Lyon as Text
Remember What Happened and Share it
July 8th, 2022
To Whom It May Concern:
Today we met Claude Bloch. Claude was an accountant in his life. He is also a husband and a father, all of which compose his identity. One part of his identity, however, was once temporarily erased in the eyes of the Nazis and German war generals: his humanity. You see Claude Bloch wasn’t just an accountant and a husband and a father, he is alsoa holocaust survivor. At the ripe age of 15 years, Claude Bloch faced challenges unimaginable. He was sent to prison for the sole “crime” of being Jewish along with his mother and grandfather. As he told his story to us, silent tears streamed down my face.
After being interrogated, his grandfather was murdered. His mother and him were sent to Montluc prison, a prison we visited as a class and imagined what is must have been like to be held captive there. 1, 2, 3, … that’s how quickly Claude was stripped of his freedom. He was later sent to Birkenau, known as Auschwitz 2.
There he was saved by his mother as she pushed him away into the line where the men were. Women with children were declared unfit to work and were gassed, which is why she pushed him into the line with the men. That was his last memory of his mother.
Claude experienced torture, punishment, intense cold weather, and hatred, but he never lost hope. When Monsieur Bloch was asked how he endured the holocaust, he responded that he never considered dying; he just knew that he would push through.
On May 10, 1945, the Red Cross helped the survivors; amongst one of them was Claude. Claude weighed about 60 pounds at 15 years old by the time he was seen by a doctor. At last, the war ended on September 2nd, 1945. Claude went back to his home with his grandma and reenrolled in school again. Today Claude tells his story to schools and groups so that the memory of the holocaust never fades. His mission is to keep these events alive and active in people’s minds so that this monstrosity never happens again.
As a class we experienced extreme respect for Mr. Bloch for enduring the holocaust and it’s events. We can’t imagine fully what he went through, but we can place ourselves in his shoes and feel a sliver of what he felt. As an individual, I felt honor and an immense feeling of gratitude. I am grateful for the position that I’m in, as a student on study abroad, grateful to live in America, grateful to be free. To have freedom of expression, the freedom of religion, and simply, put, freedom. Freedom, where I’m from, which is Cuba, is a privilege instead of a right, due to Cuba’s communist government. I am reminded of Monsieur Bloch’s words when asked, “What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?” to which he replied, “Never trust the extremists”.
Izieu as Text
July 10, 2022
To Whom It May Concern:
On April 6, 1944 their fate changed forever. The Gestapo and leader Klaus Barbie sent a military to raid the innocent home of refuged Jewish children. Sent there by their parents to stay protected from the war, 44 children were arrested, detained in Montluc prison, and later executed… What caused these series of events to happen? I ask myself. 44 innocent lives taken, as if they meant nothing. My heart aches for those children and their families. For the Jewish population and allies known as the Resistance. They knew no harm and did no evil. Claudine Halaubrenner was 5 years old. The U.S CIA later employed Klaus to battle against communism for 40 years. Klaus was then tried and brought to Montluc prison for one night, then he later died of old age in prison. Reports show that Klaus was prideful after murdering innocent children.
Santa Spiegel was 9 years old. My heart hurts. Izieu was more of a home for the children than a refuge. It was a house, school, infirmary, and a safe place surrounded by peaceful nature. The school leaders wanted Izieu to be as normal as possible for the children, therefore they had class in their classrooms where the children learned about geography and more. During our time spent there we saw letters and drawings done by the children. Some pieces were graphic, portraying brutal scenes, which gives light to the fact that the children knew about the war and that they knew where they were and why they were there. In many letters, the children write back to their parents, asking them to send them school supplies and sending them kisses. Paulette Mermelstein was 12 years old.
That is when I ask myself the question: Would I have sent my children to Izieu if I were in the parent’s position?
I don’t think I would. As a family, I would want to stay together, although I understand their parent’s decision of sending their children to a refuge from the war.
