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Confronted with coronavirus, concern grows for the final witnesses of the Second World Struggle

Significantly susceptible to the Covid-19, a number of nice figures of the Second World Struggle, already very previous, have been killed by the virus. Confronted with the disappearance of those residing reminiscences, museums are already reflecting on new types of transmission.

Frida Wattenberg was 95 years previous. She succumbed to the coronavirus, Friday April 3, on the Rothschild Basis Ehpad, in Paris, 4 days earlier than her 96e anniversary. Image of the Jewish Resistance, she had helped through the conflict to convey many youngsters to Switzerland. Léa Figuères was one 12 months older. A former resistance fighter within the Lyon area and a communist activist, she too was struck down by the Covid-19. She died on Monday April 6 at Clamart hospital.

It’s with nice disappointment and emotion that we discovered final evening of the disappearance of Léa Figuères dit Andrée, …

Posted by Pcf Malakoff on Tuesday April 7, 2020

Hero of the Free French Forces, fighter of Bir Hakeim and the touchdown of Provence, Henri Ecochard was additionally carried away, on April 3, on the age of 96, whereas he was in a retirement dwelling within the Paris area. His brother-in-arms, Rafael Gómez Nieto, the final survivor of the "Nueve", this primary column, primarily made up of Spanish Republicans, to have entered occupied Paris on August 24, 1944, didn’t resist both to the virus. He died on March 31 on the age of 99 in a clinic close to Strasbourg.

In a number of days, tributes to figures of the Resistance multiplied on social networks. Whereas France is hit onerous by the coronavirus pandemic, the outcomes are significantly heavy among the many oldest. With them, an entire part of our reminiscence disappears.

"Extra disciplined than the typical French particular person"

"Frida Wattenberg was a character. She knew everybody and everybody knew her," says Sophie Nagiscarde, head of cultural actions on the Shoah Memorial. "She was cute. She is somebody who has spent her complete life making an attempt to reconnect households separated by conflict. She by no means stopped."

This historian has not hidden her grief for the reason that disappearance of this "girl of coronary heart and tireless fighter". Nonetheless, she just isn’t significantly fearful in regards to the group of survivors, women and men over the age of 90 and even already centenarians. Thus far, she has not heard of every other deaths amongst those that repeatedly intervene on the Holocaust Memorial. "We had deliberate a sequence of lectures in reference to our final exhibition 'The voice of the witnesses'", however we needed to cancel it. "Of those that have been to take part, none are sick," she stated. "They’re critically confined. They aren’t very younger, in order that they have been cautious from the beginning. They’re effectively conscious that this example is sort of distinctive".

Lionel Boucher, secretary of the Nationwide Fee for the Medal of the French Resistance to the Order of the Liberation, additionally shows the identical serenity. "I shouldn’t have contact with all of the medalists of the Resistance, however so far as the members of our committee are involved," he explains. "It doesn’t change them an excessive amount of of their every day life. For individuals who nonetheless stay at dwelling, they’re usually alone and they don’t exit a lot. Anyway, they’re much extra disciplined than the typical of the French they usually know the hurt that illness can convey them. "

Put together for the disappearance of witnesses

This official of the Order of the Liberation, who estimates that about 150 medalists are nonetheless alive, is nevertheless effectively conscious of attending a pivotal interval: "We all know anyway that they’ll disappear in a short while , as a result of they arrive in a excessive age group. There needs to be no illusions. "

"It's within the order of issues," additionally notes Laurent Thiery, historian accountable for Historical past and Reminiscence points on the Musée de la Coupole in Helfaut in Pas-de-Calais. "Now we have been making ready for the disappearance of those witnesses for a very long time. Clearly, direct contact can’t be changed, however we had to consider different means to transmit this reminiscence".

Like his counterparts on the Shoah Memorial or the Order of the Liberation, this researcher collects the final accounts. For a number of years, he has been assembly survivors of the Nazi camp at Mittelbau-Dora, in Germany, the place V2 missiles have been produced, particularly to be despatched to London from the Dome of Helfaut, now remodeled right into a museum. To inform their story, he was additionally making ready to publish within the coming days a biographical dictionary dedicated to the 9,000 French deportees from this camp. Because of confinement, the exit was postponed till the beginning of the varsity 12 months, however the commemorations for the 75e Camp anniversary, April 12, is not going to happen. An actual heartbreaker. "In 2019, there have been nonetheless a dozen survivors current in Dora, however that’s decreased from 12 months to 12 months. If you attain this age, it goes in a short time. Weeks and months depend," notes Laurent. Thiery.

Witness and commemorate to the top

Lionel Boucher, for his half, is making ready with the Order of the Liberation the 80th anniversary of Common de Gaulle's attraction, on June 18, 1940. However there once more, because of the pandemic, uncertainty hovers round these commemorations: " I hope it would occur as a result of it’s plenty of work and group. It is not going to be simply any June 18. However for me, a very powerful stays the human. It’s the final second maybe to be the place we’ll nonetheless have the presence of a Companion of the Liberation or medalists of the Resistance ".

These final witnesses need in any case to keep up the flame till the top. With the announcement of the cancellation of the convention cycle scheduled for the spring on the Shoah Memorial, the invited survivors like Elie Buzyn or Ginette Kolinka didn’t let themselves be shot down. "They instantly instructed me that they have been going to come back again to high school. They don't care if they’ll be sick or not. They assume they’ll get via the disaster," stated Sophie Nagiscarde. "They are going to testify as a lot as they will as a result of they take into account it their obligation. They’re going through their demise. They’re conscious that it’s essential to transmit".