/BY AL SHAMS/ //SPECIAL FOR THE AJT//
“Writing the entire reality and the tragic things we live, given all their bare seriousness and without deforming them with words that is a very difficult task which requires a constant effort.”
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Almost two years after the publication of the journal, written between 1942 and 1944, the Mémorial de la Shoah chose to return to the tragic destiny of Hélène Berr, a young Parisian girl deported to Auschwitz in 1944.
Expanding beyond the strict frame of the journal and the personality of Hélène Berr, this exhibit elaborates on the background of the occupation and tackles more largely the persecution of the Jews in France.
A student of English, Hélène Berr was 21 years old when she began writing her journal. The year was 1942 and the anti-Jewish laws of Vichy started to radically change her life little by little.
Until March of 1944, the date of her arrest, she kept her journal on a daily basis. Deported to Auschwitz with her parents, she died in 1945 at Bergen-Belsen, a few days before the camp’s liberation.
“This text, of an exceptional literary quality, a subtle account of what France and Paris of the Occupation were like, reveals a real premonition of the inevitable, as the last lines of her Journal evoke: “Horror, Horror, Horror.”
In a deeply moving written ac- count, this text mixes the daily experience of the unbearable with the ideal world of letters, alternating in every moment between hope and desperation.
Regarding wearing the yellow star, Hélène wrote, “My G-d, I would not believe that this would be so hard. I have had a lot of courage all day. I kept my head high, and I looked at peoples’ faces so well as they averted their eyes. But it is hard. Otherwise, the majority of people do not look. The most painful part is meeting other people who wear it.”
For 60 years, the manuscript of Hélène Berr’s diary did not exist except as a painful family heritage. One day in 2002, Mariette Job, Hélène’s niece, decided to entrust the manuscript with the Mémorial de la Shoah. Published by Tallandier in January of 2008, the diary met an immense success from the very beginning of its publication.
Through this exhibition, the Mémorial de la Shoah offers the public the opportunity to discover several family documents archived at the museum’s documentation center, other archives that broaden the historical context, as well as reproductions of the original manuscript and an interactive map of Paris.
This exhibition, curated by Karen Taieb and Sophie Nagiscarde, was designed, created, and circulated by Mémorial de la Shoah (Paris, France), and made possible through the generous support of SNCF.
Alliance Française d’Atlanta and the Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta are united in their mission of cultural and language exchange in the Atlanta community. The Hélène Berr exhibit is an example of the diverse cultural programming on which these organizations partner. 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, or Treaty of Friendship between France and Germany. It is in this spirit of partnership that the Hélène Berr exhibition is brought to Atlanta.
About the organizations
Alliance Française d’Atlanta is an independent and non-profit organization, founded in 1912, serving the Atlanta community as the premier provider of French language and culture.
The mission of Alliance Française d’Atlanta is to encourage the study of French language and cultures and to foster cultural, intellectual, and artistic exchanges between the French speaking world and our local communities.
They offer French language studies and cultural exchange programs promoting French culture, as well as representing France and 50 Francophone countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. With more than 1,000 members served annually, they offer a variety of courses, social activities and cultural events.
They have no political or religious affiliation and do not discriminate on the basis of age, sex, creed, race, color, and national or ethnic origin.
Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta supports and informs all those who would like to teach or study German and are interested in Germany and its culture. Through a variety of cultural events the center promotes international cultural cooperation and plays a large role in building bridges of understanding and in conveying the appropriate image of modern Germany.
The Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta is part of the general network of the 140 Goethe-Instituts worldwide. The Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta supports German teachers in Alabama, Arkansas, North and South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas, and offers workshops and seminars for teachers of German as a foreign language.
A network of particularly qualified teachers has been charged with the task of spreading the newest ideas on teaching techniques and didactics in multiple seminars throughout the whole region. A large program of internationally recognized exams, which can be taken in 15 examination centers throughout the region, complements the program
Al Shams is a Sandy Springs resident, a former CPA and an investment professional with more than 35 years industry experience.
Editor’s note: All photo credit goes to Emmanuelle Baillet – Alliance Française