Why did this happen? Raoul Ben Titou was 13 years old.
The evil in Hitler and Klaus’ hearts could not have been fault of any one religion, because truly, at the heart we are all the same. We are a part of one human race. Sadly, the evil in Hitler, Klaus and the Nazis blinded them far beyond any sense of morality. Charles Weltner was 10 years old. Zygmund Springer was 8 years old.
Above all, my comfort lies in that the children were surrounded by joy brought by the other children and teachers, peace from the beautiful landscape outside the home, and love from their parents miles away. One other valuable thing that the children held onto was hope. Hope that this would soon all be over. The war did end and although they didn’t get to see it, their hope wasn’t in vain, as it is our responsibility to share the story of the 44 children of Izeiu so that it doesn’t happen again.
Versailles as Text
“Love and War”
July 3rd, 2022
To Whom It May Concern:
The palace is like no other, filled with marvelous art, social hierarchy and bad decisions amongst many of them. What captivated me most about Versailles, wasn’t just the adorned palace, it was the gardens that accompanied it. An explosion of flora and fauna that retells of French history is found at the Versailles’ gardens.
In 1631, Louis XIV, who dubbed himself “The Sun King”, built Versailles. He did so to establish political power and to protect himself against the French people. The rest of France was experiencing dire poverty, but King Louis XIV’s priority was to construct Versailles as we know it today. That decision however, impacted history forever, thus his lineage was affected as well. In 1774, Louis XVI came into power along with Marie Antoinette. Louis XVI allied with American rebels against the English, a decision that later inspired the French Revolution, turning his own people against him. The people of France disliked the reigning French monarchs at that time because of their ignorance to public concerns. Therefore, Louis XVI and Marie’s lack of action led to corruption, and one could argue that they lost their minds before they were even beheaded.
On July 14th, 1789, the storming of the Bastille occurred, thus propelling the French Revolution. From that point on, the French monarchs were headed for their fate, which resulted in public execution in 1793. France then established a government and the monarchy was terminated at last.
Flash forward to today, where Versailles serves as a monument for people to observe, I found myself interested in the gardens of Marie Antoinette. As I was standing in front of the Temple of Love, admiring the beautiful and delicate nature where Marie used to recluse in, I thought about the irony of it all. How was she so connected to nature yet so disconnected from the rest of the world? Nature is extremely peaceful and something that connects us to each other, however on the outside of palace walls people were starving and a revolution was forming. How could she be so blind to that? Maybe I would have been too. It’s similar to today’s society in how we are so connected to social media, yet so out of touch with the reality happening right before us. Maybe we’ll wake up before we lose our minds too.
Paris as Text
“Seen at the Siene”
July 15, 2022
To Whom It May Concern:
Day 1: I arrived to Paris and was immediately immersed into different cultures, art styles and ways of living. The urban charm reeled me in, and I found myself hooked on the beauty of the city. I enjoyed admiring the architecture in all its splendor. Massive parks welcomed you to stay and socialize, and I never wanted to leave. Paris is more than what meets the eye though, being rich in history, the Seine River tells the story of Parisian life.
Today: It’s been 15 days since I arrived to Paris, and the Seine River has demonstrated it compatibility with all walks of life. The river passes through the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, Orsay, les Invalides, and more monumental structures. The buildings are each a world of their own, with the Eiffel tower being created by Gustof Eiffel in 1889, and the Louvre being filled with key pieces of art from artists like Michelangelo, DaVinci, and Rafael.
Not only does the Siene River host historical monuments, it also is home to today’s French culture, especially the youth. Many people gather around and sit at the river’s bank to eat and converse. The social atmosphere made me, a foreigner; feel welcome and connected to the culture. To think that I’m walking down the same streets that Ernest Hemingway walked on is both an honor and a joy.
Overall, the Siene River is more than a river; it is a bridge between the past and the present. It connects people from different places and cultures and is the breeding ground for creativity to emerge.
