On July 12th, 2018, FIU Honors students of France: Art, War, and Human Rights were led on an educational tour at Maison d’Izieu by Sandy Lozano. Following their experience at Maison d’Izieu, students shared their voices and opinions through photographs and personal reflections.
they said we should never forget. they said we would never let it happen again, not us, we are better now.
yet here we are, generations past and darkness prevails. we shutter at the sights and sounds of an unforgiving relic of history and his brutish treatment of innocence. klaus barbie was his name then now has reincarnated and multiplied…
governments have been put in place (in OUR OWN COUNTRY, and beyond), that are mercilessly stripping the humanity away from children. CHILDREN are treated as criminals. then and now.
mothers and fathers with one wish; for their own next of kin to enjoy the fruits of their labor and live a life better than those before them.
then and now.
land of the free? home of the brave? yet he calls them aliens. him and his court. justifying their actions, hiding behind legalities and refusing to see these CHILDREN as PEOPLE; each one a small soul with profound dreams of a limitless future…
they never got to laugh again.
never grew up or shared a smile.
or tell their parents goodbye.
how many generations of children are going to let live like this?
…and looking to the same night sky, these children still wonder. if their surroundings will ever feel more like home and less like cold world of betrayal and unimaginable heartbreak.
the children in this house up in the mountains of france or the children secluded in old walmarts used as holding cells in the ‘nation of liberty’; we mustn’t forget their names or their humanity.
Dear little miss Lucienne Friedler,
I felt that a letter was best suited for you after seeing all the letters your peers at Maison D’Izieu wrote. I hope that this photograph and letter gives you the life recognition you deserve. You were only 5 years old when you had your humanity stripped away from you. Faceless, therefore unable to testify to the world that came after you that those Nazis were disgusting. You were not a contamination. You were not an animal. You were not a key to better military strategy as Klaus Barbie tried to make you seem. You were an innocent human being. I never met you but your lack of photograph haunts me more than kids who did leave photographs behind. I feel you linger because although I scold Klaus Barbie, I have yet to do anything about my right-wing leaders’ disgusting decisions. I feel you breathing on my heavy shoulders because your unknown face is plastered all over the news as the 5 year old immigrants in cages. I feel you and your parents’ suffering overpowering my daily news feed.
I feel guilty and scared. I am guilty for not being active against such attractions because I don’t know to help but have also become complacent. I am scared because those millions of kids cannot be reunited with their parents. They are too young to talk to identify their own names let alone their family’s. I am scared because my family brought me to US to live a better life just as their parents tried. I am scared because this persecution of inhumanity to people whom I can relate my whole family to is becoming more severe. I’m scared because although I have a right to be in this world just like you, I can also lose my humanity if people don’t stand up and fight.
I will remember you.
I will honor you.
I will no longer be complacent.
Complacency is how this little girl became stripped away from history and can very well become the reason we are stripped away as well.
Balance on the rotten log that divides you from the rest of the trail.
Breathe in the crisp air that envelops you.
The speckling of wildflowers dancing as the alpine air hits them.
The crunch of the rocks & pebbles as your classmates solve the natural puzzle before them.
The peaks that rise before you, telling you that you’re smaller than you think.
It’s the burn in your calves that makes you second guess the beauty of the French Alps.
It’s beautiful, sure, but it hurts.
It hurts to climb when you feel your legs on fire.
It hurts to breathe when you can hear your heart throbbing.
It hurts seeing how far back you are from the rest of the crew, how one of you couldn’t even finish.
But there is a pain that goes beyond the physical sores, an aching chest, loss of breath.
It’s the pain of tiny hands never getting the chance to grasp a colored pencil ever again, their small bodies yanked from an alpine paradise, a temporary home against a background of intolerance.
Can you not see their small smiles, joyous at the bar of chocolate they bite into, a piece of candy that means everything?
Can you not see their worries for their family? Where is maman? How is papa? Me? I’m okay, happy as can be.
They can’t see a life bigger than their minds, eyes bright and open towards understanding, arms forever open.
They can’t see Lucienne Friedler.
They can’t see her young face, looking out at the mountains that connect together.
They can’t see her curly locks when worn naturally, straight when brushed out.
They can’t see who she could be, the young woman from Anvers, a February baby, who could rise to academic excellence, maybe a journalist, possibly a doctor.
But she can’t escape.
She’s just an idea that needs to end.
When we look to the mountains and wilderness for refuge, remember those who couldn’t escape. Remember those who breathed in poisonous fumes when they should have breathed in fresh grass and a clean childhood. Remember those who forever remained children.
Dear Lucienne Friedler,
I am so sorry. From the bottom of my heart, I apologize for everything. Even though I was not alive when it happened and had nothing to do with it, I still feel the need to apologize to you.
I was walking through the rooms at Maison D’Izieu when I found your frame. It was empty. Through my tears, I had managed to read what it said.
“To this day, a photograph of Lucienne Friedler has not been found.”
The anger, sadness, and frustration was boiling up within me. They had managed to erase your face from this earth. And with what purpose? You were only 5 years old. How big of a threat could a child be that they have to be taken and murdered?
My sweet Lucienne, I am sorry. I am sorry that you and your housemates were taken from your paradise in the Alps. I am sorry that they took your childhood, your family, and your life from you. I am sorry that there are individuals who deny your suffering.
I promise I will cherish the memory of you and the others. I promise I will share the story of that house. I promise I will never let their evil be forgotten. I promise I will never let it happen again.
I looked up at these mountains, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. Never in my entire life had I seen anything quite so picturesque in my life. It looked as if this was just a painting, like if I reached my hand out I would be able to grab the canvas, and peel it back to reveal the real world. The crazy thing is, the mountains really do feel like their own little world, separate from everything else. If only that had been true for all who had come looking for shelter in the arms of the Alps.
We visited a house known as Maison Izieu, but we hadn’t been told anything about what this place was or what the story of it was. The silence of the mountains gave the house an air of gravitas, little did I know just how much weight the memories of this house held. Forty-four innocent children had once resided within the walls of Maison Izieu. They were all brought here by their parents in order to flee war and persecution. For a while, this place was able to do exactly that. They lived better and more protected lives, until Italy surrendered and the entire territory of France went under German control. Forty-four children’s lives were then taken, for absolutely no justifiable reason in the world. The Nazi’s tried to say that there was a “military purpose” for their actions, but the truth was much worse than that. They had committed crimes against humanity, because they believed people that were not like them were “inferior.”
After bearing witness to the memories of these children, I walked out into a bright and clear day looking at my world in a very different light. Suddenly these picturesque mountains I was standing in were now witnesses of these unforgivable crimes. As we rode the rest of the way up the mountain, I just sat in silence. I wondered, where do we go from here? I see the same mistakes that were made before happening again now. I don’t ever want to allow such an evil to once again rear its ugly head back into this world that I live in. I want to find a way to fight for the rights of all people, to make this world a better place. So, my question to you who are reading this is, where in the world do we go from here?
FIU Honors France 2018 Student Gallery from Maison d’Izieu
Isabella Marie Garcia