Jessica Horsham: France As Text (2019)

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Jessica Ann Horsham is a currently studying international relations at Florida International University, and entering her senior year as an FIU Honors student. She is heavily interested in pursuing a career in law, with current aims to focus on human rights and injustices within the justice system. Though her career will eventually divulge her in tons of paperwork, Jessica loves to explore the outdoors, exercise, and be near the beach; traveling is one of her favorite things to do as she loves to emerge herself in different cultures and truly learn about what makes each place special.

She is currently completing the 2019 France Study Abroad as taught by John W. Bailly and these are her “France As Texts.”

Paris as Text

Photo by Jessica Horsham (CC by 4.0)

J’existe. I exist. By Jessica Horsham of FIU on the Champ de Mars on 3 July 2019.

Paris, France simply does not exist, one does not simply exist in Paris, France. Despite being the world’s third most visited city with over 17.4 million visitors each year, they never seem to truly be able to emerge themselves in its culture or connect with the people. People come to Paris to free themselves yet only get surrounded in the same guided paths as the other tourists around them. In a city rich with history and art from nearly 2000 years ago, people seem to step over it constantly. Everywhere in Paris tells its story of how it got here. One can travel from a university that was established in 1925, where some buildings are a tell-tale sign of its date and travel over a system that stretches more than 100 miles circling above and below the city to only ever land at the same three spots. Despite, the century of history in one pivotal square across from Louvre that held some of the most cathartic decisions to change the entire world or the now distinguished public green park that stretches for miles surrounding an iconic building, one cannot equate the tourist paths to nothing, as the stops along their general paths were unprecedented or found anywhere else in this world. However, many will lose themselves in this façade of Paris and simply drift though. This is not enough, it is not enough to simply exist in this city; Paris calls on you to engage with its people, the buildings, and its parks, it is all beautifully crafted to foster these interactions—bonjour does take you very far. Those who dare to be bold, adventurous, and different will only find that Paris offers plenty to those who are even willing to dip their toes in it. Shrouded in its vastness of beauty lies a city with dark secrets and a history ready to be uncovered.

Versailles as Text

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A Letter to the People by Jessica Horsham of FIU in the Château de Versailles on 7 July 2019.

Fictionally written through the hands of the Sun King, Louis XIV of France.

To my evermore loyal subjects,

As we begin the trillion-dollar expenditure of the new royal home, there have been grievances expressed and some of you may be skeptical of the necessity of this palace. Allow your king as appointed by the one, true God, to ease your worries and suspicions; you are all allowed to speak with me one on one, following proper paperwork and approval, and are allowed to enter for multiple occasions. Thereby, this palace does not belong to one person nor one family, it belongs to France.

This palace is simply not a place for the nobles to indulge, Versailles will place France as a leading power in the world. This palace will attract foreign dignitaries from all over the world and I will be able to negotiate treaties on your behalf with all corners of the world to help place France in stability and prosperity. Versailles will intimidate and frighten our enemies, as it helps me to hold our nation together to remain the largest state in Europe throughout all of our time. For the next 400 years, Versailles will host over 10 million people each year and it will have attracted the most powerful people in the world, in addition to common folk who will admire France and look to it for inspiration. We must distinguish ourselves from our neighbors and Europe, it is time to truly create our own culture and identity; we must not continue to live in the shadows of Italy or England, the time for France is now and Versailles will be France.

Izieu as Text

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Remember Their Names by Jessica Horsham of FIU at Maison d’Izieu on July 12, 2019.

Arnold Hirsch, 18.

Tucked in behind the trees that envelope the refuge, like blankets protecting a child from the night’s monsters and cold air, the Maison D’Izieu welcomed dozens of children escaping the persecution and camps of the Nazis and the Vichy collaboration.

Theo Reiss, 17.

The orphanage first opened in April 1943 to provide children made orphans by the Holocaust or those whose lives were threatened, a safe place to escape from France to safe nations such as Switzerland or with the hope of being placed with a family who would be able to hide them.

Marcel Bulka, 14.

The orphanage had taken great care to establish itself as legitimate and went through the proper documentation and paperwork, prior to its opening. It was approved by the necessary government officials from the region.

Maurice Gerenstein, 14.

This refuge had taken in children from all over Europe who were escaping persecution, from Russia to France to Poland to even Austria; this home was simply for all children facing persecution or deportation.

Henri Goldberg, 14.

As testified by the children themselves in letters written to their families, each other, or their caretakers, this home was a place for them to grow and experience the childhood that they rightfully deserved.

Max Teitelbaum, 13.

