“I’m frightened, Mother. Last year, I was seven years old. This year, I’m eight and so many years separate these two ages. I have learned that I am Jewish, that I am a monster, and that I must hide myself. I’m frightened all the time.”—Francine Christophe.
Francine Christophe’s account begins in 1939, when her father was called up to fight with the French army. A year later he was taken prisoner by the Germans. Hearing of the Jewish arrests in France from his prison camp, he begged his wife and daughter to flee Paris for the unoccupied southern zone. They were arrested during the attempted escape and subsequently interned in the French camps of Poitiers, Drancy, and Beaune-la-Rolande. In 1944 they were deported to Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
In short, seemingly neutral paragraphs, Christophe relates the trials that she and her mother underwent. Writing in the present tense, she tells her story without passion, without judgment, without complaint. Yet from these unpretentious, staccato sentences surges a well of tenderness and human warmth. We live through the child’s experiences, as if we had gone hand-in-hand with her through the death camps.