Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rabbi Nadich and the Liberation of Paris

Fantastic Day Wednesday at the Archives of the Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism:  On Wednesday, I found wonderful documents working with the papers of Rabbi Judah Nadich who was the American Chaplain in charge of all religious instruction with the American forces that liberated Paris in 1944.  Nadich opened the synagogues I write about that were closed during the war, some after French collaborators bombed them in 1941, although the Grande Synagogue on the Rue de la Victoire stayed open until 1943.  This is an interesting view on liberation and what it meant, and it units the French and American experience in a fascinating way.  It's a rather interesting (and glorious) take on American democracy at mid-century---American troops led by a Jewish rabbi under instruction from the American liberation high command to open the synagogues in Paris and reintroduce Jewish worship into city!  What an interesting view of RELIGIOUS TOLERATION and the reintroduction of French democratic ideals by American command.  The Grande Rabbi, Julien Weill, having just miraculously returned from Auschwitz was too sick to take charge, and so on September 7, 1944, Rabbi Nadich (Major Nadich) delivered the first sermon in the Grande Synagogue since the synagogue had been shut down by German/French command following a massive arrest of Jews during a religious service in 1943.  Nadich then went on to open other synagogues in Paris including four of the six others bombed by the Cagoulards in 1941 (two others had been destroyed).  He went to the Synagogue on the Rue Copernic where I took my students last march on my Study Abroad trip and opened that synagogue and then stayed to help clean it and remove debris from the 1941 bombings.  At the Ratner Center I found Nadich's sermons from these events AND his daily log indicating what he was doing, who he spoke with, and how he was feeling.  (He also wrote a lot about what he was eating!)   Rabbi Nadich went on work with General Eisenhower on the matter of Displaced Persons and then returned to life as a rabbi after the war.  He eventually lead the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City for over thirty years until his death in 2007.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ashamed to Leave Paris

I'm contextualizing Marx Dormoy tonight in the history of the Fall of France, 14 June 1940.  The Battle for France began on 10 May 1940 when German troops invaded the Low Countries and entered France three days later.  Even after reorganizing his government, Paul Reynaud could do little to save France and on 5 June most of the French government moved south towards Bordeaux.  Leon Blum and Marx Dormoy then became locked in a virtuous attempt to stand firm.  Neither could believe that Paris was being abandoned by those who professed to love her.  Even the Socialist Party to which Blum and Dormoy belonged was in disarray.   Blum didn't want to leave Paris no matter how much his friends pressed him to do so.  On 9 June he did agree to send members of his family to Dormoy's hometown, Montlucon, and reluctantly near midnight that same night he too headed south to Montlucon.  The next day Italy entered the war and Blum and Dormoy believed that needed to return urgently to Paris...that they were needed, but when they arrived the city was deserted.  They couldn't find any of the various
ministers in place nor the Prime Minister, Reynaud, and only managed to contact the American Ambassador.  Finding the key governmental buildings deserted, Blum and Dormoy headed back to Montlucon where they arrived around 2 a.m. on the 12th of June.  The Germans marched into an undefended Paris on 14 June 1940.

Reading the brief bits of Blum's anguish over these events, I can only wonder how Dormoy felt.  These were honorable men united by socialist politics, a deep friendship, and immense patriotism.  I imagine them wandering the city together looking for the leaders they knew, anxious and stunned about all that was happening around them.  In searching the Palais-Bourbon they found one lone clerk, still at his desk, otherwise, utter silence reigned.

On 15 June 1940 Blum and Dormoy arrived in Bordeaux where the rest of the government had fled and the two met up with Georges Mandel.  Here Blum and Dormoy learned of an armistice---a betrayal they rejected.  On 10 July Blum and Dormoy were two of the eighty senators who refused to vote Marshall Philippe Petain full dictatorial powers.  These 80 stood in opposition to the 569 senators who voted the Third Republic out of existence and the 17 who abstained.  On 15 September 1940 Blum was arrested on the grounds that he threatened the state; Dormoy's arrest came ten days later.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Who was Georges Kubler?

This is the Montee Georges Kubler, the street in Lyon named after police inspector Georges Kubler.  Born in 1913, Kubler was only 28 years old, the same age as the assassins in the Dormoy murder, when as an Inspector for the Police mobile of Lyon, he was given charge of the case.  In November of 1943, Kubler joined the French Resistance as a member of the "Gallia" network based in Lyon.  He and a colleague, Inspector Colle, were in charge of security.  Arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Germany, Kubler died in a prison camp in 1945.  So far, that's all Annette and I know about Kubler, although we have written to the Amicale of the Reseau Gallia and to the Centre d'Histoire de la Resistance et de la Deportation hoping that they can tell us more.  So Annette and I have yet another "piste" to follow in our journey to research and write VENGEANCE:  VICHY AND THE ASSASSINATION OF MARX DORMOY, and another unsung hero, along with Charles Chenevier, whose story we hope to tell.  Wish us luck! . . . And if anyone out there knows more about Kubler, we'd be thrilled to hear from you!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bretty Dangel

Béatrice  “Bretty” Dangel, Lover of Georges Mandel, guardian of Claude Mandel, George Mandel’s daughter,  actress and member of the Société de la Comédie Française.  As shown here, Bretty was the first female television announcer in France, in the mid-1930s.