While the children were not oblivious to the horrors occurring outside of their little village, for the time that they each spent there, they allowed themselves to embrace the feelings of happiness and safety. 

Otto Vertheimer, 13.

They attended school, celebrated Christmas, as not all children were practicing Jews, participated in their own plays, made up their own stories, rode bicycles, and simply played outside.

Jacques Benguigui, 13.

The children were free here, they were safe. They had fresh water and food supplied by the surrounding village, they were protected. While Sabine Zlatin would venture to find new routes and connections to relocate the children with guaranteed safety until the war was over, the camps were closed, and the killing of innocents had ended.

Raoul Bentitou, 13.

Many of the children also attended local schools in the village and everyone was aware of their presence, this was a legal orphanage in all of its means.

Max Balsam, 13.

On June 22, 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, beginning the war on both fronts. 

Esther Benassayag, 13.

On September 3, 1943, Italy’s surrender to the Allied armies was announced.

Joseph Goldberg, 12.

On October 13, 1943, Italy declared war on Germany.

Mina Aronowicz, 12.

The Germans then reclaimed this “free” area of Italy and began to viciously hunt down all Jews throughout the province.

Jacqueline Luzgard, 12.

News of the raids began spreading and many of the orphanages began to relocate and move children out as soon as possible.

Paulette Mermelstein, 12.

Sabine Zlatin began to explore different routes to smuggle the children away into hiding and safety— she began her last exploratory route on April 3, 1944.

Suzanne Szulzklapper, 12.

The end of the war was near, soldiers were tired, the resistance continued to rise exponentially, and the Allies were closing in on the Germans.

Claude Reifmann-Levan, 11.

The Germans knew that they would not win.

Armand Teitelbaum, 11.

On April 6, 1944, only two months before D-Day, Klaus Barbie gave the order to arrest all of the people and children at Izieu.

Jean Ament, 11.

A convoy of Nazi troops arrived in the afternoon and detained all 44 children and seven of their caretakers were arrested and sent to Montluc.

Edmond Gamiel, 11.

Only one caretaker, Lea Feldblum, 27, survived.

Isidore Kargeman, 11.

42 of the children were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered in the gas chambers.

Elie Benassayag, 11.

Arnold, Theo, and Miron were sent to a labor camp in Estonia where they were shot to death soon after.

Jean Balsam, 11.

Sabine soon heard of what had occurred and upon arrival discovered her worst nightmare, the entire little village was abandoned.

Marthe Spiegel, 11.

These children were not resistance fighters. They were not soldiers; they were not fighting in the war on either side. Most were not even practicing Jews; they were only children.

Liliane Gerenstein, 11.

They believed that they were safe, they should have made it out alive. Liliane wrote a moving letter to God asking to bring back her parents, to protect them. She places their safety and their lives above her own; this is the innocence and purity that was within each of these children.

Jacob Benassayag, 10.

Their innocence, their rights to live, the right to their childhood was viciously and maliciously robbed from them.

Charles Weltner, 10.

In heartfelt messages to one another and to their caretakers, they express eternal gratefulness for their current state of happiness. They acknowledge that though they may not have much, they are content and full of life.

Gilles Sadovski, 9.

They wish one another happy birthday, profess the sweetest wishes for one another, there is not a trace of maliciousness in any one of them nor was it ever portrayed to any other person.

Max Leiner, 9.

They deserved to live, they deserved to have a full life.

Georges Halperm, 9.

How can the same God I have known all my life allow such a tragedy to occur?

Renathe Krochmal, 9.

A God who is just, fair, and righteous— one who “rewards the good and punish the evil.” How did He allow this to happen?

Mina Halaubrenner, 9.

How did He allow for an extra three children that day to arrive to their ultimate slaughter?

Santa Spiegel, 9.

Despite all of the glory He has bestowed upon us, this crime is of no contest.

Zygmund Springer, 8.

April 6, 1944, left many parents orphaned— alone in a world without their only children.

Richard Benguigui, 8.

Those left behind were then shoved into corners and silenced for years despite the screams of Sabine and those who aided the orphanage.

Marcel Mermelstein, 8.

How cruel is it that the ones that are supposed to be protected and saved above all else were the ones targeted by such hatred?

Samuel Adelsheimer, 7.

The names of the children were forgotten, only to be remembered by those whose families had survived, and by Sabine.

Liane Krochmal, 7.

However, during Klaus Barbie’s trials, in 1987, the children were an essential focus.

Emile Zuckerber, 6.

This heinous act was part of the tragedies that finally condemned Barbie and created the statute of crimes against humanity.

