Hiding ~ Sandell Morse

 

The year is 1940. Germaine Russo, twenty-one years old, walks along a street in Brive, a town four hundred and eighty-two kilometers south of Paris. War had begun on the Western Front, the Germans invading the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium and France. Nothing, her father said, will stop the Germans. He rented a flat in Brive and sent his family out of the city, joining them a month later. In Paris, Germaine and two of her six sisters had formed Le Trio Russo with Germaine singing la bas, the bass. All accomplished musicians, the trio won a contest, but instead of giving them the promised contract to sing on the radio, management paid them off.  Russo, her last name had a strange spelling for a French citizen: R-u-s-s-o. Noticeable.

As a child, Germaine belonged to the Eclaireurs Israelites, Jewish Scouts, an organization with the usual scouting aims—to empower girls and teach them values: honesty, fairness, courage and compassion with a Jewish kicker: preventing total assimilation. When Hitler came to power and German Jews poured into France, the Eclaireurs Israelites played a considerable role resisting the Nazis. Leo Cohn, teacher, musician, Zionist and leader in the Jewish Scouts, was one of those German Jews who came to France. Later, he’d meet Germaine.

On the street, someone calls her name. Who could that be? Germaine knows no one in Brive. She turns to see Madame Gordin, her old scout leader. Astonishing. How can that be? Madame Gordin. Here? They kiss, kiss the French way. Madame tells Germaine about a house she is managing in a Beaulieu, a small village on the Dordogne River about thirty kilometers southeast of Brive. Every day, more and more girls arrive from Germany. Jewish girls. Hardly listening to this talk of refugees, Germaine tells Madame about the Trio Russo, her disappointment, her ennui. Madame says, “Germaine, I need you to help me manage these girls. Please, come to Beaulieu.”

Germaine’s family is large, a sister married and living in London, a brother in the French air force, five sisters, her mother, her father in Brive, all wondering whether they will stay or move on. But to where? Although Germaine does not like her life in exile, she does not want to think about leaving. Perhaps, too, she has left a young man in Paris, but telling me her story, all these years later on this September day in 2011 inside her flat, a fourth floor walkup in Maissy-Palaiseau, twelve kilometers south of Paris—Germaine does not say.

 

Vibrant in her periwinkle blue V necked jersey dress, Germaine looks twenty years younger than her ninety-two years. Her lipstick is watermelon pink lipstick, her hair auburn. Her earrings are clip-ons, her watch sensible. She is what the French call formidable, extraordinary, mighty, smashing. Madame Germaine Russo Poliakov does not speak English. I speak limited French. We talk through Valerie, my friend and interpreter; yet, I understand, immediately, Germaine will be the woman in charge, telling the story she wants me to hear. She stretches a bare arm along this dining room table and leans in. “At home she is lost,” Valerie says. “She thinks maybe with Madame Gordin, she can have a life. Show herself. Be somebody. Maybe, she wouldn’t mind taking care of young girls.”

I imagine the family, all eating supper when Germaine tells them her news. Her father lowers his wine glass to the table. “You’ll do no such thing.”

Germaine does not like these arguments. She is not good at them, but she is determined. “I’m going to Beaulieu to help Madame Gordin manage girls.”

Her mother pauses, fork in the air. “Please, listen to Papa.”

Claudine, a child, still wearing braids, smirks. “I can just see you making beds.”

Germaine doesn’t make her bed or pick up her clothes. None of them do. They have nannies and maids. She takes a breath. “I want to do this.”

“Germaine, a house with Jewish children,” her mother implores. “Think of the danger. If something happens, how will you leave?”

She refuses to think of danger or of war. “Madame Gordin needs me.”

“Of course, she needs you,” her father says, firmly.

Claudine stands. “Me, too. I’m going, too.”

All of her sisters burst out laughing. Germaine pulls herself up tall. “Laugh all you want. I’m going to Beaulieu.”

Her mother touches her arm. “Please, Germaine, don’t do this.”

She looks down at her mother’s fingers, the deepening circles around her knuckles. “I’m sorry, Mama.”

The deportations have not begun. When they do, they will mean certain death.

                                                                        ***

Now, all these years later, at this table, Germaine pops a bright pink raspberry macaron into her mouth, and she chews, mouth open.

