of that will never happen again. I faced and still face people who don’t believe in what happened and people who don’t believe in its possible reproduction. I am not a member of these two groups. For those of you who read my previous post, I think it is time to tell you more about my maternal family; for the others, don’t worry, you didn’t miss a thing.
My maternal family was mostly composed of farmers and was living in the South West of France. At the beginning, it was not a too bad area to live because Nazis were not there. Networks of resistance settled there because it was very wooded and hardly accessible. But Nazis understood how exodus — not only of Jews — worked and started arriving. During the war, men, and among them my two maternal great-grandfathers, were made prisoners. When they came back at the end of the war — because yes, they had the chance to come back — my grandfather and my grandmother were very little. I still remember my grandfather tell me “I didn’t recognize him. I was asking my mom, who’s that guy? Why is he living with us? I couldn’t recognize my own father.” I also know that my grandmother is still able to remember the sound of Nazis’ shoes on the ground and the fear that went with them. But my grandparents barely speak about that period. It is also my fault, I never ask about it. I am too afraid to cry and to make them cry. There is another story I can tell you about my family and the war. When Germany started to lose in 1944, Nazis had to go back to their country but on the road, they did things nobody can explain. It was not logical. It was not an order. And it was not done by accident or by mistake. In the South West of France, there is a small village called Oradour-Sur-Glane. That day, SS decided to entirely close the village but we still don’t know why. It was premeditated, but there was no official reason. Nazis separated men from women and children. They shot men and forced women and children to enter the church before putting fire to it. Only one woman survived and she was from my family. Today, my mom’s godmother takes care of the church. If you want to know more about it, click here. Never forget that you didn’t only “have to be jewish” to be killed. At the end, it was not only a matter of religion but of destruction, revenge, anger. Power.
So, yes, why the Second World War? I mean, it is a terrific period, people suffered, people died, people became crazy. My paternal grandmother ended up hating Germans. So, why? Because I am interested in Judaism and jewish history. Because my family was involved. Because I cry every time we speak about it. Because I want to remember. Because when I speak about it, I am still afraid, and if I want to beat my fear, I need to know.
There is something I want to do and I think I will have to do it alone as nobody wants to follow me — and I understand why. I want to go to Auschwitz. It is the only solution I found to understand, through vision and feelings. The only solution apart mental time travel, of course. I want to do it for me but also for those who can’t. If you want to beat your fear, face it. This movie finished to convince me and gave me faith in education again :
Well, yes. If I was invisible, I would go back in time to the Second World War. I read a book called The Alternative Hypothesis (La Part de l’Autre) by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. In it, you follow two different Hitler. In the first story, he is rejected by the Viennese art school — his real story — and in the second one, he is accepted. By writing these stories, Schmitt wanted to understand Hitler but his friends kept telling him it was impossible because Hitler was not human. I think it is the hardest thing to admit. Hitler was a human being. It is not because you use the word “monster” to get away from him that he is less human. I hate him so much I can’t even find a proper adjective to describe my disgust, but I can’t leave him aside the human group. It is my toughest thought to accept. I can’t find humanity in him, and maybe going to Auschwitz is my way to be sure of his death.