Friday, November 4, 2016

France Bloch-Sérazin

France Bloch-Sérazin
             -- Wikipedia
France Bloch-Sérazin (1913-1943) was a hero of the French Resistance. I heard about her from her brother, Michel, whom I met in 1989 through Michel's son   -- our friend Laurent Bloch. At the time, the story of her heroic life and early death were very obscure, but now, I have learned, there are several schools and a street named for her, and she's recognized in both France and Germany with plaques commemorating her life and death.

France Bloch-Sérazin was born and spent her youth in Poitiers in a large house called La Mérigote overlooking a beautiful valley. Her brother reminisced that in his youth he and his siblings would joke about how strategic the location was, with such a view of the railroad in the valley. Unfortunately this was prophetic -- the Nazi occupiers took over the house from the family, headed by then-well-known author Jean-Richard Bloch (1884-1947) and his wife, Marguerite Herzog. (The elder Blochs escaped to Russia where they spent the war. During the war years, Laurent's father was imprisoned in the South of France where, from time to time, he told me, someone would say -- your father is alive, I heard him on clandestine radio.)

France, by then a trained chemist, spent the early part of the occupation in Paris, hiding from the Nazis as she was both Jewish and a member of the Communist Party. She became a founding member of the resistance at the very beginning of its existence. Using her skills as a chemist, she became a bomb maker. She also restored weapons that other members of the resistance retrieved from the sewers of Paris -- people would throw them away fearing discovery by the Nazis.

In May, 1942, she was arrested and taken to prison in Germany in "night and fog" -- that is, deep secrecy. I remember her brother's quavering voice saying "nuit et brouillard," or in German "Nacht und Nebel." Her family didn't know her fate until after the war: she was executed in February, 1943. Her husband, Frédéric Sérazin -- called Frédo -- had been arrested in 1940, and also was executed. When she was arrested, her small son Roland disappeared, and the family thought he was lost. After the war, however, the maid/nanny reappeared at their home with the boy whom she had managed to smuggle to her home town and hide throughout the war years.

The French Wikipedia article contains much more information than the English page -- I used both sources. The French article includes links to two films about France Bloch-Sérazin by filmmakers Loretta Walz and Marie Cristiani.

No comments:

Post a Comment