Jean Claude Benguigui, 6.

This proved that the actions taken by Klaus Barbie and those soldiers under him were solely for the sake of being at war.

Albert Bulka, 5.

This was a deliberate, vindictive attack targeted to erase a whole group of people.

Lucienne Friedler, 5.

A five year old could not have aided the resistance, fought in a war.

Claudine Halaubrenner, 5.

It was because of these 44 children that Klaus Barbie was finally convicted. Many of their parents devoted their lives to searching for him after the war. He was the one who gave the order to arrest and deport the children, the hearts of society.

Fritz Loebmann, 15.

The Nazis were all too close to success in erasing the humanity, the identity, and the presence of the Jewish people. Fritz is a testament to that. His name on the plaque, commemorating the children and adults that were stripped from the home and ultimately were murdered, was added much later. In all of the commotion, he had not been recorded as being present as he was not supposed to be at the home at that time. They had only discovered his presence much later.

Moise Reifmann, 64.

Hova Reifmann, 60.

Suzanne Reifmann, 38.

Lucie Feiger, 50.

Marie Friedler, 36.

Miron Zlatin, 40.

That was the legacy that the Nazis had strived to attain: no recollection of these innocent lives. They did not succeed, as such, it is our duty and our responsibility to carry the names of those who suffered from Izieu.

Lyon as Text

Photo by Victoria Atencio (CC by 4.0)

B-3692, Claude Bloch by Jessica Horsham in Lyon, France on July 10, 2019.

Monsieur Bloch: survivor, father, husband, gentleman, son, grandson, grandfather, inspiration, B-3692.

Upon seeing him for the first time, our hearts collectively ached for this gentle old man who was in such great shape that he was passing us on the stairs. Despite his great physical condition, this was not always the case for Bloch as we would soon come to find out.  has one of the most moving stories—he is a Holocaust survivor. Claude Bloch was only fifteen when he was arrested alongside his grandfather and mother in France, within the first few minutes of being held in the Gestapo headquarters, his grandfather was killed. The Nazis main mission was to exterminate this group of people, one Bloch never really was as neither he nor his family were practicing Jews, to erase all Jews from the Earth and from history. B-3692 was their first way of doing so, by giving them this number, as Bloch said, you exit the realm of humanity; without your humanity, what’s left of you? They treated them as if they were not people and, in these camps, the only true way to resist was to survive, to keep fighting every day for your breath—even at 100 pounds, Monsieur Bloch never gave this fight up. Throughout this time, Claude Bloch also lost his mother, who up until their last interaction was always protecting him, shoving him in the right direction even if he did not know what it meant at times. Despite surviving Auschwitz, Monsieur Bloch was thrown back into society with little to no help from the French people nor the government. Thankfully, he was reunited with his grandmother in the same home he had lived in, yet it was a lot emptier than what he had remembered. Though he was one of the few lucky enough to grow up and out of this era, find love, and start a family, the repercussions of his experiences followed him all throughout his life. Despite being urged to speak his testimony of his time, Bloch was silenced and forced to continue his life as if his deportation had been a vacation or trip away. He was initially refused reentry to the school he was wrongfully torn from, there was no one to help him through the relentless and repeating nightmares, no one had wanted to hear or know about any of his experiences. Unlike many of the survivors, Bloch did not attempt to move away, instead choosing to stay in Lyon even after his beloved grandmother had passed. Bloch had no option but to stay and work, move on with his life, as if these great crimes against humanity had never entirely touched him or been carried out directly against him. He was forced to continue onward. During my time with Bloch, it was ridiculous to imagine how he was silenced and forced to battle his demons alone, his tattoo never fading just like the scars on his heart from his losses and all that he witnessed during camp. At 15 or 16, you are not thinking about whether or not you are going to be called to your execution nor should you be, however, Bloch experienced this a handful of times—each list, each name casting more anxiety than the last. Justice for Bloch had not been served until decades later and Bloch acknowledged that his nightmares followed as well. How is it that even after all he has been through and seen throughout all of his life that he is yet again worried for the state of our future, that he is not optimistic about it? A man who should not have survived in those conditions, where everything was against him, yet he overcame, is not optimistic about our future. After liberation and generations of peace, love, and family, he is truly fearful for the future, how can this be? The current state of the world politics, oppression, racism, and segregation has succeeded into mimicking that of the past as Monsieur Bloch expressed. These conditions have only fostered great tragedies to occur and if we cannot learn from the past mistakes of our parents and their parents and those in our past, we will only arrive at the same inevitable destination. To resist is not enough to abstain from, that is not the only option nor is it the right one. The state of nonactive voters and those who simply choose not to participate in politics is no longer acceptable, this is how those who stood with the Nazis were able to gain power and silence others, silence is not resistance. We must use our voices and stay vigilant and loud, otherwise, we will have once again failed Claude Bloch and the other 6 million people who died because people remained silent.