Normandy as Text
“Unknown to many, Known to All“
It is a heavy responsibility writing this.
I am representing thousands of Comrades who perished in the war.
All for one and one for all.
They fought until the very end. They fought for our liberty, so that tears (of gas) would be no more. They fought savagely for something greater than themselves.
And they won.
They did it, without even knowing they did. They accomplished it.
So many people saved, because of them.
Who are you Comrade In arms? Your families never got to say goodbye. They do not know where you are buried.
But where one is buried, all are buried. And if one suffers all suffer.
For we are all one.
This is what your sacrifice means.
Claude Bloch lives to be 93 years old.
This is what your sacrifice means.
The 44 children of Izeiu live in our memories and their testimonies are in our hearts.
This is what your sacrifice means.
Today, people of Jewish backgrounds live freely in society without fear of being punished.
A moment of silence please…
What would I have done? Would I have sacrificed my life for others to live theirs?
You marched, Comrade, you fought, and fired, and died, so that I could live.
How old were you, Comrade? Were going to be a father or had you just graduated high school?
A comrade in arms is a symbol of bravery, freedom, and brotherhood.
The comrades in arms are our heroes and we don’t even know them fully.
We don’t know their faces or their names. We don’t know what they cared for or who they loved.
All I know is that they loved their country and the people in it.
That’s why it is up to you and I to share our knowledge. It is our call-to-action that the events of history be kept alive.
They loved their fellow human beings enough to protect and liberate them from the nazi regime.
They cared for us far greater than we could ever care for them. And because of their courage, because of their bravery and their far-gone boldness, we live today.
We have freedom today.
No, soldier your life and death wasn’t in vain.
You died for your country and because of that we remember your pain.
Thank you is all I have to say.
Thank you for caring and for giving it all away.
Pere Lachaise as Text
Marcel Proust was born on July 10th, 1871 in Auteuil, near Paris, France. He passed away on November 18, 1922 at 51 years old, due to pneumonia.
Marcel was a French novelist and one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.
Adrien proust, Marcel’s father was an epidemiologist. He was the doctor responsible for decreasing cholera in France. Marcel’s mother came from wealthy Jewish family.
As a child he suffered from asthma, which persisted through his life.
He spent his childhood in Illiers and Auteuil or at seaside resorts in Normandy with his grandmother.
At 18 years old, he did military service in Orleans 1889-1890
Studied at the School of Political Sciences taking “licenses in law (1893) and in literature (1895).”
“In Search of Lost Time”… A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu
Longest novel in the world.
1.2 million words.
Published in 1913.
The novel was written throughout his life.
The protagonist is based on Proust’s life. It is a story of a man who searches for the meaning and purpose of life. He’s on a journey to stop wasting time and start appreciating existence. Proust’s goal was to help people.
Meaning of life from novel:
- Social success- Proust learns that the meaning of life is not dependent on social status. He meets people in high society who don’t have good virtues.
- Love- Romantic love. He meets a young woman and loves her =, however once the relationship ends Proust comes to the conclusion that no one can fully understand anyone., and therefore romantic love is not the meaning of life for him.
- Art- habit is the opposite of art. Proust says it dulls our senses. We must appreciate daily life like a child. Artists do this.
He is known for writing about madeleine’s and tea. The pair brought him back to childhood, which is also known as a Proustian moment. It’s about perspective and we should appreciate life with greater intensity.
Conclusion: everyday life is full of joy and beauty, we just have to take the time to shift our image and appreciate it.
When reflecting upon this person, I found myself relating to him very much in terms of life philosophy, because for me the most important thing we can do in life is to live in the present moment. It means focusing completely on what you are experiencing right now. Shortly, you’ll begin to feel and cultivate joy and enthusiasm for the moment and the people in it. We often become enveloped in human tendencies of life, however it is really about those in between moments that make us feel most alive and deeply connected.
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” -Marcel Proust