French Children of the Holocaust by Serge Klarsfeld

Mar 30, 2012

This nonfiction Holocaust book is not for the faint of heart, or weak of muscle. Its huge size is a tribute to the tireless work of the author. For over 30 years Serge and Beate Klarsfeld have devoted their lives to bringing Nazis to justice. While the couple is best known for being Nazi hunters, what is perhaps less well known are their numerous publications which have brought Nazi crimes to light. In the late 1970s, Klarsfeld published Le Memorial de la Deportation Des Juifs de France (The Memorial to the Jews Deported from France). It lists the names, birth dates, nationalities, and deportation convoys for the 75,700 Jews deported from France. French Children of the Holocaust is both an extension of this previous work as well as an original contribution to Holocaust literature. 

The first section gives a brief overview of the Holocaust, particularly as it relates to France, a longer chronology of the major events in France from 1940 to 1944, and a description of OSE (the Children’s Welfare Organization) and its efforts to save Jewish children from deportation.

 The second section is all about the convoys that transported Jews from France to the East. The majority of this section is comprised of the actual convoy lists of the 11,000 children deported. These lists contain each child’s name, date and place of birth, assembly point and last known address.

 The final section, the largest by far, contains photographs of around 2,500 children. All were taken from their homes and sent East to their deaths.

 This is not the kind of book that you read straight through in a few sittings. It’s the kind of book that you open at random, see a child’s face, and pause, wondering how anyone could be so cruel to innocent children. While the chronology is an excellent resource for information about France during the Holocaust, the book’s true impact and importance lies in preserving the memories of those who would otherwise be forgotten by all but a very few.

 The Corinth Library will be hosting a Holocaust program on Thursday, April 19, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. The program will focus on France during the Holocaust. A short documentary will be shown about an American journalist who helped many refugees, Jewish and non-Jewish, escape from France. The remainder of the program will be open to discussion. Registration is not necessary.

Reviewed by Diane H.
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