Normandy as Text

Pere Lachaise as Text

Equality in Death: The Life of Joseph-Ignace Guillotine


CC 4.0 by unknown, Musee Carnavalet

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was born on March 28, 1738 in Saintes, located in southern France– he was an aries. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin always excelled within his studies in Reims, France; he was interested in the arts and for a brief period of time, he became literature professor at the University of Bordeaux. Despite his success, Guillotin left for Paris and soon became an established physician, one of the best in the city. He was instrumental in the beginnings of the French Revolution as a chosen representative in the Estates General. One of the more outspoken members, Guillotin advocated for an equal representation of all of the classes and more non-nobility citizens in the Estates General, one of its undeniable flaws. He even supported women’s rights to be represented amongst the Estates General, something very uncommon during this time. Dr. Guillotin was a very outspoken and intelligent man. In a culture where almost everything is predetermined based on your social status and there is not much freedom to use other skills in a professional field, a literature major and professor moved forward towards an intricate field: medicine. Even in today’s “progressive” society, this is not common in France nor is it often even imagined by those lucky enough to continue their education, yet Dr. Guillotin accomplished this feat and much more. Not only did he then become an established doctor, but he also never gave up his literature background; by using his foundations as a scholar and writer, he became an active politician fighting for human rights- something that once was the core value of the Revolution, but became twisted along the way.

Despite his infamous killing machine, the guillotine, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was a capital punishment abolitionist; he was staunchly against any practices revolving around executions. He believed that all of the current killings were unnecessarily cruel and was simply sorted based on your class in society. Whenever people of the lower, working classes were sentenced to death, they would often be: hung, which could take hours if improperly executed, quartered, painfully ripped apart by horses running in different directions, or even sentenced to the breaking wheel, where one’s bones would be broken and then bludgeoned or stoned to death. Wealthier or upper classes, would be privileged with the opportunity to be beheaded, however, this too had many issues. Each family or individual would have to hire their own executioner, with some being swifter and “better” than others. Otherwise, those families on the lower tier of the upper class would often risk hiring executioners who may have dull blades or simply would not complete the job in one swing; nonetheless, it always depended upon how much money you were willing to spend, even on your death bed.

These injustices, along with his personal experience as a doctor, pushed Guillotin to advocate against the death penalty, often writing many pamphlets criticizing against it. However, as time elapsed and the gruesome executions continued to occur, Guillotin realized that he should switch his focus to solving the most immediate concern: the way in which people are being tortured to death. This concern is what led him to propose to the National Assembly a law that would make the guillotine the official instrument of capital punishment, until its abolition in 1981. He oversaw the development of the first prototype and advocated for its use within the Assembly, that led to its successful use. Many critique Dr. Guillotin for the contradictions between his actions and his morals, and label him as a hypocrite for going against one of his fundamental beliefs against capital punishment. However, I fully disagree with these critiques of his character. Rather than being a hypocrite, Dr. Guillotin was an actor of change. The only reason why he chose to oversee the development of this machine was because he recognized that at this specific point in time, despite all of his efforts, he was not going to be able to prevent death nor would he be able to prevent capital punishment. Injustices were still occurring based on social class, people were still being tortured to death so he needed to make a decision, a change. He was an intelligent person and considering the political and societal environment at the time, this was the only solution to prevent unnecessarily cruel deaths.

CC 4.0 by the New Yorker, 2009

After its invention, the guillotine soon became the favorite object of the National Assembly and its successors soon after. During its height in the Reign of Terror under Maximilien Robespierre, between 1793-1794, almost 2,600 people had been sentenced to execution. By 1799, it was an upwards count of over 15,000 who had been beheaded. The guillotine did not discriminate between class, as was Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s main purpose, it claimed the lives of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette as well as common thieves and those who were “against the state.” Also, during Nazi Germany, Hitler was reported for using the guillotine and killed around 16,500 people by decapitation.

CC by 4.0, Georg Heinrich Sieveking 1793

Despite this widely used machine, Dr. Guillotin did not want to be associated with it nor did he ever wish for his name to be used in connection with the machine because, as previously mentioned, he was a staunch capital punishment abolitionist. Moreover, he only aimed to invent this device to provide equality in death for all French citizens; he did not believe that they should be subjected to cruel and unnecessarily violent deaths. The guillotine was never intended to be such a public nor entertaining event. He wished that it would take place in a private center, however, he was horrified by the increasing fanfare and bloodlust for dire entertainment amongst his fellow citizens. It is easy to see why he and his family petitioned the French government to change the name of the machine; after they were rejected, they decided to change their family name altogether.