Bretty Dangel was an actress who became the lover of Georges Mandel, one of the few Jewish French politicians in the 1920s and 1930s.  Unlike Leon Blum,  the first Jewish Prime Minister in France and Mandel's contemporary, Mandel was center-right in his political leanings.  But far earlier than most French politicians of the right or the left, including Blum, Mandel became an opponent of appeasement.  By 1934, Mandel realized the great danger the rise of Hitler and German ambitions in Europe posed to European peace and constantly, albeit fruitlessly, urged his fellow ministers to take a stand against Hitler.  His views endeared him to Winston Churchill but won him few friends in France, and the everlasting hatred of Hitler.  

Mandel had a daughter, named Claude, who was only ten years old in 1940 when the Germans invaded France.  Mandel was a strong believer in resisting the Germans and vehemently opposed the Armistice and the rise of Petain.  In June, 1940, Mandel brought Claude, Bretty, and their Senegalese servant Baba Diallo aboard the Massilia, a ship the French government had commissioned to take those politicians who wanted to continue the fight against the Germans by establishing a government-in-exile, to French Morocco.  Tragically, Winston Churchill tried to persuade Mandel instead to flee to London, where Mandel, who had more cachet and political expertise than De Gaulle, could have led the French Resistance.  Instead Mandel chose to remain in French territory, and it was while he was at sea that the fateful vote was taken in France that gave full powers to Petain and established the Vichy regime.  When Mandel returned to France, he was arrested and interned, along with a number of Third Republic political figures, including Marx Dormoy, the subject of our new project, Vengeance:  Vichy and the Assassination of Marx Dormoy.  Dormoy and Mandel were the only two of these detainees to be assassinated, Dormoy in 1941, and Mandel by members of the French Milice in 1944, ironically, just before the Liberation of France. The Nazis also despoiled Mandel's apartment in Paris, as they did those of many other Jews, and took at least one painting and a Chinese commode, both of which were brought back to France and eventually returned to Claude Mandel.

Bretty and Claude were assigned to residence in the same hotel in the city of Montelimar, the Relais de l'Empereur, where Marx Dormoy was sent, and Bretty and Claude, and Baba Diallo were there when Dormoy was killed.  Claude and Bretty later went to the city of Pau, from where Claude wrote a heart-wrenching letter to Petain after her father's assassination.  Link to Claude Mandel's letter to Petain. 

Addition from Annette:  Bretty Dangel (real name, Anne-Marie Bolchesi, 1895-1982) and Claude Georges-Mandel (1930-2003) guarded faithfully Mandel's memory and papers all their lives.  Nicolas Sarkozy wrote a book about Mandel in the 1990s that was made into a TV film:

I spent a wonderful day in the Forest at Fontainbleau in 1986 with a group of friends, running, climbing rocks and picnicing. Today I learned that Mandel was assassinated in that forest.  He was a great French hero, never once swayed by the attraction of the Nazis---always a defender of democratic society.  As a politician he suffered because of the power of the right in France during the war.  As a Jew, he felt the full force of antisemitism in his time.

Moments from Times Past

Going through some old files looking for some documents, faces from times past gazed back at me.  Oh my goodness.  Look at authors Annette Finley-Croswhite (left) and Gayle K. Brunelle (right)---just babies.  We are twenty-four years old in this picture, and it is my (Annette) first week in France to begin my dissertation research.  The picture was made in Gayle's 1984 garrett apartment in Rouen.  She'd been in France about 4 months by that point, and I arrived all "American" in dress---the transformation to Francophile had not yet begun.  In many ways, this was the very beginning of our friendship and writing partnership.  We shared stories of our dissertation work long before we began working together.  But France never would have been as much fun had we not had the friendship.  The picture is old and faded now, blurry even, but a significant moment in time...sort of 'when it all began.'

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rabbi Judah Nadich and the Liberation of Paris

Today I’m writing about Judah Nadich because I’m quite excited to learn that the Ratner Center for the Study of Conservative Judaism in New York City has his papers, including the sermon he delivered at the liberation of Paris in 1944 when the synagogues in Paris were reopened.  The last chapter in Betrayal: Bombing Synagogues on the Streets of Paris, Igniting the French Holocaust will be about Rabbi Nadich and the Jewish Community at liberation. 

