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[198] Rue Ordener Rue Labat – Sarah Kofman

rue“My mother suffered in silence: no news from my father; no means of visiting any brothers and sisters; no power to prevent Mémé from transforming me, detaching me from her and from Judaism.” [57]

Translator Ann Smock, professor of French at Berkeley, comments that upon their return, survivors of Nazi camps were all seized by a veritable delirium. Sarah Kofman, a renowned French philosopher, spent her childhood dodging roundup of Jews. In Rue Ordener Rue Labat, an autobiographical fragment that covers a decade between the ages of eight to about eighteen, her vision of the years in war-torn Paris is myopic. The book is very straight-forward, written in plain language that is free of literary qualities.

Kofman’s reminiscence begins on July 16, 1942, the day the Vichy police picked up Rabbi Bereck Kofman from the family (Polish-Jews) apartment on the Rue Ordener in Paris. On that day, Kofman’s father was among the thirteen thousand Jews that were taken all over Europe in a single roundup.

For that, my father along with so many others suffered this infinite violence: death at Auschwitz, the place where no eternal rest would or could ever be granted. [10]

After a circuitous bout of movings and hidings, in which Sarah was separated from her five siblings, she and her mother took refuge in the apartment of a Christian woman on Rue Labat, where they stayed until liberation. That Mémé, the benefactress, took a liking of Sarah and undertook to transform her head to toe infuriated her mother, who suffered alone in silence and in grief. So, as Professor Smock has put it, “it was a treacherous rescue, a generous swindle.”

My mother felt nothing any more but hate and contempt for the woman who’d saved our lives. Better to go live in a hotel than stay with her a second longer. [58]

Kofman was among the many Jewish children who were entrusted to non-Jewish households during the war. Their survival forced them to forsake the teachings of their parents and religious creed. Depending upon the fate of the birth parents, the foster families sometimes did not want to give up the children. This memoir therefore evokes the painful dilemma that survival came at the expense of assimilation which, inevitably, led to the decadence of a culture that was already weakened and at stake.

85 pp. [Read/Skim/Toss]

5 Responses

  1. I see that you have rated this a “skim” so I am assuming it was not entirely engrossing? As far as the delimma of surviving and denouncing your heritage, or staying true and dying…hard to say what one would do, huh? Frankly, when it came to my kids, I doubt I would stop at anything to protect them. Anyone would be damaged, though, to have to much such choices.

  2. I just finished Sarah’s Key which is based around the roundups that occurred in Paris. This sounds like it might be an interesting perspective to read.

  3. Neither have I (heard of Kofman). Lately it’s been brought to my attention so many books on the subject of Nazi and Holocaust. I decided to take a break after The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

  4. I haven’t heard of this one, thanks for bringing it to my attention. It sounds like an interesting book. Would it be okay to post a link to your review on War Through the Generations?

  5. Thanks, Matt! I’ve linked the review here.


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