The Arty Semite

Evry Schatzman: From the Earth to the Stars

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share
Courtesy CNRS

When Evry Schatzman died two months ago at age 89, France paid tribute to its “Father of Astrophysics,” one of the pioneering specialists in white dwarf stars, the solar corona, novae, and the interstellar medium.

In books like 1992’s “Our Expanding Universe” from McGraw-Hill Publishers and 1993’s “The Stars” from Springer Verlag, Schatzman also focused on such topics as the Big Bang and the universe’s future.

In 1986’s “Uranus’s Offspring” from Les éditions du Seuil, Schatzman also discussed extraterrestrial life. Yet Schatzman had powerful earthly experiences as well, as narrated in the diary of his father Benjamin Schatzman (1877-1942), who was murdered at Auschwitz.

An eminent Romanian-born dentist, the elder Schatzman emigrated with his family in 1882 to Zikhron Ya’akov, Palestine. After reaching France where he studied dentistry, he was named president of the nation’s Odontological Society in 1936, only to be arrested five years later in a roundup by collaborationist French police of “noteworthy” Jews. Imprisoned in Royallieu Internment Camp and transferred the following year to Drancy, Schatzman kept a detailed daily journal of his psychological and physiological responses to imprisonment.

He endured further transfers, to Pithiviers, then Beaune-la-Rolande, and back to Drancy before being sent to Auschwitz. Published in 2005 by les Editions Le Manuscrit as “Journal d’un interné” (“An Inmate’s Diary”), and reprinted by Les éditions Fayard the following year, Schatzman’s memoir is an essential historical record that imperatively deserves translation into English. In a preface, Serge Klarsfeld calls it a “quite extraordinary text,” expressing the “triumphant resistance of an elderly man facing violence and suffering, who by deepening self-knowledge through his ordeals, with loftiness and equilibrium, gives readers of good faith material of the highest value to help understand and defend human freedom.”

While his father suffered imprisonment, Evry Schatzman studied science and was active in the underground Resistance. After the war, Schatzman became involved in the Rationalist Union, co-founded in 1930 by the French physicist Paul Langevin, a fierce opponent of the Nazis.

The Rationalist Union, for which Schatzman served as president from 1970 to 2001, promotes reasoning over dogmatism. In a prescient 1989 book from Les éditions Odile Jacob, “Science Threatened,” (“La science menacée”) Evry Schatzman warned against growing anti-scientific prejudice, diagnosed its causes, and recommended solutions. The Schatzmans, both father and son, should be translated into English and heeded today, more than ever.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Rationalist Union, Evry Schatzman, Benjamin Schatzman

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!
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “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.
  • 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.