For those of you who don’t know, the French collaborated with the Germans during World War II to deport Jews to death camps in the East, most often Auschwitz-Birkenau.  I teach classes (Annette) tied to the French Holocaust and last March took a group of 11 students to Paris and Auschwitz in a Study Abroad course called “Paris/Auschwitz.” France’s pre-war Jewish population was about 350,000.  Roughly 76,000-78,000 Jews were deported and of those, 2500 returned.  Included in the deportation figure were 11,000 children.  France granted religious toleration to Jews and Protestants in the same legislation passed during the French Revolution---hence our book is entitled “Betrayal.”

Nadich’s entry into this book on French history is fascinating.  The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, Nadich (1912-2007) was raised in Baltimore (my pseudo-home)  before receiving numerous degrees (inclusive of an MA in history from Columbia) and becoming a rabbi.  During World War II Rabbi Nadich served as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the U.S. Army and the Senior Jewish Chaplain in Europe.  At the liberation of Paris he was the senior ranking religious officer and later advised General Eisenhower, particularly on the issue of Jewish Displaced Persons.  He spend most of his post-war life as head Rabbi of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City where he advocated for the ordination of women in the Conservative Jewish faith. 

Last summer when I was working at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, I listened to Rabbi Nadich’s video testimony and he spoke movingly of opening the Grande Synagogue on the Rue de la Victoire in Paris and delivering a sermon overwhelmed by the sounds of weeping----emotions tied to the exhilaration of freedom and the devastation of loss.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Marx and Jeanne

As most of you followers of our blog know, Gayle and I are writing a book on the assassination of Marx Dormoy and a book on the Paris synagogue bombings of 1941.  Right now I'm working on a background chapter explaining who Marx Dormoy was.  As in any biography a certain amount of childhood information is passed on.  So today I'm thinking about the boy, Marx.  He grew up in an intensely socialist family.  His father was a friend of Karl Marx and after his father died, the young boy Marx Dormoy often spent time with Karl Marx's grown daughter and her husband.  I can't imagine Marx Dormoy's boyhood was too wonderful.  His father died while Marx was still a boy and the family suffered the loss of two daughters, sisters Marx never knew, but that loss must have affected the family dynamic.  Perhaps that's why, Marx's one surviving, elder sister, Jeanne, was so protective of her little brother.  Neither married, although Marx was known to have had many lovers, but it was Jeanne who seemed to attend to his daily needs.  They lived together much of their lives and she cooked for him and otherwise took care of him.  She even came to stay in the same hotel with him while he was under house arrest in 1941.  Yes, Jeanne Dormoy was there the terrible night her brother was blown to bits.  Hotel personnel had to restrain her from entering the room and seeing the grisly sight---when a bomb placed under his bed, ripped most of his head from his body, spewed brain matter across the walls, and reoriented his face under his arm.  Jeanne spent the rest of her life (and she lived into the 1970s) trying to bring her brother's assassins to justice. She never did, but I believe she would be most interested in our book: Vengeance: Vichy and the Assassination of Marx Dormoy.

Examine the picture.  Look how Jeanne rests her arm on Marx's shoulder, leaning on him with with her hand stretched out as if to keep other's away.  She wasn't able to protect him, however, as he grew into a notable politician, defender of socialism and opponent of racism.  Fierce sibling loyalty marked their lives.  Jeanne was a most devoted "big sister."

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Well, here we are, in 2011, in front of the hotel where former French Interior Minister Marx Dormoy, the subject of our next book, was assassinated in 1941.  The hotel once had a gourmet restaurant, but when we were there, it was out of business, alas, so we were not able to eat there.  We did sneak into the courtyard and take photos of the whole building, which is a good thing, since the owners were bankrupt, according to the local hearsay, and there was no indication that the stately building or its gourmet restaurant would ever be reopened.  Oh well.  At least we're telling the story of the most famous murder committed there.  Who knows?  Maybe if enough people like the book, someone will step in and reopen the Relais de l'Empereur in Montelimar before the 17th-century hotel is torn down.  Let's hope so!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Welcome to History's Crucible!
In the 1980s while we were grad­u­ate stu­dents at Emory Uni­ver­sity in Atlanta, Geor­gia, we often shared apart­ments in France, a prac­tice that our com­pat­i­bil­ity and friend­ship led us to con­tinue through the 1990s and to the present day.  While most Amer­i­can grad­u­ate stu­dents of that gen­er­a­tion tended to stay in Paris, we were a bit unusual in that we chose to work in the provinces, Gayle in Nor­mandy, land of cows and hard cider, and Annette, really, all over France, espe­cially in Picardy, Langue­doc, and the Loire Val­ley.