Carrying those macarons with me on the Metro, I presented them when I arrived. Looking at the box, tied with a lavender ribbon, Germaine nodded her approval. I’d bought the macarons at Laduree. Not to be confused with those other macaroons, heavy, dense and stringy with coconut, these confections have names like orange blossom, cherry blossom and strawberry poppy, and they are ambrosia.

In Germaine’s apartment, where she has lived for more than thirty years, the furniture is well worn. Plants sit on bookcases and on window sills, peace lilies, ivy. On a side table, a purple orchid blooms. Sitting back in my chair, I expect to hear tales of harrowing escapes, of near captures, of slick moves, of life so heightened the hairs on the back of Germaine’s neck, bristled nearly constantly. Instead, she tells me of combing lice from the girls’ hair, of mending their clothes, of teaching music, songs she learned when she was a Girl Guide in Paris, Madame Gordin her leader.

Germaine opens an album filled with newspaper clippings and with photographs. On the table, loose photos are strewn like playing cards. All are pictures from those years, girls with braids or wild unruly hair, girls with their hair parted left, parted right, all smiling into the camera. Pictures of young women, the girls’ caretakers. In one photograph, two young women and two young men, flank a third man. All sit on a bench, holding or sharing books. The men wear berets and tallit, prayer shawls. All are studying Torah. Distracted, the man in the center, bends toward a young child, his cheek resting on her forehead. He has a prominent nose, a receding hairline. He wears glasses, and he bears an uncanny resemblance to my father. I’m so taken with what I see, I photograph that photograph.

Later at home in Maine, I will find that same picture in an archive of the United States Holocaust Museum. The man is Leo Cohn, and he is bending toward Noemi, his daughter, a child of three or four. Cohn has come to the house in Beaulieu to teach religion and music. A passionate Zionist, he also prepares young French Jews for aliyah, return to the homeland. Cohn plays the piano and the flute, and like Germaine, he sings bass, and I will wonder if Leo Cohn and Germaine sang duets. During the War, Cohn will travel widely, distributing false papers, escorting children across Swiss and Spanish borders. Under his guidance, five hundred children will reach Spain. Surprisingly, Franco becomes the Jews’ friend. Fearless, Cohn boards trains in cities and towns where the Gestapo hunt down Jews. On May 17, 1944, in the Toulouse railroad station, his luck runs out. The Gestapo stop him.

Germaine’s gaze lingers on his image. Obviously, she is fond of this man. Then, slowly and softy, she says a single word. “Deportee.”

 

I try to imagine daily life at the children’s home. Most likely, Germaine and the three other young caretakers, taught lessons: math, history, geography. They taught sewing, cooking and music. Did they go for walks in the countryside? Sit on benches and watch the Dordogne River flow past? Shop in the boulangerie? Did Germaine know what was happening outside of Beaulieu? What did she know of the children’s parents? When had she learned of the deportations? The camps?

As Valerie translates, Germaine shakes her head, “No, No, No.” Only Madame Gordin, who had been to Germany, knew what was happening. And Madame Gordin told no one. A telling phrase, “been to Germany.” Secrets escaped. Like the children. But something in Germaine’s story is not adding up. She fled Paris. Her family left Brive, then scattered. She didn’t know where. She was in hiding, for no one in town knew or was supposed to know these orphaned children were Jewish. And what of the adults who lived in the house? I imagine men and women, knocking, softly, at a door. It is night, and they are returning from missions. Perhaps, delivering messages. Perhaps, fighting with an underground unit. How could Germaine not know these things?

She pulls back from the table. I have touched a bruise or an old, still tender wound. Speaking to Valerie, her gaze does not leave my face. “Pourquoi est-elle tellement interesee par ce sujet?

I understand every word. Why is she—me—so interested in this subject? Lifting my pen from the page, I look beyond Germaine’s shoulder at two worn chairs, their velvet apricot upholstery faded. Could they be a remnant of the days Germaine had lived in Paris with her family? I want to tell her that during the years she hid in Beaulieu, I was a child wrapping myself inside a long blue curtain, watching my grandmother’s thick fingers part the Venetian blinds, making a slit for her to peer through. It was dark outside, dark inside. In the blackout, my grandmother, wasn’t looking for planes. An immigrant from a place she called Russ-Poland, she was looking for the vapor of something I couldn’t see. Something, she could. Something I was searching for now.

