Monday, September 21, 2015

Charlotte Delbo-Dudach (1913-1985)

Charlotte Delbo was born in Vigneux-sur-Seine, Essone on 10 August 1913. In 1934 she married George Dudach and later went to work for actor and threatical producer Louis Jouvet. She was with his company in Buenos Aires when the Germans occupied France in 1940.

In 1941 Philippe Petain, leader of the collaborationist Vichy regime, established special courts in 1941 to deal with members of the resistance. Among those put to death was a young architect friend. "I can't stand being safe while others are guillotined", she told Jouvet. "I won't be able to look anyone in the eye."

She returned to Paris where her husband was already active in the Resistance as the assigned courier for the internationally famous poet Louis Aragon. The couple spent much of that winter printing and distributing pamphlets and other anti-Nazi Germany reading material. They became part of the group around communist philosopher Georges Politzer, and took an active role in publishing the underground journal Lettres Fran├žaises.

On 2 March 1942 police followed a careless courier to their apartment, and arrested them. The courier was able to escape from a back window. George was shot the morning of 23 May after being allowed to bid his wife farewell.

Charlotte was held in transit camps near Paris for the rest of the year. Then on 23 January 1943 she and 229 other Frenchwomen, imprisoned for their resistance activities, were put on a train for the Auschwitz concentration camp. She wrote about this experience later in Le convoi du 24 janvier (published in English as Convoy to Auschwitz). The convoy entered camp legend as the only one to enter the gates singing La Marseillaise. It was partly thanks to the presence of several scientists among the prisoners that a few, Delbo included, were selected to farm kok-saghyz at the Raisko satellite camp and survived. In 1945, as the war drew to a close, they were released to the custody of the Swedish chapter of the International Red Cross. After recuperating, Charlotte returned to France.

She wrote her major work, the trilogy published as Auschwitz and After (None of Us Will Return, Useless Knowledge and The Measure of Our Days) in the years immediately after the war. To give the book the test of time, and because of her fear it would not do justice to the greatest tragedy humanity had known, she held off on publishing the first part until 1965. The final volumes were published in 1970 and 1971. The play Qui Rapportera Ces Paroles? (Who Will Carry the Word?) is about her experience at Birkenau.

In later years she abandoned Communism, influenced like other resister-survivors by the exposure of concentration camps in the Soviet Union. During the 1960s she worked for the United Nations and philosopher Henri Lefebvre, who had worked with Politzer before the war. She died of lung cancer in 1985.

No comments:

Post a Comment