Marceline Loridan-Ivens (19th March 1928 – 18th September 2018) was a French Jew, an activist in the French Resistance and the Algerian resistance, an actor, a filmmaker, and a writer.
In 1944 at the age of 15 she was arrested by the Gestapo with her father for their resistance activities, In this book, written 75 years later, her anger screams out from the pages. But also her love for the father, who was brutally taken away from her.
When they were held together in Drancy (the internment camp in Paris where arrested Jews were held prior to deportation) her father knew that he was not going to survive and said to Marceline: “You might come back, because you’re young, but I will not come back.” She says: “That prophecy burned into my mind as violently and definitively as the number 78750 tattooed on my left arm a few weeks later.”
After their arrest Marceline and her father were separately deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland from where her father’s family originated. They did meet, once, as they passed each other on the way back to the camp. “I fell into your arms, fell with all my heart-your prophecy wasn’t true, you were alive.” Marceline was beaten by the guards, but her father managed to hand her a tomato and an onion and she told him the number of her prison block.
By a miracle her father managed to get a note to her in the camp. “I can see your writing, slanted to the right, and four or five sentences that I can no longer remember. I’m sure of one line, the first: “My darling little girl” and the last line too, your signature: “Shloime”. But what came in between, I don’t know anymore.”
Marceline survived the camps, but her father as he had predicted, did not. She returned to a France where the collaborators with the Nazis were still in jobs and running the country. Rejected by Israel, where she had planned to move to, she took her anger and desire for political change into activity to support other colonised people such as Algeria which in the 1950s and 60s becomes the biggest cause for French left. “The more I demanded reparations for the Algerians, the more I felt I was being paid back myself, felt I had found my place. They were Arabs, I was Jewish.”
She met filmmaker Joris Ivens (18th November 1898 – 28th June 1989) who became the love of her life. With him she makes many films about post war struggles for independence including Algeria and Vietnam, and shares in his hopes for a different and fairer world. “I had married a man of your age, an heir to the exalted nineteenth century that believed in the continuous, automatic progression of History.” But in the end: “he too left me alone in the ruins of the twentieth century.”
Marceline says: “I would like to run away from the history of the world, from this century, go back to my own time, the time of Shloime and his darling little girl.” But she does not and that is the inspiring theme of this book. She takes the anger and pours it into her life work and tries to make sense of a world that seems to be going backwards. Ultimately this is an inspiring book that challenges all of us to become active in opposing inequality, fascism, and injustice.
Watch a documentary about her: “Marceline. A Woman. A Century” True Story.
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