CC 4.0 by Gunnar Kaestle

Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin was an active advocate for human rights in France and was one of the leaders in advocating for structural change. In his Petition of the Citizens Living in Paris, this pamphlet argued for the humane and egalitarian executions as well as an equal representation within the Estates-General for all citizens. Once elected as a representative within the National Assembly, he was able to pass a law that required all sentences of death to be carried out by his machine. During a follow up speech in 1789 defending his machine, he has been quoted as saying, “Now with my machine I take off your head in the twinkling of an eye, and you never feel it.” Many critics soon shamed his words and ridiculed him and his speech in various periodicals, nonetheless, he stayed dedicated to getting his plan approved and passed into law.

CC 4.0 by Welcome Collection

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin struggled with the legality of the death penalty. While morally he knew that he could not stand behind or support capital punishment, within his government, he struggled to defend against it. This same fight is one that is held all over the world in the current international system. As of 2017, there are about 142 countries around the world that have abolished the death penalty and many more that have not used it within the past 10 years or allow the penalty in extraneous circumstances. Nonetheless, in the United States, the death penalty is legal in 30 states, including Florida. As a prospective criminal attorney with hopes of living and working within Florida, this same battle is a reality that I may face. Whether I will be on the prosecution or the defense is still a mystery, however, I will be faced with the same dilemma: how does one justify capital punishment? This is something that I have and will continue to struggle with as I move throughout my law career. Thankfully, in part to Dr. Guillotin, society does not have to face the torturous deaths that were rampant during these times. However, despite the newfound “equality in death,” the death penalty is still an extreme and permanent punishment. Death cases do carry a heavy toll on one’s heart because an actual life is on the line, whether or not you are on opposing sides of the bench, the fate of an entire person’s life rests in your hands. While I am against the death penalty, as I do not feel it is within mankind’s authority to end a person’s life, because the method is egalitarian and not painful, it does make the extreme decision to do so a lighter burden to many. Nevertheless, the law does not entirely reflect nor does it care about “feelings.” It also would be wrong to deny that in extreme cases, the thought of capital punishment would be so heinous; for example, it would seem almost crazy that people would be against Ted Bundy getting the death penalty. But still, should humans be the ones to decide on life and when to end it? This is still something that I struggle with and will continue to do so throughout my entire career. Nonetheless, these discussions should occur within our society and should reflect the beliefs of all of the citizens. Dr. Guillotin’s arguments have helped to propel the fight to abolish capital punishment all over the world.

Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin lived a life dedicated to trying to achieve equal rights for all people, regardless of social or economic class. Though his machine helped to define a Reign of Terror, he did not advocate for any of the senseless killings to occur. As a proponent for equality under the law as well as equal representation, he has helped to shape our society today. Though creating this machine had made it easier to execute people by justifying the lack of pain, he also did create an egalitarian way for all to be executed and put an end to a torturous death that was common to the previous eras. His writings have been used to help abolish capital punishment in France and all over the world, while it has also served to ensure that those states that continue to practice capital punishment do so in a way that does not discriminate against anyone and is as painless as possible. He truly changed the landscape and redefined what it meant to have equality in death.

Madame Guillotine, The Scarlet Pimpernel Broadway Musical

References:

Britannica, T. E. (2017, October 26). Guillotine. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/guillotine

Death of Joseph-Ignace Guillotin. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.historytoday.com/archive/months-past/death-joseph-ignace-guillotin

Death Penalty Facts. (2019, March 22). Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2013/07/19/us/death-penalty-fast-facts/index.html

Joseph Ignace Guillotin – Alchetron, the free social encyclopedia. (2018, July 28). Retrieved from https://alchetron.com/Joseph-Ignace-Guillotin#-

Joseph Guillotine – The Doctor of Death | History Channel on Foxtel. (2017, June 09). Retrieved from https://www.historychannel.com.au/articles/joseph-guillotine-the-doctor-of-death/

Russo, N. (2016, March 25). The Death-Penalty Abolitionist Who Invented the Guillotine. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/03/the-man-behind-the-guillotine-opposed-the-death-penalty/475431/

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.whonamedit.com/doctor.cfm/2275.html

Team, R. C. (2018, October 14). Death penalty: How many countries still have it? Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-45835584