I want to tell Germaine that I grew up in small New Jersey towns with a German-Jewish father who insisted that being Jewish was no different from being Christian. I tried to believe his lie, despite the bagels he brought home for us to eat Sunday mornings. Despite my need to erase my grandmother’s Yiddish lilt from my speech. Which I did. Small boned and wiry, whenever I entered a new classroom or a new social group, I passed until an anti-Semitic remark—Jew him down; Just like a Jew; Don’t’ be a Jew—loosened my tongue.

I’m Jewish.

No, Sandy, you’re not.

I am.

You don’t look Jewish.

Playing that hiding game, I denied an essential part of myself. So why did I do it? I wanted to prove—still want to prove—there’s no such thing as looking Jewish. I wanted to say, I’m just like you. If you can’t tell, how can I be Other? So, who is a Jew? And who decides? And where is God in all of this?

Germaine may not ask these questions of herself, but I see them in her story. She was secular, yet drawn to Leo Cohn, the rabbi, the Zionist. She hid girls, hid herself. She taught those girls Jewish songs. But, I can’t distill my thoughts into a coherent question. And here is the dilemma of translation. Valerie knows English, but she does not know translation, idiom and nuance, so I say, “We know the stories of how Jews died, but not so much about how Jews survived.”

Germaine gives me a long disdainful look as if to say, We have brilliant stories of survival—Primo Levi, Eli Wiesel, and of an interrupted life, Etty Hillesum—and she is correct.

 

Fifteen years ago, a researcher, working for Steven Spielberg, sat at this table, probing for Germaine’s hidden story. Germaine told the woman what she was telling me. “I wasn’t frightened. I had no problem. Life was ordinary.  I had a job. I did it. I wasn’t depressed. Stop telling me I was depressed.”

Again, I imagine Germaine, young, living in secret. She opens a door. Three, four, five Resistance fighters enter the kitchen, bringing with them the scent of danger, the exhilaration of escape. I imagine bottles of wine and beer, a wooden table, laugher. Someone whispers, “Shh, you’ll wake the girls.”

Ordinary?

 

Preparing for this interview, I’d memorized a brief time line. September 3, 1939, France declares war on Germany. Nothing happens until May of 1940 when the German army, skirting the Maginot Line, invades Belgium and marches into France. In June, France surrenders. In September, the Germans implement their anti-Jewish policies in occupied areas, stamping identity cards in red: Jew. Mass arrests of Jews with Eastern European Citizenship begin. Soon, all Jews, even those with French citizenship sew yellow Stars of David to their outer garments. Arrests and deportations include Jews with French citizenship. Germany invades the Free Zone, ending the supposed independence of the Vichy government. They arrest Jews, French police participating.

Germaine didn’t know? Or suspect? I agree with that Spielberg interviewer, Germaine is hiding something.

 

Bookshelves line a wall behind the table where we sit. Germaine is the widow of Leon Poliakov, teacher, historian, winner of the Prix Edmond Weil, the Prix du Judiasme Francais. A leading authority on anti-Semitism, Leon Poliakov translated archives of the Gestapo. He accompanied the French delegation to Nuremberg. Proudly, Germaine gestures to Leon’s books, reciting each language into which his work is translated, “Espanol, Italia, Allemande, English, Japonese. These shelves hold a pair of brass candlesticks—a ubiquitous presence in Jewish homes—and family photographs—babies, children, adolescents, adults, and I feel as if I am watching time pass through generations. Germaine points to a photo of a sensitive looking man with a large nose, large ears, and eyes that look inward. “Leon,” she says, her gaze lingering.

Clearly, she misses him.

Leon Poliakov worked with the Resistance. Was he one of the young men knocking softly at that door in Beaulieu? Germaine talks to Valerie, and I am listening, trying to understand. I haven’t asked a question in three or four minutes, and I have a distinct feeling I have lost complete control of this interview, if I’d had any control to begin with. Finally, Valerie asks if I “know” Rabbi Zalman Chneerson. I recall a Schneerson who is—was?—a big deal Hassidic rabbi in Brooklyn, but what does he have to do with Germaine’s story of caring for Jewish orphans in Vichy France?

Valerie says, “Leon helped the rabbi escape.”

This is diversion. But, not wanting to be rude, I listen.

