The Arty Semite

Marianne Rubinstein: Grandchild of the Shoah

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

As Serge Klarsfeld wrote in his preface to a 2002 book by Marianne Rubinstein, “Not Everyone is Lucky Enough to Be an Orphan” (Éditions Verticales), only three percent of deported French Jews returned home alive after the war, leaving their surviving children with unspoken traumas which they passed on to their children in turn. The aforementioned book’s ironic title is a quote from Rubinstein’s father, whose own parents were deported from France during World War II and murdered at Auschwitz. Now Rubinstein, a French professor of economics, has written a new book further exploring the subject: “That’s All Over With” (“C’est maintenant du passé”).

Faced with a father too upset to recount family history, Rubinstein turns to metaphysical mulling over historical memory, along with documentary genealogical research, to learn about her forebears. Among her widespread reading is a chapter recording the dreams of Jews living in Nazi Germany from “The Third Reich of Dreams” by Charlotte Beradt, which captures the emotional resonance of displacement within society. Rubinstein also manages to locate a French Jewish survivor who recounts her grandfather’s tragic demise on a death march from Blechhammer to Buchenwald.

As she writes, Rubinstein recaptures Yiddishkeit by listening obsessively to the 1998 album The Well by Chava Alberstein and The Klezmatics, especially two tracks, “Di goldene pave” (“The Golden Peacock”) and “Ikh shtey unter a bokserboyim” (“I Stand Beneath a Carob Tree”). Another evocative favorite of Rubinstein’s is “Hilda Bronstein Sings Yiddish Songs Old and New” (Arc Music).

Even more inspiring, perhaps, are the poignant stories from other children of survivors, like the Israeli pop singer Mike Brant, who achieved stardom in 1970s France but whose troubled life ended in suicide at age 28. Brant’s surviving brother Zvi Brand, who created a website in Mike’s memory, is quoted saying that their mother, like Rubinstein’s father, was unable to speak of wartime horrors, but the atmosphere of suffering which survivors carried around with them made their children “extremely fragile emotionally.”

For its profound understanding of such experience, Rubinstein’s memoir is acutely valuable, as well as for its important reading list, which also includes the long-overdue-for-reprint “I Didn’t Say Goodbye: Interviews With Children of the Holocaust” by Claudine Vegh.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Marianne Rubinstein, Chava Alberstein, Charlotte Beradt

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.