On 12 July of 2017, FIU Honors students of France: Art, War, and Human Rights were led on an educational tour at Maison d’Izieu. Following their experience at Maison d’Izieu, students shared their voices and opinions through photographs and personal reflections.
I think it’s one thing to resist a foreign oppressor and their ideals, and another to resist your own government when they’ve succumbed to the tyranny. Though you have the same ideals, you become a traitor. I wish I could say I would resist. For those that can’t and for those that won’t. But that is impossible to know. But then I’ll hear about Lucienne Friedler. Or Jacques Ben Guigui and his siblings. Or Theo Reiss. Or Arnold Hirsch. Or any of the 44 children who met death in the comfort of what they thought was a secure haven. Or anyone that was seen as fit for extermination because of another’s prejudice. When I think of these people, who were people, had dreams as people do and fears as people do and love as people do. When I think of these people who were innocent and persecuted, when I think of these people and their families and their plight I think that it would be impossible to feel the pure rage that I do and sit idly by. I was honored to have visited such a significant force of resistance in the Alps.
Here stands the memory of children given an opportunity of life. In a time of fear and sadness, they were provided a childhood, a home, an education so they could contribute their knowledge to a better society. They were denied the right of a future when the gestapo arrived, and stripped all happiness they possessed. They were psychologically tortured by Klaus Barbie for information, sent to Auschwitz and killed. Innocent children with light in their hearts, taken because some believed a future without them would be brighter. Now in Izieu, few outside of France know of them. Fewer know their faces. To one, their face was lost forever. Not to us, not to those who visit, not to those who remember and share. They might have tried to be erased but we will never let them be forgotten.
In an idyllic world, genocide would not occur. The demagoguery that ripped the 44 children inhabiting Izieu in 1944 epitomizes our capacity for evil; our proclivity to internalize an ideology and be complicit in imposing it on others. When we reduce people to numbers, labels, and stereotypes, it is easy to commit atrocities. Seeing the drawings and listening to the letters of these children touched my soul in a way that no history lesson ever could, a somber reminder that although education isn’t easy, it is a quintessential component of the human experience – a fitting lesson given that dehumanization enabled this in the first place. In the same way that the lights remain on to symbolize the childrens’ happiness while they were there, this rose represents the beauty of their lives as they live on in our memory.
La Maison d’Izieu was a refuge for Jewish children hidden away in the Alps. The children here would not only be given safety, but would be given back the opportunity to have a childhood. The children lived happily until April 6, 1944, when the gestapo arrested all of them and their caretakers during breakfast time. The Nazis had stormed into the house so abruptly that the lights of the house remained on. It’s easy to turn your head away from these crimes that were committed against defenseless children but we owe it to them to keep their memory alive. These children are no longer a number found in history textbooks but rather Mina Aronowicz, who would sketch stories of fairytales, and Armand Teitelbaum, who would write letters to his parents every night to tell them how his day went.
“À ce jour, il n’a pas été retrouvé de photographie de Lucienne Friedler,” means: “To date, no photograph of Lucienne Friedler has been found.” Lucienne Friedler, born the 18th of February 1939, passed away on the 4th of July 1944 at Auschwitz-Birkenau. At the age of 15, she was among 43 other innocent children taken from Maison D’Izieu. With this being such a dehumanizing act, it is disconcerting that there are no photos to remember Lucienne by. However, this reaction sparked a debate in me about what it means to be human. I realized that Lucienne’s spirit lives on. Our spirits are what make us remarkably different than other animals. It is special, it is human, and it can never be taken away.
FIU Honors France 2017 Student Gallery from Maison d’Izieu
Isabella Marie Garcia