In early September of 1943, the Italians changed sides and made a pact with the Allies. Assuming they would be safe, twenty-five thousand Jews fled to Nice, only to fall into a German trap. After rounding up six thousand Jews, the Nazis deported them to Drancy, then to the East, which meant certain death. At that time, Leon and the rabbi had been working together to save Jewish children, moving them along ahead of the Nazis. Nice was a mistake. With much difficulty, Leon managed to procure trucks. Hiding the children under empty cardboard boxes in the trucks’ open beds, he smuggled them to a safer place. At the end of September, still in Nice, Poliakov and Chneerson hid in a vacant apartment.

Valerie pushes her black framed glasses onto her nose. She is a short, full-breasted woman with curly blond hair and pooling brown eyes, smiling now, as she speaks. “They had nothing to eat, so Leon buys food. The rabbi says, ‘Not this food It’s not kosher.’ On Yom Kippur Chneerson wants to blow the shofar.” The ram’s horn.

“Leon says, ‘There is no way you can blow the shofar.’

“Chneerson says, ‘On Yom Kippur I blow the shofar.’

“Leon says, ‘Wait. Promise, you’ll wait until I return.’

“So, Leon goes to the railroad station and he checks the…”

Valerie gestures with her hand. “How do you say in English horaire?” I shake my head. She goes on. “Leon goes back to the flat, and he says to the rabbi, ‘You can blow the shofar here and here.’ So when the train goes by Chneerson blows.”

A moment of levity inside a cloud of doom. A story of Leon’s cleverness, his triumph. Yet, the story is so much more, touching on that essential question: What does it mean to be Jew? For some the shofar must sound. For others silence works, too.

***

In “The Meaning of Homeland,” an essay from Under the Blazing Light, Amos Oz says, “I am a Jew and a Zionist.” Oz, an Israeli writer, is not religious. No revelation. No faith. According to Oz, a Jew is person who calls herself or himself a Jew or one who others force to be a Jew. “A Jew, in my unhalachic (not according to the law) opinion,” Oz says, “is someone who chooses to share the fate of other Jews, or who is condemned to do so.

 

Leaving a movie theater with my husband one night in 1998, I am furious. We have just seen the award winning film, Life is Beautiful, which Roberto Benigni wrote and directed, and in

which he also starred. Here’s the story. Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian waiter romances Dora, a wealthy aristocratic young woman from a non Jewish family. Dora meets Guido, suddenly and unexpectedly, when he falls from a hayloft into her arms. Although Dora is engaged to another man, Guido steals her away. Benigni’s antics are hilarious. He is slapstick; he is poignant; he is Charlie Chaplin and the Marx brothers. The year is 1939.

Five years later, the Germans arrive in town. By now, Guido and Dora have a son, Giosue. Soldiers force Guido and Giosue into a cattle car. Refusing to leave her family, Dora boards the same train. At the death camp, guards separate Dora from Guido and Giosue. Would this have happened? Wouldn’t the child have gone with his mother or to his death?

Guido hides Giosue in the men’s barracks, sneaking him food. He tells Giosue the camp is a game. Quiet boys who hide from Nazi guards win points. Giosue must earn a thousand points. If he does, he will win a tank, a real tank. When Giosue asks about the other children he saw when he arrived, Guido tells him those children are better at hiding. Giosue believes his father’s lies. At the end of the war when the Americans are near and the camp breaks into chaos, Guido hides Giosue in a sweatbox, explaining this is the final move in the game. When an American tank liberates the camp, Giosue climbs out. There he is, a small boy, facing a gigantic tank and thinking he has won the game.

Sitting in the car after the movie, I yank my seatbelt across my lap. “How could he do that, make a comedy about the Holocaust? Nobody won that game. Not the dead, not the survivors.” What am I saying? It wasn’t a game. For years we couldn’t talk about what happened. For years those murders had no name.

Dick backs out of our parking space, shifts into drive. “Maybe there’s another way to look at the film.”

“There isn’t. There can’t be. There is no way Guido would have gotten away with all that. There’s no way that child would have survived. And what of those who didn’t. Where is Benigni on them?”

“It’s not real,” Dick says.

“That’s the point.”

“You’re right. That is the point.”

I sulk all the way home, refusing to consider Dick’s words until this moment when I am sitting at my computer in my study in Maine, writing and thinking about Germaine Poliakov and the world she created for those girls in Beaulieu, combing their hair and teaching them songs. Perhaps, she created a world for herself, too. And what of my own game—passing?

