As you may have gathered, I’ve been taking a lot of my inspiration — if not pilfering complete ideas! — from France Culture’s morning program. If there’s one host, and one special guest, there’s also a melange of chroniclers every morning to keep the program vivant even when the guest comes from a dry sector, such as philosophy. Typically, and unfortunately, all the regular daily chroniclers are men. The women seemed to be relegated to something called ‘carte blanche,’ with the spot rotating each day, with the inevitable result that no single one of them has the force of presence that comes from daily exposure.
I didn’t think today’s guest would give me anything special to write about, or rather, unique — Saul Friedlander holding forth on the Holocaust. (An important topic, but what could I add that hasn’t already been said?) Yet there it was, almost in passing, in the roundtable that terminates the program in its last half hour, in which all the commentators pile on. No serious discussion of the shoah can be held without consideration of complicity, particularly in France. Responding to Friedlander’s noting that he had passed the Occupation hidden in France, Catherine Clement, the carte blanche commentator du jour, said that she had lucked out because born of a Jewish father and a Christian mother, in 1939, she’d been baptized; that her grandparents were among those Jews whose incredulity that this could actually be happening sealed their fates; and that — here’s the startling part — French anti-Semitism didn’t stop in 1945, when no one could deny the camps and the complicity of many French in sending their Jews to them. In 1950, she said, a school chum’s parents forbade their child from playing with her — because she was Jewish.