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My cup runneth over

My cup runneth over

Posted on 18. Mar, 2010 by gilly in SEE

There are some sobering moments in life when you are reminded that the things you bitch about are in fact, not that important (if ever they even were). And moments when you realize how little gratitude you’ve been manifesting for the simple, healthy, happy existence you mindlessly take for granted. The recent French film La Rafle afforded me both such moments, and then some.

In this no-holds barred depiction of the events of July 16th & 17th 1942 in Paris, director Roselyne Bosch pulls her audience into the lives of Jewish families, violently rounded up by French militia forces, doing their utmost to help the Nazis.

Émile Hennequin, then director of the Paris police, ordered that “the operations must be effected with the maximum speed, without pointless speaking and without comment, the arrested can take only a blanket, a sweater, a pair of shoes and two shirts with them.” Starting 4am on July 16th, 13 152 Jews were ripped out of their homes (and retirement centers and even hospital beds)—among which 5802 women and 4051 children—and thrown into the infamous Vélodrome d’Hiver (an indoor cycling stadium) under unbearably unsanitary conditions, to await deportation. Twenty of those individuals somehow survived the horrific fate that awaited them.

Like most people (or maybe not) I was fully aware of this dark chapter in French history, studied it in school, read about it, etc. Yet the graphic scenes in this jolting film will mark me forever. What so many French citizens did during the German occupation, and on that hot July night in 1942 in particular, is impossible to understand, let alone justify or forgive. A courageous minority did defy the Nazis, taking a risk by hiding Jews wherever they could. Over half a century later, these Jewish survivors provided testimonials that helped flesh out this movie.

La Rafle is an important reminder. It is about the pain, the horror, the terror and the trauma that French Jews underwent. As shocking and extreme as the film is, the reality of what happened 68 years ago was undoubtedly a hundred times worse, utterly defying imagination.

No one should ever forget this.

Me, I went through an entire pack of Kleenexes, stuffing one after every saturated one into my empty coke cup, until well after the credits rolled.

One Response to “My cup runneth over”

  1. Tina de Meeus

    28. Mar, 2011

    Just reading this makes me cry. It’s a part of French history I was not aware of – and oh, do I feel guilty about that. Indeed, no-one must ever forget how dark this part of history was, in Germany and in many other countries.

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