 

As we speak, Valerie, Germaine and I, Germaine remembers a day when she sewed money and letters into the hems of the girls’ skirts. The Germans are everywhere. A single house is no longer safe. The young women move the children from house to house, what Germaine calls flying camps. This is an iconic story, money in hems, and now that story is here in this Parisian living room. Germaine does not believe the children suffered or were sad. Going to sleep in the evening, they asked her to kiss, kiss.

“So she kissed,” Valerie says, setting her tea cup down into her saucer, slowly, so she does not make a sound. We don’t speak. Germaine’s face has taken on a far away look as she gazes past my shoulder. “She met a young man,” Valerie says. “Also a guide. He lived seventeen kilometers from Beaulieu. They married. He wasn’t—how do you say—not very nice. He was a fighter, very handsome. He found others. She had three children one born in 1942, another in 1943, the third in 1944. He left her.”

A breeze blows in the opened window, touches my neck. Married to a Resistance fighter who was not Leon. Returning from missions, her husband impregnates her three times. He loves other women. Leaves for good. No wonder Germaine has closed those doors to memory.

Not wanting to inflict pain—I’m not a brave interviewer—I drop the subject and ask Germaine to tell me about a single day she remembers, vividly.

She talks of the final months of the war when German soldiers were moving toward Normandy. Nervous and edgy, they shoot, wildly. Pregnant, carrying her baby in her arms, holding her oldest child’s hand, dragging her along because that child is not yet steady on her legs, Germaine races for the woods. She hears a shot. Again, she insists, “I wasn’t frightened. I don’t know why.”

I want to say, Of course you were frightened. Fear propelled you and gave you strength, a pregnant woman, holding a baby, dragging a toddler, heart pounding, belly cramping, adrenaline pumping your legs.

 

A single mother after the war, Germaine and her three children travel to a settlement camp in the pletzl, Yiddish for little place, also called the Marias, the Jewish section of Paris. Community gone, buildings mostly rubble, scout leaders prepare orphaned children for aliyah. Germaine leads a chorus, teaching children to sing songs she learned when she was ten, a Girl Guide in Madame Gordin’s group. I look down into my cup of golden tea. I have never seen golden tea. And this porcelain cup, so French. Is it authentic? Did it survive?

Germaine’s bright lipstick has worn off. She speaks of a granddaughter who became very religious and lives in Israel. A few days ago, she came with her children, boys who wore peyes, side curls. They would not eat in her home or at this table. She offered lunch. She offered tea. Germaine knew they were orthodox. Still, she felt insulted.

I want to tell that grand-daughter to forget her damn rules of kashrut. Take a cup of tea. Give the boys a cookie. To break bread, to share a meal with family and friends, this is naches. More than simple pleasure, naches is the joy a child gives a parent, a grand-parent, and like most Yiddish words, naches squiggles out from under definition.

Germaine has been to the edge, and she has survived. And that’s what she keeps track of, Hilda, her friend and fellow guide in Beaulieu, who died a year ago, Juliette Levy, a child from that children’s house, who lives nearby and Amy, Madame Gordin’s daughter, living in Boston.

 

Riding back to Paris on the Metro, our seats facing, Valerie is contemplative. The day before, when we met for lunch, she talked of the second generation, her generation, having no memory. Jewish culture had been erased, subsumed into silence and shame. No one talked about Vichy France, occupied France, mass killings, deportations, the complicity of their neighbors, the French police, the bureaucrats. Still reluctant to talk, the French argue. Is it advisable to teach their children le devoir de la memoire, the duty of keeping memory alive. Perhaps, this history is too traumatizing. Writing, now, at my computer, I’m aware of the danger of that collective noun, the French. Never all. Yet, enough to keep that teaching out of the schools.

Valerie learned her history, studying in Israel where she became more religiously Jewish. Still, she needed a link to memory in order to understand what had happened in her country. Leon Poliakov was that link. In his life’s work, Leon Poliakov explored anti-Semitism, rooting hatred of Jews in European myths of origin. He showed how proponents of myths of superiority transformed bias into pseudo-scientific theories, painting Europeans as the norm and others as inferior, the Jew becoming the symbol of something inhuman, an inhumanity planted in the European mind.

The Metro rocks along, metal ratcheting against metal. Staring out the window, my thoughts turn to the Eastern European women of my childhood, my maternal grandmother, my great-aunts, all short and stocky with soft flesh, full breasts and round bellies, all offering tea and cake, “a little something sweet.” And something more. A practicality born of hardship and survival. “Germaine’s family,” I say to Valerie. “Did she see them at all?”

“Not for seven years.”

“Her mother?”

Valerie touches her cheek. “She doesn’t say. She had an aunt. She died in the camps. Forty-four years old. She can’t accept it. The more and more she gets old she can express what she feels.”

I am seeing Germaine’s photographs. Leo Cohn bending to his young daughter, captured, deported. There were others, Germaine repeating, “Deportee, deportee, deportee.” I imagine waves of bitterness and of anger spilling over her, then sadness, such deep sadness that she created her fantasy. It was an ordinary life. I didn’t complain. I was busy.

My stop approaches. Unwilling to leave Valerie, I ride further, saying, “I’ll walk back. It can’t be that far.”

Valerie lifts an eyebrow. Standing, I follow her from the train. In the underground station, we hurry along corridors, push through turnstiles, climb stairs until, finally we emerge into light. “Would you like to see the Marias? Valerie asks.

“The Marias?”

“The Jewish section. The pletzl.

“Oh, yes. Please.”

Walking along rue des Rossiers, I can hardly absorb the colors, the sounds, the energy of these passersby, smartly dressed women walking in pairs or alone, some pushing strollers, men wearing suits and carrying briefcases. The sweet smell of butter and yeast wafts from Sasha Finkelstajn, a Jewish bakery displaying what my grandmother used to call air kikhl, air cookies because they are crispy, crunchy and light as air. The narrow street conserves the style of medieval France, no sweeping Napoleonic boulevards, no cars. Here people walk or bicycle. They sit at outdoor tables drinking coffee, drinking wine, eating smoked salmon and fragrant cheeses on slices of baguette. I would like to linger, but we have no time. I hurry past jewelry stores and fashion houses. Valerie points out Panzer, a delicatessen with a Star of David, it’s date written according to the Hebrew calendar: Since 5755. An orthodox man wearing a black suit, a wide brimmed hat, passes by, and it is as if he, the deli, the Star of David are remnants of a lost culture. But no, the Marias is still heavily Jewish, Valerie tells me.

I learn later that the community dates back to the thirteenth century. But the Jewish presence was not continuous. Jews lived in the Marias between expulsions until the French Revolution when Napoleon Bonaparte granted Jews religious and civil freedom.

Valerie is a fast walker. We rush to a side street where she points to a plaque.

“260 enfants Juifs de cette ecole

deportes en Allemagne durant

la seconde guerre mondale

furent extermines

dans les camps Nazis

                                                                      N’oubliez pas”

 

Loosely translated, the inscription reads. Two hundred and sixty Jewish children in this school were deported by the Germans during the Second World War for extermination in the Nazi camps. Do not forget.

 

Two days later, I leave Paris for Auvillar, a village in southwest France where I’ve been staying. At a wine tasting, I meet Judy. We are standing inside a stone building among wooden kegs and wooden benches. The scent of wine fills the air. From California, Judy is exuberant. So happy to be in France where she and her husband will live for five months. She names the town. Because I am searching for Germaine’s landscape, I ask if that town is near Beaulieu. “Oh, yes. Very near.”

And to be sure, I say the word, again. “Beaulieu.”

“Yes, yes Beaulieu.”

Judy steps closer. “You’ll love Beaulieu. It’s a beaux village. Do you know what that means?”

She is a friendly woman, and I try to be friendly back, but deep memory distracts me, my own haunted images glimpsed in newsreels of skeletal bodies stacked like cord wood, of prisoners staring vacantly through barbed wire fencing. I answer, tone clipped. “Historic. Like Auvillar.”

Still gushing, she doesn’t seem to notice. “Exactly. You must go there,”

Correct, I must go there. But not because Beaulieu is one of France’s beaux villages, because I want to walk the streets Germaine walked, first alone, then with her young lover, the Resistance fighter. I want to wander into the countryside, searching for the children’s home. Will anyone remember? Or tell me? I want to wash my hands in the river, the beautiful Dordogne, remembering Leo Cohn and all who walked a narrow precipice of courage and danger, some surviving, others not. I want to pass into. I want not to pass, not to hide. I want to be present.

Excusing myself, I step outside. “Beaulieu,” Judy calls after me. “Go there.”

On a patio, I sit alone at a table, sipping from my glass of wine. Go there. I must go there.